They say that top CEOs read 40-50 books per year. This year, it is my goal to read one book per week. For the first week of the year, I dug into Greg McKeown’s Essentialism. It was an amazing read and I’m excited to tell you about it!
While this book is packed with gem after gem, here are three quick takeaways:
1. Less but better.
We only have so much energy to devote to a task or number of tasks. We can either make a millimeter of progress in 100 directions, or vast progress by focusing in one direction. The essentialist chooses to do less, but better. Here is the graphic McKeown uses to illustrate his point:
2. “In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present”– Lao Tzu
In order to find fulfillment in the day-to-day, it is important to work at what you enjoy. It’s taken me 20+ years in the workforce to find what I enjoy, but I truly believe that I’ve found it. It’s not about money or esteem or travel or any of that. It comes down to finding your purpose and aligning with it.
In family, being present is the best thing we can do. With technology, this has become increasingly difficult, but it is no less true. Make it a goal to set some boundaries regarding your screen time in the presence of your family. We only live one life and, at the end of it, family will be what matters the most. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we’ll put our screens in our jeans and play with our kids, spend time with our spouse, call our parents, write to our grandparents, etc… One life, LIVE IT!
3. Ghandi owned less than 10 items when he died.
Regarding material possessions, Greg shares that Ghandi spun his own clothes by hand and, when he died, he owned less than 10 possessions. Wow! As I look around my house, I can count 100 things without moving my gaze. McKeown does not encourage us to become like Ghandi, he simply uses him as an example to make a point. There is a lot of freedom in cleaning out your closet, under your bed, your garage, the crawlspace, even your sock drawer! Trust me, Jessie and I did this as I read this book. Only yesterday, I cleared out over 60 shirts from my closet. 60 t-shirts! The garbage bag is so heavy, I can barely maneuver it.
Anyhow. Less is more. Simplicity is the new black and there is more freedom in not buying than in buying. When tempted to accumulate, ask yourself if you really need it.
Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, is of a similar mindset with Greg in that going back to a simpler life is not a step backward. There are endless things to buy, endless ways to spend our time, and endless people to please, but we have limited resources. The book consistently compares the non-essentialist to the essentialist and this tactic is effective.
The book ends with a few pages on the Essentialist Leader, which caused me to think of my role as leader of my team. Whether you are a leader or a dreamer or a regular Joe whose closet needs cleaning, you’ll enjoy this book. I highly recommend it and know that it will be tough to top as I read 51 more books this year.
Make it a great week and remember to…
“Keep It Paleo!”
(Some words of wisdom from Yvon…)