Essentialism | Greg McKeown

Essentialism | Greg McKeown

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

Ascribing meaning to the life is a difficult and tiresome process. Many people get lost in the busyness of the current professional environment, substituting along the path essential with non-essential.

🎨 Impressions

Not bad, many ideas can be linked to [[Deep Work]] by Cal Newport

How I Discovered It

Has been suggested multiple times in various groups and chats.

Who Should Read It?

Distracted people. Who are constantly bombarded with invitations, and those whose lives are extremely busy and in dire need of declutterization.

☘️ How the Book Changed Me

How my life / behaviour / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.

✍️ My Top 3 Quotes

📒 Ideas

Short visual summary, done not by me:

  • As far as I can see the book puts in front of the reader two essential questions, before agreeing to any activities.
    • Can I actually fulfill this request, given the time and resources I have?
      • Second part of the question is more important than the first. But there is a tougher question.
    • Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?
  • To an essentialist, everything is noise. Every task, call, request, distraction from single the most important thing. ^839ae0
    • The way of reducing the noise of busyness is the relentless pursuit of the principle, the less but better. ^8394f4
    • The meaning of life for essentialist is handmade design, not default state, in which all happen as it happens.
    • Essentialist designs surrounding, not lives in one.

Mindset comparison of essentialist and nonessentialist

  • Saying yes is bad behaviour that is encouraged by society.
  • Saying no is good behaviour that is punished by society, or at least frowned upon.
  • Success leads to failure. Undisciplined pursuit of more at its core, a recipe for a disaster and catalyst for failure.
    • Might companies fail and collapse and later are driven out of business because they pursuit more not less.
      • This thing happened with Apple Inc. under Scally management.
      • When Jobs came back he drew for squares and in every square wrote consumer grade. Pro, non-pro, mobile, non-mobile. [Look for proof].
    • It brings another controversy. Druker said in his works that modern society would drown in sheer volumes of choices they could have. ^9b9a83
      • I think the downfall of current way of living will start with when a person will not be able to find much needed information.
        • Technology today drastically lowered the threshold for others to share their opinion what is important. ^daf6f0
          • It’s not information overload in the first place, but opinion overload, which demands absolutely different set of skills to deal with.
      • People have choices. Maybe for the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And they are totally unprepared for it.
        • This brings an ailment called by psychologist as “decision fatigue: the more we choose, the more the quality of decisions deteriorates.
  • Originally, English word priority had not had a plural form.
    • For 500 years, since 1400 until 1900 in had been used and a single most important thing to do.
    • But in 1900, during the industrial evolution, everything changed.
    • We pluralized and got ourselves priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word, we could bend reality.
      • Nope, we can’t. Language lives by its own laws and speaks louder about society than any opinion leader. [[Негативное пространство]]

I wish I had had …

  • To get what you really wish, requires not just saying word no, frantically and disorderly, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials, and not just getting rid of obvious time wasters, but cutting out some excellent opportunities as well.
    • And here how we should approach the cutting of everything nonessential procedure. To help yourself in the upcoming processes, ask tough questions.
  • Explore and evaluate.
    • Do I love this?
  • Eliminate.
    • If I didn’t already own it, how much would I spend to buy it?
  • Execute.
    • Plan the procedure ahead of time. What bat will you use, where is the drop point (store, foster house, junkyard).
  • Foundation of Essentialist’s mindset.
    • Individual choice. We can choose how to spend energy and time.
    • The prevalence of noise. Almost everything is noise, and a very few things are exceptionally valuable.
    • The reality of tradeoffs. We can’t have it all and do it all.
  • Essentialist systematically explore a vast number of options before committing to anything.
  • They create systems for removing obstacles that make execution flawless or at least as easy as possible.
  • Stop celebrating being busy, don’t consider it a measurement of importance. ![[Too much work brings procrastination]]
  • At the core, essentialism is not the way of doing one more thing, but doing all things completely different manner.
    • It’s a way of thinking and operating.
  • Again topic of choice and decisions [[выбор и решение]]. Essential decisions are not the thing we should think about. Choice is not important, options may we may have, but action we must do. And that is what a choice, take proper actions to certain challenges.
  • Options might be taken away from you, but our capability to choose impossible to limit it is the question of a free will.
    • Though according to Sam Harris, free will is an illusion. ![[Free Will#^a65154]]
  • The ability to choose can’t be taken away, it only can be forgotten.
    • Martin Seligman and infamous [[learned helplessness experiment]].
    • Helplessness in the face of obstacles sometimes force us not to do anything, in other cases make us hyperactive, when we take any activity that is there, just for the sake of being active.
    • Both extremes are not solutions to the problem.
    • Making choice is hard. ![[Армен Петросян#^564084]]
    • By definition, it means saying no to something or even several somethings.
      • Because of that, we forget our ability to think and decide. Brain trims all resource dependent processes, as it genetically predisposed to do.
      • And this is exactly what it means to be an essentialist. Trim not the ability to choose, but excessive options. Leave only important ones among non-essentials.
  • From the point of view of essential, reward is unimportant. Relationship between time and reward more viable, but a gap between time and result much more important than anything else.
    • [[Результат и время]] Naval has the same thoughts on the topic of wealth. It’s created while we sleep, real wealth is not made in routine jobs. The bigger gap between time and result, the better.
    • Proportion should be 80-20, the Pareto principle, or [[The law of the vital few and trivial many]].
  • Certain efforts produce exponentially better results.
    • Power law in action. Top coders achieve greater progress, 10x or even 100x, than the average coder. It could be applied to any other profession.
  • Every activity we take part in is a juggling of opportunities and eventually choosing something one instead of two.
    • Problems start when we wish to keep all things in air while moving on the trapeze.
    • The economy of trade-offs is persistent and ubiquitous.

The trade-off involves two (or more) things we want.

  • Don’t ask yourself. “How can I do both?”
    • The answer – you can’t.
  • Ask “Which problem I want?” Or “What can I go big on?”
    • Make a deliberate choice.

I can’t be a great competitor and good teacher. Excellence in one demands lower than average results in the other.

  • As soon as you start to believe in busyness philosophy of modern professional landscape, you start believing that creating space for reflecting, exploring, and thinking should be kept at minimum.
    • Which is counterproductive at best, or outright harmful.
    • Reflecting, thinking and exploring are antidoted to the non-essential and busyness. ![[Deep Work#^4011c9]]

Don’t be to busy to explore your life. To think and reflect about it.

  • To have focus, we need to escape to focus.
    • Create place and time!
    • [[Idea of a class called designing your life]]
    • The paradox of busyness.
      • The faster things go the more urgently we need to build a thinking time for ourselves.
      • The noisier things get, the more we need a quiet place for reflection. Place we can truly focus.

Practice. Start a day with 20-30 minutes reading time. Not blog or social media. Hard work, book or article.

  • Not only it shifts the mind into proper gear, it also broadens the perspective and introduces themes and ideas that withstood the test of time.
    • Choose something that had been created before hyperconnected era.
    • [[Meditations]]
    • Seneca or Epictet.
    • [[Книга мастера дзен Мастеру фехтования Такуан Сохо]] or [[Кодекс Бусидо Хагакурэ Сокрытое в листве]]
  • Essential information is hidden under layers of trivial facts. We are used to restating the facts instead of looking beyond [[Негативное пространство]] into the core of things.
    • ![[Keywords. Mind maps course#^c25aed]]

Great advice. Listen to not what being said, but to what not being said.


  • To do that, you require not to heed the loudest voice, but to pay attention to the signals in the noise.
  • Continuously scan the field you are in for the essential information or the essence of the information.
  • Ken Robinson on education. We removed all the pleasure from education, though school has been derived from Greek leisure.
    • Contemporary schools kill creativity.
      • Fast-food model of education, which impoverishing our scientific curiosity.
      • Imagination is the source of every great achievement.
        • And this is what we are putting in danger, but not allowing children to tread their own path of discoveries.
        • This issue could be solved with [[Проблемное обучение]].

Essentialistic way of learning.

  • Play is essential that sparks exploration.
  • Heuristic of essentialist.
    • If the answer isn’t a definite yes, then it should be no.
      • The key skill of an essentialist is to make a decision by design and not but default.
      • Say yes to only 10% of offers and things you are offered.
      • Narrow your choice by explaining the criteria of specification first to yourself.

When a person faced with a lack of quality, the time is usually wasted on the trivial many.

  • With sufficient levels of clarity, people are capable of greater breakthroughs, innovations.
    • If a person lack clarity, it’s due to one of the reasons.
      • Politics.
        • When there is no explicit goal in one’s life, no sense of purpose, no aspirations, and no values, he tends to play social or political games.
        • Waste time by trying to look good in comparison to others. Social networks trained us to this kind of game. Likes, followers.
          • As a result we lack what is really essential.
      • All is good.
        • No clear direction for a purpose. Often it puts an obstacle that is difficult to overcome.
        • Teams, instead of concentrating on one goal, spread their attention to several equally important, as they think.
        • Individually, with the lack of clarity we have hard time finding the truly essential and worthy goal.
          • 5 major personal projects, or finishing several universities at ones. I tried and failed.
    • Essential intent must be applied on every staged of decision-making. Choose by design and not by default.
    • ![[essential intent.png]]
      • Top left. “We want to change the world”. Inspirational.
      • Bottom left, we set values. “Innovation”. “Leadership”, “Teamwork”, “Excellence”, etc.
      • Bottom right. Short term goals. “Increase profits 5 percent over last year’s results”. Good measurable goal.
      • Essential Intent is both inspirational and can be gauged.
        • It maps the course for the next ten, fifteen years of a life.
        • It doesn’t have to be elegantly vocalized. With intent, it’s the substance and not the form that matters.

The key skill of every essentialist is to learn quick no and slow yes.

  • To safely destroy status quo bias, you have to apply zero budget policy.
    • Consider all past events as non-existent.
    • Make decisions as if you don’t have any experience at all.
    • Begin from scratch. Every commitment, every resource allocation, every financial obligation must be considered anew.
  • Don’t do casual commitment.
  • Four simple principles for editing your life.
    • [[Idea of a class called designing your life]] maybe a good entrance point for the class.
    • Cut out options.
    • Condense.
    • Correct.
    • Edit less.
  • Another edge of doing less.
    • Emails. The less we answer them, the less we get involved and invested in solving problems of not important people to us.
    • Edit less, but proofreading is not editing it correcting mistake. Don’t confuse the one with another.
  • Set boundaries to territories.
    • Family.
    • Work.
    • Sport.
  • Don’t allow one to invade the territory of another.
    • Usually we tend to neglect the simple rule. The same is applied in the concept of healthy sleep.
      • ![[12 tips how to sleep well#^380f5b]]
    • We have to isolate territories from each other.
      • Set up boundaries yourself, otherwise you’ll be forced to function in boundaries set for you by the others.
    • Handpicked boundaries provide us with opportunity to select from the whole range of options, that WE deliberately choose to explore.
      • ![[Antifragile book 7#^00ce90]]
  • The only and the single thing that we can say for sure is that: no matter how well-designed and sophisticated your plan, everything will go not according to the written script.
    • [[Antifragile Things that gain form disorder]] all about unexpected and the Black Swans.
  • Subtraction is the only way to progress. ^a6df3c
    • What is the smallest amount of progress is absolutely necessary to the essential task we are trying to get done?
    • — [[Antifragile book 6#^1323f4]]

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