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Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less Hardcover – April 15, 2014
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"Do you feel it, too? That relentless pressure to sample all the good things in life? To do all the 'right' things? The reality is, you don’t make progress that way. Instead, you’re in danger of spreading your efforts so thin that you make no impact at all. Greg McKeown believes the answer lies in paring life down to its essentials. He can’t tell you what’s essential to every life, but he can help you find the meaning in yours.”
-- Daniel H. Pink, author of TO SELL IS HUMAN and DRIVE
“Entrepreneurs succeed when they say "yes" to the right project, at the right time, in the right way. To accomplish this, they have to be good at saying "no" to all their other ideas. Essentialism offers concise and eloquent advice on how to determine what you care about most, and how to apply your energies in ways that ultimately bring you the greatest rewards.”
-- Reid Hoffman, co-founder/chairman of LinkedIn and co-author of the #1 NYT bestseller “The Start-up of You”
"Greg McKeown’s excellent new book is a much-needed antidote to the stress, burnout and compulsion to “do everything,” that infects us all. It is an Essential read for anyone who wants to regain control of their health, well-being, and happiness."
-–Arianna Huffington, Co-founder, president, and editor in chief, Huffington Post Media Group”
“Essentialism holds the keys to solving one of the great puzzles of life: how can we do less but accomplish more? A timely, essential read for anyone who feels overcommitted, overloaded, or overworked—in other words, everyone. It has already changed the way that I think about my own priorities, and if more leaders embraced this philosophy, our jobs and our lives would be less stressful and more productive. So drop what you’re doing and read it..”
--Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Give and Take
“As a self-proclaimed "maximalist" who always wants to do it all, this book challenged me and improved my life. If you want to work better, not just less, you should read it too.”
- Chris Guillebeau, NYT bestselling author of The $100 Startup
"Great design takes us beyond the complex, the unnecessary and confusing, to the simple, clear and meaningful. This is as true for the design of a life as it is for the design of a product. With Essentialism, Greg McKeown gives us the invaluable guidebook for just such a project."
-Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO
"In Essentialism, Greg McKeown makes a compelling case for achieving more by doing less. He reminds us that clarity of focus and the ability to say ‘no’ are both critical and undervalued in business today."
-Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn
"While everyone else is still leafing through Lean In or Outliers, get a competitive jump on the new year with....Essentialism... learn how to identify the right things, focus on getting them done, and forget the rest. In other words, 'do less, but better.'” -Forbes
“Essentialism is a powerful antidote to the current craziness that plagues our organizations and our lives. Read Greg McKeown’s words slowly, stop and think about how to apply them to your life – you will do less, do it better, and begin to feel the insanity start to slip away.”
- Robert I. Sutton, Professor at Stanford University and author of Good Boss, Bad Boss and Scaling Up Excellence.
In a world of increasing chaos and complexity, the ideas and tools of Essentialism turn chaos into commitment and complexity into accomplishment. This timely, well written book is a must read and do for any employee, manager, leader, or parent whoever feels overwhelmed. It is truly the right book at the right time.
- Dave Ulrich, Professor, University of Michigan School of Business and Partner, the RBL Group
"Essentialism is a rare gem that will change lives. Greg offers deep insights, rich context and actionable steps to living life at its fullest. I've started on the path to an Essentialist way of life, and the impact on my productivity and well-being is profound."
-Bill Rielly, Senior Vice President, Intel Security
"In this likeable and astute treatise on the art of doing less in order to do better...McKeown makes the content fresh and the solutions easy to implement. Following his lucid and smart directions will help readers fine "the way of the essentialist" -Success Magazine
"Essentialism will give you richer, sweeter results and put you in real control, giving greater precision to the pursuit of what truly matters.” -Forbes.com
About the Author
Greg McKeown writes, teaches, and speaks around the world on the importance of living and leading as an Essentialist. He has spoken at companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Salesforce.com, Symantec, and Twitter and is among the most popular bloggers for the Harvard Business Review and LinkedIn Influencer’s group. He co-created the course, Designing Life, Essentially at Stanford University, was a collaborator of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Multipliers and serves as a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum. He holds an MBA from Stanford University. www.gregmckeown.com
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Top customer reviews
maybe it just happened to find me at the right time in my own journey, but i loved this book. It talks in a very clear and straightforward manner about how to simplify your life, your thinking, and your purpose to cut out all the extraneous "stuff" that continually distracts us and focus in on what's really important. People and things (like email!) continual to swirl around us, competing for our attention. When we let them have our attention without being thoughtful, they fill up your life instead of YOU filling up your life and deciding for yourself what your priorities are. It also makes the very commonsense point that when we have 15 different priorities, we have no priorities!
Read this book. I felt like it was a great use of time, it had a lot of important things to say, and it was concise in how it said it.
Initially the author goes on about how busy people often don't get that much done because they are distracted by unimportant tasks impeding their work on vital tasks by being distractions. This harks back to advice to separate your work into urgent, non-urgent, important and non-important - advice many have heard before.
The book, as these often are, is anecdotal. In most books, anecdotal tales consist of anonymous and probably apocryphal, such as, "Lisa S came into my office carrying her saxophone. She denied to me she had her sax with her which confirmed my diagnosis that she was musically delusional" and so forth.
Here, the tales are almost always attributed to not only an identifiable person, but one who is at least slightly a public figure - usually a player in the tech industry. The author clearly thinks we'll be impressed not only that he knows these folks but that their having simplified their lives will impress us to follow suit.
At several points, the author shows how employees, in an effort to become an 'essentialist' (the goal here) tells their boss something like, "No, I won't do as you say because I want to finish what I'm working on". This defiance, the author tells us, earned the respect of that boss with no adversity or blow back. I think that rather optimistic outside of the high tech Bentley / BMW / Audi / Benz circles this author seems to orbit about within.
The gist of the book is about 20 pages. Then we go on for another 80 or so repeating the same advice along with some more celebrity anecdotes. Finally, in the last maybe 30% of the book, the author branches off a bit into what an 'essentialist' is verus a 'non-essentialist' the latter is one who is still clogged up with unimportant tasks.
The contrasts have nothing to do with keeping your life simplified. They are just the author's sundry dewdrops of advice on how to conduct your life. Most make plenty of sense but they are clearly in the book only to make it long enough to not look silly.
Overall if the message is new to you, then the book is very worthwhile reading, but for most of us, we know this stuff and we're either doing it or finding some roadblock to being able to do it. Conditionally recommended.
This book may not be for everybody. If your life is manageable, filled with satisfying activities, and you're progressing at the pace you want, you may not need this book. But for those who feel overloaded, distracted, stuck in the mire of doing a lot but not progressing on what matters to you, you might find it of interest. Although there are time and life management books by Stephen Covey, Brian Tracey, Julia Morgenstern, David Allen etc., this book approaches life management from a fresh angle: essentialism. It is filled with contemporary examples which are relevant in 2014.
Four E's constitute the process of essentialism says McKeown: Essence, Explore, Eliminate and Execute. The goal is to do less, but better writes McKeown. It's a disciplined pursuit of less he writes. "If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will," McKeown says. He recommends asking yourself continually: "Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?" Or, to discern what is essential to you, how about this question: "If you could do one thing with your life right now, what would it be?" The aim is to live by design, not default. You practice distinguishing between the trivial many and the vital few.
Under the umbrella of each of the four E's of essence, explore, eliminate and execute, McKeown lists mindsets and actions to live more essentially. Take execute, one of my favorite sections, McKeown outlines: buffering - prepare contingencies and expect the unexpected, subtracting - bring forth more by removing obstacles, progress - the power of small wins which harnesses the power of steadiness and repetition, flow - capture the genius of the best routines, focus - figure out what's important now and be - the essentialist life of more clarity, more control, and more joy in the journey.
Threaded throughout are abundant examples of individuals who live by the principles and actions described in this book. Warren Buffet seems to practice essentialism in his approach to investing about which Buffet says humorously: "Our investment philosophy borders on lethargy." Doing more by doing less. There's the example of business prophet Peter Drucker who is quoted forecasting: "In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time - literally - substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it." This book offers ideas on how to manage yourself and what is essential to you.
Clarity = success promises this book. It makes sense that if you practice essentialist principles, it will revolutionize your life. You will create more of what you want, and eliminate more of what you don't want, enabling you to do more by doing less. This is life transforming, and one of the best books I have read recently in which the message is potentially life-changing. Like the book's design, too, with the jazzy black and white graphics.