By Greg McKeown

How does a person navigate between an increasing number of “good” options in life? Do I say, “Yes” or do I say, “No”? Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplines Pursuit of Less provides practical help. McKeown is not out to help you navigate your TO DO List, he wants to help you overhaul the way you assess and approach reality.

His proposition: Try as we may to cram more and more into an already overcrowded life, none of us can bend reality. We have limits. We need a better approach. 

McKeown’s advocates becoming an essentialist — deliberately pursuing less. He writes, “only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contributions toward things that really matter.” McKeown is not waving the banner of sorting priorities, but determine THE PRIORITY. His mantra: “Less but better.” 

McKeown quotes the poet Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do, With your one wild and precious life?” McKeown’s contribution to answering Oliver’s question is not helping us get more things done, but getting the right things done. 

I appreciated McKeown’s work. It is a definite five-star in my book. He has helped me — a lot. My push-back is two-fold: (1) I appreciate essentialism as a pragmatic approach to maximizing time, but I felt his approach tended toward an philosophical/ideological identity. I’m all for essentialism as a way to improve my life. I don’t want it to define my life. (2) The shadow side of essentialism leans toward selfishness.

Overall, I highly recommend Greg McKeown’s Essentialism. 

Five reasons to read:

1. The Essentialist/Non-Essentialist diagram on page 6.
2.“To write is human, to edit is divine.” McKeown will help you learn to “edit your life” and leadership. This principle is worth the price of the book.
3.McKeown provides the YBH (Yes, But How?). He will walk you through the concepts he proposes with practical steps clearly defined.
4.The concept of “sunk cost bias” as it relates to life. Brilliant.
5.You can read this book in a couple of hours, but you can process it for a couple of weeks (and more). McKeown will make you think.