Purpose of Essentialism Book Summary: The purpose of Essentialism book summary is to bring back your stolen power of decision making while helping you achieve more by doing LESS but BETTER.
Our energy is finite/limited whereas the opportunities are unlimited. You want to build every new habit you see on any new aesthetic video. You want to say YES to every project that comes on your way as that’s what productive people do, right?
But the bottom line is since our energy is finite, you cannot do everything with perfection. You cannot expect to create a masterpiece with your work if you are doing one task, thinking about the other 10 pending tasks on your list while also worrying about how to manage your personal life.
When you try to do everything without asking yourself ‘does this really matter? You end up losing your power to control your life and at the end of the day, you feel overstressed, overworked, and stretched too thin while having no results. Trust me, I have been there too. I thought I could manage two Instagram accounts, a Twitter account, YouTube, Medium, and Quora while also managing 9-5 job and enjoying a personal life. Result? I overestimated my power, I overcommitted and in the end, I found myself drowning in responsibilities.
But as they say, every book has the right timing to come into your life. I read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown almost 6 months back and my life is not the same anymore. I am now an essentialist who achieves more by doing less but better.
But let’s first see who is an essentialist.
What is Essentialism?
In today’s era when opportunities are numerous, every other influencer is passing a message knowingly or unknowingly that how you can do 10 things at a time, how you can be good at everything, how you need to jump on opportunities instantly, and how you need to be a productivity machine.
“Today, technology has lowered the barrier for others to share their opinion about what we should be focusing on. It is not just information overload; it is opinion overload.”-Greg in Essentialism
If you see my examples, I was trying to do the same. I want to be successful so I presumed that success means grabbing every opportunity that comes my way and working on every idea that knocks on my door.
Essentialism is about taking a pause to think ‘does this opportunity deserve my attention? Can this opportunity take me where I want to go?”
An essentialist person is not the one who can’t do everything. In fact, an essentialist knows that he holds immense power so he needs to invest it wisely. Basically, an essentialist is a thinker who knows where to invest his time, energy, and focus. An essentialist has the power to say “No” to things that don’t matter.-Renuka
Essentialism is a different approach to life and success. It doesn’t mean doing less or saying No to more opportunities. It means building the mental capabilities to analyze which opportunity to say YES and do LESS BUT BETTER.
For example: When I read this book, I realized that maybe I can become good at everything but never the best.
The book digs deeper into how you can analyze which opportunity to go for and exactly how to say “No” to people and opportunities that increase your value in the eyes of others.
The first step in the process of becoming an essentialist is to realize that YOU ARE THE EDITOR OF YOUR LIFE and YOU HAVE THE POWER TO EDIT THE MOVIE OF YOUR LIFE EXACTLY AS YOU WANT.
How Can You Become the Editor of Your Life?
Imagine your life is being documented right at this moment. A group of people is following you and recording your every activity to make a brand new movie on your life.
Now, ask yourself, would be interested in watching this movie?
Probably, you wouldn’t. Because as I said, you are missing from your own life let alone being the editor of your life. In order to become the editor of your life, you have to understand what’s the job of an editor.
For example, several books were converted into movies like Fault in our stars, Me before you, and more. But if you read the book and then watch the movie, you will realize how various scenes are different and missing in the movie. WHY? Because movie watchers are not interested in every detail, they just want things to be entertaining. Hence, the movie’s editor eliminates those scenes that are less entertaining. So that when a non-reader watches the movie, they get hooked on the screen.
Similarly, you have to take a pause and analyze how you can make your life more meaningful and less cluttered. You don’t have to do everything or achieve everything to make your life worth making a movie on. You have to do those things that make your life worth living, enjoying, and remembering.
Now, how can you decide which opportunity is good and which one is just a distraction?
Let’s see the three-step formula that Essentialism has shared to measure the future of an opportunity,
Three Steps To Become An Essentialist:
1. Explore: A fool says yes to every opportunity, a bigger fool says No to almost every opportunity, and an essentialist takes a moment to think about which opportunity deserves his attention.
Quite contradictory but social media and the ‘typical’ definition of success have created a FOMO in our mind that we have to be a ‘hustler’ if we want to be successful.
However, another new trend that is going viral on social media is to say NO. But wait bab! You cannot say NO without evaluating which opportunity you are declining. Unfortunately, this is the problem. The stupid social media has made us confused and has snatched away our power to think clearly. Besides, when you have been awarded in the past for doing more and more, it gets tougher to even think of saying to mediocre opportunity.
“Sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.”-Greg in Essentialism
A true essentialist and the pursuit of Essentialism teach us that the first step is to EXPLORE the different opportunities available to you. Sit down, take a pause to think, and answer these questions,
a) What do I feel deeply inspired by?
b) What am I particularly talented at?
c) If I accept this opportunity, how can I make a significant difference?
d) Will I enjoy doing it or Do I really want to do it?
e) Does any other opportunity deserve more attention than this?
f) Can this opportunity take me where I want to reach?
If you can find the answers to these questions, you will automatically be able to decide whether an opportunity deserves your time or not.
Remember, there were many people on this earth who worked their ass off, there will be more such people but the world doesn’t remember them.
The world remembers essentialists who were good at only one thing but they changed the course of history with that one thing.-Renuka
It’s not about how much you get done, it’s about how well you can do it.
2. Eliminate: Let me tell you a secret, from the start, I somehow knew that I can’t do everything yet I kept doing it. Why? Purely because I didn’t know how to eliminate the extra work that’s not helping me reach anywhere.
The book, Essentialism says that there could be two reasons why you are not able to say No to unimportant tasks and that is,
a) You fear saying No or
b) Sunk-cost bias
A) The fear of saying No: We fear that we will miss out on something really great or we fear that we will lose our relationship with people if we say No.
However, Greg suggests in Essentialism a simple yet practical ways of saying No which will save your relationship but will also increase your value. Greg says that when you are saying No just remember that you are leaving the opportunity not the person. When you think like that, you think about ‘what’s important for you rather than thinking about what others might think’
B) Sunk-cost bias: In the most straightforward words, Sunk-cost bias is an updated version of our FOMO. When you have already invested too much in a project in terms of money, time or expectations then leaving that opportunity is never a question for us. We know somewhere in our hearts that nothing good is going to happen yet we keep doing it because we hope for the expected result. This is the FOMO of losing what we haven’t even gained.
To get over the Sunk-cost basis, there is only one solution and that is to take a pause and ask this one question to yourself,
If I hadn’t already invested in this work, how much would I invest in it now?-Greg in Essentialism
Your heart will answer the question but mentally you have to take the lead.
After exploring from different perspectives which opportunity is best for you, and eliminating the other unimportant ones, it’s time for execution.
3. Execute: There is a difference between how normal people and successful people execute their tasks. The difference lies in their system. While normal people instantly jump on any opportunity, successful people build a smooth system that lowers their effort and increases their efficiency.
The author shares the formula of Buffer which helps to create a strong system of action. Buffer means before you jump on taking action, take a pause and think,
a) How are you planning to go ahead
b) How many hours of preparations do you need daily
c) How many and what kind of hurdles can come your way
d) How you can fight against those hurdles
This simple planning before execution will help you to eliminate any excuses and you will be better prepared for all the hurdles that will try to stop you.
I hope after reading this, you can choose the opportunities wisely, become an essentialist and use your time, energy, and money where you can unlock the maximum return.
If I had to sum up the three-step formula of taking decisions like an essentialist, I would say,
“If it’s not a clear yes then it’s a clear No”-Greg in Essentialism
Just as I said earlier, the world doesn’t remember the hard-working machines, the world remembers people who created something meaningful. So, don’t try to be a productivity machine, try to be an essentialist in your day-to-day life. Instead of making a long to-do list out of motivation. Make a dedicated to-do list of only 2-3 tasks that can make a huge impact in your life. Instead of thinking, how can I do more? Ask yourself, what matters the most?
In the end, I would say,
“If you take one thing away from this book, I hope you will remember this: whatever decision or challenge or crossroads you face in your life, simply ask yourself, ‘What is essential?’ Eliminate everything else.”-Greg in Essentialism