What you should know about Essentialism


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

More?  Or Less?

More is a thing we’re all in pursuit of, even if we don’t know what “thing” it is.  Just have more of it.  More, more, more! It’s exhausting to pursue more.  It never ends.

Ask someone close to you what they’d like to have more of? You won’t get a short answer.  Think about all the more you could have in your life right now if you could just achieve it.  More:

  • house or houses
  • clothes
  • shoes
  • money, lots more money
  • car(s)
  • furniture
  • jewelry

If immediately you believe you will be reading about giving away your life savings, living like a hermit, and wearing terrycloth clothing you’re wrong. Essentialism is a framework for choice.

Instead what about considering less? Doesn’t sound very sexy does it?

Okay, I agree and I like things that sound sexy and simple.  So, let me rephrase it the way Greg McKeown did in his book: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.  Less, but better!

Less, but better!

Welcome to the essentialism lifestyle. The pursuit of “less, but better” in our lives. More focus, on fewer activities, for a return magnitudes higher than the simple pursuit of more for more.  It’s not about living in a 400 square foot apartment and giving away all we’ve ever owned.  Its about discipline in following and achieving our dreams by using the power of choice (elimination) and focus (dreams).

If I could recommend five books to anyone, this book is for sure on the list. I devoured it the first time I read it, so I’m going back for a second course to make sure I didn’t leave too much meat on the bone.

I associate the essentialist set of beliefs with another leader I follow a great deal online Gary Vaynerchuk.   Gary is obsessed in focusing his efforts on the two or three things he’s really great at.  These two or three “world-class” talents can provide him the greatest return (in magnitudes of order) compared to investing his time in the 95% of shit (his words) he sucks at.

Here’s another very strong correlation i found from author and successful blogger Ramit Sethi’s, I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog. The title of his recent post 2015 The Year of More.  After you’re done reading this piece, circle back and digest what Ramit is saying.

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Here are seven of my favorite points I distilled from the book:

  1. Essentialists ask this question every day, multiple times per day.  “Is this the very most important thing I could be doing with my time or resources RIGHT NOW?
  2. “Only once you give yourself permission to STOP trying to do it all, can you make your highest contribution toward what really matters
  3. Evaluate the “trivial many” vs. the “vital few” – in all aspect of our life and finances
  4. From Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter), “There are a thousand things we could be doing, buy only one or two are important”
  5. Nonessentialists = Yes to all.  Pleasers of anything and everything.
  6. Decision fatigue.  More choices = lower quality of choices.  I found this really interesting as I just read a Fast Company piece titled, “Always Wear The Same Suit”  about decision making and wardrobe choices for President Barack Obama.  He subscribes to this productivity hack.
  7. The invisible art form.  EDIT.   We should always be editing down our schedules, focuses, goals, and lifestyle.  Like a great producer taking a film from five hours to three.  Or a publisher taking a great book and simplifying it from 600 pages to a well distilled 250.  Edit, edit, edit!

I don’t want to ruin it for those who would like to consume all the book has to offer, but I do really suggest you think about how the power of choice and elimination could better impact your life.

ACTION ITEM:  I really want you to read this book.  If you don’t choose to read this book, slow down and read my seven favorite points.  They will substantially impact your life and the way you look at how your invest your time.

The Quality of Your Life = The Quality of Your Questions


“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” – Voltaire

The inspiration for writing this post is actually a Tony Robbins quote I came across a few times now in my recent readings.  It’s an extremely valuable statement because it shapes the lives we lead every day.   If we don’t change our questions, and direction, we are likely to end up where we are going.

So that we may better understand the two directions available to each of us, lets look at conflicting lifestyles and frame both viewpoints with the questions each asks.

Let me tell you about the “wanters.”

Life happens to these people.  Here is what their questions sound like:

  • Why me?
  • Why can’t I do this?
  • Why does my boss hate me?
  • Why can’t my parents just be wealthy and leave me a big inheritance?
  • How is it I never have enough time?
  • Why does he get a raise, and I never make any more money?
  • What can I do to be more lucky?
  • Why do I have to learn this?
  • How can I provide as little effort as possible and still get paid?

A strong “victim” pattern exists to the style and direction of these questions.  There is little to no control.  Please read through each of these questions again and take a deep breath.  I’ve asked these questions too.  It doesn’t make us bad people, we were just ignorant to what else was out there.

The cure for ignorance is curiosity.

That said, what questions can you ask to get more out of your life, career, or business starting today?  Here are some I’ve learned over the years.  Ask, and a better life awaits you.

  • Why not me?
  • Why not now?
  • What more can I learn?  (What don’t I know, that I should know)
  • How can I provide more value to differentiate myself, my product or my company?
  • What can I learn from his/her success?
  • What does success look like?
  • What more can I do to help?
  • What do I want from life?
  • What can I say “NO” to?

What did you notice?

There is a strong pattern of “ownership” in this question pattern.  I could keep going, but instead I found this wonderful link on Forbes.  35 Questions That Will Change Your Life.   There are categories and I found the “Self Awareness” grouping the most insightful.  I really encourage you to dive into the list when you’re done reading.  There will be a couple “frying pan to the face” moments with at least two questions you read.  That’s what we’re looking for!

I ask three questions to myself and my wife frequently to evaluate who we are,  where we are, and where we’re going.  Life moves fast, and believe it or not people and goals change over the years.  Use these three question to reset your course, or provide better direction along your journey.

Three Powerful Questions For a Lifetime of Fulfillment:

  1. What are my world-class talents? (can’t have more than three) – WHO AM I?
  2. What achievements make me really happy, fulfilled, or satisfied? – WHAT I SHOULD BE DOING?
  3. What do I really want from life? – WHY?

The questions aren’t the hard part.  It’s the brutal honesty required in the answers and actions that sets believers apart from achievers.  Side note, if you really want a ton of money to buy expensive clothes and drive a Ferrari, be honest.  Do NOT lie about who you are or what you want.  It will either slow you down immensely or set you back.  Be honest and own it.

“Change the questions you ask yourself and change the direction of your life” – Tony Robbins

ACTION ITEM:  For me the art of asking the right questions is an acquired skill.  Skills are developed over time.  Personally I feel I’m a few levels away from my black belt in asking the right questions so I continue to practice.  Every day I try and change the angle of a conversation with a  better question.  Think first, then ask and don’t forget to listen.

How Stuart Scott Impacted My Life


He will never know it, and I hate to say his passing triggered the actions I took to write this, but it is the truth.

I spent the better part of Sunday, January 4 with my wife in complete admiration of a man I never met and only knew through watching him host “The Big Show” on television.  To say I was a SportsCenter junkie growing up would be like saying Michael Jordan was a little competitive.  I bet I didn’t miss a night or morning of SportsCenter for 10 years growing up.  Because of this feeling of attachment, I was emotional.  Emotional for his daughters, for his battle, and for his spirit to live on.

If you watched 10 minutes of ESPN’s wonderful coverage surrounding Stuart’s life and fight with cancer, you learned a couple key things.  First off, people loved him.  They really, really, loved him because he did him so damn well.  He owned who he was and wasn’t afraid to wear it every day.  That isn’t the immediate focus of this post, but it is certainly one we can all learn from.

You be you.

I watched a segment this morning (January 5) on the Dan Patrick Show where SVP (Scott Van Pelt) and Dan were reflecting on the life and career of their dear friend.  Each spoke in immense admiration of Stuart and maybe even shared a laugh at Stu’s expense.  The point was, they were saying things they’d known for a very long time, but they felt obligated (my words not theirs) to say them now because that’s what you do when people pass on.  You remember and you reflect.  It didn’t change their feelings of Stuart for the last 10 years, but now because he’s gone, it all comes pouring out.

What happened next was one of the most fulfilling things I’d done in a long time.

Why wait?

I grabbed my laptop and decided I was going to let my nearest and dearest friends know how I really felt about them.  These people are extraordinary and they needed to know it today.  I won’t disclose the words said or the people who it was addressed to.  Those things are for me and my comrades.  But I can promise you one thing…

I hope it made them feel as great as it made me feel to write it.

I’m not sure how often I’m going to do this at this scale, but I’m going to make a very concerted effort to ensure people understand how much I care about them and what they mean to me and our family (my wife and son).  We’ve all seen how life can change in an instant.  Although we all hope and pray it never happens, it inevitably does.  Life changes, and we’re left in the wake of something forever missing.  Words left unsaid feel like a burden because they never meet the flesh of the person they were meant for.

ACTION ITEM: Please don’t wait.  Write something today.  It doesn’t have to be a lot, you just have to mean it.

“You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live”

~ Rest in peace Stu.  Booyah!

The Investment Category You’re Likely Missing


Stocks. Bonds. Gold. Mutual Funds.

The topic of money is a really polarizing conversation.  When you see the word “investing” in the title, you typically associate it with ROI, rates of return, and diversification of portfolios.

Have you ever asked, I wonder how much money he has?  Or, I wonder how he makes all of his money?  That’s what investing is all about right?

Remember when Owen Wilson’s flamboyant character in Meet the Parents said, “How’s your portfolio?”  Ben Stiller’s awkward and out of place character squeamishly responded, “I’d say strong….to quite strong!”

Meet The Parents

Meet the Parents

While I believe heavily in the value of being educated on the topic of money and what it can do for you, I think focusing solely on mutual fund categories and stock options will only get you so far.   If you start making a little money, and investing a little money, and never find a way to add momentum to your strategy, your only game plan is a beans-and-rice discipline for the next 50 years.  Sound fun?  HELL NO. 

The biggest investment category people are missing out on is themselves.  What is your true market value and what are you doing to increase it?  What knowledge are you gaining today to warrant a higher price tag tomorrow?  What skills are you learning from those who have “been there, done that” to better your position? What challenges are you taking on to stretch your comfort level and capabilities?

If you’re thinking I’m only referring to post graduate education and a mountain of MBA debt, I’m going to disappoint you.  We can debate the value of the average MBA at a later date.  What I’m referring to is a daily discipline or activity to grow your mind.  What are you doing to challenge your thinking?  How are you investing in yourself?

Instead of investing only money, consider how you’re investing your time.

It really bothers me that at the ripe age of 18, a naive teenager can choose to go thousands (maybe tens of thousands of dollars) in debt chasing a career they’re uncertain of, but a slightly accomplished professional thinks twice about investing $500-$1,000 in themselves to digest literature, audiobooks, or an online course to better their skills?

You don’t have to be enrolled in a college to learn something.  You have to make a choice and pursue that choice with piss and vinegar.

Someone much smarter than me said, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”  I liken complacency and stagnation to dying because today’s economy doesn’t allow for status quo.

I believe the list of items below are small (some even free) investments you can use to get a bigger return from your talents.  Invest the time, and increase your value.

  • Podcasts: There are many free and terrific podcasts out there.  Here is a link to a few of my favorites – One Podcast A Day Keeps Mediocrity Away. Free. Free. Free.
  • Blogs: How much are you paying to read this?  There is so much great info available.  Just have your BS detector up!
  • YouTube: If you can navigate the cat videos, there are hundreds of hours of free teaching online at your fingertips.  Your price tag = focus!
  • Audiobooks: These are likely not free, but you do have the freedom of movement (traveling, exercising, even cleaning) to consume them on your schedule.  I love audiobooks because I’ll listen to them over and over.
  • Books: Yes, people still read books.  Try getting lost in a mind-bending book.  I just read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, and I think I’ll read it again soon.  It’s that transformational.
  • Mentors: Do you have a mentor?  If not, don’t call someone and say, “Will you be my mentor?”  Anyone in their right mind will say no.  You’re begging.  But, you could reach out and offer to buy them a cup of coffee and invest in the relationship, instead of just trying to suck the knowledge out of their head like a brain surgery they didn’t sign up for.

 ACTION ITEM: Keep learning.  Keep pursuing new and challenging ideas.  Keep growing.

What I Learned the Week I Unplugged


About two weeks ago, I took a different direction in my professional life and resigned from the job I’d dedicated my entire adult career (10+ years) to. It was an extremely tough decision, but one I felt I needed to make in order to stay vigilant in pursuing my dreams and goals.

Although this is another subject for another time (or post), what resulted from this action was really eye opening and life altering.  I turned in my computer and phone and suddenly lost touch with the world, or did I?

I was trapped and didn’t know it.

My day revolved around these two devices.  Phone calls, tweets, texts, Facebook messages, emails, emails, and more worthless emails filled my day from the early morning hours until hitting the pillow at night.  I didn’t realize how disastrous this was until I literally couldn’t do it anymore.  I needed to dry out from technology.

It was exactly the therapy I needed.  I was addicted.

Maybe I’m still addicted, but I can see it more clearly now.  Ironically enough, I was reading a book a week or two ago discussing the topic of boredom.  The author described in great detail how people today (mainly younger adults and children) have no concept of boredom because they just plug into another device just when the B-word sets in.  This rampant activity causes our brains to operate on overdrive 95% of the time and provides little to no rest.  We need rest.

It doesn’t shock me one bit to see the #1 growing diagnosis among strung out teens and young adults is anxiety.  We can’t let go of technology until we’re forced to for FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

Well I missed out.  I missed out on 10 days of…

NOTHING.  I didn’t miss a damn thing, and I’m a better person for it.  If people needed to get a hold of me, they texted my wife.  How cool is that?  They actually couldn’t get a hold of me.  Sad news is, I’m back now with a phone and a computer, but I’ve got to tell you what I’ve learned in the process.

  1. I’m not that important.  Yes, I technically don’t have a job at this very moment, so I don’t have those responsibilities, but life went on for everyone else.
  2. Silence is beautiful.  I was trying to remember the last time I just sat and thought.  It’s been too long.  Can you tell me the last time you spent 30 minutes in silence just thinking?
  3. I was neglecting myself.  I was able to catch up on reading I wanted to tackle, blog posts I wanted to write, and knocking down jump shots in the gym (basketball was always my sanctuary growing up).
  4. Anxiety was running my life.  Not from a clinical standpoint, but I was always on alert for the next thing: text, email, phone call, etc. that needed to be responded to.  Ready, ready, ready, and…exhausted.
  5. I’m in control.  The last couple weeks I’ve had entire days to myself.  I made the decisions on what to read, when to exercise, and yes, when I wanted to take a nap (although my wife says I should’ve done more of this). It’s always been my schedule.  I just let others dictate it.
  6. Scheduled downtime.  Now that I’m a recovering information junkie, I’m learning to schedule my downtime.  I’m working on not jumping right into technology in the morning and taking breaks throughout the day to recharge (albeit briefly), so I can be the best version of myself.

ACTION ITEM: I was so excited to share this with the tribe.  I really hope you can take a few days, maybe even a week away from everything.  Some say, that’s why God made Mexico, but I’d like to see you do it while at home and take the challenge head on.  I bet you will find a little more of yourself in the process.

Lastly, it would provide me a great deal of pleasure if you would comment on your experiences below.  This is only my opinion, and I’m sure there are tremendous amounts of knowledge to be shared from the community of readers out there.

Thank you,