I Was Wrong About the Impact of this Book, Essentialism Crushes It

StrengthsFinder Essentialism

I am not even finished with the book yet, but I am sold.

I have heard all the buzz and read the chatter and seen it on the lists of “10 Best Books for Small Business Owners,” and finally our Business Book Mastermind group made the unanimous vote to take the plunge on reading it.

I was kinda “eh” on it…but wow was I wrong.


All of a sudden the concept and perspective was all around me.

It’s like getting a new car that you swear you have RARELY seen on the road, until you drive off the lot and EVERYONE seems to have one. Or, as I’ve experienced, you don’t know anyone who is pregnant until you really want to be, and all of a sudden there are pregnant people EVERYWHERE.

Greg McKeown and this Essentialist way of life showed up everywhere. This idea that I need a mind-shift readjustment to the “disciplined pursuit of less” came into every conversation.

It showed up in the conversation of a brilliant leader friend of mine who is frustrated by the multi-“priorities” of her leadership.

It showed up in a conversation with a friend who has create a dynamite, essentialist example of building in only the most energizing activities to her mom-influencer role.

It showed up in a Michael Hyatt podcast as a Encore episode. I mean, this book has been out for a while. It’s not like he needed the interview as part of his launch, but then all of sudden, there it is.

And OH did it certainly show up in my own work and life…

…An email invitation to be a speaker a completely worthy and exciting event, pro bono. A flattering invitation to be a national radio show host. A friendly request for a community oriented workshop. A birthday party in the middle of the week. A spontaneous opportunity for a weekend getaway. A proposal out to a friend’s business for a stretching workshop experience.

Not to mention the sudden realization that I had over 25 iPhone apps on my phone that I never use.

And all this literally since I started the book…and I’m only 3/4 of the way through!

Essentialism, as McKeown says, is not just the next buzz word to talk about at cocktail parties (though it is also certainly that, seeing as how I have managed to weave it into every conversation I’ve had since starting it), rather it is the frequent and courageous work of pursuing ONLY the most essential.

He puts together a compelling, story-and-research-based narrative, that concludes that the highest degree of success, energy, and utter satisfaction in life and work are only achieved by knowing and choosing that which is Essential.

The mind-boggling challenge in this relentless, “disciplined pursuit of less”—because of course there is a challenge to anything worth doing in life—starts with a pretty significant question. How do I know what is truly essential? What are those vital few?

How do I know what is Essential?

As I tore through the pages of Essentialism, among the many take-aways, I was convicted heavily on the psychological and physiological need for sleep—that quality AND quantity of sleep run in direct relationship to my capacity to make decisions and filter out the vital.

I have always fallen into the camp that less sleep = more productivity. (Ask David, who constantly plays the role of the late-night reminder).

Part of that conviction is the way that I am naturally wired.

I get jazzed and energized and pumped by the accomplishment of tasks (even the most menial), so after the kids are in bed and the chocolate chips have been dolled, my energy spikes as I start in on my ever-aggressive and satisfying to-do list. And I get a heck of a lot done.

To me, that means, I am productive (StrengthsFinder Achiever…can’t help it!).

I have tried equally hard to uphold and ignore that sleep is required for productivity. It is not the first time that I have read it, but it is the first time that it has sunk in…we are neurologically more creative and more productive when we have a rested brain.

Perhaps that is why it is even challenging to decide if I should make Peanut Butter and Jelly or Peanut Butter and Honey for the kids at lunch sometimes. Not enough sleep to fuel the decision making power.

And if those minor decisions are affected, how much more so are the important decisions of filtering and determining my highest priorities in life?

Since that chapter, if you had been a fly on the wall in my house, you would have seen the jaw dropping disbelief from David as he watched me gather my things and head up stairs HOURS before I typically would. I haven’t been that convicted every night…sometimes that Achiever just takes over…but I am significantly more convinced that Sleep really matters as I prioritize and filter the Essential few from the Non-essential many.

My Continued Objection 

Despite this resonance, my psyche continued to object. I generally LIKE everything that I get to do right now. Everything is a good thing.

As I was mulling over this objection, McKeown suggested a series of three questions as a filter and starting point to filter out the vital few from the non-essential many:

What am I my deeply passionate about?
What taps my talent?
What meets a significant need in the world?

He actually offered up a variety of strategies, but it was these questions that resonated most with my filter of the world. Even in the smallest decisions and actions of my world, I can find an answer to these three questions.

StrengthsFinder Essentialism Focus Tweet

They speak strongly to my Belief and Connectedness StrengthsFinder Talents—deep passion, meeting a significant need in the world. Plus — of course! — it makes sense that I would be interested in tapping Talent, right?? It’s the ONLY clear way to success.

These might not be the end-all for everyone, but for me, something struck a chord. Answer these questions, and I have my vital few.

My first thoughts on my vital few :: Increase energy and decrease frustration for people at work in such a powerful way that they cannot help but bring the Strengths paradigm home to their families. Be a primary influencer in my kids’ lives. Be a dynamic, connected partner to David. Honor and love authentically. Create. Serve enthusiastically. Practice hospitality.

These essentialist questions also remind me of the powerful role of our own Values in our lives. We find what is essential, we ease into our decisions, we filter out the vital few—by getting crystal clear about our Values. They become a rubric as an ultimate decision maker. It makes the most mundane decision fall into line–only what is essential based on our Values. {Watch more about the ultimate deacon maker through clarity about our values in Isogo TV Episode 33—such great synergy with the Essentialism concept!}.

So…I was wrong about this book. I thought the tagline offered the completion of its value. But, even now, there is SO much more in store for me in Essentialism—I can just sense it.

Especially seeing as how I have no clear idea HOW to gracefully cut out the non-essential, I had best keep reading.

(And you should too! Life-changing perspective in store).

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