In this post, we’re going to talk about some of the key concepts in the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It’s a super easy read, it’s just over 200 pages, and the concepts in this book are really helpful and can apply to pretty much anything. So whether you want to apply them to business, to your side hustles, to your personal life, or your investments, I think that there is something that everyone can get out of this book. The overarching theme of this book is less but better. This is a great self-help book such as The Secret, Attitude is Everything, and Think and Grow Rich. So, here is the summary of Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
The first major concept in the book is learning how to say no and how to cut out the nonessential things and tasks in your life. This is something that a lot of people do have trouble with is saying no to things. So the book challenges you to ask yourself, am I investing in the right activities? And again this doesn’t apply just to actual investments, but you can apply this question across any area of life.
The first chapter of the book gives you several diagrams that you can reference as you read on later into the book, but one of these first diagrams shows the non-essentialist vs the essentialist. So the non-essentialist is someone that spreads himself too thin, tries to go in every different direction that he is pulled, and really doesn’t get very far in any of these directions because he is trying to go so many places at once. Whereas the essentialist is someone who really cuts out the outside distractions, focuses on one thing, and does that thing really well.
The book also gives you two diagrams showing where you can find the highest point of frustration in your life, and the highest point of contribution. So that highest point of frustration really encompasses the whole Gary Vee hustle culture of doing everything popular, doing it all, and doing it all now. Whereas where you can reach your highest point of contribution is actually when you cut out a lot of these distractions and do the right thing at the right time for the right reason.
It then gives you another diagram of how you can actually start cutting things out in your life and start saying no to things. And so that cycle is just to explore the ideas that you want to explore, eliminate the ones that aren’t working or that aren’t serving you, or that you just don’t like, and then just to actually execute on the ones that are the most important or the ones that you actually want to pursue. And again that can really apply to any area of life.
The second key concept in the book is the concept of learned helplessness. The book talks about an experiment two psychologists did with dogs and electric shocks, and basically what they found is that a dog would not try to escape an electric shock if it had been conditioned to believe that there was no escape. Bringing that more into a real world people scenario, they talk about a guy who has spent years and years at his job thinking that he hates his work, but really he was just at the wrong company the whole time but he never really saw it as an option to leave.
So, this second point is really just to emphasize that you can always exercise your power of choice and you don’t necessarily have to do something a certain way just because that is the way that we have been conditioned to believe that it should be done.
The third key point is that some types of effort yield higher rewards than other types of effort. So the example that they give in the chapter where they’re talking about this is actually of Warren Buffet. So they say that for a very long time 90% of his wealth actually only came from 10% of his investments. Basically what they talk about is that early on Warren Buffet knew that he wouldn’t be able to make the right investment decisions hundreds of times. So what he did was he selected companies that he was absolutely sure he knew what was going on with them, and he decided to invest heavily in those. And those are the companies that he ended up doing the best in.
The fourth takeaway is to take breaks and actually get sleep. Again this is a concept that goes very much against the whole Gary Vee hustle culture work all the time mentality. The book does talk about this and how it’s kind of celebrated in Silicon Valley and startups and the whole entrepreneur space that less sleep somehow equals more productivity.
When actually if you look at the science behind it, when you get better sleep, you’re able to be more productive and your thought processes are clearer. And so the book also talks about Bill Gates and how he famously takes his week. And this is just a week where he takes off from all responsibilities at Microsoft, basically just goes out on his own – reads, thinks, does whatever he wants for a week and does not work. So the book really encourages you to set aside some distraction-free time in a distraction-free place and really allow yourself to think and rest.
The fifth takeaway from the book is to build buffers. So whether that is with projects you’re working on, with your finances, or just with your time, we know that things don’t always go as planned. This book really encourages you to always build in that buffer to your timeline or whatever you’re planning so that you aren’t really disappointed or really surprised when extra things come up.
The sixth lesson from Essentialism is to keep a journal. And the book encourages you just to journal whenever you can, for whatever amount you can. Whether that’s a sentence or two every week, every couple of days, or even just a couple of times a month. And it really emphasizes that going back and looking at the journal is a lot easier and a lot more accurate than us just trying to remember things on our own. We forget things really easily, and so having our goals and what we’re thinking about just written down somewhere, even if it’s just a couple of sentences or bullet points. It can really help you reflect on what you’re trying to do and maybe how you can make better decisions going forward.
The seventh lesson from Essentialism is to start celebrating small wins to get to bigger goals instead of just trying to set one giant goal and accomplishing it all at once. If you break down that bigger goal into those smaller milestones, you’re going to see a lot more progress in those. Indeed, this will motivate you to keep going. Whereas if you just set one big goal and you see very little progress on it, a lot of times that is when we experience burnout.
The eighth lesson is to start setting routines that help you eliminate the non-essential decisions and things in your life. This really helps you focus on those essential things. So not only could this just be your daily routine. But they also talk about a CEO that has different tasks assigned to different days of the week. So Mondays he does marketing, maybe Tuesdays he gets through all of his meetings, and he organizes his weekly routine that way.
It also talks about having routines for how you handle particular situations and situations where you are going to say no. So maybe if you work with clients, it’s having a routine that you go through to determine whether or not to actually onboard that client, and whether or not they are worth your time, and you kind of go through that checklist of your routine and you assess it that way.
Well, this was the review and summary of Essentialism by Greg McKeown. For more book summaries, visit our website.