As a father of three boys, a sports enthusiast, a commuter, and a deal lead at Tenzing, it’s always challenging to balance where I spend my time and how to be most effective. Over the past year, I was torn between the challenges of being a good father, a strong, thoughtful support to my portfolio Management teams, and achieving goals and challenges outside of work.
Essentialism came on my radar after I saw that Matthew Fraser, the World’s Fittest Man (and fellow Crossfit lover), was reading the book, so I decided to take a look.
I’ve always enjoyed reading self-improvement books. I believe we all should continually evolve and develop, pushing ourselves to expand our mind and experience. So, I was interested in learning more about how to focus, and how to be more impactful in a world where we have so many distractions, reduced boundaries and demands on our time.
The book’s author, Greg McKeown, is a former barrister who decided to leave the profession and go to Stanford University for his post-grad. During his time there, he noticed that a large number of the most successful people in the world, be it from business, sport, science or politics, are very good at stripping away ‘noise’ to focus on areas where they can make the highest impact – both from a contribution perspective, as well as the point of view of self-fulfilment.
Greg shares these observations in the book by establishing the process of ‘essentialism’, it’s benefits, and how to create a life centred in a laser focus on ‘the essential’. It’s a very enjoyable, empowering read which uses real-life examples of where essentialism can be applied, as well as case studies of ordinary people and famous individuals who have benefited from this approach. Think Steve Jobs, Michael Phelps, Jeff Weiner, Reid Hoffman etc.
Some of the things the book empowered me to do were:
- Do less, but better
- Be brutal in deciding how I spend my time, or else others will decide for me
- Realise that in every situation, I always have a choice
- Learn to say no, and do so in a constructive manner
- Constantly reassess and reflect on what is the most important thing for me to focus on
- Establish boundaries and dedicate focus to the highest priority at that time
One of my biggest takeaways was discovering the importance of establishing a way to analyse and explore situations to then work out what’s the highest priority to focus on. The concept can be applied in work, friendship, family life or your own happiness and health.
I’ve re-read this book a number of times, and it constantly helps me re-assess my situation, re-energise and cope with the challenges of work, being the best dad and husband I can be, and having time to enjoy myself.
I’ll end with one of my favourite quotes from Greg’s writing:
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 McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less