Living as an Essentialist

Yesterday, I finished a book that frankly was a difficult book to read. It was one of those books that while reading it was slapping me in the face yet made me want to apply every principle that it mentioned. It was the perfect book to finish three days before a New Year begins. I am talking about Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

The first chapter began as what seemed like someone writing my personal biography as the author described a person always saying yes to things and being that guy who has his fingers in so many different things that productivity seems to be not showing at all. McKeown first opens the eyes of the reader by comparing the ways of the Non-essentialist – that always “yes”, people-pleasing, hard working person – to the ways of the Essentialist – the person who is solely focused on one thing to make it extraordinary and is okay with saying “no” to certain things.

I won’t go into many details since you need to read this vital book, but what was helpful the most was the fact that McKeown is not saying we should have a massive overhaul of everything in our lives all at once. Rather he suggests a slow one-by-one approach. Whether it is organizing your closet to the bare essentials or starting to say no to certain tasks that interfere with your personal life, McKeown preaches a life of freedom, meaning, and purpose by living less but better.

“What about those missed opportunities? What if I need to say ‘yes’ to that gig or project at work? I am desperate and need to build up my work experience.” These are the questions that McKeown addresses in the book. As a musician who has been freelancing for the past 4-5 years, I have said “yes” more than “no” dozens of times, and many of these times I said “sure” without thinking. Musicians are notorious for this simply because we are taught to see every opportunity as a networking opportunity because we never know who is listening to us or where the next gig might lead. While this is partly true, there comes a point where life (and sanity) come more into play than a gig, and if that realization happens at a sooner time in life, we are setting ourselves up for a greater success down the long haul.

A point that McKeown brings up with saying “no” is that at first, your boss or superior may dislike the fact you turned down an opportunity. However, when that superior realizes your intentions you actually may be more respected for the work you are currently doing.

What hit me the most was the fact that McKeown writes that the “essentialist” lifestyle is not only necessary in the workplace but also in the home. Ideas ranging from gradually clearing out closets, to leaving iPhones off the dinner table while eating, to deleting people from social media, actually allow us the freedom to do more with what matters most. Even McKeown practices what he preaches on social media by only following a few people on Twitter and virtually having a small Instagram following (no pictures even on his account). This Essentialist lifestyle leads to a life of pursuing less but better and being in the exact present moment of this current life.

Thank you, Greg McKeown, for this excellent read and this lifestyle change in living as a disciplined Essentialist.

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