The Core Philosophy of Essentialism

Essentialism, as created by Greg McKeown, is founded on this core logic, which although common sense, is not common practice:

“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.” 

Just let that sink in.

It’s NOT about productivity.

It’s NOT about banging your head against the concrete repeatedly.

It’s NOT about just doing one thing, either (more on this later).

It’s about identifying one’s purpose, and pursuing only that thing.

Here’s the issue: a lot of people don’t know what their purpose is!

I recently read about Vincent Van Gogh in David Epstien’s book “Range”. He spent nearly his entire life trying to figure out what he liked doing. He was an art salesman, then a preacher, then a teacher, then a preacher (again), then about 20 different types of artists before he made any type of mark on the world.

Would you say that he’s a non-essentialist? Would you say he wasted his life?

He could have made so much more money, met so many more important people if he had just stuck with his first art salesman job.

That might not actually be true seeing that some of his paintings have sold for over $100 million dollars (adjusted for inflation).

But they sold after he died.

So, did he waste his life? Would Greg McKeown approve of this pinball-like approach to life?

It all depends on what you want out of life.

Money won’t fix all your problems, but it opens up a world of possibility.

An amazing marriage and great kids can provide a sense of fulfillment and purpose to your life difficult to find anywhere else. But it comes at a large personal tradeoff.

I think the more likely answer for almost everyone is that they want a combination of things: enough money, enough freedom, enough family obligations, etc.

Enough. But not too much.

The issue is figuring out the balance – especially if your interests change every other month like mine do.

The meandering path to “success” (whatever the heck that means) is the right path – I think most of us will spend much more time figuring out the first part of essentialism (discovering what’s essential) than the second (actually pursuing that thing).

And in the meantime, we should give all we have to the opportunities currently in front of us. We should look at each day as another day in the school of life – whose tuition can only be paid in day-tight compartments.



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