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Greg McKeown

Episode 15, The Essential Life

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone or something else will,” asserts bestselling author, leadership and business strategist Greg McKeown. When Greg left his wife’s side soon after the birth of his daughter because of a minor business meeting, he knew he had to take back the reins and live “the essential life.”

“Perhaps Shakespeare’s Hamlet said it best—‘To thine own self be true,’” exclaims Greg McKeown, founder and CEO of McKeown, Inc., a leadership and strategy design agency based in California. The bestselling author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less explains, “Every time you say yes to anything, you’re saying no to many other things.” Living the essential life means honestly recognizing what really matters and embracing the trade-offs. That’s the filter through which this self-described essentialist deliberates decisions both big and small. Says McKeown, “It’s removing this clouded set of distractions that make us believe everything is equally important and suddenly to see clearly that only a few things really matter.” Do less, but better. Cut out nonessential tasks, obligations, commitments to hone in and excel on the remainder.

Essentialism is seeing clearly what really matters and doing it.

Essentialism rejects the idea that you can do it all or that you should accomplish everything. Instead, it promotes choosing only some fields or directions in which to shine. It’s more important to “make great strides in a few things that matter, rather than an inch of progress in a million directions,” says McKeown. He encourages clients to continuously ask questions, update plans, and refresh the decisions regarding what’s worth doing. Reinvest in productive areas.

The guidelines for living the essential life are simple. Do the important thing now. The next moment, the same. Clear away the clutter. Clear away the distractions. Turn the TV way down. Turn the social media off. Get still. Get quiet.

What’s important now? Do it.

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What you’ll learn

  • Greg’s personal story of why and how he reordered his life (2:13)
  • Identifying and embracing the essentials and rejecting the rest (7:08)
  • How “endowment” bias can hold you back: Reevaluating and letting go of things that are no longer important (9:55)
  • How to spend time in accordance with your greatest values, rather than letting others decide (24:50)

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