Notes & Quotes: Essentialism by Greg Mckeown

The following are my favorite quotes from Greg Mckeown's Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.
  1. "The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials." Lin Yutang
  2. Just because I was invited didn't seem a good enough reason to attend.
  3. His newfound commitment to doing only the things that were truly important -- and eliminating everything else -- restored the quality of his work.
  4. How often do you say yes simply to please?  Or to avoid trouble?  Or because "yes" had just become your default response?
  5. The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better.
  6. Am I investing in the right activities?
  7. The fact is that most are trivial and few are vital.  The way of the Essentialist involves learning to tell the difference.
  8. Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.
  9. If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will.
  10. The pursuit of success can be a catalyst for failure.
  11. Psychologists call this "decision fatigue": the more choices we are forced to make, the more the quality of our decisions deteriorates.
  12. When we don't purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and time, other people -- our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families -- will choose for us, and before long we'll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.
  13. Studies have found that we tend to value things we already own more highly than they are worth and thus we find them more difficult to get rid of.
  14. We can conduct an advanced search and ask three questions: "What do I feel deeply inspired by?" and "What am I particularly talented at?" and "What meets a significant need in the world?"
  15. There are three deeply entrenched assumptions we must conquer to live the way of the Essentialist: "I have to," "It's all important," and "I can do both."  Like mythological sirens, these assumptions are as dangerous as they are seductive.
  16. To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths: "I choose to," "Only a few things really matter," and "I can do anything but not everything."  These simply truths awaken us from our nonessential stupor.  They free us to pursue what really matters.  They enable us to live at our highest level of contribution.
  17. We often think of choice as a thing.  But a choice is not a thing.  Our options may be things, but a choice -- a choice is an action.
  18. The Essentialist knows that when we surrender our right to choose, we give others not just the power but also the explicit permission to choose for us.
  19. Working hard is important.  But more effort does not necessarily yield more results. "Less but better" does.
  20. John Maxwell has written, "You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything."
  21. The faintest pencil is better than the strongest memory.
  22. Small, incremental changes are hard to see in the moment but over time can have a huge cumulative effect.
  23. The value of play in our lives can't be overstated.  Studies from the animal kingdom reveal that play is so crucial to the development of key cognitive skills it may even play a role in species' survival.
  24. "Each night, when I go to sleep, I die.  And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn." Mahatma Gandhi
  25. The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves.  If we underinvest in ourselves, and by that I mean our minds, our bodies, and our spirits, we damage the very tool we need to make our highest contribution.
  26. Essentialists choose to do one fewer thing right now in order to do more tomorrow.
  27. Our highest priority is to protect our ability to prioritize.
  28. The 90% Rule -- As you evaluate an option, think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100.  If you rate it any lower than 90%, then automatically change the rating to 0 and simply reject it.
  29. "What am I deeply passionate about?" and "What taps my talent?" and "What meets a significant need in the world?"
  30. Motivation and cooperation deteriorate when there is a lack of purpose.
  31. "People are effective because they say no." Peter Drucker
  32. If we have no clear sense of the opportunity cost -- in other words, the value of what we're giving up -- then it is especially easy to fall into the nonessential trap of telling ourselves we can get it all done.
  33. Only when we admit we have made a mistake in committing to something can we make a mistake a part of our past.
  34. It's all too easy to blindly accept and not bother to question commitments simply because they have already been established.
  35. Pausing for just five seconds before offering your services can greatly reduce the possibility of making a commitment you'll regret.
  36. A good editor is someone who uses deliberate subtraction to actually add life to the ideas, setting, plot, and characters.
  37. We need to eliminate multiple meaningless activities and replace them with one very meaningful activity.
  38. Boundaries are a little like the walls of a sandcastle.  The second we let one fall over, the rest of them come crashing down.
  39. When people make their problem our problem, we aren't helping them; we're enabling them.  Once we take their problems for them, all we're doing is taking away their ability to solve it.
  40. Once you've figured out which activities and efforts to keep in your life, you have to have a system for executing them.
  41. "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax."  Attributed to Abraham Lincoln
  42. The way of the Essentialist is to use the good times to create a buffer for the bad.
  43. "To attain knowledge add things every day.  To attain wisdom subtract things every day." Lao Tzu
  44. “What is the obstacle that, if removed, would make the majority of other obstacles disappear?”
  45. Anything slowing down the execution of that goal should be questioned.
  46. "Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow." Doug Firebaugh
  47. The more we reach for the stars, the harder it is to get ourselves off the ground.
  48. Research has shown that of all forms of human motivation the most effective one is progress. Why? Because a small, concrete win creates momentum and affirms our faith in our further success.
  49. Often just ten minutes invested in a project or assignment two weeks before it is due can save you much frantic and stressed-out scrambling at the eleventh hour.
  50. There is something powerful about visibly seeing progress toward a goal.
  51. "Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition." W H Auden
  52. According to researchers at Duke University, nearly 40 percent of our choices are deeply unconscious.
  53. Every second spent worrying about a past or future moment distracts us from what is important in the here and now.
  54. What do you need to do to be able to go to sleep peacefully?
  55. Whatever decision or challenge or crossroads you face in your life, simply ask yourself, "What is essential?"  Eliminate everything else.
  56. One wrong hire is far costlier than being one person short.
  57. Clarity is the key to empowerment.