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Episode 90 | How to Live Like an Essentialist, with Bestselling Author Greg McKeown

By February 15th, 2019

Episode 90 | How to Live Like an Essentialist

with Bestselling Author Greg McKeown

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Stop me if this sounds familiar:

You’re a brand new employee at a company that values teamwork and collaboration. Eager to prove yourself, you come out of the gate swinging. You do good work early on, and garner a reputation as a high contributor and team player.

This reputation results in more people from across the org asking for your assistance on all sorts of projects. You, of course, say yes (you are a team player, after all).

Before long, you feel yourself spread thin. You make a millimeter of progress on a thousand different fronts, but no significant progress on any. Your “priority” list is thirty items long. In an ironic twist, your early success has now undermined your ability to contribute at a high level.

The quality of your work goes down, while your stress level skyrockets.

It’s a surefire recipe for burnout.

Luckily for us, today’s Brand Builder guest has developed a solution – Essentialism.

Greg McKeown’s best selling book Essentialism is all about helping readers discover the disciplined pursuit of less – that is, helping them find their unique abilities and highest leverage activities, and realigning their lives to focus on making the highest contribution possible.

The concept of essentialism was inspired in part by McKeown’s experience working in Silicon Valley. What McKeown found was that the early success of these startups was actually a double-edged sword. It presented them with an overwhelming amount of opportunity – in the form of partnerships, new markets, acquisitions, and the like – which ultimately detracted from their ability to focus on the essential activities that made them successful in the first place. 

In this way, success can actually become a catalyst for failure.

The experience lit a bulb in McKeown’s head, and the framework of essentialism – the disciplined pursuit of less but better – began to take shape.

This was an incredible interview, packed with tons of practical tips and engaging stories that will start you down the path of Essentialism.

Key Takeaways

  • Greg breaks down the meaning of “Essentialism,” and shares how he arrived at the concept.  
  • Greg explains how the experience of working with Silicon Valley companies played a role in developing the Essentialist framework, and how success can often become a catalyst for failure.
  • Greg relays the story of an employee who, after being pushed to the brink with nonessential activities, decided to “retire in role” in order to return to his essential activities and highest level of contribution.
  • Greg explains why essentialism sometimes requires us to say no, and relays the story of Paul Rand, the “man who said no to Steve Jobs.”
  • Greg shares a tactical tip for shortening your to-do list.
  • Greg talks about the phenomenon of decision fatigue, and how to combat it.
  • Greg points out why it’s so important to create space in your life to determine your truly essential activities.
  • Greg shares how to create a one-page “life design” that will keep you on track.
  • Greg explains why people are too focused on one half of innovation, and that true innovation involves simplifying and reducing.

Recommended Reading


Brand Builder is a co-production of SnackNation and ForceBrands.

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