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Book Notes - Essentialism - By Greg McKeown


  • How Can We Cut Out the Trivial Many?
  • It is not enough to simply determine which activities and efforts don’t make the best possible contribution.
  • You still have to actively eliminate those that do not.
  • How you eliminate nonessentials so you can make the higher level of contribution toward the things that are actually vital.
  • If I didn’t have this opportunity - what would I be willing to do to acquire it?
  • The question you should be asking yourself is NOT: 'What, of my list of competing priorities should I be saying yes to?
    • But 'What will I say NO to'



  • One Decision That Makes a Thousand
  • Mission statements are set up to inspire their employees with a clear sense of purpose.
  • This section is about how to eliminate the nonessentials in order to ensure you put your energies into the activities that are the most meaningful.
  • Eliminate is simply the activity that is misaligned with what you are intending to achieve.


From Pretty Clear to Really Clear

  • Big difference between pretty clear and really clear
  • The fact that clarity of purpose so consistently predicts how people do their jobs.
  • The fact is, motivation and cooperation deteriorate when there is a lack of purpose.
  • If a team does not have clarity of goals and roles, problems will fester and multiply.
  • When there is a serious lack of clarity about what the team stands for and what their goals and roles are, people experience confusion, stress, and frustration.
  • Where there is a high level of clarity - people thrive.
  • When there is a lack of clarity people waste time and energy.
  • When they have sufficient levels of clarity - they are capable of greater breakthroughs and innovations
  • Two common patterns when teams lack clarity.
    • Playing politics - teams become overly focused on the manager.
    • Its all good - they become leaderless.
      • Without clarity of purpose - pursuing something because its good is not good enough to make a high level of contribution.
      • When they are clear about their purpose and role - it is amazing what happens to team dynamics.


Essential Intent

  • Done right - essential intent - is one decision that settles one thousand later decisions.
  • Essentialist
    • Has a strategy that is concrete and inspirational
    • Has an intent that is both meaningful and memorable.
    • Makes one decision that eliminates one thousand later decisions
  • To get everyone in the UK online by the end of 2012 - it was simple, concrete, inspiring and easily measured.
  • Could coordinate actions and energies to eliminate everything else.
  • 'But does this new idea really help us to achieve our intent?'
  • This is the kind of statement of purpose that we need for our companies, teams and careers.
  • How do we craft a statement of purpose this is both concrete and inspiring, meaningful and memorable.


Stop Wordsmithing and Start Deciding

  • If you could be truly excellent at one thing - what would it be.


Ask 'How Will We Know When We're Done'

  • Concrete objectives have the power to elevate and inspire as well.
  • Some of the most grandiose were actually the least inspiring - simple.
  • Brad Pitt
    • "to build 150 affordable, green, storm-resistant homes for families living in the lower 9th ward."
    • The concreteness of the objective made it real, the realness made it inspiring.
    • It answers "How will we know when we have succeeded?"


Living with Intent

  • Creating an essential intent is hard. It takes courage, insight, and foresight to see which activities and efforts will add up to your single highest point of contribution.



  • The Power of a Graceful 'No'
  • Have you ever felt tension between what you felt is right and what someone is pressuring you to do.
  • Internal conviction vs. external action.
  • Courage is the process of elimination.
  • Stephen Covey - the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.


Essentially Awkward

  • People respect and admire those with the courage to say No
  • Peter Ducker - 'people are effective because they say No'
  • Point is to not say no to all requests - the point is to say no to noessentials so we can say Yes to the things that really matter.
  • Separate the Decision from the Relationship
    • When people ask us to do something  - we can confuse the request with our relationship to them.
  • Saying No gracefully doesn’t have to mean using the word No
    • Choose No - more often than you say No
  • Focus on the Trade-Off
  • Remind Yourself that Everyone is selling something.
    • An idea, a viewpoint, an opinion - in exchange for your time.
  • Trading Popularity for Respect.
  • Remember That a Clear No - can be more graceful than a noncommittal Yes.
    • Being vague is not the same thing as being graceful and delaying the eventual No.
Posted on Thursday, July 7, 2016 5:44 PM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Essentialism - G. McKeown : Eliminate, Clarify & Dare

# re: Essentialism - G. McKeown : Eliminate, Clarify & Dare
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Good information. This is something great to learn about. - Gary McClure
Left by Joey Wallace on Sep 12, 2016 2:29 AM

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