Book Review: Essentialism

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Has anyone ever suggested that you complicate your life? I didn’t think so.

Everybody thinks you should simplify your life. Great. That’s good advice, but it’s not very helpful because it skips right by the hard part: how exactly do you go about doing it? Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown will help you with the hard part, but only if you’re willing to do the work.

If you’re thinking about buying this book, read the subtitle a couple of times. It’s about the DISCIPLINED pursuit of doing less. You have to bring your own discipline. And it talks about the disciplined PURSUIT of doing less. You will never be done with this.

OK, with that said, here’s why this is a great book. Use what you find here and you can change your life. McKeown uses the analogy of your closet.

If your closet is like mine was, it’s filled with stuff that you haven’t worn in a while. Maybe there’s stuff you can’t wear anymore. Perhaps there are ties in a number of widths or dresses in a number of lengths. That, McKeown says, is like your life.

To really take care of your closet and your life, there’s a three step process. Step one: explore and evaluate your options. Step two: eliminate the non-essentials. Step three: execute your essentialist strategy. Here’s some detail on the three.

Explore and evaluate your options means look at what’s there compared with what you’d like to be there. Determine what’s important for you. Here’s a wisdom point. For everything in your closet or in your life ask “Is this essential?” If the answer is a definite “Yes” keep it. Otherwise chuck it. No middle ground.

Eliminate the non-essentials means get rid of everything that wastes your time. Ask “why am I doing this?” and do it only if you like the answer. I found that the things it was hardest to get rid of had strong emotional connections. Like that pair of basketball shoes.

I played a lot of basketball in my life, but I haven’t played in over twenty years. Out with the shoes. But it hurt.

Execute your essentialist strategy should really have another name. The name sounds like every super-simplistic management or self-development book ever. I suggest “live the essentialist life.” That’s simple to say and really hard to do. You have to do things over and over and over again to make it work.

You have to ask “Is this essential?” about everything. Everything. You only do the things that get that definite “Yes.”

You have to develop habits and routines that help you live the essentialist life. You have to keep evaluating your life to make sure that the routine things get done routinely and the important things get done well.

Living the essentialist life is the really hard part of this. Pretty much anyone can muster up the inspiration to clean out their closet or their life. Keeping either in good shape takes attention and discipline.

Bottom Line

If you want to clean out the closet of your life, buy this book and do the work. It will make a difference.

If you’re looking for a quick fix or a magic formula or something that only requires work for a short, intense period, pass on this book.

Get more of the big ideas from Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less with a free 4-minute video summary. Click Here to get it now.

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