There are two books in my mind that I am passionate about and itching to write. One is roughly half finished. So which one should be done first? Several friends that I don’t want to disappoint, are urging me to go in different directions. Experience has taught me that good writing (including the writing of reports, term papers, and even newsletters) usually takes a lot longer than we expect. Even so I’ve concluded that I don’t need to chose which book to do. I can do both.
Not a good idea, suggests Greg McKeown’s thought-provoking and very practical new book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. McKeown defines the nonessentialist as a person who tries to do everything, acquire as much as possible, and please everybody. Often these people spend unwisely, never throw anything away, rarely say “no,” have a short-term perspective, and live under constant pressure. They feel overworked but underutilized, too often busy but not productive. “When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose to focus our energies and time, other people will choose for us, and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.” Sound familiar?
In contrast, essentialists learn to be selective in how they spend their time and money. They assume that “less is better,” that they can’t do it all or let others set their life agendas, that they need not accept every invitation or appeal to get involved. McKeown shows how even people with high-maintenance children, difficult bosses, demanding careers and inner insecurities can make wiser choices and choose to be different. At times the book may be a little idealistic and not applicable to everybody but the author intersperses questions that we all might ask ourselves or our clients even when life is mostly about survival. Examples:
- Is what I am doing or asked to do the most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?
- What do I feel deeply inspired by?
- What am I particularly talented at?
- Of all that is before me, what has potential to meet the most significant need in this world?
- If I could only do one thing right now what would it be?
As some of you know, every year I pick the most influential book of those I’ve read since January 1. Essentialism is my pick for 2014. Any comments?