In the many hours Geoff spent resting he came to see an interesting paradox in his addiction to achievement: for a type A personality, it is not hard to push oneself hard. Pushing oneself to the limit is easy! The real challenge for the person who thrives on challenges is not to work hard. He explains to any overachievers: “If you think you are so tough you can do anything I have a challenge for you. If you really want to do something hard: say no to an opportunity so you can take a nap.”
I have a problem. While it may not be a new problem, per se, it has been further exacerbated by the combined challenges of fatherhood and entrepreneurship. I want to do all the things and that simply is not realistic. There’s isn’t enough time. There isn’t enough mind share. There isn’t enough energy. Yet I still feel compelled to achieve, to create, to do more and to be more. When an opportunity falls in my lap, I can’t help but to say yes when I know I should probably say no.
Because I have identified and fully acknowledge this perplexing problem, I have also become obsessed with the concept of minimalism these last few months. When you have too many things, when you have too much to do, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed without feeling like you’re making any progress. You stare at that growing to-do list and feel like you never even make a dent.
I know the feeling all too well.
As photographer Chase Jarvis once taught us, being busy is not a sign of success. Doing more is not the goal. Doing the right things should be.
You can use whatever terminology you want. Minimalism is usually used in the context of having too much physical clutter, too much “stuff.” Author Greg McKeown has come to own the word “Essentialism” or “Essentialist” to mean much the same thing, but more in the context of the things we choose to do, both personally and professionally. “Choose” is a very important word in this way.
Now let me ask you this: Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin? Have you ever felt both overworked and underutilized? Have you ever found yourself majoring in minor activities? Do you ever feel busy but not productive? Like you’re always in motion, but never getting anywhere? If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the way of the Essentialist.
Throughout his book, Greg McKeown returns to the same fundamental mantra: do less but better. Instead of stretching yourself out so thin across a myriad of different endeavors, focus on fewer things that really matter. Do those things better. That’s how you move forward.
His book is all about “the disciplined pursuit of less” and it’s a lesson much more easily said than done. I have a problem. I want to do all the things. I think I can fit it all in. I’m not sure what sort of real progress I’m going to make in the next several weeks, months or even years. What I can say is that I will try to approach new opportunities and new challenges with the mindset of the Essentialist moving forward.
What can I eliminate? Where can I contribute the most? When can I take my nap?