Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less banner

Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less is a powerful book written by Greg McKeown.

In one sentence, “Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”

In your professional or personal life, where do you add the most value? In which activities do you contribute the most? Essentialism is a system-based discipline for determining those activities and then to execute effortlessly these high-value-added tasks.

Our life is limited and at the end of the day, we ask ourselves what the point of all of this was. What would be your contribution, what are the most important things to you?

Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less will teach you how to identify the essential and eliminate all the rest; to live a real life of meaning.


Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less


Chapter 1: The essentialist

The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. —Jin Yutang

One of the fears that characterize humans is the fear of rejection. We want to fit in and we want to please everyone. There’s a cost however. We end up all stressed, producing poor quality work. Subsequently we get frustrated; the people we’re working with may even get upset too.

It happened to many of us. As we become more specialized at our work, we start to build a reputation. Our leaders and our colleagues know it and request us more and more services. Most of us major in minor things. But you can’t please everyone without paying the price.

In the book Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less, the author highlights:

“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”

We can do less but better (in German there’s an expression “weniger aber besser”) and the essentialism constantly adopts this mindset: less but better. Essentialism is always asking the question: “Am I doing the right thing? Are the activities I’m doing aligned with my higher purpose?”

Scattered energy and focused energy


“In both images the same amount of effort is exerted. In the image on the left, the energy is divided into many different activities. The result is that we have the unfulfilling experience of making a millimeter of progress in a million directions.”

Actually, we cannot do everything. We must face real compromises and make tough decisions.

“In the image on the right, the energy is given to fewer activities. The result is that by investing in fewer things we have the satisfying experience of making significant progress in the things that matter most.”

We then must live with conviction; our lives should be by our own design, not by default. In doing so, the essentialist constantly eliminates the superfluous, distinguishes what’s the most essential and eliminates everything else.

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

The way of the non-essentialist

The non essentialist tries to keep everyone happy and sacrifices what matters most.

The non-essentialist amidst different activities loses his own “ability to discern the vital few from the trivial many”. To him, everything seems important. Based on the picture above, he makes a millimeter of progress in a million directions. But here’s a question.

“What would happen if we could figure out the one thing you could do that would make the highest contribution?”

Ambitious people struggle to answer this question because in their journey to success, our society punishes good behavior (saying no) and rewards bad behavior (say yes).

There’s a paradox of success that Greg McKewon describes as follow:

PHASE 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it enables us to succeed at our endeavor.

PHASE 2: When we have success, we gain a reputation as a “go to” person. We become “good old [insert name],” who is always there when you need him, and we are presented with increased options and opportunities.

PHASE 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, which is actually code for demands upon our time and energies, it leads to diffused efforts. We get spread thinner and thinner.

PHASE 4: We become distracted from what would otherwise be our highest level of contribution. The effect of our success has been to undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

Subsequently, success itself can cause failure because success gets us side-tracked. We fail to focus on the most important things that created success in the first place.

It’s also the 23rd law of power in Robert Greene’s book: “The 48 laws of power”. He states: “CONCENTRATE YOUR FORCES. Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point. You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another—intensity defeats extensity every time. When looking for sources of power to elevate you, find the one key patron, the fat cow who will give you milk for a long time to come.”

Robert Greene also shares a powerful fable to understand the way of the non-essentialist:

The goose and the horse

“A goose who was plucking grass upon a common thought herself affronted by a horse who fed near her; and, in hissing accents, thus addressed him: “I am certainly a more noble and perfect animal than you, for the whole range and extent of your faculties is confined to one element. I can walk upon the ground as well as you; I have, besides, wings, with which I can raise myself in the air; and when I please, I can sport on ponds and lakes, and refresh myself in the cool waters. I enjoy the different powers of a bird, a fish, and a quadruped.” The horse, snorting somewhat disdainfully, replied: “It is true you inhabit three elements, but you make no very distinguished figure in any one of them. You fly, indeed; but your flight is so heavy and clumsy, that you have no right to put yourself on a level with the lark or the swallow. You can swim on the surface of the waters, but you cannot live in them as fishes do; you cannot find your food in that element, nor glide smoothly along the bottom of the waves. And when you walk, or rather waddle, upon the ground, with your broad feet and your long neck stretched out, hissing at everyone who passes by, you bring upon yourself the derision of all beholders. I confess that I am only formed to move upon the ground; but how graceful is my make! How well turned mv limbs! How highly finished my whole body! How great my strength! How astonishing my speed! I had much rather be confined to one element, and be admired in that, than be a goose in all!”


The idea that “you can have it all”

The idea that we can have it all is a myth.

“It (this myth) leads to staff meetings where as many as ten “top priorities” are discussed with no sense of irony at all. The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities.”

But when everything is important, nothing is, we should focus on one top priority.

“When we don’t purposely and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and time, other people—our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families—will choose for us, and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important. We can either make our choices deliberately or allow other people’s agendas to control our lives.”

In a previous article, we talked about how to make a better decision using the top 5 regrets of the dying.

“Once an Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware, who cared for people in the last twelve weeks of their lives, recorded their most often discussed regrets. At the top of the list: ‘I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.’”

If you want to live a life true to yourself, you must deliberately eliminate the nonessentials but also ignore even the really good opportunities.

The core mindset of an essentialist

  1. Individual choice: We can choose how to spend our energy and time. Trade-offs always implies choice.
  2. The prevalence of noise: Almost everything is noise, and a very few things are exceptionally valuable. What is most important to you?
  3. The reality of trade-offs: We can’t have it all or do it all. Once we accept the reality of trade-offs we stop asking, “How can I make it all work?” and start asking the more honest question “Which problem do I want to solve?” Only when we understand these realities can we begin to think like an Essentialist. Indeed, once we fully accept and understand them, much of the method in the coming sections of the book becomes natural and instinctive. That method consists of the following three simple steps.

The core logic of an essentialist

“Essentialism is not a way to do one more thing; it is a different way of doing everything. It is a way of thinking.”

In the book, essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less, there are three deeply entrenched assumptions we must conquer to live the way of the Essentialist:

Old paradigm I have to It’s all important I can do both
New paradigm I choose to Only a few things really matter I can do anything but not everything.



CHAPTER 2 of Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less: CHOOSE: The Invincible Power of Choice

It is the ability to choose which makes us human. —Madeleine L’Engle

William James wrote, “My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.”

The power of choice is a crucial point in the book Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less.

“To become an Essentialist requires a heightened awareness of our ability to choose. We need to recognize it as an invincible power within us, existing separate and distinct from any other thing, person, or force.”

“Choice is at the very core of what it means to be an Essentialist”

“We often think of choice as a thing. But a choice is not a thing. Our options may be things, but a choice—a choice is an action. It is not just something we have but something we do”

“While we may not always have control over our options, we always have control over how we choose among them.”

How Do We Forget Our Ability to Choose?

There’s a theory called “learned helplessness”. It happens when we don’t know that we have the choice. Back in high school, I struggled with a particular subject: mathematics. Neither my Mom nor my Dad was good at Math so I’ve always told myself I wouldn’t either. I tried again and again but it always resulted in bad marks. In the end, I thought it wasn’t for me, only later did I realize that it was “learned helplessness”.

“When we forget our ability to choose, we learn to be helpless. Drip by drip we allow our power to be taken away until we end up becoming a function of other people’s choices—or even a function of our own past choices. In turn, we surrender our power to choose. That is the path of the Nonessentialist.”

As you start to understand this, it will be easier to you to answer the question: ““If you could do only one thing with your life right now, what would you do?”


CHAPTER 3: DISCERN: The Unimportance of Practically Everything

Most of what exists in the universe—our actions, and all other forces, resources, and ideas—has little value and yields little result; on the other hand, a few things work fantastically well and have tremendous impact. —Richard Koch

“Working hard is important. But more effort does not necessarily yield more results. “Less but better” does”

“certain types of effort yield higher rewards than others” “For example, as Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer for Microsoft, has said (and then confirmed to me in person), “The top software developers are more productive than average software developers not by a factor of 10X or 100X or even 1,000X but by 10,000X.”8 It may be an exaggeration, but it still makes the point that certain efforts produce exponentially better results than others.”

“We live in a world where almost everything is worthless and a very few things are exceptionally valuable.”

To illustrate the unimportance of practically everything, there are three laws to remember:

The Law of Pareto: The “Pareto Principle,” is an idea, introduced as far back as the 1790s by Vilfredo Pareto, arguing that 20 percent of our efforts produce 80 percent of results.

The Law of the Vital Few: Developed in 1951 by Joseph Moses Juran, in his Quality-Control Handbook, one of the fathers of the quality movement expanded on this idea. His observation was that you could massively improve the quality of a product by resolving a tiny fraction of the problems.

The power law: According to the power law theory, certain efforts actually produce exponentially more results than others.



Thinks almost everything is essential

Views opportunities as basically equal



Thinks almost everything is nonessential

Distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many

CHAPTER 4: TRADE-OFF: Which Problem Do I Want?

Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs. It’s about deliberately choosing to be different. —Michael Porter

“Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?” The cumulative impact of this small change in thinking can be profound.”

“A trade-off involves two things we want. Do you want more pay or more vacation time? Do you want to finish this next e-mail or be on time to your meeting? Do you want it done faster or better? Obviously, when faced with the choice between two things we want, the preferred answer is yes to both. But as much as we’d like to, we simply cannot have it all.”

Southwest Airlines’ example illustrates this principle. “Kelleher (the leader) was totally clear about what the company was—a low-cost airline—and what they were not.” As he said: We’re not going to do a thousand different things that really won’t contribute much to the end result we are trying to achieve.’ ”

Straddling strategy for organizations

“Straddling means keeping your existing strategy intact while simultaneously also trying to adopt the strategy of a competitor.”

But “ignoring the reality of trade-offs is a terrible strategy for organizations. It turns out to be a terrible strategy for people as well”

Explore: Discern the Vital Few from the Trivial Many

“One paradox of Essentialism is that Essentialists actually explore more options than their Non Essentialist counterparts.”

“Essentialists spend as much time as possible exploring, listening, debating, questioning, and thinking. But their exploration is not an end in itself. The purpose of the exploration is to discern the vital few from the trivial many.”


CHAPTER 5: ESCAPE: The Perks of Being Unavailable

Without great solitude no serious work is possible. —Pablo Picasso

“When did you last take time out of your busy day simply to sit and think?”

Our life gets busier and we need to make space to escape.

“The faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule. And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus”

“We need space to escape in order to discern the essential few from the trivial many.”

“In order to have focus we need to escape to focus.”

We need to create a space for unencumbered thought and this to make one’s highest point of contribution on task.

The author “blocked off eight hours a day to write: from 5:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M., five days a week. The basic rule was no email, no calls, no appointments, and no interruptions until after 1:00 P.M. and by creating space to explore, think, and write, he not only got his book done faster but gained control over how he spent the rest of his time”.

“Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, for example, schedules up to two hours of blank space on his calendar every day.”

“CEO Bill Gates regularly takes a regular week off from his daily duties at Microsoft simply to think and read.”

The author recommends three spaces:

–        Space to design

–        Space to concentrate

–        Space to read


The Nonessentialist is too busy to think about life.

The Essentialist creates space to escape and explore life.


CHAPTER 6: LOOK: See What Really Matters

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? —T. S. Eliot

The author recommends us to become a journalist of our own lives. Humans are forgetful creatures and journaling can help us gain perspective on our past experiences. “Think of a journal as like a storage device for backing up our brain’s faulty hard drive.”

“By training yourself to look for “the lead,” you will suddenly find yourself able to see what you have missed.”

CHAPTER 7: PLAY: Embrace the Wisdom of Your Inner Child

A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men. —Roald Dahl

“As we get older […] we are introduced to the idea that play is trivial. Play is a waste of time. Play is unnecessary. Play is childish.”

“Far too few companies and organizations foster play; many unintentionally undermine it.”

Play can be described as “anything we do simply for the joy of doing rather than as a means to an end”

Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play conducted an interesting study on play. He concluded that “play has the power to significantly improve everything from personal health to relationships to education to organizations’ ability to innovate. “Play,” he says, “leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity.” As he succinctly puts it, “Nothing fires up the brain like play.””

“Play doesn’t just help us to explore what is essential. It is essential in and of itself.”

CHAPTER 8: SLEEP: Protect the Asset

Each night, when i go to sleep, i die. and the next morning, when i wake up, i am reborn. —Mahatma Gandhi

We can be an overachiever, multiplying the projects we handle but our health still prevails over everything. Our health is our wealth.

“The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves.”

“One of the most common ways people—especially ambitious, successful people—damage this asset is through a lack of sleep.”

“The way of the Nonessentialist is to see sleep as yet another burden on one’s already overextended, overcommitted, busy-but-not-always-productive life. Essentialists instead see sleep as necessary for operating at high levels of contribution more of the time. This is why they systematically and deliberately build sleep into their schedules so they can do more, achieve more, and explore more.”

“A solid body of research demonstrated that a good night’s sleep actually makes us more productive, not less.”

“While sleep is often associated with giving rest to the body, recent research shows that sleep is really more about the brain. Indeed, a study from the Luebeck University in Germany provides evidence that a full night’s sleep may actually increase brain power and enhance our problem-solving ability.”

“Our highest priority is to protect our ability to prioritize”

Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less CHAPTER 9: SELECT: The Power of Extreme Criteria

An inner process stands in need of outward criteria. —Ludwig Wittgenstein

“If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.”

Before eliminating the unnecessary, we have to select the most important thing.

“If the answer isn’t a definite yes then it should be a no.”

For example, the author mentions Derek Sivers who “lives this principle himself. When he wasn’t blown away by any of the candidates he interviewed for a job, he said no to all of them.”

The 90 percent rule

When you make a choice, try to find the most important criteria then score each choice on a 1 to 10 scale. The 9s and 10s should be kept. Every choice under 7 should be automatically out. The author highlights how liberating it is to consider the 7s and 8s as a no too.

“You can think of this as the 90 Percent Rule, and it’s one you can apply to just about every decision or dilemma. As you evaluate an option, think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 percent, then automatically change the rating to 0 and simply reject it. This way you avoid getting caught up in indecision”



–        Says yes to almost every request or opportunity

–        Uses broad, implicit criteria like “If someone I know is doing it, I should do it.”



–        Says yes to only the top 10 percent of opportunities

–        Uses narrow, explicit criteria like “Is this exactly what I am looking for?”


Opportunity Knocks

“Here’s a simple, systematic process you can use to apply selective criteria to opportunities that come your way.

First, write down the opportunity.

Second, write down a list of three “minimum criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered.

Third, write down a list of three ideal or “extreme criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered.

By definition, if the opportunity doesn’t pass the first set of criteria, the answer is obviously no. But if it also doesn’t pass two of your three extreme criteria, the answer is still no.”


ELIMINATE: How Can We Cut Out the Trivial Many?

“It’s 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.”

To read more on the power of routines, consult my article: “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod

To read more on how to create long-lasting habits, consult my article: “The Atomic Habits” by James Clear

CHAPTER 10: CLARIFY: One Decision That Makes a Thousand

To follow, without halt, one aim: there is the secret to success. —Anna Pavlova, Russian ballet dancer

“Only with real clarity of purpose can people, teams, and organizations fully mobilize and achieve something truly excellent.”

Essential intent

“An essential intent is both inspirational and concrete, both meaningful and measurable. Done right, an essential intent is one decision that settles one thousand later decisions.”

Essential intent


–        Has a vague, general vision or mission statement

–        Has concrete quarterly objectives but ones that fail to energize or inspire people to take their efforts to the next level

–        Has a value set but no guiding principles for implementing them



–        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

“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. “

And “When there is a high level of clarity, on the other hand, people thrive.”

“When there is a lack of clarity, people waste time and energy on the trivial many.”

Finally, “When they have sufficient levels of clarity, they are capable of greater breakthroughs and innovations—greater than people even realize they ought to have—in those areas that are truly vital.”

Living with Intent

“Essential intent applies to so much more than your job description or your company’s mission statement; a true essential intent is one that guides your greater sense of purpose, and helps you chart your life’s path.”


CHAPTER 11: DARE: The Power of a Graceful “No”

Courage is grace under pressure. —Ernest Hemingway

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” “Why is it so hard in the moment to dare to choose what is essential over what is nonessential?”

“One simple answer is we are unclear about what is essential.” “The right “no” spoken at the right time can change the course of history”

Essentially awkward

“It is hard to choose what is essential in the moment because of our innate fear of social awkwardness. The fact is, we as humans are wired to want to get along with others.”

“The very thought of saying no literally brings us physical discomfort. We feel guilty. We don’t want to let someone down. We are worried about damaging the relationship.”

“But these emotions muddle our clarity. They distract us from the reality of the fact that either we can say no and regret it for a few minutes, or we can say yes and regret it for days, weeks, months, or even years.”


Avoids saying no to avoid feeling social awkwardness and pressure

Says yes to everything


Dares to say no firmly, resolutely, and gracefully

Says yes only to the things that really matter


“So how do we learn to say no gracefully? Below are general guidelines followed by a number of specific scripts for delivering the graceful “no?”

  •       Separate the decision from the relationship
  •       Saying “no” gracefully doesn’t have to mean using the word no
  •       Focus on the trade-off
  •       Make your peace with the fact that saying “no” often requires trading popularity for respect
  •       Remember that a clear “no” can be more graceful
  •       Than a vague or noncommittal “yes”

The “no” repertoire

  1.     The awkward pause
  2.     The soft “no” (or the “no but”).
  3.     “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.”
  4.     Use e-mail bouncebacks
  5.     Say, “Yes. What should I deprioritize?”
  6.     Say it with humor.
  7.     Use the words “You are welcome to X. I am willing to Y.”
  8.     “I can’t do it, but X might be interested.”

Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less CHAPTER 12: UNCOMMIT: Win Big by Cutting Your Losses

Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough. —Josh Billings

The author takes the example of the Concorde, the fastest passenger plane in the world. The Concorde consistently lost money for more than four decades.

“Yet the more money the British and French governments poured into it, the harder it was to walk away”

“Sunk-cost bias is the tendency to continue to invest time, money, or energy into something we know is a losing proposition simply because we have already incurred, or sunk, a cost that cannot be recouped”

“The more we invest, the more determined we become to see it through and see our investment pay off. The more we invest in something, the harder it is to let go.”

In the end, “The sunk costs for developing and building the Concorde were around $1 billion.”

“Have you ever continued to invest time or effort in a nonessential project instead of cutting your losses?”


Asks, “Why stop now when I’ve already invested so much in this project?”

Thinks, “If I just keep trying, I can make this work.” Hates admitting to mistakes


Asks, “If I weren’t already invested in this project, how much would I invest in it now?”

Thinks, “What else could I do with this time or money if I pulled the plug now?” Comfortable with cutting losses


CHAPTER 13: EDIT: The Invisible Art

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until i set him free. —Michelangelo

“Becoming an Essentialist means making cutting, condensing, and correcting a natural part of our daily routine—making editing a natural cadence in our lives.”

“When making decisions, deciding to cut options can be terrifying—but the truth is, it is the very essence of decision making.”

“The Latin root of the word decision—cis or cid—literally means “to cut” or “to kill.” You can see this in words like scissors, homicide, or fratricide.”


Thinks that making things better means adding something

Attached to every word, image, or detail


Thinks that making things better means subtracting something

Eliminates the distracting words, images, and details


CHAPTER 14: LIMIT: The Freedom of Setting Boundaries

No is a complete sentence. —Anne Lamott

When we set limits, it can be unpopular at the moment but we can earn gratitude and respect.

If you make an exception, sometimes you “might have made it many times. Boundaries are a little like the walls of a sandcastle. The second we let one fall over, the rest of them come crashing down.”

You have to find out what are “the things you deliberately and strategically chose to prioritize. After all, if you don’t set boundaries—there won’t be any. Or even worse, there will be boundaries, but they’ll be set by default—or by another person—instead of by design.


Thinks if you have limits you will be limited

Sees boundaries as constraining

Exerts effort attempting the direct “no”


Knows that if you have limits you will become limitless

Sees boundaries as liberating

Sets rules in advance that eliminate the need for the direct “no”


So how to “set the kinds of boundaries that will protect us from other people’s agendas?”

“Remember, forcing people to solve their own problems is equally beneficial for you and for them.” So don’t rob people of their problems.

CHAPTER 15: BUFFER: The Unfair Advantage

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. —Attributed to Abraham Lincoln

“The only thing we can expect (with any great certainty) is the unexpected. Therefore, we can either wait for the moment and react to it or we can prepare. We can create a buffer.”

“Essentialists accept the reality that we can never fully anticipate or prepare for every scenario or eventuality; the future is simply too unpredictable. Instead, they build in buffers to reduce the friction caused by the unexpected.”


Assumes the best-case scenario will happen

Forces execution at the last minute


Builds in a buffer for unexpected events

Practices extreme and early preparation


“Here are a few tips for keeping your work—and sanity—from swerving off the road by creating a buffer”

Use extreme preparation

“In filtering out 7 companies from 20,400, the authors found that the ones that executed most successfully did not have any better ability to predict the future than their less successful counterparts. Instead, they were the ones who acknowledged they could not predict the unexpected and therefore prepared better.”

Add 50 percent to your time estimate

“Be aware of “planning fallacy, a term, coined by Daniel Kahneman in 1979 which refers to people’s tendency to underestimate how long a task will take”.

“One way to protect against this is simply to add a 50 percent buffer to the amount of time we estimate it will take to complete a task or project. So if you have an hour set aside for a conference call, block off an additional thirty minutes.”

Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less: CHAPTER 16: SUBTRACT: Bring Forth More by Removing Obstacles

To attain knowledge add things every day. to attain wisdom subtract things every day. —Lao-tzu

“An Essentialist produces more—brings forth more—by removing more instead of doing more.”

“Instead of focusing on the efforts and resources we need to add, the Essentialist focuses on the constraints or obstacles we need to remove.”

We can actually “Produce More by Removing More”, that’s the main idea we can take away from Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less ‘s philosophy.

“The question is this: What is the obstacle that is keeping you back from achieving what really matters to you? By systematically identifying and removing this “constraint” you’ll be able to significantly reduce the friction keeping you from executing what is essential.”


Piles on quick-fix solutions

Does more


Removes obstacles to progress

Brings forth more


CHAPTER 17: PROGRESS: The Power of Small Wins

Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow. —Doug Firebaugh

“When we start small and reward progress, we end up achieving more than when we set big, lofty, and often impossible goals.”

“Research has shown that of all forms of human motivation the most effective one is progress. Why? Because a small, concrete win creates momentum and affirms our faith in our further success.”

“Frederick Herzberg reveals research showing that the two primary internal motivators for people are achievement and recognition for achievement.”

““Everyday progress—even a small win” can make all the difference in how people feel and perform. “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work”


Starts with a big goal and gets small results

Goes for the flashiest wins


Starts small and gets big results

Celebrates small acts of progress

Celebrates small acts of progress

“To really get essential things done we need to start small and build momentum. Then we can use that momentum to work toward the next win, and the next one and so on until we have a significant breakthrough—and when we do, our progress will have become so frictionless and effortless that the breakthrough will seem like overnight success”

CHAPTER 18: FLOW: The Genius of Routine

Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition. —W. H. Auden

“For years before the Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps won the gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he followed the same routine at every race.”

Once you formed a habit and developed a routine, “The brain can almost completely shut down.… And this is a real advantage, because it means you have all of this mental activity you can devote to something else.”


Tries to execute the essentials by force

Allows nonessentials to be the default


Designs a routine that enshrines what is essential, making execution almost effortless

Makes the essential the default position


To read more on the power of routines, consult my article: “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod

To read more on how to create long-lasting habits, consult my article: “The Atomic Habits” by James Clear


CHAPTER 19: FOCUS: What’s Important Now?

Life is available only in the present moment. if you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply. —Thich Nhat Hanh

“To operate at your highest level of contribution requires that you deliberately tune in to what is important in the here and now.”


Mind is spinning out about the past or the future

Thinks about what was important yesterday or tomorrow

Worries about the future or stresses about the past



Mind is focused on the present

Tunes in to what is important right now

Enjoys the moment

“Essentialist never attempts to do more than one thing at a time. But in fact we can easily do two things at the same time.”

“What we can’t do is concentrate on two things at the same time. When I talk about being present, I’m not talking about doing only one thing at a time. I’m talking about being focused on one thing at a time. Multitasking itself is not the enemy of Essentialism; pretending we can “multifocus” is.”


CHAPTER 20: BE: The Essentialist Life

Beware the barrenness of a busy life. —Socrates

The last chapter of the book Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less asks you very simple questions:

“Will you choose to live a life of purpose and meaning, or will you look back on your one single life with twinges of regret?”

“Whatever decision or challenge or crossroads you face in your life, simply ask yourself, “What is essential?” Eliminate everything else.”

“Focusing on the essentials is a choice. It is your choice. That in itself is incredibly liberating”

“The way of the Essentialist isn’t just about success; it’s about living a life of meaning and purpose.”

“We can see the philosophy of “less but better” reflected in the lives of other notable and diverse figures—both religious and secular—throughout history: to name a few, the Dalai Lama, Steve Jobs, Leo Tolstoy, Michael Jordan, Warren Buffett, Mother Teresa, and Henry David Thoreau”

“We can all live a life not just of simplicity but of high contribution and meaning.”



If we want to live a life of meaning, we have to identify the essential and cut off all the rest.

I left my job exactly one year ago to pursue my dreams and give as much value as I can. It wasn’t an easy choice but this book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” got me even more motivated to follow what I feel is right for me.

I get to read this book again and again to implement the strategies it teaches. Indeed our life is limited, compared to billions of years since the creation of the Universe, 70-80 years is nothing. At the end of the day, we only remember how we lived and what our contribution was. I hope this little summary helped you decide what’s really meaningful to you. Until next time, Sitraka