Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Best-Selling Author Greg McKeown

greg-mckeown-catalyst-podcast
Catalyst - Health, Wellness & Performance Podcast

Full Transcript

Dr. Cooper

Welcome to the latest episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness, and Performance Coaching podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Bradford Cooper of the Catalyst Coaching Institute. And today’s guest just might be the most important interview you hear for a very long time. At least it was for me. In a world of do do do, Greg McKeown wrote a book that shook my world titled, Essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of less. There’s power in the title itself, the disciplined pursuit of less ever since I read it 18 months ago, I’ve been efforting to have him join us as a guest. And it finally happened. It’s a funny story. Maybe I’ll share it some time, but if you’re feeling overworked overwhelmed, or just missing direction in the midst of the constant pursuit of more, you’re going to find today’s discussion. I just helped turn the tide in the right direction for those looking to pursue certification as a health and wellness coach, our very last certification, fast track weekend that’s part of the larger certification process is coming up November 14th and 15th. All the details at CatalystCoachingInstitute.com and we’re, we’re always happy set up a call answering your questions that you might have. So shoot us an email [email protected] For everyone else, if you haven’t yet checked out the YouTube coaching channel, it’s youtube.com/coaching channel, at least take a peek. I think you’ll like what you see. Now, it’s time to move toward the disciplined pursuit of less with best-selling author, Greg McKeown on the latest episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness, and Performance Coaching podcast. Greg McKeown, it is so fun to have you join us on the podcast today. This is one we’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and it’s great to have you.

Greg McKeown

It’s my pleasure to be with you really. Thank you.

Dr. Cooper

The first thing that kind of cracked me up as I was preparing for this interview is there was so much I wanted to cover your book, for me personally powerful, and I hope our listeners pick up your book, cause it is it’s just loaded with stuff, but I was trying to think, well, I can’t, I can’t even use the first question, because there’s so much I want to cover, then I’m thinking, wait, Brad, what’s the title of the book. It’s Essentialism, like, seriously, are you kidding me? So let’s just do this. Let’s go through the four key elements that you identified. That’s probably a good starting point. That’ll lay the groundwork. So I’ve got them written out here. The first one is essence, the core mindset of an essentialist. Can you, can you talk us through that a little bit?

Greg McKeown

Well, for many people, uh, they already have a non essentialist mindset. They just don’t know that because it’s just so normalized. They’re just going through life and they don’t know that there’s a different way to look at life or think about life. And a non essentialist mindset is an undisciplined pursuit of more. So it’s where you basically just think, you know, you have to do everything for everyone. And if you do, you’re going to get everything you want, what you’ve dreamed of. And the, the big problem with that mindset is that it doesn’t fulfill what’s, you know what it promises on the packaging. Uh, the essentialist mindset is, is just from my point of view, it’s just reality. And that is you can do a few things superbly well, and if you do, you’re going to make a higher contribution overall. So that’s what I call the disciplined pursuit of less. There’s a mindset that says, look only a few things are truly essential and the rest of it, therefore can either be deprioritized or eliminated altogether. And so it’s to see the world, I think, as it really is, which is that almost everything is non-essential. And so you have a great advantage if you start to see the world through that lens, because then you can start putting your energies into the things that really matter most. With the essence and mindset of an essentialist.

Dr. Cooper

So, incredibly well said. Can we change or do you either have it or you don’t? Am I either living the essentialist lifestyle or I just, you know what I’m saying?

Greg McKeown

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think, I think absolutely people can change. I, I have, I mean, one of the most gratifying things of writing essentialism is, is how many people have written to me or spoken to me to say that that essentialism has been life-changing. What they mean is that things are different now, the way they see the world is the first key, is just to even be able to see it because of the whole principle of the fish discover water last, we’re so consumed in a non essentialist mindset that just even to become aware of that, to see that we’re swimming in in a set of assumptions, that aren’t true, that we’ve been sold a bill of goods. And just because lots of people have bought into it, doesn’t make it more true. People believed the world was flat for a long time. It didn’t make it true. However, dominant that assumption was. And so it is with becoming an essentialist. I think, I think it’s, it’s absolutely possible to make a journey, however, nonessentialist you are, I think you can certainly make it one or two standard deviation closer to a centralist, but I see no real reason that people can’t make it, the full journey, even if they were extreme, they could go all the way to becoming a full embodiment of a, of essentialism

Dr. Cooper

And your next three kind of walk through that, because I wanted to be like, well, what do we do? Let’s talk it through. You, you helped us see what we do so that the first step is to explore discerning trivial many from the vital few, all yours.

Greg McKeown

Yes. Yes. So to explore what’s essential. Well, um, if, as soon as you believe that only a few things are essential and that most thing is a non-essential, uh, noise. Then it’s a natural extension of that mindset that you would start looking for. What really matters if you suddenly discover that you’re not in a coal mine, as you thought you were your whole life, you’ve always been in a diamond mine. It will quite naturally spontaneously be that you start to look for the diamonds. So, so, so the mindset precedes this, this first practice of essentialism, this first element of essentialism, which is to explore what is essential, what really matters. And I’ll give you an example. Just recently, somebody emailed me from England, uh, Joe Davey. And, uh, and I was so taken with her story that I interviewed her as a guest on the what’s essential podcast. And, and so here’s a story in a nutshell, she reads the book and she starts asking every day, the question, what’s the most important thing I can do today. That simple question, it’s not in the book as it turns out, but that was her amalgamation of what, you know, a concrete thing she could start doing. At first, the answers are to do with work. She owns a consultancy and it’s to do with that. But over time, the answer has changed. The question remained the same, but she started to be clearer about what the diamond was each day. And on one particular day, she gets a call from her dad who says, look, I just want to let you know your mom’s in the hospital. Again, it’s nothing serious. Just wanted to keep you in the loop. Um, no need to come. You’ve got way too much on your plate, all the rest. So she asks that question that day. And she said, I remember exactly where I was. The weather outside, the world stands still. I know clearly the most important thing to do that day is drive two hours to the hospital to see my mum, to be with her. So she does that. She gets to see her mum. She says, look, I love you. Everything’s going to be okay. Her mother says the same to her. Well, within an hour of that, her mother actually slipped into a coma and never recovered. A week later, she had the unfortunate experience of having to turn off, uh, her life support machine. And she was just writing to say, if I hadn’t been an essentialist, I would have made a completely different trade off in that moment. I wouldn’t have, you know, how different it could have been. And so that’s a, uh, a recent example of what it means to explore. It doesn’t have to be grandiose. It doesn’t have to be dramatic. You just start with that one question, write it up, put it where you see it every day. And just answer the question. Some days, it will be obvious. Some days you have to pause for a moment, but it, it shifts the whole feeling of the day. And of course the answers you get as well.

Dr. Cooper

Great story, because that guides me down the concept of each day, it’s different. So essentialism, isn’t the idea of these are the three things. And every day, these are the three things, essentialism is what is it today? Is that, am I hearing that right?

Greg McKeown

Well, essentialism at first is a mindset an ism. It’s a way of thinking. Uh, but the answers clearly change as life changes as it evolves. And so I think that essentialism is the work of life. It’s not one more thing to stuff into our already overstuffed lives. It is a different way of doing everything. And so that’s not the only practice of how to explore what’s essential. That daily question, uh, I also would encourage people and myself have other ways to apply, explore, like daily planning, really having generous time to plan. Lots of people aren’t doing that, right? Lots of people have heard about the idea, but they really don’t do it. And so instead they just live out of their inbox. It’s the first thing, it’s the last thing they do at night. Very first thing they do in the morning, and this is running their lives. There’s a great risk to doing that. So daily planning is a, is a process that, uh, that when I do it, it changes my day when I don’t, you know, I can feel that frantic sensation, I recommend generous, luxurious, weekly review and planning and design designing your week, instead of letting it happen by default. Uh, just one more final practice for exploration. I recommend holding a personal quarterly offsite, uh, where you really have, again, a generous amount of time, as much as you can have. Different phases in your life when the children are young and so on, it might make it really difficult to carve out. I was, uh, did a sort of essential intervention with somebody recently at an event, you know, zoom event. She said that she was struggling to literally even have five minutes not to plan just to be on her own in a given day. She just, literally, you could tell she has six children. She’s working from home, she’s schooling from home. She’s trying to do, and she’s just burning out of course, can’t get five minutes. So I recognize some of these things will sound realistic or unrealistic based upon people’s circumstances, but the benefit of working towards getting a full two days every quarter to just reflect and think about the big picture, what, you know, you can ask that same question, but just large, what is the most important, essential mission of my whole life? And to keep coming back to that, I have, I’ve asked that question many times in my life, and I’ve been inspired by the, the answers as those answers become clearer. Uh, and as, as a way to inform what goals to set this quarter this month, this week, and today,

Dr. Cooper

I love it. It just calms me down. Just even think about two days a quarter. And yet I’m also hearing some of our listeners going, you gotta be kidding me. Like, yes, that would be great, but I can’t get three hours a quarter. You know, the realities, you’ve talked to thousands of people about this. You’ve had that pushback since 2014, when the book came out, what do you say? How do you bring us back? Cause I hear you. I love the concept. You know, Stephen Covey got into a lot of that with his book, the seven habits, and this idea of, of, of planning and preparing and sharpening the saw and those types of things. There’s a huge value to it and end yet, I’ll just raise my hand and say I do it. And then I fall off so quickly. And, and yes, the value’s there. There’s no question. And yet I get caught up in that busy-ness. So what do you say to those folks that are hearing this and saying, I love the idea, but Greg, I don’t think it’s possible.

Greg McKeown

Yeah. I I’m very sympathetic to it. I mean, it, one of the things I would say to them is it is possible, uh, is just to challenge the assumption that it’s not. But I also, you know, secondly would just say, I mean, I’ve created a one minute, Wednesday newsletter specifically to address this. Um, so you can read in one minute and a way to apply essentialism some this week, you know, on that day, you can read it within one minute, literally, and you can also often apply it within one minute because it’s a really micro read with a micro action. And, and I have found now that for the, you know, well, we launched that actually, this is interesting. We launched at the same time as the podcast came out. So it was just four months ago. So both were brand new. And so I launched it on LinkedIn and also through, um, through my website. And so it was on LinkedIn, it was zero. And now it’s like at 17,000 subscribers, which, and just growing by thousands a week. And I’ve been really delighted to see that because what’s happening is that people are looking forward to it. I was late the other day getting it out. And I had someone say, Oh, is it still coming today? I know the pain that people are describing even after they say, essentialism, I want it. I want to be an essentialist. They’re living in a non essential list country. I don’t mean the US although, maybe that would be true too. I just mean the culture is so skewed to the non-essential. And so what I thought might be sufficient with the book I find is necessary, but insufficient. And so there’s a whole, uh, intent. Now the podcast is a weekly thing drops on Monday so that you can get that essentialist energy for the week, the woman at Wednesday is another moment with it. I’m just building a whole experience now, the essentialism Academy, I haven’t talked about that really anywhere, but that’s coming. That’s probably the first phase of it will come out before the end of the year. Uh, there’s an essential planner that I’m designing that will come out so that people can actually use specific tools daily, weekly, quarterly to try and design their life and take back control of their life. From these really dominant forces that are trying to get our attention and trying to take, take control of our lives and of our time, our precious time. And these are all elements that I now understand better. And to be frank, COVID has given the space to invest in, and I’m, I am thrilled about it because I’m sharing a whole variety of pieces of this puzzle, but, but I just finished a new book as well. And all of these things have one intent around them, which is how do you create an experience where somebody could go from a nonessentialist living in a nonessentialist culture to an essentialist, living in an essentialist culture in their family and their work and so on. It’s how do you create an experience that somebody can go the entire journey and that they could do that on their own pace. They could do it faster. It could take them years, but that there’ll be the support to be able to make that whole journey is something that I’m serious about and focused on doing right now.

Dr. Cooper

I’m really happy to hear that let’s before I forget, how do they get on that newsletter? Is it GregMckeown.com? What’s the best way to reach out to you to get on that?

Greg McKeown

Everything, everything I’m just building around a hub, uh, essentialism.com, which at the time of our conversation just takes you to gregmckeown.com and that’s where they sign up. But that will also be a place where this hub will exist. And, uh, yeah, I, it’s a long-term investment from my point of view. So it’s not, that’s what I think is so exciting about it actually is that a book is so frozen in time. And then, and then you don’t really get to improve it in any way, right? Uh, even, uh, you know, you go and speak and teach you just do that once and then you’re done, but the online Academy, you can just imagine how it can be six months from now a year from now, five years from now, it will just get better and better. People will give feedback to the community, the essentialist tribe, which is very passionate group. Uh, we’ll give feedback, they’ll say, well, what works, what doesn’t work. And so we’ll just keep improving it until this thing is just, you know, best in class.

Dr. Cooper

Well, I think that’s so important. I, I read your book last year, fell in love with it was trying to apply some of it. And then I pulled it back out a month ago, as I was preparing for this interview. And I got to the end and I literally texted a buddy and said, Hey, we’re doing this interview with Greg. Would you want to, you know, have you read it? He said, yeah. I said, would you want to like, do some accountability on of this stuff over the next, because that’s what was needed. So I’m glad to hear that you’re putting some of those things out. So people are not having to initiate that internally. You’ll have a resource for them. So, yeah, I love that.

Greg McKeown

And, and, and, and I don’t mean to be pushing this, but I, it is my genuine, passion about this. The, the essentialism paperback. Not the version that you have, you told me about, but they’re like the official new paperback will come out, uh, the first, the last week of December, and there’ll be a code in there. Uh, in every book, each book will have a code for access to a 21 day essentialism challenge. They’ll have 21 videos, uh, that will help them each day, one minute to listen to one minute to apply. And, and the first one, and this is your fault that you reminded me of it, the very first thing you do is you find an accountability partner. How can they do it with you? That’s day one, you just gotta find someone, invite them to do it. And then you’re off to the races.

Dr. Cooper

Beautiful. That’s beautiful. All right. We got off track a little, but let’s jump into step two. This is eliminate, cut out the trivial many. So we’ve discerned what they are. And now the next step is to cut some of those out. Talk us through that process.

Greg McKeown

I just think you have to start with the extremes. So in step one, what you’re looking for is the 90% and above important. That’s what essential means is very important. And to make sure you know what they are, because often they don’t make it onto your to-do list in the first place. So you’re the efficiency, productivity alter. Won’t help you with that. You could efficiently be doing the wrong things. You could be, uh, productively doing stuff that’s only 50% important or 40%. And, and then, I mean, step two, what you really want to start with the low hanging fruit is cutting out the total trivial, the non-essentials that you’re over-investing in. And so, uh, just, just literally asking people as someone listening to this can just take one minute and they can just set a timer one minute. What are the things that are essential for them that they’re under investing in? And everybody has something, most of us have many things you’re looking for, the things that are 10% or below important. Uh, and, and start there. You just, you don’t have to start with, how would I negotiate priorities? You know, what’s, what the priority is with my bosses boss, you know, right now, how will I, how will I figure out with my spouse, what the most important, whether I should do what they want me to do or not to do. Well yeah, you can start there. That’s jugular stuff. That’s tougher negotiation conversations, they’re challenging. Or you can start with the trivial stuff that you have total control over that you’re still investing in. Start there, reclaim some of that space, reclaim that part of your life, make it a little harder to be on Instagram, 14 to 18 hours a week. As literally someone I coached, uh, was spending, uh, and I mean, he had almost a part-time job checking Instagram. So, and what he wanted to be doing was building his business. And that’s what we did. We just gave, we just gave his password to his spouse. And next week he could not be on that. And instead, he had to build his strategic plan for his business, which he did. That’s the idea, trade off, you’re trading off something. Non-essential for something that’s essential at the extremes. And it’s a great trade off. If you can get to the extremes, you never regret that. They become quite obvious that you should be willing to do it once you write them down. And, and that’s, that’s really, the idea of, of eliminate is not prioritize. And then still try to do everything, figure out what matters and then get rid of the rest if you can, and at least explore whether you should have that stuff in your life anymore.

Dr. Cooper

Good re emphasis. I don’t think I picked that up. Eliminate, it’s very clear. It’s not shift it’s not save it. It’s gone. It’s gone. Yeah. Yeah.

Greg McKeown

I mean, it, it’s, it’s, it’s a bit of a challenge to do it, to say it, to do it. It challenges people’s assumptions on what’s essential, eliminate everything else. But it should, and I hope gives people permission to just question things that before, oh I have to. We said it to our son. We’d put him in his baseball season and we’d just regretted it almost immediately. And he hadn’t started the season yet, but we just suddenly looking at it, just going, Oh my goodness, it’s going to be three to four months of just, uh, all these extra things in, in, in a full life. We have four children and, you know, full life, and we said oh we have to do it. And the problem with the phrase I have to do it is that it ends or conversation. Uh, it’s just the, I have to period. Now we, now we feel obliged and we’ve got to try and do it. If you change your language to look, I choose to do it. Because if I don’t, this thing happens, fill in the blank. Even if you just keep the same language, I have to do it because, but you just fill in the blank. Now you’ve got a hypothesis you can test. Well, I have to have Jack. I have to do the season with Jack, because if I don’t, he’ll be really disappointed. Well, I can test that. I can’t test the I have to period. Right. So in a discussion, come in here. Yeah, exactly. Jack, come in here. We’re thinking about not doing the baseball season. How do you feel about that? Oh, that’d be fine Dad.

Dr. Cooper

You’ve got thousands of parents right now listening, going, where were you six months ago?

Greg McKeown

Well, that’s it. So, so you know that that was four months return of time, energy, money to, uh, for all of us involved for something we assumed was really important to him. Actually wasn’t of course it could have been that when we asked him, he could have said, this is like, the most important thing is highly valuable, but then you’re making, you’re making your decision with better information rather than the, I have to, if you live your whole life with, I have to, don’t be surprised if you get to the end of it and you’ve made the wrong trade-offs because you didn’t explore why you think you have to.

Dr. Cooper

My friend, I knew this is going to be good, but you are crushing it. Um, all right, let’s get into the third step execute. So now we’ve figured out what it is. We’ve eliminated some things and now kind of real life is kicking in. And the, the obstacles. We had Dr. Wendy Wood on about six, eight months ago, we’ve got BJ Fogg coming up. They talk about this idea of, of decreasing the friction. So it makes the life, the life that we’re trying to do a little bit easier. It sounds like that’s what you’re talking about is, let’s make these decisions a little bit easier. Is that on the right track?

Greg McKeown

Yeah. Uh, I mean, you mentioned BJ Fogg, and that really is one of my very favorite episodes. We had BJ Fogg on. And, and so I just walked him through, instead of saying, okay, BJ you’ve written a great book, tell me about it. I said, okay, what’s essential to you that you’re under investing in. And we just did like an essential intervention instead. So we went through step one and it took a while of exploration because it’s not obvious at first you have to look underneath the first answer for awhile. And what he finally identified was that he has a strong, strong desire, although he has not managed to do it, to move to a four day work week, very strong when I even suggested doing less than it, you could tell there was some tension that he really wanted to get there, even though he’s, he’s not been doing it. Okay, what’s nonessential. We went through, well, it’s work. It’s that, that, that he’s at now, he’s already done Stanford, uh, you know, his, his behavior lab there. So he’s always had interesting work to do, but now, in addition to that, he has the successful book. And so now he’s got all these extra requests. And so that’s what it is. The problem is it’s a good thing, but it just consumes it into, into Saturday, into Sunday. And really just there’s hardly a break. And when he says a four-day work week, he means that he turns everything off. He wants to get to a point where everything’s off for three days. Well, so then that moves to stage three execution. Uh, and I actually just turned it back to him. I said, okay, now I want you to walk us through how to use everything you’ve written about in your book, all the research you’ve done about and real time right now, we’re going to apply that to your problem and your situation.

Greg McKeown

It was a really fun episode because we really were combining essentialism and tiny habits into a single real case. Not here’s how to ride a bike. We’re just going to ride a bike together, tandem bike. Effortless means for me, it means it’s the execution should be as effortless as possible. And effortless means to me that you do a thing, even when you don’t feel like doing it, even if you don’t think about doing it, that’s the ideal. At least one part of an ideal is that you’ve automated something. You don’t want execution of what’s essential to be dependent on your mood. You do not want what is most essential in your life to be dependent on your level of discipline in your life right now. Like you don’t want those dependencies because you’re building a system that’s going to fail for you. Your mood is going to shift. You are going to use up your discipline on some days doing other things. You’re going to be tired. Sometimes you need to try to build a system that makes execution as easy, effortless as possible, so that it works on the bad days as well. And that’s really the key mental shift is a way from a make it happen, force it occasional intermittent execution, which I think is what sort of behaviorally we tend to do, um, to consistent calm, relaxed, paced, supported execution. So with him just now that we’re using him as an example with him, it included things like working with his whole team and letting them know that this change was coming, but exactly specifically when he would be available. And when he wouldn’t, it included before he leaves having one final check-in and it’s building a whole plan. And what’s great about it though, I’m jumping to the conclusion here, but what’s great is he emailed me a week or so later to say he just had the first four day work week with a full three days off. And when he’s on your show, ask him about, because, because I’ve been told on other podcasts that he has in fact talked about it there, that he’s doing it now, which I think is a great way to keep him accountable is he’s guessing lots of people around him to know about it, to help him to do it and, and, and look at what look at what’s in his benefit here. Like what’s, he gets to actually live the life he wants to live. He gets to design it. And 20 years from now, he’s not going to regret that trade off. He’s not going to say, I wish I’d used my weekends to be on email. He is going to be glad he took the breaks. And the great, maybe the greatest thing about this whole example is that it illustrates the value proposition of essentialism, which is that if you do a few things well, and then you create space for yourself to recuperate, to relax, to regroup, you actually end up doing better, both professionally and personally, when he comes back on Monday, fully refresh, fully energized. That’s beneficial when he’s gone and unplugged for three days. That’s when insight comes and everybody listening to this knows that’s true. You get the big insights, not when you’re crammed in the meeting, crammed doing email, you know, crammed on zoom calls. You get the insights when you’re relaxed, when you’re allowing your brain, you know, like a Slingshot to be in the, you’ve got to pull back for awhile and then spring forward.

Dr. Cooper

Great example. So let’s stay on this concept with the four day week, for example. So let’s say we’ve got somebody that says, Oh my gosh, that’s exactly what I want to do. And they go through the process, they go through these steps and they downshift, and then they’re sitting there through these three days going, um, what do I do with this time now? I’m not getting the dopamine response. I’m not getting the, because there’s a reason a lot of us work so hard. We, we like what it gives us. So why do you say to that person that they make the shift and, and they, they want the shift and they decided this is essential and it is valuable. It will provide the returns and then they get into it and they go, huh? This is kind of weird. Maybe I’ll just go back to what I was doing.

Greg McKeown

Yeah. Relaxing is a responsibility. And for overachievers, for many overachievers, that’s a responsibility they haven’t taken seriously. And so they actually don’t have the skill. And it sounds counter-intuitive that one would need this to learn how to relax, but it’s absolutely my experience. No, it’s absolutely true that, that, and your question presumes it too, doesn’t it? That you, that for a lot of overachievers, when they come for, even for half an hour where they’re not plugged in, they feel guilty. They feel restless and they just would prefer to at least look like they’re doing stuff. So, you know, get back on.

Dr. Cooper

Wait, are you talking to me? How’d you know?

Greg McKeown

And so it’s what, one of the things I would recommend people do about this is to actually write down the answer to the question, just take a minute to do what relaxes me. What do I actually feel relaxed doing? Uh, one by one, I can talk about the things that relax me. I like a getting my planner out my journal and really reviewing the day, what I was grateful for writing all of this down. That’s very cathartic for me to see the progress that’s taken place, uh, to be grateful in it, to download everything that’s in my head, all the ideas I’ve had that day of what I could be doing to look at the next day and prioritize it. To look back at my long-term goals and all that that we were talking about. I find that relaxing. I, I like it. And I’d use a paper tool. I don’t want to do that in a digital format where you can just be so sucked into that draining experience. What else relaxes people is sitting in a hot tub, talking to somebody that relaxes you, reading a novel. I, I’ve not been so into novels, but I’ve picked it up specifically, uh, as part of this relaxation education. Uh, and, and I find that it’s very helpful, uh, going on a walk, I go on a walk now with my wife, for an hour a day, actually. And, and, and, and it’s been, that’s been the best investment, uh, mental investment, great for mental health great for emotional health, physical health. We, walk really briskly. Now it’s an hour outside in nature. It’s great for our relationship. And we literally have moved to seven days a week now because we notice the difference even on one day of not doing it. So, so yeah, some people it’s taking a bath or going to play tennis, or, you know, you’ve got to construct what relaxes you, what feels enjoyable, that you look forward to doing, and you can construct a ritual every night to work on that have a time when work, when, when external work ends. And then when you move into relaxation into these rituals, there’s no sneaking in the emails, no sneaking in a bit of research while you’re in the bath, or just check in. Or, you know, we, we, we gotta try and shift away from all of that and develop these rituals. Uh, so I have a very set time for ending my day. It’s 5:00 PM, like that’s original. Uh, but I literally walk out my office and call out to the whole family. It is five o’clock, whatever exactly the time is.

Dr. Cooper

Daddy has returned.

Greg McKeown

And, and we do all sorts of things through the day. We have other rituals too, but, but that end time, and then even with my wife, Anna, who I just had on the show, just this last Monday, talking about some of these principles of, of disciplined relaxation and, and what we’re trying, what we’re struggling with and what we’re learning. It gives an excuse to end at that, that time. Why not, why not 5:30? Why not? And then six o’clock. And if it’s not six, then by seven and eight and nine. And, and sometimes I think for a lot of professionals right now, they don’t know what day it is. And what time of day it is. And they look at that Fitbit at the end of the day, it’s 300 steps just merging into it, we’re in the zoom world, right. Uh, eat, sleep zoom. Uh, and I think that that constructing boundaries followed by relaxation rituals is really important for peak performance.

Dr. Cooper

All right. Let’s, uh, we’re not going to get to all these questions I wanted to ask you, but let’s hit a couple of these, extreme criteria. You touched on this a little bit, but can you dive into this concept a little bit more how to apply it and where we can go from there?

Greg McKeown

Essentialism is written for people who are successful, uh, and that success is getting in the way of greater success, right? And so you, you’re going to plateau at whatever level of success, um, equals your criteria for saying yes. So if you, if you say yes to, you know, X number of things, right, you have, you have space for 10 things, and you’re saying yes to these 10 things, there is no space left for anything else. Now, if you are satisfied with that level of contribution, if you feel like this is what I want to do, that’s great. You don’t need to change your criteria at all, just keep doing it. But if you say, well, I would like to go to the next level of contribution, but I’d like to do it in a way that I don’t burn out. Then you’ve got to, of absolute necessity become more selective. You need to become more selective. So you have space to figure out what the next level of contribution is, the way we’ve talked about with planning and space to, to, to design. But you also need to create space just for there to be room for something new, to come into your life. And if you’re saying yes to simply everything, then there’s no room to either discover the next level or to then pursue it. I had another great guest that said, uh, the person who first coined the term FOMO, the fear of missing out Patrick McGinnis. And he taught a principle around being a 10% entrepreneur so that you have your main thing, but did you carve out 10% of time for the next thing that will really help you get to the next level of whatever you’re trying to achieve? And I think that’s an excellent description. Sometimes people have a very take it or leave it. Well, either I pursue my dream. I stay in my current career. Right. Well, how about you pursue it 10% of the time? You, you reclaim 10% from the wasted time, and now you go after one thing, that’s the next thing for you. And you invest in that. So, so that’s a, I think a concrete example.

Dr. Cooper

Yeah. That’s beautiful. And that’s kind of the old 3m strategy with all their entrepreneurialism. That took effect, right? The no repertoire, my friend that was so practical. I think that’s a struggle everybody has with, as you said, you, you kind of hit the plateau, you keep saying yes. And you give us a way to say no. Can you hit a couple of those highlights for folks that have, have struggled with that? That is, I’ve got page 141-142. So I don’t have a chapter for you, but you walk through that process of how you can say no more effectively with all the things you’re being asked.

Greg McKeown

I mean, the first, the first thing is that is just to recognize that like relaxation, high performers often got where they have got by saying, yes, there is reward for saying yeah, for saying yes and delivering on it. But the risk is exactly what I just described, which is the plateauing problem, where you consume all of your time and energy saying yes to the current level of opportunities, instead of being able to carve out the time for the, for, for the others, we have got to learn the skill of saying no. It’s as learned as any other skill, skill of listening or the skill of giving presentations. You have to learn how to say no. And I mean, among them, my, one of my favorite is simply the awkward pause, which I’m just joking slightly about the awkward, but just when somebody asks you something and before you just jump in with a instantaneous, yes. You just pause either like literally three seconds, count it, just do it, just do the hmmmm and think about that. Sometimes in that pause, people will fill it with all sorts of interesting things, that little awkward pause, like, well, you know, I guess it isn’t really that important right now. This is why I was thinking about it. You can gather a lot information in the pause, and you’re just allowing them to fill it. The paused also allows all of everything else that’s in the no repertoire to take place only happens because of a pause. So that’s still the first thing in the pause. You can ask a question, but just asking a question like, um, is this is what you’re asking me to do more important than the thing I’m currently working on. Like, is it, let’s just talk about that for a second. Um, I’m really interested in what you’re saying. It sounds really interesting? How, how would that prioritize against what, what I’m doing here? No repertoire and that includes sort of the soft no. Or the no on the, no, but it’s yeah, no, no, I can’t do this right now, but reach out, you know, check in with me again in a couple of months, even. I’ve had somebody do that to me recently. They did it twice. And I’m quite curious about it because they responded to my email instantly with a, I can’t do it right now. I’ve just, I’m just really busy check back in with me in two months. But I did check in with them two months later and they basically said the same thing again. And I thought to myself, it’s quite a clever approach to a soft no. You’re responding quickly. So you’re making somebody feel like I’m here. I’m not just ignoring you, but there’s no way I can do it. And it puts it back on me. They don’t have an action item. The action item is with me. If it’s important to me, I can come back. Well, I did come back. Well, they did it again. Well, now I go, okay. They probably don’t want to do it fine. I got the idea. But again, they still, I thought it was kind of a, was kind of a clever, uh, clever no. Uh, let me check my calendar and get back to you. I like that. Love this one, this this not because it’s a good, clever line. It, you go check your calendar, right. And see what you’ve already got and remind yourself that the requests they’re making or the requests that even the idea you have, which is often where a lot of our tasks come from within check it against what you’re already committed to think about. Whether it’s more important than the thing that you have in front of you. Well, there we go.

Dr. Cooper

Perfect. Perfect. All right. Last, second to last question here, you had a great differentiation between the two Greek words for time Kronos and Kairos. Why is this such an important concept to reference in this process?

Greg McKeown

Kronos refers to the clock, the ticking clock, the, it’s efficiency. It’s, it’s time as urgency, as fast as you, you’re late. You, you feel it. The other kind of time is, is still and timeless and we’re lost in this moment. And one of the reasons I think that distinction matters so much is because essentialism, and the, and the new book that I’ve just finished. I haven’t been talking about it very publicly, but the book’s called Effortless. What, what I’ve learned really in the, in writing the second book is, is that it’s about lifestyle. It’s not just about doing the important thing or not doing the important thing. It’s what life feels like as you’re doing it. And, and there are different ways to go about it. You could choose the right thing and still go about it. I think in the wrongful stressed way, I can think of so many examples, but I can say again, I’m going to have dinner with my family that really matters. And I do, but how do I show up to it? What kind of experience do I have, or how about this cleaning up after dinner? Uh, that that’s, that’s important and it’s important. My children help for that because I, for all sorts of reasons, practical reasons, but also for that developmentally, I have no interest in sending off spoiled children into the world.

Dr. Cooper

Thank you!

Greg McKeown

I mean, that’s, you’re welcome. Uh, and, and, and so how do you, but how do you construct an experience that makes that fun and enjoyable? And, and that the experience actually is matching the level of importance. And so we’ve gone through all sorts of iterations to try and get close to that, uh, to that experience, uh, for us, it looks like dividing up the roles, responsibilities looks like, uh, training. Uh, it looks like putting on frozen, Disney classics, uh, loud. So we all sing along kind of dance our way. It’s really a first, at first our efforts where we’re like, we thought they would work and they didn’t, but with all the efforts together, all the sort of the design of the system meant that once we added that one thing, one of the, uh, oldest daughter had the idea. And once we added that element, it just worked. And so I’m not saying it works perfectly all the time. I am saying it is, it is genuinely much more enjoyable than it used to be. People do it. And it works. I mean, it’s done, you know, within 10 to 15 minutes, everything is back in place. Everything is clean. Everyone, people don’t fight it hard. You don’t have to wrestle people too hard because they know that’s their job. And it’s been there for, for weeks and now months. And so you just all know what each other are doing, and you’re not having to reinvent every day or be left on your own to do all the cleanup, which I think is the other default position. So, anyway, that’s an example.

Dr. Cooper

Beautiful, I want to be respectful of your time. This was so good. We’ll just wrap it up there. Thank you so much. Keep up the great work. Love it. Definitely want to check into your stuff. Again, the best way for people to find you at this second is gregmckeown.com, but coming it’ll be essentialism.com. Is that right?

Greg McKeown

They can just go to essentialism.com, it will roll them over, but what they’ll find there will change over time as we’re rolling out these new, these new things.

Dr. Cooper

Perfect. My friend. Fantastic job. Thank you so much for your time.

Greg McKeown

It’s been my pleasure. Thanks. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Cooper

I read a lot of books, but Essentialism is one that not only grabbed my attention the first time I picked it up, rather it continues to influence my life significantly. What a pleasure to have Greg McKeown join us for this very, very special episode. Thanks to you for tuning into the number one podcast for health and wellness coaching. Next week’s guest is Dr. Catarina Bernicker of Norway. Her research on physical activity has been featured world wide, and the conversation was just fascinating. I think you’d be encouraged by what you hear. A quick favor to ask our listeners, if you enjoy video tools and resources, we’ve now produced 77 videos over at youtube.com/coaching channel on topics, covering everything from nutrition and exercise to positive behavior, change mental toughness and the business of coaching. We love to have you pop over there, sometime check out a couple of them and maybe subscribe if you find them beneficial. As always feel free to reach out to us with any questions about your current or future coaching career or anything else [email protected]. Now our turn to move toward better than yesterday, which we now understand might actually mean pursuing less rather than more. This is Dr. Bradford Cooper of the Catalyst Coaching Institute. I’ll speak with you soon on another episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness, and Performance coaching podcast, or maybe over on the YouTube coaching channel.