It’s Either HELL YES! or No: Essentialism Greg McKeown [book review]

Everything, all the time,” Don Henley sings in The Eagles’ hit “Life in the Fast Lane.” The main characters in the song initially live an amazing life of sex, drugs and rock ’n roll. They end up hospitalized and broke by the time they’re old.

Essentialism book cover

They might have fared better had they read Greg Mckeown’s book, Essentialism. He explains the way of the Essentialist, which is the disciplined pursuit of less but better. “It’s about making the trade-off between pursuing lots of good things OR a few really great things.” This holds true now more than ever, with the information and connectivity overload we all suffer from.

You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”
– John Maxwell

The author makes a compelling argument for making “no” your default answer as opposed to “yes”. Learn to focus on those few things which truly matter and where you can make an exceptional contribution with your talents and experience.

At first glance, all look important. In reality, there are only a few things of exceptional value, with most everything else being of far less importance.”

The book offers some clear guidelines and practical tips to lead you towards the “Essentialist lifestyle”: explore, eliminate, execute. This means spending time listening, debating, questioning and thinking before taking on a commitment. The investment of that time you will win back by only executing those projects and tasks in which you can make an exceptional difference.

Warren Buffet owes 90% of his wealth to only 10 investments.

One of the most useful tips from the book is to evaluate an option as follows: think about the single most important criterion for that decision and then simply give it a score between 0 and 100 on that basis. If it’s below 90%, don’t do it. It’s either HELL YES or no.

Living life as an essentialist is not easy. You will find you’re not like everybody else. When other people are saying yes, you will be saying no. When other people are doing, you will find yourself thinking. When other people are speaking, you will find yourself listening. While other people are living a life of stress and chaos, you will be living a life of impact and fulfilment.”

If you find yourself struggling with too many tasks, projects and other commitments, reading Essentialism can change your life. It certainly did for me, hence I included it as one of the most important changes I made in 2014.

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