Essentialism — Lifestyle Design from the 100-Year Narrative
I just listened to Carey Gjokaj interview Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I’d planned to listen to this interview, and all others in the LH Summit at 2x the speed — thinking I would hear a few interesting new things, I read the book after all. As I found myself rewinding the video multiple times, then slowing it down to .5x speed, I knew my productivity “hack” wasn’t working.
In the end, it was time well spent because Greg was inspirational, Carey was insightful and for me, adopting Essentialism principals is, well…essential. I’ve listed a few takeaways below.
Living Essentialism is Hard.
Essentialism sounds easy, but it’s really hard to execute. The way of the essentialist, is to explore what is essential to you, eliminate the things that aren’t, and design a lifestyle around your priorities. Unfortunately, we live in a non-essentialist society that pressures us to follow the path of least resistance.
If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
Accept the Planning Fallacy.
Greg explained a difficult heuristic in the planning fallacy. Although experience dictates otherwise, we consistently underestimate the amount of time required to complete any task. Familiar to anyone? Greg suggests that instead of pretending we can do it all, and allowing undone “to dos” to become unfortunate consequences of life, choose 1–3 things that matter and plan to only get one done. To figure out your top priorities, breathe, think, eliminate, and see how it feels in your body. Will you feel good if you get that thing done? There’s your answer.
It’s difficult to overstate the unimportance of practically everything.
Create a 100-Year Vision
The most powerful concept I heard from Greg was the “thought experiment” of the 100-Year narrative. Although it sounds heady, it’s actually quite simple and offers a powerful filter for prioritizing in an ADD world. “With the unholy alliance between smartphones, social media and extreme consumerism we’ve lost the narrative of now.” Instead of thinking what will matter in one year, ten years or when I die, focus on what will matter in 100, 200 or 300 years. He suggests creating a 100-year vision by reflecting on what mattered 100 years ago that still matters today? How did you grandparents live and what decisions did they make that affect you today? With the 100-year filter, maybe binge watching House of Cards falls of the list? Then again, it is Kevin Spacey.
We must restore the narratives of our lives.
Learn Your Intergenerational Narrative
To write our 100-year vision, Greg suggests we look to the past. When you consider our lives in historical context, nobody is crying for us. We have real problems for sure — global warming, Donald Trump and Uber, but prior generations survived world wars, assassinations and genocide — they win. Our intergenerational narrative helps us identify the things that matter most, which are often unintuitive. For instance, outsourcing cooking is easy, but was cooking a meaningful experience for you growing up? Then it stays. With so many easy, inexpensive modern conveniences, well-intentioned people can get caught “efficiently pursuing non-essentialism.” Also, children with an intergenerational sense of self, are more resilient and are better able to create meaning from life’s challenges. Our lives are an experiment in history, so let’s write a good ending.
Countries, rise and fall, but intergenerational families are the most resilient social structures in the world.
There are many other great takeaways from Greg, but I need to stop here. I’m driving my 16-year old son to cross country practice so I can yell out the window “make good choices” in front of his high school team mates. After all, you can’t chose your parents and I’m getting my intergenerational narrative on!