Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less is the latest self-help book wrapped in the opaque cloth of technology, platitudes, and Silicon Valley Zen-like aestheticism. Author Greg McKeown offers a set of guiding principals to help individuals remove all non-essential forms of thought from those that either diffuse or impede action, productivity, and ultimately, success.
Essentialism is about to become the next fad in self-empowerment thinking, focused on initiating a paradigm shift in how we perceive work and the world in which we live. McKeown draws a distinction between essential and non-essential thoughts, which you’re supposed to sort through using a system of distinguishing statements like “I have to” (representing a non-essential thought) and “I choose to” (representing an essential thought). Put simply, Essentialism offers the bold idea that our Western notion of doing more is counter productive, which results in diffusing our talents across too many endeavors, as opposed to narrowing down our focus and pursuits, but doing them better.
As with any self-help guide, the effectiveness of this system is dependent on the extent of your effort, as with any fitness, dieting, or workplace regimen. Think of Essentialism as a potpourri of the Zen of Alan Watts, the mindfulness mantras of Thích Nhất Hạnh, and the business mien captured by Robert T. Kiyosaki of Rich Dad, Poor Dad fame. All of these disparate concepts are seemingly combined and reduced into a motivational guide for the technologically literate but socially perplexed.
While not intended for your typical blue-collar or unskilled worker, who do not often have the luxury or opportunity to choose to do something due to familial or economic constraints, Essentialism is instead aimed at entrepreneurs, techies, engineers, and the up-and-coming “Millennial” generation.
Essentialism attempts to help its intended audience find a convenient way to delegate among all the conflicting choices they confront on a day to day basis for a more fulfilling and less stressful existence. McKeown does well by working out his theory, “…captured in just three German words: Weniger aber besser (translation: Less but Better).”