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March 01, 2023

Years ago, my wife, Talan, would describe herself as a minimalist even though the implication was imperfect. The term felt like it lacked purpose and intention. The idea of getting rid of stuff, commitments, etc., just for the sake of it, felt a little off. Minimalism seemed synonymous with the image of a Tibetan Monk, selling everything and disappearing into the mountains with nothing but the clothes on his back. That image did not capture Talan's mindset. Then she read Essentialism by Greg McKeown and immediately told me, "I am not a Minimalist; I am an Essentialist!"

After reading the book each of the last three years, I can officially say I am also now an essentialist. Essentism parallels the first book I reviewed, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer. Where Comer focuses on slowing down and eliminating distraction so that you might find God in the stillness, McKeown does not define what is important, instead leaving that up to the reader. McKeown is simply trying to help the reader identify the excess and focus on what is essential (undefined). So why, then, should you read both?

At first glance, Essentialism and Elimination are two sides of the same coin. However, Essentialism discusses your daily work life more, whereas Elimination has your spiritual life as the central focus. And since most of us spend more time at work than home, this book may feel more concrete and actionable. Some people may not even be able to think about their spiritual life because their daily work life is so overwhelming. As evidence of this focus, one question McKeown asks every time he speaks is, "Why do otherwise successful people find themselves stretched too thin at work?"

Though this isn't a direct answer to the question, one of his common quotes is an appropriate answer: "You can do a few things superbly well, or a lot of things averagely well."

In this 5 minute video, McKeown points out that, ultimately, our success leads to the undisciplined pursuit of more. His remedy, much like Comer, is to slow down enough so that you can discover and then relentlessly pursue that which is essential.

McKeown emphasizes that if we never slow down long enough to distinguish the vital few from the trivial many, how can we ever know if we are walking down the right path? Which leads me to a few questions: the right path, as decided by whom? Your husband's investment broker? The neighbors? That guy from church or in the next cubicle?

I encourage you to read essentialism. No matter your stage or circumstance in life, the concepts in the book are timeless and relevant to all of us. As McKeown says, "if you don't prioritize your life, someone else will."

For that matter, Simply Human Advisors is built around the concept of essentialism. We help people who feel directionless due to the loss of a spouse from death or divorce. Our calling is to help you find and focus on life's essential elements. When we know your purpose, we build your finances around that. 

Book an appointment, and I will help you prioritize your life around the essentials.