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“Life is fast and full of opportunity,” according to Greg McKeon, “but trying to keep up and seize it all will lead to burnout.”
When Greg appeared on Unleashed last autumn, he shared with us some powerful messages about looking for simpler, easier paths to the outcomes we desire. “It’s impossible to drive ten-fold results by inputting ten-fold effort.” A step change or new approach of some kind is required.
Building on these concepts, we were thrilled to have Greg featured as one of our keynote speakers at the Business Execution Summit (BEx) 2022.
At the summit, Greg expounded on the idea of Essentialism - why it matters and how we can apply it in our own lives.
Why We Need Essentialism
During his time working with leaders at some of the world’s fastest moving companies (including Adobe, Apple, Google, Facebook, Pixar, Salesforce.com, Symantec and Twitter) Greg started to see a repeating pattern:
- A company would rally around a single idea with clarity and focus.
- The idea would take hold resulting in rapid growth and success.
- The success would give the firm an increase in opportunities – more customers, revenue, investors, ideas, and options.
- And then, the company would struggle and faulter because of the undisciplined pursuit of more.
This is the paradox that Jim Collins also alluded to in Good to Great when he argued that “the enemy of great is good.”
The solution to this problem is what Greg calls essentialism, and he defines it as the disciplined pursuit of less (but better).
He gave several examples of organizations that apply this principle and have been successful over decades. One is Southwest Airlines, and Greg noted how they avoided the undisciplined pursuit of more by staying true to several guiding principles like only one type of plane, point-to-point flights, no frills, and a relentless focus on being on time.
The Steps to Essentialism
From there, Greg went on to define an approach that we can apply both personally and professionally to help us move towards greater results with less stress and effort.
- Prioritize Ruthlessly – every day have a singular focus on what is your number one priority. There is no such thing as priorities (in fact, it is only recently in our language that the word priorities started showing up in plural). Every day decide WIN – What’s Important Now.
- Protect the Asset – you are the asset, so don’t risk yourself by following a boom-and-bust approach to life. “Don’t do more today than you can completely recover from for tomorrow.”
- Create an Essential Intent Statement – define what you or your company stands for by defining what you will do (verb) for whom (population) for what result (outcome) by when (date). John F Kennedy provided an historic example in 1961: “By the end of this decade, we will put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth.”
- Embrace Trade-Offs – the Latin root of the word “decision” is to cut or to kill something. Trade-offs and saying no to most opportunities is a necessary essentialism principle.
- Say No Gracefully – It doesn’t have to be a polite YES or a rude NO when someone asks you for something. Explore options and negotiate.
The Power of Focus
“If you focus on what you lack, you’ll lose what you have. But if you focus on what you have, you’ll gain what you lack”
Greg closed is keynote with a heartfelt personal story about his daughter contracting a rare and debilitating illness.
Through that experience he had to exercise essentialism by making her health the number one priority every day and saying no to most other opportunities.
Today there have never been more ideas, opportunities, and options. But without the disciplined pursuit of less we are destined to fail.
If you’d like to learn more about how to build a focused, disciplined company, or other ways you can take the simpler path to creating a great business, connect with us.