Amanda: Hey guys, welcome back to the podcast. I am Amanda.
Laura: I’m Laura.
Kendra: And I'm Kendra.
Amanda: And we are going to continue our discussion of the book Essentialism. So this is Essentialism part two.Take it away.
Laura: Yeah, so just as a reminder, this is based on the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. If you haven't read this book or listened to the Audible, we highly encourage it. It is transformational material. The way he presents it is just so, so helpful in helping to apply it to our lives and helping us to really take responsibility for making sure that we live the life we really want to in an intentional way and not just like letting life happen to us.
So in this book, the core logic that we want to focus on is: Number one, we each have something called agency and agency means that we're each able to choose and make decisions to direct our lives. Ultimately there are things in our lives that we don't have a choice about, but we always have a choice about how to think about them and almost all the time about how to feel and behave towards particular circumstances.
So if we approach things as, "I choose to do this,”— this is something we talk about, about work a lot. So many physicians are burned out or suffering moral injury or exhausted or just struggling. And one of the things for me and my burnout, I really did not feel like I had a choice about whether I went to work or not, but I did a hundred percent all the time. Nobody was holding a gun to my head, telling me I had to go to work and. I really, like I got my keys, got myself dressed every time and took myself to work and I went in on my own, without anyone else physically forcing me to do it.
I could have done any number of other things instead. I didn't have to do it. The truth is there was, there were, and still are, especially now, things that I loved about it. And I wanted to keep my career. So I was choosing to do the things that I, that needed to happen for me to be able to keep my career.
But I don't have to do it. I don't have to go to work ever again. If I were in a horrible car accident and became disabled, I wouldn't be going to work. Something like that doesn't have to happen for me to choose not to. I just can choose to do something different.
The second thing is that only a few things really matter. And we each get to decide what that is instead of that everything is so important. When we think everything is important, the things that are truly important get neglected, get put on the back burner and forgotten. And so it's so important for us to be intentional and really identify those few things that really, really matter to us.
Sometimes we refer to these things as core values and we encourage our clients to really think about what is it? What is it that really, really matters to you? And let's put our focus on that for how we're going to intentionally allocate our time and energy. I can do anything, but not everything. So sure, I could, I go learn the violin and become proficient at the violin. Yes, I totally could. It's not something that I'm feeling drawn to it. I don't feel like for me personally at this time in my life, that is something I want to spend time on—maybe later. Maybe it'd probably be more like the ukulele.
I probably would be ukulele if I decided to pick up an instrument right now, but I can do it. I can do it. I can decide today that I want to play violin, but I can't do everything. So I would be choosing that. And choosing to say no to something else. So we want to make sure that we're choosing things that really matter.
That yes, we can do anything we put our mind to, but we can't do everything.
Choosing—that choice, that agency, it really is kind of the heart of being human. We're here to learn, we're here to develop and grow and the choices that we make help us do that. So from his book, he says, the ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away.
It can only be forgotten. So even if we're like a prisoner of war. Somewhere far away, and we have no civil rights. We have no human rights. We still have the choice internally of how we're going to think and experience life. So it's kind of interesting and hard to wrap our minds around sometimes. But certainly when we live in, say, the United States, where we have so many civil liberties, the experience of being able to choose, the experience of knowing that we can be intentional about our lives and choose to live the way we want.
I challenge you to question yourself when you think I don't have a choice about this, or I, I have to do this, it's likely not true. So how does this happen?
Like, how do we get to a point where we don't know that we have a choice? He talks about the experiments that Marty Seligman did on learned helplessness. If you remember those, that was where the poor little doggies were on a shock plate and the ones who noticed that there was something they could do, like if they turned their head, they got a shock.
And if they turned it back, the shock went away. They did not develop this learned helplessness. The ones who kept getting a shock, and kept getting a shock, and kept getting a shock. Those poor little dogs, even when they had the opportunity to get off the shock plate, it didn't even occur to them that they could.
So when we feel helpless. Look around and see where are we being shocked? And are we accurate in thinking that there's really no way to get away from the shock? Because there is. and it's so important for us to pay attention to our thinking and where it's actually our thinking keeping us stuck on that shock plate.
Kendra: So, yeah, I love how in the book that he's talking about essentialism and everything that he talks about is just very concise. Like he just uses the logic behind keeping it simple, silly, like that. K I S S keep it simple, silly.
And he talks about this idea of. Just like Laura said that the power of choice, it's really what makes us human when we were made and, you know, breathe life into, we were given choice. And so nothing can take that. And it can't be given away. But in this era in our society, we have developed too many choices.
And those choices are now overwhelming us, so whether we feel social pressures to choose a certain way, or we just like, are overwhelmed by the amount of choices. And so we can't make a decision that we, we can fall prey to that. We can succumb to that. And so he talks about this idea of discernment and that idea of the trivial many.
So the lots of unimportant things that we could be doing and the vital few, the ones that line up with your system of values and the ones that we really should be putting all of our eggs in the basket for. And I love his example. He talks about Warren Buffett and everyone knows who Warren Buffett is.
Extremely wealthy man, very successful. And his wife tells the story that early on in his career, when he was, you know, building his wealth, he decided that he was only going to invest in businesses that he was a hundred percent sure of, like felt very good about were very established and that he could really just put all of his tokens in those.
In those, in those games, like, I'm gonna put all my money on this table and I'm gonna go with it. So when he built his wealth, 90% of his wealth, it was in, in 10 investments, which kind of blows your mind 'cause you think about how much he was worth. You think about like, wow, 10 investments and he goes on to say, you know, sometimes what you don't do is almost just important as what you do. And so Warren Buffett was very clear. I'm going to put all my eggs in these 10 investments, and this is what I'm going to do. He had many opportunities throughout his life to invest in all of these things. Of course, when someone sees someone building wealth, they're going to come to him and say, “Hey, do you want to invest in this?”
Like I could double your money and all these things that sound good, but were they great? And to him, it just wasn't great. He had decided beforehand. I'm not going to do this. So. When I think about the choices that we make and we get clear on our values, it's really important to, like we said in the last podcast, like there are priorities, you know, the irony of priorities and not priority, but the fact that we have a plural, we consider like our top, you know, few priorities and those are the ones that we are really going to invest the most time, our talent and our treasure.
We always talk about how time is our non renewable resource. We do not get back our time. And so when we think about it, yes, we can make more money. Yes, we can build up treasures, but the thing we don't ever get back is time. And so we really got to take a step back and look who, what are we spending our time into?
If anyone were to look at our calendars, look on our phones, look at our planners and see where our time is, would they be able to list your priorities in order? And I think that was huge when I heard that, that perspective of just like, if I were to hand over my Google calendar, would someone be able to list my priorities one through five?
And you know, that was a real wake up call. So, you start to make some shifts and it's not that you can flip the switch and all of a sudden it becomes. You know, your calendar aligns with your priorities. It does take some hard cuts, but that also takes some time.
But getting clarity on that is probably the take home point. And then he talks about the trade off. And so what Laura was saying is I can do anything, but not everything. And so there's going to be some trade off. We talk about being the agent of your life, being the CEO. Like you have an agent and it's yourself.
And sometimes you have to make hard cuts. And so the example he uses throughout his book, he uses a lot of examples of like companies and businesses and. People who've been successful and so he talks about Southwest airlines and what he started to give the background of Southwest airlines and what , the investor, it was actually a different company, but when he invested in and bought the planes and started Southwest Airlines, he said, all right, listen, this is going to be our business plan.
We're simplifying it. We're only offering one—like coach, we're only going to offer one choice for seats and people aren't going to be able to pick their seats. They can just get on first come first serve. Number two was they weren't going to offer overpriced meal. There was no glitzy first class. There wasn't going to be, you know, caviar and champagne.
There was going to be snacks. You had one refreshment. This was your choice, you were given it when you got on board, and that's it. And then he only offered point to point flights, so there were only destinations where you'd be at one point to one point in one, in one fell swoop, and that was it. And, as you know, Southwest Airlines has survived.
Recessions, inflation, all of the things because they kept it simple. And they remembered their motto. They remembered their mission statement. And I'll tell you, he uses in contrast, continental airlines and that they try to start out with a similar plan, a Southwest airlines, but then they kind of gave into maybe we need a first class and, oh, maybe we need caviar and champagne and they went down. So it's interesting how he puts it, but he says trade offs are a representation of a significant opportunity by forcing us to weigh both options and strategically select the best one for us. When we do this, we significantly increase our chance of achieving the outcome.
We want like Southwest, we can enjoy the success that results for making a consistent set of choices. So that's that clarity and that's also deciding like once you decide that this is what's important to me, these are my values, stick with it. It doesn't really pay to be kind of schizophrenic in your choices and be going all different directions or decide to change or cave to social pressures or whatever. It pays to selectively do what your values are and stick to the heart of your core values and go from there.
Amanda: Yeah, that reminds me too, when you were talking about it, of Chick fil A. The classic example, love them or hate them. They just pick the few things that they're really good at. That limits their ingredients. It narrows their focus. They do it very well, very efficiently. You know, when you're not having to cook beef plus chicken plus fish plus strange rib meat that maybe, is it rib meat?
I don't know. Yeah. But you see what I'm saying? It's very questionable. It's a narrow focus. And so that frees up all of your energy to just focus on that. Like we all just have a limited amount of energy. And so you can do a hundred things. pretty mediocrely, or you can do a few things excellently. And so I think probably most of us type A's want to do some things at least excellently,
So what are some of the characteristics of an essentialist? One of the things is that they pay attention to the signal in the noise. They're hearing the things that are not being said. And they're scanning to find the essence of the information. I have a couple examples that came to mind when I was reading this.
One in medicine. When you have that patient that is all over the place, and you're like, what are they even talking about? One of the things that I like to do is like, you know, what is it that you were looking up online? What is the thing that you're really scared about? Because something made them come to the ER, and you know, lately the ER is not the place that most people want to hang out.
So something made it urgent enough to come in. And a lot of times they're like, You know, my father was diagnosed with cancer at this time and that's what I'm freaking out about. There we go. That was the essence of the signal and all of the garbage noise that like, what in the world was that?
History. It's the same thing, like, there's another example of like, parenting, when the kid is not acting like himself, rather than taking it personally, maybe this is just a display that they're struggling with something. Like, to me, it's really easy to get stuck in the weeds of like, I did not raise you to be like this.
Like, whoa. That's not really what's happening. What's really happening is they don't know how to manage whatever they're going through. Just paying attention to the signal, not the noise, is something that an essentialist would do. Number two, an essentialist realizes that you have to have quiet time.
You've got a left brain and a right brain. Your best ideas come from when the left brain is off. When you're not doing the tasks. When you're having fun on purpose to exercise the creative part of your brain. Or when you're sitting quiet so that you can actually hear the little voice that is usually in the background.
Because you're so, you know, amped up with all of your to do lists and all that. That is when the breakthroughs come through. I'm thinking, is it Eckhart Tolle? I think it's in Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, who says that even the greatest science breakthroughs usually did not come about whenever they were toiling and doing their experiments.
It was like, in the middle of the night when they're sleeping, or, when the left part of their brain had shut down. That is when the creative breakthroughs come through. So don't ever think that giving yourself that quiet time is a waste. It is a waste to not take that quiet time and not come up with the solutions that would solve it all, not come up with the creativity that is there, , it's so much more quiet than the left side of your brain, the taskmaster, and so you have to allow it time to come up on purpose.
The other thing is look to see what really matters. Again, you could do a hundred things pretty meh. I don't think that's what you want. I think what you want to do is live according to your top three values. Top one value. Top five values. But not top 20 values. That's... That's not going to work. And then the importance of play, sleep, concentration.
Again, we talk about this a lot. You are your own agent. You are the star player of your life. You cannot keep abusing the star player and thinking that you're going to have a long, successful career in whatever it is that you choose. You know, stuff starts breaking down when you're not getting the restorative sleep that you need.
Things are dull when you're not getting play or having anything in your life that sparks joy. So just keeping that in mind From the book it says, our highest priority is to protect our ability to prioritize. If it is not a clear yes for you, problem solved. It's a no. Right? Easy peasy. You don't have unlimited energy.
You don't have unlimited time. So unless it's a heck yes, then just, it's just a no, that's a complete sentence. No.
Laura: Yeah. Amanda is better at saying no than maybe a lot of us are. Some of us are still overcoming people-pleasing, but it's so worth it to learn and to learn that saying no can be one of the kindest things you can do. When we say no to things that don't matter, we preserve our energy and time for the things that matter most and that makes us kinder people.
Kendra: Yeah, we talk about showing up our best self all the time, and what, what a better example of showing up your best self is when you have enjoyed playtime with, you know, the people that you love the most, when you've gotten You know, your hours of sleep on a consistent basis that have restored you when you've been able to, we always talk about scheduling and that do nothing time.
We call it, I call it clear space because literally on my calendar, it's clear space, , like, nothing in that hour slot or whatever. Sometimes not filling that clear space that you, had intention to put on your calendar does not need to get filled up with something that you really just need to say no to.
And so, this idea of living the essentialist life, it's really important and we've hopefully shown you not only in medicine, but how corporations and businesses have become very successful in adopting this idea of living the essentialist, of shifting that mindset to only a few things matter and I can do anything but not everything. So thank you for joining us today. We love you guys. We hope you have an amazing day. So until next time, you are whole, you are a gift to medicine, and the work you do matters.