May 2015

The Pursuit of Essentialism: Saying No

I set a schedule of Tuesday postings for our pursuit. Today should have been our one month postiversary, but I missed our date (I even let a scheduled, barely-started post make it to the internet and for that I am sorry). It wasn’t without a pang of sadness that I let the date slip by and, if I’m being honest with myself, if I had one more sleepless night I could have completed a post. Then I had to reflect on our second post and ask myself, “Would that have been the best use of my time?” Probably not. So here we are this week, back to becoming Essentialists and talking about the reason I can justify not posting last week.

The reason? I said ‘no.’

Just as important as recognizing how much (or little) time you have is understanding your ability to choose what to focus on during that time. There can be great internal and external pressure from your job, friends, and family that leave you feeling like you’re pulled in many different directions. You sorted out a whole day to support the people you love when all of a sudden your sister has an art show, a friend could use help moving, your significant other is hosting a BBQ, and one of your oldest friends is in town who you haven’t seen for ages. All that free time you worked so hard to gain has been hijacked!

In the real world, we are finite beings. That means there are inevitably going to be trade offs but the non-essentialist will try to fit in all of these activities. They believe they can help their friend move, bring their out-of-town friend to the BBQ and still make it to their sister’s art show. The problem is this logic isn’t sound. Maybe you’re late to the art show, or you miss the BBQ, or you half-ass helping your friend move knowing you have to be somewhere soon. That’s the reality of trade offs.

This is where we learn the difference between our options (external opportunities/uncontrollable’s) and our actions (internal choices/free will).

“In an insightful op-ed for the New York Times, Erin Callan, the former CFO of Lehman Brothers, shared what she had sacrificed in making trade-offs by default. She wrote: “I didn’t start out with the goal of devoting all of myself to my job. It crept in over time. Each year that went by, slight modifications became the new normal. First I spent a half-hour on Sunday organizing my e-mail, to-do list, and calendar to make Monday morning easier. Then I was working a few hours on Sunday, then all day. My boundaries slipped away until work was all that was left.”

Her story demonstrates a critical truth: we can either make the hard choices for ourselves or allow others—whether our colleagues, our boss, or our customers—to decide for us.”

Excerpt From: Greg McKeown “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.”

This means instead of asking, “How can I do it all?” you should be asking, “What do I want to go big on?” and ultimately that will mean turning someone or something down. You will have to say ‘no,’ and believe me, I get that saying no can be hard.


In this case, I went big on playing because that’s always a good decision.

I have huge FOMO (fear of missing out). There is also the fear of letting down your friends and family who you feel are counting on you. Worse than that though would be stringing someone along until you realize you can’t make it and, at the last minute, backing out. If you had said, “I would love to help you move that day, unfortunately an old friend will be in town and I’ve committed my time to them for the afternoon,” your moving friend would have the time to find other people to help them. It’s unlikely that your friend will hate you for saying no to something like this. Hopefully, after seeing how you stick to your other commitments, they’ll even recognize that you’re a solid friend and know when you do commit to them, they can expect the same great follow-through. If they get totally bent out of shape (and if that happens often) this may be a good time to revisit essentialism in your relationships. Drama is unnecessary, creates additional problems that didn’t exist before and solves nothing.

What does all this have to do with me skipping last week’s post? It all came down to the fact that I had some projects that I had committed to, including a music video for Greg Drummond we’d been working on (on and off) since July 2014 that was now in production and included a tight timeline. I made a choice. I could probably have produced the video as well as posted the article, but I chose to focus on making the video the best it could be and waiting until I had the time to do the same thing with this article.

So, what will you go big on?


  • by Brandon William Fletcher
  • 0 Comment
  • May 26, 2015
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