414: How To Define And Focus On Essentialism For Your Life With Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown, the bestselling author of, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” shares his philosophy of finding what’s most important to your life and focusing on it.



Greg McKeown, Bestselling Author & Blogger

Bestselling author of “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” and blogger with millions of monthly readers

on this episode

We live in a golden age of information and productivity. Never in human history have ordinary people had such easy access to more information, or more tools to get work done, instantly, from anywhere, by themselves. Which is great! But, as we all know, can be overwhelming. Our poor human brains can get over-filled, or distracted. Checking email, checking social, checking the news, checking the market. And sometimes, in the midst of all this information overload, we lose track of what’s really important. 

If you’ve been listening to our podcast, you’ve heard me talk a lot about figuring out what you want. What’s really important to you? How do you filter out the noise of all the outside demands — other people, social media, the news — and really drill down to determine what you want for yourself? Getting to that answer of what you want is the key to achieving clarity about your career change goals. Once you have that clarity, you can go out and achieve what you want. 

I’m speaking with Greg McKeown this week. His bestselling book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” is about exactly how to answer this question of what you want — what is essential to your life? Greg is a blogger with millions of monthly readers and, as I mentioned, a bestselling author. He’s written a lot on his concept of essentialism, which I think is a great framing concept for career change. Because, when we talk about career change, what we’re really talking about is figuring out what is most important to you — what is essential — and how do you go about getting it? He and I had a great conversation about exactly that.

What you’ll learn

  • How Greg learned (painfully) why he needed to focus on the essentials in his life.
  • Greg’s philosophy of Essentialism, discovering your best life by doing less.
  • Why figuring out what is essential to your life is important.
  • How Essentialism can help you identify what you want and drive your career change forward.

Success Stories

I convinced myself for many years, that I was very lucky to have that job, and I would be crazy to leave it. I convinced myself that the team needed me even though I was miserable. And ultimately, it took me getting physically sick to realize I needed to leave! One of the biggest things that I learned out of the signature coaching was on designing my life. And this is another thing that I had really never, it had, I don't know, if it had never occurred to me. I just never believed it was possible until now.

Michael Fagone, Mortgage Loan Officer and Finance Executive, United States/Canada

The way you guys have it laid out it just, it makes it easier to move through the process, because the steps are laid out such a way that it's clear. It's that extra support to help you move through the process that helps you move through the program.

Kristy Wenz, Chief Communications Officer, United States/Canada

Thank you both for inspiring me to always ask, "Why NOT me?" and stick to my values for what I want for my life. I couldn't be happier and more excited for this new life!

Lisa Schulter, Special Projects Manager, United States/Canada

I wanted to thank you because you have helped me land a job that is more fulfilling in every way than a job I thought I could have had before I met you. The work you did and the techniques you taught me literally changed my life.

Eric Murphy, Science Teacher, United States/Canada

Greg McKeown 00:01

Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin at work or at home? Have you ever found yourself being busy but not necessarily productive? Have you ever found yourself be, where your day is being hijacked by other people's agenda for you, whether that's through email or whether it's on social media, where people are hijacking you with their opinions and you feel distracted and pulled into that or just by the news, the incessant, you know, addictive news cycle that's trying to get you to focus on it over any other thing? If you can say, yes, to any of the above, then what's happening is whether you meant to or not, you're falling into the way of the non essentialist. And what I'm arguing is the way out is the way of the essentialist.

Introduction 00:55

This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:19

You've probably already heard that, you need to say 'no' to more things. And we've all heard about drawing boundaries and that if we're too busy, well, guess what? It's just our own fault. All we need to do is say, 'yes' to less things, which sounds easy in theory, and it's nice to write down. And it's great to read about on a blog post. However, it's much harder to do in practice, in reality.

Greg McKeown 01:43

All of a sudden, as COVID hit the, you know, like a quarter of the US population, almost literally overnight, had been asked to believe something like involuntary essentialism. Not unkindly, we were told, go to your room, and don't come out again until you've had a good thing about it. Like, it's a global teenager, we went and have had to think. And I think there's not almost not anybody who hasn't asked whether they said it in exactly these words or not. But the spirit of it is, what's essential now? All the things I could focus on, what should I focus on? All these things I no longer control which things even matter.

Scott Anthony Barlow 02:31

That's Greg McKeown. He's a huge advocate for pursuing less. What he refers to as "essentialism". His writing has appeared in places like New York Times, Fast Company, Fortune, Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, lots of other places. And he's among the most popular bloggers in places like the Harvard Business Review and LinkedIn influencer scripts, averaging over a million views a month. Oh, also, he's the author of "Essentialism" which I read a while back and thought, hey, I have to get Greg on the podcast. So many months later, he's here to discuss the disciplined pursuit of less and where the idea of essentialism actually began.

Greg McKeown 03:12

One of the key inflection points for me happened when I got an email from a colleague at the time it said, "Look, Friday between 1 and 2pm will be a very bad time for your wife to have a baby because I need you to be at such and such a meeting." And my wife was expecting, otherwise that's an even stranger email to receive. There we are Wednesday, where we are Friday, and our daughter has been born in the middle of the night. And we are, you know, I'm instead of being totally focused on this central moment, I am feeling torn. How can I keep everybody happy? How can I do both? And so to my shame, I go to the meeting. And afterwards I remember I called saying, "look, the client will respect you for the choice you just made." And I'm not sure the look on their faces invokes that sort of confidence, or that I was really in any mental shape to be able to contribute well to that meeting, but regardless, it is clear I made a fool's bargain that I violated something more important, something essential, but something less important. And what I learned from that was this, if you don't prioritize your life, someone else will. This gave impetus in hindsight to get on with researching, studying, understanding, interviewing, "why do we do what we do?" And I have found that many people fall into a trap and people listening to this can test it themselves. Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin at work or at home? Have you ever found yourself being busy but not necessarily productive? Have you ever found yourself be, where your day is being hijacked by other people's agenda for you, whether that's through email or whether it's on social media, where people are hijacking you with their opinions and you feel distracted and pulled into that or just by the news, the incessant, you know, addictive news cycle that's trying to get you to focus on it over any other thing? If you can say, yes, to any of the above, then what's happening is whether you meant to or not, you're falling into the way of the non essentialist. And what I'm arguing is the way out is the way of the essentialist.

Scott Anthony Barlow 05:26

So let me ask you this. This is something that as I'm hearing you talk, I am wondering because I'm thinking about some of my own experience as well, as I'm hearing you tell your story. And part of the way I found reason to pay attention to the essential more so than anything else was through a set of, what I consider to be extreme experiences much, much like you, I would probably call what happened with, you know, you're at the client meeting, and your wife and new baby are in the hospital. Yeah, I'd say that's more on the extreme side, not necessarily extreme in the form of like, life or death or anything like that, but definitely more on the extreme side. And I myself had several different experiences back to back that began to cause me to pay attention to the essential where, you know, my, I guess mine did actually fall into the life or death, I didn't realize that till now. But my son, I was at work, and my son ended up, after going to the doctor, my wife and had taken him to the doctor earlier in the day, got a prescription, got two prescriptions actually, and gave him the one prescription he started turning blue, and wife called me and she called me again and called me again and I didn't pick up the phone until I realized that it's the three ring signal and, I don't know how it works in your family, but in my family, if my wife calls three times like it's an emergency, so I eventually pick up the phone. I had that same sort of decision to make as you were initially I actually decided to stay at work at first because the situation I was in, there was a ton of resources put into it. It just happened to be this really big meeting, all these people had flown in, I was in charge of the whole thing. And at first I decided to stay and then finally, I came to my senses and left, but it could have been too late for all intents and purposes. And you know, he was blue, he is on the way to hospital. And fortunately, the other prescription happened to be a steroid, which ended up saving his life. So that was kind of my moment of like, there's really no reason not to pay attention to the essential, could miss out on almost everything. I appreciate what you teach to many, many different levels. But all that said, here's my question, those were longest preface ever to this question.

Greg McKeown 07:42

No, that was an important story.

Scott Anthony Barlow 07:43

Do people have to go through something as extreme as what you or I went through in order to wake up to this idea? Or is there hope to get out of that busyness and run around and stretched too thin and all the things, all the pieces that we just described, and do it differently without having to have the type of learning that you or I did?

Greg McKeown 08:08

The answer is, definitely yes. It can be done. And it's the best scenario to take, is to choose to become an essentialist before you have to be a voluntary essentialist. It's a cheaper way to get a great bargain in life. Because you don't have to pay this huge price for the lesson. You can just implement it while things are good. But even if it takes some external event to create the wake up call, that's the next best scenario and tying this back to what we just talked about a moment ago, all of a sudden, as COVID hit the, like a quarter of the US population almost literally overnight, has been asked to relive something like involuntary essentialism, you know, not unkindly, we were told, "go to your room, and don't come out again until you've had a good think about it." Like this is a global teenager, we went and had to think. And I think there's not almost not anybody who hasn't asked whether they said it in exactly these words or not. But the spirit of it is, well, what's essential now? All the things I could focus on, what should I focus on? All these things I no longer control, which things even matter? Of all the changes that have taken place, I mean, is there anybody who hasn't had to reprioritize? Everybody's had to reprioritize in some way, whether they lost a job or whether other people in their company have left or whether they're now working from home and that changes dynamics and time that's available, the more distracted at home potentially, because they have children and then navigating all of the strain of that. I mean, everybody whether they wanted to or not, has been confronted with a prioritization challenge. Now, a true essentialist is better positioned and prepared for this moment. They have less to change, they're more relaxed with the idea of constraints and the benefit of constraints, why boundaries are helpful, why trade offs are to be celebrated and embraced. They have a mindset and a skill set that lends itself at this moment. But even if you didn't, and you're suddenly discovering in this moment, the need for greater focus, the need for greater discernment, you can still benefit a lot from this moment. Now, discovering this language of this approach to life.

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:40

It's so interesting thinking about it from that perspective. And first of all, let's not just gloss over that, that was one of the funnier ways to describe the global teenager that has to go to the room that I've heard in the scheme of things to describe some of the byproducts of COVID. And in some ways, I guess you could say that is the one of the silver linings and I don't want to make light of some of the harsher impacts of COVID or anything along those lines, but I have been almost sort of, I'm not even sure the right way to say it, Greg, guiltily questioning myself in some ways about why I haven't had to make very many adjustments as it relates to COVID. And I think what you mentioned rings true a little bit for me, because I feel like I've sort of been operating in this mode in many different ways for a really long time, not just from an essentialism point of view, but from many other point of views, like work from home for five plus years, and all those sorts of things as well. But I think that for me, it makes a really important point that when you're talking about essentialism, and the ideas behind it, which I think that you described so eloquently, I would equate it with lifestyle change, rather than just a way to think about something or just a way to think about it differently. Does that make sense?

Greg McKeown 12:04

Yes, I think it is about a lifestyle change, ultimately. I think it starts with a mindset where you say "look, only a few things are really essential and most of it beyond those essential things should be questioned or eliminated." There are few things if you can discover them and invest in them, they will pay tremendous dividends over the long run. And so once you get that mindset, an essentialist believes that almost everything is non essential and a non essentialist believes that almost everything is essential. So as you get the mindset of the essentialist as you shift the mindset, then you start seeing the world through a new lens and you used to put on these new glasses or, well actually the way I feel like it's you taking off glasses you're taking off this barrier to seeing things clearly.

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:54

Why the subtle difference? Explain that for me, when you say, taking off versus putting on glasses. Tell me why it was different?

Greg McKeown 13:01

Because I think that non essentialism is this false perception, you know, those sort of joke glasses that you can wear sometimes that magnify everything way too big, you know, once you put them on you, you're almost you're basically blind. I think non essentialism is like that, that you've got to remove the distortion so that you can just see things clearly, essentialism is just how things are. I mean, I didn't make them this way. It just turns out if you see things as they are, a few things really matter and lots of things don't. And if you pretend that everything's equally valuable, then you'll go through life a certain way, and that certain way will be, okay, try and do as much stuff as you can, fit in as much stuff and respond to as many emails as you can and say yes to everything and compare yourself with everyone and compete with everything. Because your job is just to do as much of this stuff as you can. If you believe that only a few things matter, but they are so valuable if you find them, then suddenly you automatically start moving from the mindset to the skill set. What is the skillset look like? It's three skills, it's explore what's essential, eliminate what's not and it's execute the things that matter most, by building a system to do it. You start to do those three things automatically, naturally, spontaneously, once the mind sets in place. Why? Well, if you suddenly discovered that you aren't in a coal mine, as you've always believed, but you really in a diamond mind, think of how you'd automatically change your behavior. Suddenly, you'd be all in the business of searching, you'd be in the business of carefully chipping away, looking, you'd be getting researchers that could help you find the disproportionately valuable items, instead of just mass, get it all out. And that's the same in life. Once you see things clearly, you start to explore naturally. And then of course, you want to cut out the non essential because you recognize it now as total dross is just not, it doesn't even matter. Many of the things that appear important through the lens of non essentialism are not important even one week later, they don't matter at all. It seemed... sometimes urgently important. But one week later, you couldn't even care less. So it just shows what a con non essentialism can be. So you of course, you want to start getting rid of the stuff that doesn't matter, you want to stop fretting about the things that don't matter. And then finally, you want to build a system that means that even when you sort of forget this perspective, it still happens automatically. So you want execution to be as easy and natural as possible, on the going. Those are the three skills. And I say they fall in naturally the mindset.

Scott Anthony Barlow 15:48

So let me ask you about particularly the idea of exploring, first of all, one of the things that I've observed is that whether it's called essentialism or by any other name, that I've heard people talk about this idea. One of the first things that I think people have a tendency to misunderstand about this and I've heard you mentioned this in a variety have different places. It's not the idea of saying no to everything, absolutely everything. And I think that's one of the falsities falsehoods, it's one of the things that people get wrong. So it is saying 'no' to almost everything but it does not equivocally mean saying no to everything. And one of the places where I've heard you talk about that most recently, we just mentioned your new podcast. But on your first episode, when you were chatting with your wife, and you were talking about this idea of exploration versus saying no to everything, so help me understand where the line is drawn, because I think that can be confusing because it seems almost in conflict sometimes.

Greg McKeown 16:48

Yes, I mean, the the key to essentialism is in the title, right? It's, "what is essential" you don't say no for the sake of it reactively any more than you should be saying yes, for the sake of it reactively, essentialism is arguing. You will say no to things because life is trade off, every choice is a trade off. Now you can go through life unaware of that, blinded by non essentialism so that you think you can just say yes to everything or you can become aware that you can't do that, that's a con that that's a, you've been sold a bill of goods. And now you say, well, every yes is a no to many things. And now the question becomes, how thoughtful are you in which things you say yes to, and making sure that you say yes to things that you have a high confidence, really matter. You invest carefully, thoughtfully, like Warren Buffett, where he's saying, "look, life is a series of punch card with 20 punches available." He thought that's how he would make a good investment, is to think like that. So it means that you don't mess around saying yes to any old thing. You say yes only to the things you have a high confidence of. Now you can do exploration before that, you can try things out, you can learn about anything, but you don't invest big on everything around you. He's talked about how like, really, their investment strategy borders on lethargy. That is they're constantly looking and exploring, but they don't say yes, until they've got something that's such a no brainer. It's like an obvious business that they totally understand that has really great long term value, then they invest big and hold it for the long run, don't tell the managers how to do what they're doing because the whole point is that that it's already well managed. And that's it. That's the whole strategy. The most successful investor in history is a total, you know, surest essentialist in his understanding of the world. And it is now just a statement of fact that 90% of his fortune can be traced back to 10 investment decisions. We can do the same thing in the investment decisions of our own lives. Just don't go big until you go, yeah, I've done a bit of quiet exploration, I've looked forwardly, I'm looking at lots of different things but I'm going big on the things I am sure about, you feel completely right about.

Scott Anthony Barlow 19:18

I love that idea of perpetual exploration. But then investing big in the areas that you are sure about, right about. Let's be honest, one of the reasons I loved the idea behind essentialism, I think everyone can get on board with it, because it's so easy to understand. Have you found that? And actually, one of the things I was wondering as I read the book way back when because I'm in the process of writing a book as well, and thinking through all these sorts of things, but the simplicity of the idea, I think, causes people to latch on to it even easier, and be able to apply it in their own lives. I'm curious what you found, as you see people latch on to this idea versus where they struggle with it.

Greg McKeown 20:01

I think the people when they hear essentialism, want it from the first moment, it's, presented to them. If they... suddenly, they recognize that life has had two paths. And they just didn't know that was a second path.

Scott Anthony Barlow 20:16

Well, those crazy glasses that you were wearing not that long ago, all of a sudden, and now often there's no going back.

Greg McKeown 20:21

Yes, I think that is right. I had a great conversation recently. Maybe we'll put it on the podcast at some point, but with a couple. And the husband Jerry, is, you know, he's an eye surgeon, he was completely overwhelmed. His wife said that he would sit with his head and his hands and sort of moan, I can't do it all. I cannot do it all. And then he would stand up and say, "but I have to", and that's how he proceeded in life. And this had some predictable effects. He wasn't taking any time to invest in himself. So when he started to get this terrible skin rash that could have threatened his whole career, he didn't even have enough space or sense of control over his own time to go to the doctor's. And so this is threatening his career, but he still doesn't have time. And then they're on this road trip together for a couple of days. And they read essentialism end to end. And as they're reading, the way that Jerry tells that, he says, he's like, "look, I just didn't know that was a different way to do life. I didn't know that." So he's going down this path believing this is it, this is the only way and my job is just to try and make the best of it. And suddenly he wakes up, there's a different way and he just... he completely reverses his approach to life. He emails everyone in his, you know, medical office and says, well, we've got to change this. Any client that could be served by someone else on the team needs to be served by them. Previously, if he'd ever worked with a patient, he always worked with that patient, you know, he just would gather and never let go. He would look for people he could refer to other eye doctors that might even be a better fit. Everybody understood this, they were very supportive, quick to do it. And they understood why he needed to make the change. He even renegotiated with his church where he was on the elbows board. And he said, "look, I've got to make some transitions." And so he counsels together and steps down from that board so that he can have enough health to be able to make a contribution. And they found that a little stranger because no one had done that before. So there wasn't a good protocol for being able to have this conversation. But nevertheless, it got his life into proper balance. And both he and his wife in different words have said to me, look, essentialism didn't change his life, it saved his life. Because the stress was already so high, but then when an additional stress was added later when one of his colleagues retired early like a 30 day warning, he suddenly had all of these extra patients everyone coming out and they think it would have finished them off literally because of the other health issues he was dealing with. So essentialism is a different path, path that, you know, it's a path of less is, path less traveled. But it doesn't make it a path we ought not to travel.

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:22

I definitely think you should put that on the podcast for whatever my opinion is worth. The only reason I say that is because although Arianna Huffington is great, I think more people will relate to that story that you just shared and hearing it come from those people themselves, I think could be really powerful to help spread this message.

Greg McKeown 23:43

Yes, I think that well, we're going to launch an episode and then maybe we'll do more as a sort of secondary episode and around the subject of intervention. You know, what does it look like when you're doing it live with somebody?

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:58

Yes. That'd be fantastic.

Greg McKeown 24:00

Yeah, I think that there's a hunger for it because I concur with you that there's different ways of looking at this subject. You can talk about it, you can talk about with people that have figured out some of it in their own life that can be helpful. But I also think people are hungry for really how to break this down for me. I mean, in fact, if your game right now, we should do like a miniature conversation about that.

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:23

Let's do it.

Greg McKeown 24:24

I mean, let's just start with, you don't overthink this. What's something that's essentially in your life that you're under investing in?

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:29

That I'm under investing in right now. Let's see, probably...

Greg McKeown 24:33

You've already had the thought. What's the first thought?

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:35

Oh, yeah, that's what I'm trying to say. So my time with my daughter as it relates to helping her build her first business.

Greg McKeown 24:43

How old is your daughter?

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:44

She's 12.

Greg McKeown 24:45

Do you have other children?

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:46

I have two other children.

Greg McKeown 24:47

This is the... where does she fit in the...?

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:49

She is the oldest of the three.

Greg McKeown 24:52

What's the business she wants to start?

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:54

She wants to start a cupcake business, a bit selling cupcakes, making them and ultimately doing bakery designs. It's something she is exploring and experimenting with.

Greg McKeown 25:03

When did she come to you with the idea or did you go to her with it?

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:07

We have been talking to my family for years about, when you turn 12, then I will help you start your first business. And we will spend time going through that process and helping you understand a different way to be able to earn money. So this has been something we've been talking about for years. However, it's only been recently where she has decided this is the thing I want to explore and put my time into.

Greg McKeown 25:35

Voluntary. She's only just 12. So she's been expecting this and thinking about this, but now she's 12. When did she turn 12?

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:43

Six, five months ago, which is why I feel like I am under investing in it.

Greg McKeown 25:50

Right. How much time in hours have you spent in the last five to six months on this with her?

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:57


Greg McKeown 25:57

So you've average kind of an hour a week. Is that right? An hour a week on this with her?

Scott Anthony Barlow 26:02

Probably. It's more been in a few chunks and my intention was to spend an hour a week. We now have it on the calendar. Beginning literally next week, however, I am feeling very strongly that this is something that both she wants to do as well as I want to support her in. And I have not made the time.

Greg McKeown 26:24

This 15 hours is it's kind of curious to me though, because we can one to two times do you mean like, is it really as much as 15 hours? And how would that, you certainly spent a whole day with her talking about her business?

Scott Anthony Barlow 26:38

Good question. We have spent three different time periods. One was probably about three hours-ish, right around three hours, if I recall. Another was two hours. And then another one, I actually don't remember how long it was, separate time periods. And then we've had a number of other more casual conversations that were not scheduled not on the calendar, not pre planned.

Greg McKeown 27:05

Sounds more like 10 hours.

Scott Anthony Barlow 27:08

That's possibly fair.

Greg McKeown 27:09

Which is fine. I just trying to get to the details of it. We can understand the practical cool things if you spent how much time per week going forward, would you feel satisfied?

Scott Anthony Barlow 27:22

That is a great question. I love questions like this. How much time would I feel satis... How much time a week would I need to spend in order to feel satisfied? That's how I'm interpreting the question. I think if I spent one hour a week with her each week, focused every week, I think that that would create a couple purposes for me. One, it would be an additional intentional way that I get to spend with just my daughter, it would allow me to focus time and energy into helping her with something that she is interested in exploring. It would allow... well, a few other purposes as well. But I think that, yeah, an hour a week would... I would feel very good about that.

Greg McKeown 28:04

Why does this matters so much to you?

Scott Anthony Barlow 28:06

That's a great question. One of the biggest reasons it matters so much to me as I want my kids to be able to have seen a number of ways to not just earn money, but really add value and contribution to the world. And I don't want the lack of exposure to be a limiter to how they get to contribute to the world. And instead, I want them to be able to have the type of mentality where they decide what they want, and how they want to go about it and are able to make that happen, for lack of a better phrase.

Greg McKeown 28:48

You want them to have freedom. And a different way of saying it is you don't want them to be stuck.

Scott Anthony Barlow 28:54

That's part of it. Even more so, I would say that I want them to, well, yeah, maybe part of it is stuck. I guess you could call it, not... making sure that they're not stuck. But I would say, I'm looking for the right word here. More of it is, I really want each of my kids to be able to leave the house at whatever point that that happens, you know, with the understanding that they have a far greater potential than what they might realize this very second to contribute good to the world. And I want them to understand and have had enough life experience prior to them leaving and going to do their own things with the idea that they can uniquely contribute. And if they want something, if they are interested in something, if they have a high desire, if something becomes essential for them, that there's no reason that they shouldn't pursue it.

Greg McKeown 29:55

It's more to do with them feeling able to discern and then pursue their essential mission in life.

Scott Anthony Barlow 30:03

Yeah, I think you could make that argument, which is interesting, and I've got a question about that for you later. But let's keep going.

Greg McKeown 30:09

I see this sense that you want them to be able to feel empowered, you want them to be able to know that they can shape the world around them not just take it as it is, not just live whatever role they're told to live or given to live, that they can go out there and proactively do something about it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 30:27


Greg McKeown 30:28

And just one more time, like now that we've identified that, why does that matter so much to you?

Scott Anthony Barlow 30:33

Well, I think part of it, unequivocally, comes from how I was raised and some of the great, I'm going to call them attributes that my dad had, being able to figure anything out has served me very, very well. But also the other side of it is I didn't have exposure to it. So, I guess people, either not just running businesses, not just being able to put this kind of contribution in the world, but also being able to decide that they wanted to do something and be able to make it happen on a grand scale, on a larger scale.

Greg McKeown 31:12

You said two things there. One was aspirational. And one, I felt like came out to those pain. So one was, I want to be a great dad, I had a great dad, I had somebody who was a father. So there's something in just, I want to do at least as well as he did. And then the second part is to do with, you know, even despite being there for me and good for me, I didn't get this exposure. And so there's a, I think, a sense of, if I had had exposure to this kind of experience, if I've been taught and mentored earlier, I could have lived a different kind of life because I had a different sense of option coming into life.

Scott Anthony Barlow 31:53

Yeah, I think both of those are a big part of it. And I would call both of those somewhat this partially selfish side because of what I experienced. Some of that is imposing it on my children to some degree. And then the other side of that really is much more aspirational as you said in terms of my hopes and dreams for my children.

Greg McKeown 32:14

Well, it's you're learning from your experience and you want to make sure you didn't.. you don't do any, you don't give less than you were given, but that you add to it and give them more of an opportunity, more of a sense of power in the world to affect change and to make an impact.

Scott Anthony Barlow 32:36

Yeah, absolutely. And interestingly enough, I think that, although it... I found it makes for good conversation when I say that, my 12 year old starting a business and that is interesting in some capacities, but it came, we're not really doing it because it sounds good, it came about very organically, partially because my kids were seeing myself build this business for the last eight years. And I realized as we were having conversations about it, that they really didn't understand what it took to be able to make this happen. They really didn't understand how it could be possible. They saw the benefits of it, but not necessarily the nitty gritty how to make something like this, not to say that they have to go and run businesses of any kind as they progress in life, but how to make things that are important to them happen.

Greg McKeown 33:34

Yes, you recognize that the data supports this that people that, you know, children that are exposed have an entrepreneurial experience while they're young are far more likely to be entrepreneurs later in life. They simply know by experience that it is an option. And for people that haven't had entrepreneurial experiences early in their life, it's not that they can't become an entrepreneur, of course they can. But this just simply less likely. They just don't think of it as being a real option. They know logically it is but they don't feel emotionally. If you haven't experienced when the risk is low when the child is young, then they have nothing to lose. It's an asymmetric risk want you to take, no downside possibly really great upside. So this is all under the banner of why does this matter so much?

Scott Anthony Barlow 34:21


Greg McKeown 34:22

So now let's get to the make it happen.

Scott Anthony Barlow 34:25

This is so much fun Greg, I'm glad we're going down this route.

Greg McKeown 34:27

I'm glad too. I'm enjoying it. When you first told me that this was the area, the way you said it was particularly, you said, you know when they turn 12 I'm going to, and then there was a pause, help them to start a business. And there was something in the way you said it that grabbed my attention because it was so general. I know just that kind of intent. I've got, I've definitely done that in my own life. And the problem is that there's no teeth to it yet. The intent is powerful, the intent is important thing in life for sure it is. But until you say when you turn 12, I will be available an hour a week one on one to talk about and help you get this business going and I will work for year for that hour, or whatever the commitment is, it's not real. It's just... we were really expecting the 12 year old to be able to show the level of initiative. That's beyond the initiative we're showing in the early days. Sometimes that happens, but it's, you know, it's a bit of a far reach. So of course you already at this tipping point, you've said that you've... but I want to get this a little more concrete. So you say it's on the calendar, when is it on the calendar for you?

Scott Anthony Barlow 35:38

4:30 on Mondays. I'm not literally checking my calendar to make sure that I marked it recurring.

Greg McKeown 35:47

Yeah, good. Is it recurring?

Scott Anthony Barlow 35:49

I hope so.

Greg McKeown 35:50

Show me. Tell me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 35:51

It is recurring. However, I'm so glad that I did because it is not actually scheduled as a full hour. Ah, whoo.

Greg McKeown 36:00

So you're gonna schedule it for now, we make one little adjust.

Scott Anthony Barlow 36:04

We are doing that. Thank you, Greg. At this point, you have literally changed my life and possibly my...

Greg McKeown 36:09

I love that because these small changes really are how change happens.

Scott Anthony Barlow 36:13


Greg McKeown 36:14

At the big general intense overrated, that overwhelming and they just don't really happen. So here we go, you've got 4:30. Now, who knows about that time? Does everybody in your home know about that commitment?

Scott Anthony Barlow 36:27

Good question. I think, let's see McKenzie most definitely does, that's my 12 year old. She and I had a second conversation about it this afternoon, as well as yesterday. Alyssa, my wife, knows about it. The other kids do not though. And I think it would be worthwhile to declare that this time is to be spent this way for both of us.

Greg McKeown 36:52

And declaring exactly the right idea because what you wanted, you're trying to make any sort of change, right, the science is there. You want awareness, excuse me, you want to have it be measurable, so that is okay, 4:30. It's now measurable. You want it to be repeatable, where you know that it's every week so it's repeatable, but the middle one that I think is a little less well done is this observable and I want to make this more observable for you. So that would be, for example, my commitment is to leave my office, which by the way, is in five minutes. So I'm giving full warning now. And I will go outside. And I will announce to my family what time it is. And that's the way for me to make it observable as to whether I am following through on this or not. It's a fun way for me to do it, but it really keeps me honest. I mean, right now is a literal example of this because really, we could talk for quite a while longer. So there's, it would be easier to continue or at least it would be normal to continue. But because I have now a record of having walked out that door and announced it day after day. I'm going to do it again today. It's a reason to do the thing that really matters. So that would be one suggestion I have for you is specifically that at 4:30 on Mondays you stand outside, wherever you're going to meet, and you don't just call your daughter and you say to everybody, it's entrepreneurial hour, whatever it is, you're going to call these on hour...

Scott Anthony Barlow 38:19

It's gonna have a name, don't you worry.

Greg McKeown 38:22

And so everybody knows this is what's happening. Of course, it will build for people anticipation for when they turn 12. So you're going to, you know, all this routine and culture in place to make it easier for you to do it and harder for you not to do it as it goes on. But it also becomes this moment of, well, instead of, how do I do it at 4:30? Well, we'll start at five, it's only an hour. Well, if it's only an hour, I guess it could be done it, you know, Tuesday, whatever. I think when you name it, you want to name it 4:30 at Monday entrepreneurial club, or something. So that you build into it, this non negotiable place in your life. And I think from this conversation, I actually suspect this is sufficient. There are many other things you could do to increase the chances of execution, if it were necessary, you could say, well, we're not going to start with an hour, you could say, I'm going to start with one minute, but we'll do it at 4:30 for one minute, until we have got that habit in place. You know, there's all sorts of things. But I think that your intent is already aligned. It's already been talked about for years, you know why you're doing it, it's already, in fact, already was put on the calendar. So you're really just looking for the final pieces to be in place to make this consistent. Maybe one thing I think you could add, is that you say, Okay, if we do it every week for X amount of weeks, then I get this prize, or we get this benefit, or you have something totally fun, completely frivolous just has to be enjoyable, so that you're incentivized to not miss one week, right? You know, you've got five, six months into this, you've got six months left, you're not going to miss a week and that to me what we just did, is a miniature essential intervention. Maybe that's too strong of a word for it. But it's just... this is what essentialism looks like. It doesn't have to be overwhelming. But it definitely needs to be what matters. Why does it matter? What's the concrete specific change you want to make? Let's reinforce that change once we've named it so that the system will support execution rather than, well, it only happens with a lot of effort. This is the ideal, and that's essentialism.

Scott Anthony Barlow 40:42

I love it. I love it because it's showing not telling. I appreciate both the opportunity to work on something that I feel is important. Well, at the same time as getting to have this conversation, I have so many more questions that we just don't have time for right now. However, I wanted to ask, where can people go? Where can people go if they want to find the podcast which is out now? I think five, six episodes in.

Greg McKeown 41:09

It's just been out for just 10 days, just launched for at the same time just to give people some options of what to look at. And we're just still learning, as I said about what we're doing. People should just go to essentialism.com. They can sign up for the newsletter there, they're going to learn everything else about it. They can sign up, you know, to anywhere that people listen to podcasts. It's available everywhere, and subscribe so you can be part of the journey, and part of this sort of mass intervention that we're trying to do.

Scott Anthony Barlow 41:40

If this is not your first episode of the Happen To Your Career podcast, you've probably heard somebody on here that their first step to work that they absolutely love, that fits their strengths, and they're excited about was going through our free eight day mini course, to figure out what fits you. And we've had now well over 30,000 people have that as their beginning step to identifying what they want in their lives. And you can do the exact same thing. And if you're interested in that, it has some really amazing questions to get you started in becoming clear on what you want and what you need in your career. And it's a great way to kick it off and determine what is most important for you, moving forward. You can learn what you're great at so you can stop wasting time in your job and start working in your career, even identify some of the internal blockages that are keeping you from fulfilling work, and wealth and career success. And begin narrowing down what you should be doing for work that's fulfilling to you. All you have to do is go to figureitout.co that's figureitout.co and get started today, enter your email an voila, will send you the very first lesson. Head on over there, figureitout.co or you can text happen to 44222 that's happen to 44222.

Scott Anthony Barlow 43:18

Over the years, we've shown you a lot of career changes that most people would consider impossible. We know from being on the inside of these, that it can be really challenging to think about, how on earth someone would make this career change from one drastically different occupation to another or how they might go and get what most people would consider to be a... impossible dream job, and many, many other things between. So that's one of the reasons why we take great pains to show you how it works from the inside. For example, how does someone go from identifying a list of organizations that they might want to work for, and getting an opportunity with their number one company on that list?

Tanya Malcolm-Revell 44:09

I work with Wanderlust and if you're not familiar with them, Wanderlust started as a yoga studio, but now has branched out and produces festivals and events throughout the world.

Scott Anthony Barlow 44:21

That's Tanya Malcolm-Revell.

Tanya Malcolm-Revell 44:24

I got myself into a position where I am now a part of the production team involved in bringing Wanderlust into Europe and presently into London, into the United Kingdom.

Scott Anthony Barlow 44:36

Tanya's story is super interesting because she was trying to find her ideal opportunity in a completely different country. She's from the US, but her husband and her work relocating to London. The way she found her opportunity is even more interesting, especially since she ended up working with her number one organization that she had said "hey, this is where I want to work." So listen close throughout this conversation, as she shares exactly how she did it. All that and plenty more next week right here on Happen To Your Career. Make sure that you don't miss it. And if you haven't already, click Subscribe on your podcast player so that you can download this podcast in your sleep, and you get it automatically. Even the bonus episodes every single week, sometimes multiple times a week. Until next week, adios. I'm out.

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