Essentialism (New York: Random House Audio, 2014)

I’m back for the 2016-17 school year with my first book review of the season. This review is for both teachers and students!

Trivial Many? Vital Few? Author Greg McKeown sounds like a Six Sigma instructor. I am a huge proponent of the Pareto Principle, and the author puts forth a solid argument for focusing on what matters, or that which is essential. A priority is just that — the one overarching thing that is most important. Only in the last last generation was the word priority even pluralized. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think of Napoleon Hill’s description of one’s chief major purpose.

Recently on Michael Hyatt’s This is Your Life Podcast, the author’s description of the closet analogy was masterful at helping me recognize that I have way too many clothes, so to speak. Mr. McKeown explains that the stuff we have in our closets have a higher perceived value, because we already own them. That is, there is a tendency to overvalue rules and beliefs that we have already worked hard to acquire.

Forget the Undisciplined Pursuit of More

Many of us have so many irons in the fire that we suffer chronic mental, physical, and spiritual exhaustion. As teachers (and students), you no doubt feel overworked and underutilized many days. What I realized after reading this book — kind of obvious now — is that I have been majoring in minor things. Granted, much of the “administrivia” we teachers do is necessary to our jobs. Attendance. Incident referrals. Phone calls.  However, these functions are hardly essential to educating children. As a result, I am eliminating any task that is not essential (as long as it won’t get me canned!). To hear Greg McKeown talk about elimination is liberating.

Aim for the Disciplined Pursuit of Less

As I continue on my path of teacher as leader, I can’t help but think that this book should be required reading for all in any leadership role. Professors warn of becoming the newbie administrator that tries to micro-manage it all. And who is more busy than a school administrator? (other than the teachers, of course!) If you are at your wit’s end looking for more margin in your crazy hectic life, give this book a read/listen. Mr. McKeown says if what you’re doing would NOT be lamented on your death bed, then it is not essential.

Happy reading/listening!

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