Greg McKeown rocked a lot of worlds in 2014 when he coached readers of his smash hit Essentialism that if an opportunity’s not a hell yeah, it’s a hell no. (And if ever there was a clearer or better way to simplify one’s life, please do share it.) He’s back with Effortless, a wash-rinse-repeat model for continuing to do the right things only now doing them the right way. “Not everything has to be so hard,” he writes. “Getting to the next level doesn’t have to mean chronic exhaustion.” This is accomplished in three chunks: Effortless State (where we are present, focused, clear-headed); Effortless Action (now planful, organized, energized); and Effortless Results (ultimately leveraging, perfecting, automating). Yes, it’s harder than it sounds and yet we buy in because McKeown uses stories and vulnerability to light the way. And what’s not to love about a book with a section called The Path of Least Effort?
One remarkable idea outlines bounds, both upper and lower. It’s about operating in a range whereby we maintain an appropriate pace toward making progress on essential projects without overdoing it (which would lead to diminishing returns). “The lower bound should be high enough to keep us feeling motivated, and low enough that we can still achieve it even on days when we’re dealing with unexpected chaos,” McKeown instructs. He goes on to suggest that the upper bound represents our good progress that stops short of ending up feeling gassed. The results of staying this course are rhythm and feeling rewarded that day in and day out the dial is set to flow (and for much more on that lil’ four-lettered f-word, see the extensive works of behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman). An example he shares is the essential nature of making one’s revenue target; committing to never less than five sales calls each workday but also never more than ten is the sort of basic model that will deliver the numbers without the rep burning out and then quitting to become a Sandwich Artist®.
At least two big things can result in a career from following McKeown’s advice: the development of repeatable systems and a niche expertise. On the former: “Put simply, a system is self-sustaining if it requires less and less investment of energy over time.” The time required to develop these processes with the goal of step encapsulation is one with an obvious payback, assuming we stick with it. As for becoming an expert, we’re told it’s better to be good at something that no one else is doing than to be great at what is commonly delivered. The book challenges us thusly: what are we already skilled at that comes easy but is (even perceived as) hard for others to do? Herein lies the opportunity to become well-known as a credible service provider with an unimpeachable reputation as the go-to resource in any given field. Alas, this is leverage. Such wisdom is neatly delivered over a couple hundred pages by so relatable a writer we feel like we almost get to know him personally. As Peter Brady used to say to his older brother, sounds great, Greg.
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