SDS 180: The Amazing Idea Behind Essentialism

SDS 180: The Amazing Idea Behind Essentialism


Welcome to another FiveMinuteFriday Episode! Today, it’s all about essentialism, a discipline that we could learn to adapt as data scientists. This is what I am currently learning while reading the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Make sure to tune in and join me in the discussion!

It has already happened to everyone of us: being caught in a situation where there’s too many stuffs to do at the same time and you can’t choose what to prioritize. You’re on your toes trying to juggle everything. Doing this task then that task. Jumping from one place to another place. It’s exhausting and stressful. Then, we ask ourselves: how did we even get in this situation?

You try to do EVERYTHING. If you possess superhuman abilities, then, well, lucky you. But for most of us that are not, it will result to mediocre and half-baked performance. You’ve committed to more than what you can handle. You’re spreading yourself too thin. You’re missing out on great opportunities. It is not working!

Greg McKeown’s book promises to develop a mindset and the discipline to focus on things that will have great impact to you. Essentialism is always about accepting and celebrating we have choices. We’re free to choose what we think is right for us. We say we are ‘not making the choice’ but we are still making the choice NOT to make the choice. In that case, we’ve chosen to go for the default option or someone may have chosen for us.

I’m 15% through the book and I know it’s still early to say, but I already am loving the book! It’s exactly what I’m looking for and I thought today was the best time to share it with you. Let’s make sure that we don’t put ourselves in difficult situations because of just not making the right call. So, make sure to listen in to know more what I thought about it!

After listening, you can also share with me your favorite quote from the book. Here are mine:

“The basic value proposition of Essentialism is that “only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.””

“Instead of making just a millimeter of progress in the million directions, an essentialist generates a tremendous momentum towards accomplishing the things that are truly vital.”

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Full Podcast Transcript

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This is Five Minute Friday, episode number 180, Essentialism.

Welcome back to the Super Data Science podcast, ladies and gentlemen. Super excited to have you on the show and today I have a very special episode prepared for you. And the reason that it's so special is that I've found a unique and I would even say epic book that I'm reading currently and I would like to share that book with you today. In fact, I haven't even finished the book. I'm only about 15% of the way through the book and already I see so much value for myself that I cannot keep it away from you any longer. And I just have to share the name of this book and what it's all about.

So here we go: the book is called Essentialism and it's written by, I hope my pronunciation is correct, Greg McKeown. It's a very fantastic book. It's got amazing rating. It's a recent book as well. I think it was published in 2014, so fairly recent. And it is exactly what I have been looking for.

So to paint a bit of a picture let's create some context. Have you ever tried to do everything, like when you have so many things that you want to do and you try to fit them all in? Or have you ever said yes to a lot of people that ask you for favors or for you to come to their dinner party, or for you to watch their kids on the weekend, or sit with their dogs, or for you to do a project at work? Have you ever wanted or committed to a lot of things at the same time and therefore got really stressed out? Well, that my friends, is a problem that everybody faces, everybody goes through this. You are not alone. I have the same problem almost all the time. In any part of my life, I'm trying to take on as many things ...

The reason probably is because life is so interesting and exciting and also we're so hyper-connected all the time. We can do so many things. There are so many opportunities in life. Now you want to do it all. You want to make it all happen. But what ends up happening is that instead of doing one thing or two things very, very well and really enjoying them, you're spread out thin across like 50 different things. You hate everything. You're not enjoying it. You're stressed out. You have a bad experience. And nobody is happy in the end.

So that's what this book is all about. It's about how to create the mindset and discipline in yourself to actually do less but better. That's kind of the motto of the book: Less but better. And the way we're going to explore this book together next two or three or five minutes is a bit different to what we're used to. I've been highlighting these quotes because I'm reading on my Kindle and I have these highlighted. So I'm going to read out a couple of quotes to give you a feel for the book. And then you can decide for yourself if this is the right thing for you, if this is what you need for your life, for your personal life, for your career, for your data science, for your business, for whatever you are doing, for your social life.

So let's have a look. Here's one that kind of kicks off the book. It's on one of the first pages:
The basic value proposition of essentialism is that only once you give yourself the permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.

I love that quote. Here is another good one. I have modified this one a little bit:
Instead of making just a millimeter of progress in a million directions, an essentialist generates tremendous momentum towards accomplishing the things that are truly vital.

So, as you see, essentialism is all about accepting the fact that we need to make choices in life. And not just accepting it but actually celebrating it and knowing how to make those choices. Because ultimately if you are not making a choice, you actually still are making a choice not to make the choice. And you are going with the default option or somebody is making that choice for you.

So just from that I think you can already feel how empowering it would be to grasp the reality of trade-offs that we are faced with when we are making choices. In fact, very often in life when we are confronted with a decision, whether we say yes or no to something or somebody, we actually don't even notice that we are in that situation. And we only realize it afterwards, that we said yes and committed to something.

Well, how great would it be, how powerful would it be to be able to recognize those situations and actually have a toolset to be able to make the right calls at that point in time and truly unclutter your life and focus on only the things that really matter.

And that's exactly what the promise of the book is. It's that it will help you develop a mindset or a framework, or actually they use the word discipline in the book. So it will you develop a clear pathway. How to cultivate this discipline within yourself to assess these situations and make the correct decision, or make the correct answers, and in most cases say no in order to focus on the things that truly matter, where you indeed have the highest level of impact.

So personally I'm very excited about this book. Can't wait to check it out, and I would also love for you to check it out. I think this is going to be a great read. Once again, the book is called Essentialism, the Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown.

And I hope you enjoyed today's episodes. Can't wait to see you back here next time. Until then happy analyzing.

Kirill Eremenko
Kirill Eremenko

I’m a Data Scientist and Entrepreneur. I also teach Data Science Online and host the SDS podcast where I interview some of the most inspiring Data Scientists from all around the world. I am passionate about bringing Data Science and Analytics to the world!

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