Here’s an important question: what is the highest priority aspect of your life? If you don't already know the answer, then you may be living the life of the Nonessentialist.

One of the most life-changing books I’ve ever read is Greg McKeown’s bestseller Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

At the same time, this was one of the hardest books I've ever chosen to read.

Not because the manuscript was boring, but because I resisted the ideas within this book.

After all, I'm a high achiever—I'm always seeking to accomplish more, not to settle for less!

The Path of the Essentialist

In the book, Greg makes a compelling case for living a life with clear purpose.

For finding the compelling reason you were placed on this earth and then pursuing that mission like crazy—with nothing else to distract you from your cause.

This is the way of the Essentialist, who exerts the same amount of effort as everyone else but directs that effort in a single direction—drastically improving his or her ability to succeed along that chosen path.

According to the author,

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it's about how to get the right things done… It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at [y]our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.

I naturally suffer from what some people call “Shiny Object Syndrome.”

I chase every idea, project, or cause that sounds exciting, and often find myself over-committed and stretched far too thin (like butter scraped over too much bread).

If you do the same, this is easily the largest obstacle between you and your eventual success.

As a high achiever, you want to make a difference. So the temptation is to find more and more ways to do just that.

“Your choice is simple: make a small impact in many areas, or make a significant impact in a few.”

You're Already Committed. What Do You Do Now?

It's simple: you quit.

This advice is exactly the reason why I resisted reading this book for so long.

I didn't even purchase a copy until a full dozen friends had recommended I read the book right away.

Of course, after reading this book I had the same thoughts that you’re having right now:

  • “People count on me. There’s no way I can let them down.
  • “If I drop the ball, there’s nobody willing or capable enough to pick up where I left off.
  • There’s a chance, if I back out, that this group or project will completely fall apart.”

But if you're like me, you naturally start projects you'll never finish and join far too many groups than you can possibly stay involved in.

If you're like me, you naturally live the life of a Nonessentialist.

“As a Nonessentialist, do you want to know who suffers? You, your family, and your dreams.”

Three months ago, I decided I'd had enough. I did a little exercise which I'm going to challenge you to do right now:

  1. Take out a piece of paper,
  2. Write down the top three areas of your life, and
  3. Make a list of all other commitments you currently have on your schedule.

When picking your top three areas, think of your sources of intimacy, identity, and ideas.

For me, this was my marriage, Church community, and business.

Once you've listed any commitments that don't fit among those three, it's time to start cutting ties.

It's not easy, but it's worth it—and it's not going to be as hard as you think.

The Effect of Cutting Ties

Three months ago, I took an Essentialist hatchet to my schedule. Here's what that looked like for me:

  1. I resigned as Executive Director of the Tennessee Bitcoin Alliance, and officially stepped down from the board,
  2. I stopped attending (or organizing) Nashville Bitcoin Meetup events,
  3. I re-built my daily routine from scratch, based on my new clarity of focus control, and
  4. I handed over email processing to my assistant, who now screens every email before I do.

I braced myself for the repercussions of each decision, and then… nothing happened.

Honestly, I was completely surprised.

In one fell swoop, I had tripled my quality of life, without the negative reactions I'd made up in my head.

Since becoming an Essentialist, my marriage is better, my business is stronger, and my faith is more intertwined in my daily life.

In the last month alone, I've met three of my life goals which I set more than five years ago.

In short, I'm happier, healthier, and better off overall.

Your Priority—Redefined

As Greg points out in Essentialism, the definition of ‘priority' was originally “The very first thing.”

The word was always singular because you can only have one “very first thing.”

It wasn't until the 1900s that people pluralized the word, and today we've accepted it as such—without even blinking an eye.

Right now, you have the opportunity to take back your life. To identify your priority, and pursue just that—making a real difference, an impact in your world.

I leave you with one final quote:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? – Mary Oliver


John Meese is the author of the #1 bestseller Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One). An entrepreneur himself, John is on a mission to eradicate generational poverty by equipping entrepreneurs with the tools and training they need to build thriving businesses from scratch. He is the CEO of Cowork Inc, co-founder of Notable, and regularly publishes interviews and insight at

6 thoughts on “Why You Need to Commit to Pursuing Less (but Better)

  1. John,

    You come by this “Shiny Object Syndrome” honestly! I identified with SO much of what you have struggled with. The last thing I would want to do is to let others down. What I notice though is that when I do whatever it takes to make sure I follow through with all of my over commitments, then I let down the people I care about the most… my family. I will have to think about what my top 3 would be. They are very similar to yours of course.

    Thanks for turning out so great son 🙂 You have always been my teacher really….



  2. Needed to hear this message today! I woke up with too much to do on my to-do list and not happy about it. I decided to read some blogs and thank goodness yours was one of them 🙂

    Checking out that book now.


  3. Reading Essentialism was a life-changer for me too, John. I’ve been putting together a library of books that have inspired me to reach my highest potential. I plan on gifting them to my son when he graduates college. Essentialism definitely will be one of the books I plan on giving him to guide him on his journey.

    1. That’s a fantastic idea, Joel! My wife and I are about to have our first child, and have talked about doing a similar project. Though for some books, I doubt we’ll be waiting until he finishes college!

Leave a Reply