Greg McKeown in his book “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less“, described that there are 2 kinds of people, essentialists, and nonessentialists. Terminologies aside, the notion that some people are distill their thoughts and actions down with focus and discipline, while most others drown in their own chaotic and undisciplined thoughts and actions, is the age-old and persistent reality we face. This is especially true today where many people delusionally believe they can “multitask” in the age of smart devices.
First, let us examine the majority of people who always seem to drown in an unending flow of tasks, chewing on way too many things, trying to do things last minute, and ending up dissatisfied, stressed, and never really succeeding in anything.
How often have you heard of someone who complain that they are way too busy, that they simply cannot finish anything, and that they are always seemingly in need to rush from here to there. These same people are unlikely to tend to the mountain of digital communications such as emails and messages, and are usually agreeing to every request without addressing any, hoping to somehow miraculously cram everything into their palms. One common observation is that there seems to be no sense of priority of the tasks at hand. And because the tasks mount up incredibly fast with little or no proper resolution, every action is forced out at the last minute, with very little successes or results.
Chaos, contrary to the irrational myth, is NOT a good thing. Nothing good can come out of chaos, and only charlatans and the insane would insist so.
At the end, not only would these people fail to achieve what they hope to do, they also hurt themselves and others in the process, with stress, strained relations, bad judgment, and certainly on a less important level – loss of revenue/compensation and comfort. On a spiritual or mental level, the damage of chaos on these people is unhappiness, which may become chronic unless and until something incisive is done.
Next, let us look at the special breed of people who are in control, who are able to distill the mountain of possibilities into just a few actionable tasks and goals, are well-organized, well-balanced, happy, and usually get to succeed in one big thing (or maybe a couple more).
Such people are not as common. They are decisive, and are able to quickly drill down to the crux of every mountain of tasks, goals, communications, challenges, and relations. They understand that there cannot be an equal weightage to every task, goal, communication, challenge, or relationship. There will be some of these that are critical, while the rest can be quickly dealt with, sometimes with tough decisions, including that of disposal, delegation, or archival.
They are also quick to decide what need to be done, and can refuse to partake in anything that are unimportant. To the unenlightened many, these people may seem ruthless. But the reality throughout human history is that this perceived “ruthlessness” is just being decisive and wise. Their modus operandi is to get things done by solving problems, with a reverence for time and resources (including the articulation of people resources).
Those who are disciplined are able to distill whatever come their way to just those worth doing, and then proceed to achieve them, and achieve them well. They will be on time, on budget, and on target. Ultimately, because they are able to strategically map out everything clearly in their heads, they are able to execute surgically, decisively, productively, cost-effectively, and ultimately, happily. They are by their very nature, also able to pursue their interests and passions, and achieve those well too.
This is evident in my recent pursuit of aviation. When I am training in a procedure trainer (flight simulator) alongside an instructor, less is certainly more. There are no superfluous words but the bare essentials of lingo sufficient to handle the flight deck during flight. There are no extraneous actions but a disciplined and procedural checklist and tasks from departure to landing/taxi. Everything within the flight deck is essential, disciplined, orderly, productive, cost-effective, and ultimately, gearing for success.
In every major stream of philosophy or religion, whether Orthodox Christianity, Confucianism or Buddhism, one single thread rings true – LESS is MORE.