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STAK Marketing Book Club: Essentialism by Greg McKeown

If you haven't read Essentialism by Greg McKeown run don't walk and read it! By far this is our favorite book we've read this year (granted it's only the third!). But I can't imagine books getting much better, or more helpful, than this one. Although the book is geared towards high-level working professionals, the principals can apply to all aspects of life.

Essentialism is broken into four parts: Essence, Explore, Eliminate and Execute. At the end, is a 21 day Essentialism challenge. The book starts by outlining what it means to be an essentialist and debunking some of the common myths about essentialism.


  1. "Filter through the noise until [you] get to the essence" - Everything these days has so much fluff. Especially in the world of marketing. Take away the fluff and get to the root of what you're working on.

  • Less is better - This doesn't need much explaining but so important to remember. Being direct and focusing on what works can get you further.

  • Essentialism is not about how to get things done, it's about how to get the right things done - Let me also add that it's not about cutting away everything. Essentialism is about doing the right thing at the right time. Sometimes what you don't do is just as important as what you do do.

  • There are too many decisions - The world is full of decisions. Just think about when you turn on Netflix. You're faced with nothing short of hundreds of shows and movies you could watch. It's no wonder we face decision fatigue. Sometimes we have to strip away the options before we can see what really matters.

  • Choosing to - Choosing to over being forced to makes a huge difference. We can't always control the choices we get in life but we can control what we choose.

  • I can do anything but not everything - I love this statement because it's so true! We are able to conquer the world, but we can't do it all at once. Everything takes steps. And at this present moment, only a few of these steps actually matter.

  • What problem do I want? - We're going to be faced with issues no matter what. Whether we're trying to do it all and not give anything 100%, or when we focus on one thing and ignore others. Either way we have problems. Essentialism is about choosing what problem we want.

  • Set times aside to think - I am so guilty of this. I will time block my day so much that from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed I have an action item. I haven't every thought about blocking out time to just BE. Taking a break and thinking can be so beneficial to clear your mind, reset and refresh.

  • Meaningful and Measurable - Everything we do in our day should be meaningful and/or measurable and if it's not we don't do it. Simple as that.

  • Admitting Failure - In Essentialism, we learn in order to begin success we need to admit failure. We need to acknowledge when something isn't working, cut our losses and move on. Continuing to work on things that don't work, no matter what the reason (money, ego, time), doesn't work. Sometimes we just have to wipe the slate clean.

  • Embrace the awkward pause - Allow yourself time to think and digest before responding.

  • Boundaries are your best friend- Boundaries are so hard to implement, especially for women in the workplace. I've learned that by not setting boundaries, it makes life harder in the long run. Boundaries can be your best friend and truly liberating. Boundaries can allow you to claim your own life and your own priorities.

  • Routine is your other best friend - Essentialism references extremely smart and routine-oriented successful people, including Steve Jobs and Michael Phelps, and how their routines have helped them succeed. According to Essentialism, when our brains expect routine the mental need to think about those actions shuts down, allowing your brain to focus on other, more important, things.

  • Live in the moment - What matters right this minute? We can DO two things at one time but we can't CONCENTRATE on two things at one time. So what matters right this second and how can you push everything else off to focus on the moment?


A common thread throughout the books we've read so far is the ability to say NO. In Essentialism, McKeown states that if it's not a hell yes it's a no.

How can we determine if it is a hell yes though? McKoewn shares the 90% rule. Measure all decisions from a 1% to 100%. If the value of your decision isn't over a 90% then the answer is a no.

Have you read Essentialism by Greg McKowen? If not we highly suggest going to buy it right now! If you have, what are your favorite takeaways from the book?

Keep STAKing,

Michelle Johnson

Owner & Founder, STAK Marketing

Michelle Johnson is the owner, founder and Chief Marketing Guru at STAK Marketing. Our passion at STAK Marketing is to create beautiful STAKs of marketing strategies that help small and mid-sized businesses grow and reach their goals. STAK Marketing's expertise ranges from SEO to branding, e-mail marketing to website design, PR to advertising and much more - making STAK Marketing a one-stop-shop for all your small business marketing needs.

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