Reflection: ”What is an Essentialist?” And what I can do about it?

This is a blog post where I’m simply taking inventory of my life and brainstorming a plan to improve it. I hope it helps you in your own journey; but the main goal of this is for me to think and write out loud.

**********

From “The Journal” – a monthly newsletter from tech entrepreneur and investor, Kevin Rose:

“The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage.

In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”

~ Greg McKeown

This concept and explanation are perfectly-timed. I am doing way too many okay/good/unnecessary/negative/unhelpful/ineffective things, and not giving my meaningful work – the awesome, “hell yeah”, necessary, immensely impactful, and effective activities – a chance to breathe, thrive, and fly.

I don’t want to die by a thousand cuts (a thousand mediocre tasks), but die during a helluva ride (something worth sacrificing your life for) lol!

What are some examples of these unessential tasks in my life?

Emails continue to be an anchor that prevent my ship from sailing. It’s one of those creepers that seem small and harmless – one email that takes only 30 seconds to respond here, one email that takes 60 seconds to read there, etc. – that can suck me in and kill the rest of my day.

I aspire for an empty inbox – which isn’t a bad thing itself – but most of my means to get there are unhealthy.

Not doing the most important task first will consume the rest of my day, and make me reactive, angry, and prone to mistakes and/or poor judgment. It sucks that my passions and my loved ones suffer when this happens.

Not delegating to my team will not allow them to grow their skills and not allow me an open road to take off.

So…how do I set up a good system?

Modify the calendar so that I only can do ONE THING a day (with the exception of my Daily Routine, creativity sessions, and direct revenue-producing activities). Resist the temptation of doing a 2-3 items…and put them in the Momentum Chrome Extension for later if I’m truly done with that one most important task.

Go through my Trello list of tasks and ask myself:
* Does this generate substantial revenue or meaningful results?
* How can I handle this task to where it never bothers me again? I.e. Decline responsibility, make a call, do it right the first time
* Do I need to handle this now or this week?
* Am I the only one who can handle this? Can I delegate or automate this at all?
* What would happen if I didn’t do it?

Reorganize Trello to where it’s easy to reference for anyone. Utilize labels, colors, checklists, attachments, etc.

How do I execute my system consistently?

Every day, start with the Daily Ritual, the calendar, and the Momentum extension. I’ve spent the beginning of the week planning my activities – now I just need to trust the system and execute it with focus. Email is NOT your task management system.

Spend the first part of my day being creative. My version of art is:
* Creating a prospecting plan for Fransmart, SHAFT, and Pareto.
* Brainstorming ideas with someone (my wife, Dean, coach, investors)
* Looking for retail real estate.
* Finding a way to help someone – with my experience or not.
* Experimenting with ideas I’ve read or heard about.
* Building/Writing a newsletter to investors/customers
* Creating a new system/procedure to make life easier.

When checking emails (ONLY once or twice a day) ask myself:
* Does this generate revenue or meaningful results?
* How can I handle this message to where it never bothers me again? I.e. Creating a filter, unsubscribe, decline responsibility, make a call
* Do I need to respond to this now?
* If yes, how can I respond to it so that there is no back and forth on it again? I.e. Be complete in answer, point in other directions, make a call
* Can I delegate or automate this at all?
* What would happen if I didn’t handle it?

Afterward, just focus on executing the ONE most important thing that will help me feel successful for the day, if I do nothing else; something that will render the rest of my tasks either irrelevant, unimportant, or easier to do.

Play the rest of the day. Be present. Spend time with your loved ones. Do nothing.

Why do I want to start an email newsletter?

It’s not like I don’t have anything better to do with my time. Or that I am trying to please anybody else but my God and my own joy of writing.

Am I being seduced by some of my heroes who write newsletters – like Tim Ferriss or Kevin Rose – for the wrong reasons? Or are they changing my paradigm and giving the energy I’m already expending more impact?

I can’t say I really know what the right decision is; but since I am totally inspired, it’s been on my mind, and the idea of reaching more people that I care about gives me the warm and fuzzies…I’m going to give it a go.

I do need to figure out the laziest and most effective way to do it, however. My duties as a dad, husband, salesperson, nonprofit director, advisor, and entrepreneur (and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few job titles) are already hogging what time I have left; and if it’s difficult or doesn’t make me smile, this project won’t last.

I’m gonna have to install a “Subscribe” button to this blog. I crave minimalism and was initially against this, but I think I can make it look clutter-free but attention-grabbing.

Next, I’m gonna search for a method to aggregate my blog posts for the week, and put it into a user-friendly format. I’m not aiming for a gorgeous or complex layout here; I’m aiming for efficiency, sustainability, enjoyment, actionability, and personableness.

Thank goodness I’m not blogging about design or fashion.

And finally, I’m going to want to automate as much as possible. This will include creating a consistent template that I can just plug and play; give as much of the administrative work to my awesome virtual assistant as possible; and aim for easy and aim for joy.

Let’s see how this goes!

“Success” in YOUR dictionary – not Webster’s

Philosopher Alain de Botton said this in a past TED Talk that made me reflect:

“One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. A lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people. And we also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising to marketing, etcetera. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves. What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.”

This is so incredibly true. OMG.

Success to me used to mean that I had nice things, had money in the bank, and owned companies. They were definitions formulated by:

* All the business books I read (unnoticed brainwashing is so scary!). Nothing wrong with knowledge – and obtaining it is encouraged and necessary; but like authority, money, or most other vehicles – I used it for the wrong reasons.
* My immature/undeveloped/limited mind and ego – which is always the enemy (right, Ryan Holiday?). And
* Lack of experience. I am a stubborn person who needs to learn the hard way. And divorce, re-marriage, having kids, health issues, strained relationships, and the absence of God in my life are what it took to change things.

The last sentence in Alain’s quote above hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve been fortunate to experience my Version 1.0 of success – and have been let down. It left me disappointed, underwhelmed, and asking WTH.

So…what’s my Version 2.0 look like? What is the definition of success that truly belongs to Paul Thien Tran?

It means that I’m in great health. I get to play with my kids, run with my dog, am building muscle, am enjoying food in moderation, and I’m in the same shape or better than I was when my metabolism was doing all of the work.

It means that I am serving others in a Godly way, and changing their lives – whether through my life experiences, things I care about deeply, or pure love. The last two mean that there is no experience necessary to care about people – so there are no excuses.

It means that I spend more time reading, writing, and traveling – my absolute favorite things to do, and something I aspire to do all day.

It means that I am always inspired, curious, taking risks on scary and/or “hell yes” ideas, and growing.

It means that I know myself.

It means that God is involved in the beginning and throughout every little thing I do; that I’ve eliminated my ego, my agenda, my own power, my own limitations – and have opted into His plans, His compassion, His operating manual (the Bible), His infinite power, His love, and His unlimited capabilities.

It means that I am enabling my family to achieve all of the above for themselves.

What’s success look like to you, (insert name here?). Are you making sure that success belongs to you and no one else’s?