Greg McKeown (author)

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Greg McKeown, Author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Greg McKeown, (born in London, England, in 1977) is a public speaker, business thought leader, consultant, and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author. He is also the founder and CEO of THIS, Inc., a leadership and strategy design agency in Silicon Valley. McKeown is a popular blogger for the Harvard Business Review and LinkedIn’s Influencers group, and his writing has appeared in, or been covered by, Fast Company, Fortune, HuffPost, Politico, and Inc. Magazine.

McKeown has dedicated his career to discovering why some people and organizations break through to the next level—and others don’t.

Popular Quotes[edit]

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less[edit]

  • "...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."
  • "To discern what is truly essential we need space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep, and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make."
  • "Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?"
  • "The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default.
  • "If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will."
  • * "...the pursuit of success can be a catalyst for failure. Put another way, success can distract us from focusing on the essential things that produce success in the first place."
  • "We can either make our choices deliberately or allow other people's agendas to control our lives."
  • “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.”
  • "Whatever decision or challenge or crossroads you face in your life, simply ask yourself, “What is essential?” Eliminate everything else."
  • “There should be no shame in admitting to a mistake; after all, we really are only admitting that we are now wiser than we once were.”
  • “Many capable people are kept from getting to the next level of contribution because they can’t let go of the belief that everything is important.”
  • “If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.”
  • “What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?”

Journal Articles[edit]

  • “It never ceases to amaze me how often I ask people, “What do you really want?” and they look at me blankly, unable to articulate the answer. It’s not that they don’t want things, it’s just that they don’t have a high level of clarity regarding the matter.”
  • “We live in a world where almost everything is worthless and a very few things are exceptionally valuable.”
  • “Life today is fast and full of opportunity. The complication is we think we have to do everything. The implication of this is we end up being pulled into endless distractions without pausing to really think. My position is we can make a different choice. We can discern what is really essential. We can design a life that really matters.”
  • “Here is the #1 myth that kills people's productivity: 'if you fit it all in, you can have it all.'”
  • “A hundred years from now, when people look back at this period, they will marvel at the stupidity of it all: the stress, the motion sickness, and the self-neglect we put ourselves through. So we have two choices. We can be among the last people caught up in the “more bubble” when it bursts, or we can see the madness for what it is and join the growing community of Essentialists and get more of what matters in our one precious life.”
  • “The bottom line is this: if you want to engage your employees at a whole new level, if you want to become a person of greater influence, and if you want to discover a new kind of power — listen.”
  • “To develop meaningful and mature relationships at work or at home we need to develop two filters. The first filter protects you from other people. The second filter protects other people from you.”
  • “The point I wish to emphasize is not an economic one, but a human one: if you try to say too many things, you don’t say anything at all.”
  • “If we “hire slow, fire fast” we can increase what Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, has called the “talent density” of our organizations. It is not easy. It takes having hard conversations. It takes leadership. Still, if we can do it then, ultimately, people, teams and organizations win.”
  • “Often we try to bring about change through sheer effort and we put all of our energy into a new initiative. But you can’t beat stress using the same techniques that created the stress in the first place.”
  • “Achieving strategic clarity is hard. It takes asking tough questions about tradeoffs, deep concentration to get to the very essence of the issues and real courage to cut off competing priorities. It is worth the effort because with real clarity, people, teams and organizations can fully mobilize, break through to the next level and achieve something truly great.”
  • “If success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the “undisciplined pursuit of more,” then one simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less. Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials.”
  • ““What will we say no to?” It is that question that will reveal the real tensions in your team. It is that question that will uncover the core trade-offs in your organization. It is that question that can deliver the rare and precious clarity necessary to achieve game-changing breakthroughs in your business.”
  • “Simply put, when you invite people’s best thinking and lead like a multiplier, your team will give you more—more discretionary effort, more mental and physical energy, and more of the fresh ideas critical for long-term success.”


  • “Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to be more selective in what we choose to do.”
  • “Every time we check email, we're checking somebody else's agenda.”
  • “Say no to many good things so you can say yes to a few great things.”
  • “When we push back effectively, it shows people that our time is valuable. It distinguishes the professional from the amateur.”
  • “Saying no is its own leadership capability. It is not just a peripheral skill.”
  • “By abolishing any chance of being bored we have also lost the time we used to have to think and process.”
  • “Discern more; do less.”
  • “You can do a few things superbly well, or a lot of things averagely well.”
  • “Very successful people are absurdly selective.”
  • “Effort and results do not share a linear relationship.”
  • “There is value in NOT doing a thing.”
  • “So many smart people get snared in the death grip of the nonessential.”
  • “There are only two forces in the world that simplify organizations: one is failure, the other is leadership.”
  • “Making hard trade-offs is where leadership is tested.”
  • "People will plateau at exactly the same level that their selectivity plateaus."
  • “If you are too busy to think then you are too busy.”

External links[edit]

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