Greg McKeown — How to Master Essentialism (#355)

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” — Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown (@GregoryMcKeown) is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less and the founder of McKeown, Inc, a company with a mission to teach Essentialism to millions of people around the world. Their clients include Adobe, Apple, Airbnb, Cisco, Google, Facebook, Pixar,, Symantec, Twitter, VMware and Yahoo!, among others. Greg is an accomplished public speaker and has spoken to hundreds of audiences around the world, and in 2012, he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

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You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#355: Greg McKeown — How to Master Essentialism

Want to hear two chapters from Essentialism read by Greg himself?Listen here to learn more about saying “no” gracefully and cutting losses in the aftermath of a premature “yes.” (Stream below or right-click here to download):

#328: How to Say “No” Gracefully and Uncommit

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Greg McKeown:

Website | Twitter


  • The fool’s bargain Greg McKeown made that led to the genesis of Essentialism. [07:38]
  • Not a business phenomenon, but a human phenomenon. [09:51]
  • Using the Endowment Effect to question and reframe priorities that may no longer serve us (and not wind up with stormtrooper outfits in our closets). [12:52]
  • Greg walks me through an exercise from the Designing Life, Essentially course he co-created at Stanford, which prompts me to talk about potential directions I’ve been mulling over for future projects. [22:30]
  • “Don’t write a rubbish book” is an appropriate mantra to address a fear Greg and I share. But what might be a more productive mantra? [36:26]
  • If I can talk myself into writing the next book I want to write, what’s ideally the first phase of the process, what’s my biggest hurdle to overcome, and how can I apply Essentialism to move the project forward? [42:58]
  • Moving on to phase two and finding the one decision that removes a thousand decisions: what non-essentials am I willing to give up in the process of writing my next book? Which ones are currently overtaxing my resources? [49:00]
  • Making allowances for the Planning Fallacy — the constant underestimation of time and other costs of getting things done (even when we should know better). [54:43]
  • Why taking ownership of someone else’s problems probably does neither party any favors in the long run. [57:56]
  • Separating decisions from relationships to avoid committing to the unsustainable — while minimizing potential damage to these relationships. [1:01:27]
  • When his assistant took a month off and Greg overcommitted himself, he devised these three rules to avoid taking on “floor angel” projects. [1:09:29]
  • When processing a “yes” or “no” to a request, don’t forget about your third option: negotiation. [1:15:30]
  • How I’ll know when the essentialist system devised to streamline my next project is working. [1:16:26]
  • What well-reasoned, polite declines look like — with examples from Peter Drucker and Warren Buffett. [1:17:32]
  • A challenge for Type A personalities: say no to an opportunity so you can take a nap. [1:26:29]
  • The strategic insights and benefits discovered by taking personal quarterly offsites. [1:28:02]
  • Where should a personal quarterly offsite take place, and how much time should it take? [1:33:28]
  • What we learn about ourselves by taking pause to consider the legacies — both good and bad — of generations past and future. [1:34:40]
  • What makes a good design partner? What makes a bad design partner? [1:41:01]
  • Gaining perspective with a design partner using a Quaker technique. [1:47:02]
  • Literature that helps Greg find his center. [1:48:27]
  • The role of prayer in Greg’s life — and how he can tell if it’s working as intended. [1:50:57]
  • Why is it that we so often feel we do not have — or forget that we have — choices? What’s actually happening when we decide not to make a choice? [1:56:05]
  • What would Greg’s billboard say? [2:04:54]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:07:42]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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67 Replies to “Greg McKeown — How to Master Essentialism (#355)”

  1. This is the most important book I’ve ever read, especially for one lesson:

    Everything is a tradeoff, and you’re lying to yourself if you think you can have it all. I told this lie to myself many times, and I catch myself still doing it. “Oh I’m gonna get in shape, have a great family, get promoted, start a business, learn piano, etc.”

  2. This light of this podcast interrupted my first personal deep dive session into spiral dynamics and systems thinking at an interesting time, at an interesting point in the video I was watching. I believe in these powerful moments, so I interrupted my video to listen to this and it was the answer I was looking to and affirmed the beauty and truth of people who are trying to live in the yellow level. I deeply believe now that yellow level thinking and being will change the world, change my world,and I will be transforming my dramatically increasing thinking about stoicism, spiral dynamics and essentialism into real action. Thanks again Tim. It’s not only incalculable what good you do, but what good you do when you do it. My feelings of courage, responsibility to myself and possibility have just gone through the roof, and it feels like a large weight has been lifted off my heart.

    1. one of my favorite ideas that brought it together was “who we are is our ability to choose.” But really the idea that we can’t just take that away, that it’s what’s makes us who we are as humans. It’s always been a great thing to think about since Stephen Covey, the First habit, but to ad the “because” part to my choices at that level was huge for me.

  3. Hi Tim,

    I haven’t listened to your podcast in a few years (it’s probably time to pick it back up). But I’ve been thinking about the things you’ve said quite a bit lately. I’m from San Jose. Actually I’m from a few blocks away from where you used to live. I used to ride bikes as a little hood-rat with a rat-tail near your old stomping grounds.

    I’ve lived there my whole life, but I’ve experienced something of a renaissance or flight of the phoenix. You choose your favorite rebirth metaphor. I love San Jose and I’ll always rep it, but it’s time for me after 32 years to grow and move on to greener pastures. And Austin is actually on my short list.

    In fact, thinking of your mini retirement idea the whole time, I took a tour of 12 cities in 15 days a few weeks ago scouting new place to live:

    San Diego




    New Orleans




    New York



    and Portland

    It was the single greatest experience of my life. I met so many interesting people and have so many incredible memories from such a short span of time. I got to know myself in way that only striking up conversation with 1,000 strangers can teach you. I made so many contacts from people of all different walks of life and received many opportunities in turn. I even met John Wayne’s son. It turned into a vision quest.

    Anyway thank you for your output. It has certainly been instrumental in leading me here.

    Lee Hardy Dydo

  4. I’ve had enough of this after 28 minutes, sorry to say. The author regretted skipping his wife’s birth for business meeting and then he figures he has too much stuff in the closet and then Tim asked his first question which included psycho-emotional, never heard of that word as part of his rambling nonsensical highfalutin question. Thank you.

  5. This episode on Essentialism was so helpful & applicable to everyone in our family, I forwarded it to my wife & daughters.

    Also – Thank you, Tim, for choosing the word, “sadly”, when you explain you cannot respond to 1,000+ email replies to your email newsletter. It makes me feel as if you’d be happy to reply if you had enough time, and I bet you really would. Please keep up the good & helpful work.

    Blessings to you,


    PS – I bought 4 Hour Work Week shortly after it was published, and same with Tools of Titans. Been listening to your podcast for years. Perhaps my favorite episode was the one with the founder of Fubu, Dramond Jean, I believe it was.

    1. Thanks so much, Jeff. And… Daymond John! He’s really fantastic. Thank you for listening, reading, and commenting. It means a lot.

      1. Just finished today’s “Five Bullet Friday” after talking with my Cousin Evan who’s a former Navy medic. He was assigned to a Marine division. We were talking about our workouts and he remembered the infantrymens favorite saying when things got really crappy,”Embrace The Suck”! Had never heard that one and I think I’ll have to stop whining about my hated leg days and just embrace the suck!!!

  6. Oh my god! I was waiting for this conversations for ages! Essentialism is one of the most influential book for me. Lots of notes – roughly 80% of the book! Thank you Tim for this podcast!

  7. Here’s a question for your hip

    Not, Tim, a service of the lip

    To overcome emotional fear of f**k up

    to get out your “essential” next book

    Would you consider taking a look

    at your sciatic hip pain? (the alternative priority you mentioned…)

    Maybe it’s secretly driving you insane?

    For the past year, my injured hip has been a bane, a pain and is driving me insane. This episode with your open sharing cemented my #1 priority to Mari Kondo my “emotional junk drawer” aka my hip with some regenerative medical treatment this month.

    Let’s see if I can finally move forward then with that essential new project… who knows.

    Take away from Greg:

    – Be a powerful listener, not just with people and external voices, but importantly listen to your inner voice and own body. They give us (meta)physical answers, if we’re willing to listen…

    Good luck and looking forward to shorter podcasts ;0)

    ciao, Lisa

    part-time floor-angeler

    1. I don’t have nearly has much depth of detail to contribute as the first responder, but I too was a bit stumped that your future book would take precidence over managing & healing your hip. After suffering lower back pain off and on for over a decade, I personally can’t do anything well without good health. It is fundamental to the success of all other endeavors.

      I enjoyed this episode immensely, have listened to it twice & forwarded it to a few friends & family members. In fact I can easily say I have obtained very thought provoking & helpful information from every episode I’ve listened to.

      Well done! And thank you.

  8. Tim – I’ve been following you for years and am proud of that fact. I am beyond intrigue and anticipation for what you could create around “traumatic healing modalities”.

    My unselfish offer to you is to read “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk. I am certain it will inform, coagulate and even inspire your work in this area.

    Selfishly and not so selfishly (because I believe in the need for these types of publications) I wish I could discuss this subject with you because I think it would be a fascinating conversation and that I could at the very least provide you with valuable experiential perspective and insight into some of the modalities being used in the world and gaining more and more popularity in the world, specifically with Men.

    Although I am not formally educated in this subject nor am I working in the field, I’ve spent the last 7 years working with or in men’s groups (Mankind Project, Man On Fire), therapy, psychics, energy workers, Network Spinal Analysis, hypnotists, training as a men’s facilitator and have been on a general personal development journey to a veritable fault. Needless to say, I have a lot to say and would love to support you and your effort on this subject in any way I can.

    You have my e-mail address if there is any interest or any questions at all.

    All the best!


  9. Hey Tim, this could help as motivation to start working on the book mentioned:

    “If you know more than any ONE other person, then you have something valuable to share.” – Sean McCabe

    We always want to be doing the absolute maximum, the absolute best we can be and we want it to be perfect, because our current age of information puts everything in the spotlight for ruthless judgement.

    But whatever you write NOW will be completely life changing for the people that read it NOW. And isn’t changing some lives for the better something you should jump on as soon as possible?

    1. There’s a writer/blogger I like whose audience is primarily solopreneur women and she tells them/us tht people don’t have to be THE authority to participate in the conversations and space- it’s enough to be a CONTRIBUTOR (D. Duffield-Thomas). THis has carried many of us farther than we ever expected to go, Tim, it’s good advice to ponder.

  10. Essentialism is one of my favorite books. Love this episode Tim, thanks for the great content you put out on the podcast. You and Greg talking through your priorities and the potential book was insightful and helpful.

    Appreciated the quote “Worrying is like praying for something that you don’t want to happen.” Going to use that often.

  11. “This is a project where I don’t yet feel I’ve gathered enough research to proceed to the writing and synthesis phase, even though I’ve collected notes for five years… there’s a question of am I putting it off the next step because I’m fearful of something.” – Tim

    As I’ve gotten more deliberate at making films better than I have in the past I relate to the this a ton. I’m finding myself spend more time trying to research who and what should be filmed and documented, before I turn on the camera. But I’ve experienced the first hand value of just getting things started. I think about this project you are considering and may be fearful of, and think of how important that project would actually be.

    Almost a year ago from today, we both, were at Date With Destiny and briefly met and you signed Tools of Titans, thanks! And at least from my experience, the most important lessons from that event were addressing moments of trauma from childhood. For myself, being able to leave with his notebook and ideas to heal those moments, for me and others, has given me more meaning and purpose than anything else I’ve ever done. I’m called to this idea of researching this type of stuff and documenting it on video. My friend recently asked “what would I’d document and create for at least a year (or two) with no pay?” and this is 1000% my answer. In my opinion its the most important thing all of us can work on. If there was ever an opportunity I saw that was truly something I could do to bring value to you, maybe this would be it. If you ever needed video documentation, following others where you may not be able to attend, for research that it, I’d be so down 🙂

  12. Unrelated to specific podcast, but, Tim, you received a great mention in Adyanshanti’s new audiobook “The Most Important Thing, Volume 1” starting minute 54:39. He’s a fan, as am I.

  13. Hi Tim, thanks for this episode. Love the sound of your new book, and wanted to suggest considering Donald Epsteins work. He’s the author of the 12 stages of healing, healing myths and healing magic, the developer of network spinal analysis and personal chiropractor to Tony Robbins.

    This work had had one of the most profound impacts on my life, in terms of healing and reorganising my life to new levels of possibility and growth. Its truly extraordinary. Might be of interest 🙂

    Keep up the awesome work, your interview questions seriously rock.


  14. I absolutely loved this podcast and transcribed portions of it. The part he said at the end is, pun intended, quite blasting.

    When you asked him about his one word for a billboard, Greg answered, “Light. Just that word. Every moment in our lives, in whatever capacity we’re in, there is always this choice in this moment to step towards light or to step towards darkness. And I don’t mean grandiose massive good vs. massive evil. It’s not that. But each moment we have this choice: do I step towards the light? Do I step towards some dark version of this moment?” He then went on to explain how “it’s the whole of life in one single rule.”

    It fills me with wonder, every time I think of that portion of the podcast. It’s one of many beautiful moments in your important conversation with him. Thank you for having it.

    Good luck to you, Tim, in your research about traumas and cognitive & consciousness models behind them. I hope you come across the model of samskaras, which are emotional scars left in the mind by previous traumatic experiences. The book Regression by Samuel Sagan is a great starting source for this level of western esoteric work. It’s not well publicized, but it’s quite a gem.

  15. Hi Tim, Thanks for your great work. For your book project on mental illness you may want to look into fasting. There have been studies in Russia (some 60 or more years ago) in the Korsakof Clinic in Moscow on the effects of fasting on mental health. These studies showed tremendous success. Due to the iron curtain were these studies not known in the West. The studies were led by Jüri Nikolajev (not sure about the spelling) and his assistant and Psychiatrist Valéry Gurvich from the Moscow Psychiatric.Institute. I learned about this in a German documentary on fasting [Moderator: YouTube link removed.] but could not dig out more details. Maybe this is useful.

  16. Hi Brian, you are completely right with “the best out-of-the-box SEO imaginable,”. I started to give WP a try and it is like you have zero barriers to realize the stuff you want 🙂

  17. Disappointed in your recommendation of “Delta of Venus” in 5-bullet Friday email. The pedophelic content just makes it a no-go. If you’re that dedicated to helping people recover from traumatic life experiences, you shouldn’t be promoting material that plants those seeds. Again, disappointing.

  18. Tim,

    I think your mental health book would be amazing. My recommendations are to use the diathesis stress model as an overall framework and keep a clear eye on the heterogeneity of the conditions – such as one type of depression may may be mostly an immune system issue. [Moderator: additional text and link removed.]

  19. If you need advisors for the book you talked about, I have 25 years clean/sober, my recovery podcast is 2 years old [Moderator: link removed.] and I have worked with hundreds of people over the years. Here to help!

  20. thanks Tim for inspiring me to invent a 3D printed toothbrush vibrator and make women all over the world very happy. If you need a weirder case study or want to make some women happy as well, let me know. :))

  21. Tim you mentioned the focus on dealing with trauma in this. If you’re not familiar with Sensory Motor Psycotherapy – and many aren’t including mental health professionals – it’s a phenomenal modality for tackling early childhood/pre-verbal experiences. Working with a skilled practitioner can be transformational . If research diesn’t give you what you need feel free get in touch.

  22. Loved both of your podcasts with Greg. The first one helped me to end an unhealthy relationship. Excited to hear about your new project on emotional trauma. I had an emotional intervention in August (after the breakup) with the guy whose URL I included. He doesn’t know I’m sharing this but I thought his work might be helpful for your book. He does incredible work (I witnessed him work with a dozen others) and helped me get to the source of my own past trauma. Cheers & good luck with the new book.

  23. Thank you, Tim and Greg! Bravo!!

    Tim, I’ve listened to your podcast for years as a source of strength and inspiration for continuing my work on my life’s path. It’s really fucking hard! I’ve had many “successes” but defining and developing how I will contribute to this world has been really tough. That said, I am making progress. Your content, including this podcast helps A LOT! My great grandchildren will be better off because of you.

    I’m buying Greg’s book today! Essentialism to me (after listening to the podcast) is about discovering your true self and purpose (as Greg discussed a bit with you in his example). It would be difficult for me to think of anything more important. My purpose is to help kids with their journey toward this “goal” of defining and working toward what is essential for each of them.

    There were many “nuggets” in the podcast. One of my favorites was the quote from Carl R. Rogers “What is most personal is most universal.” That says to me that one of the biggest opportunities for each of us to contribute to the world is to dig deep within … and then share the discovery with the world. I agree 100%.

    I really liked the idea and conversation about the personal quarterly offsite too. Considering the impact from our ancestors back to our great grandparents is huge!

    Maybe the greatest gift you give in your content, Tim, is your personal courage and vulnerability. Thank you!

  24. I listen to the majority of your podcasts and find them very useful and applicable to my life. Your interview with Greg McKeown is so illuminating for me that it is life changing (yes that stupid cliche but it really describes my thoughts). I am going to do the personal quarterly offsites and involve my children too. Just Geoff’s billboard word “light” is wonderfully simple and easily applicable to everyday thoughts and deeds.

    You manage to draw out so much in depth, personal information and advice from the people you interview that each interview is a learning experience.

    I don’t know how to adequately convey to you how important to my life the work you do is. Keep doing what you are doing. Thank you very much.

  25. This podcast came at the right time. As I kickstart the new year reflecting on the year that was, the tools and the process Greg talks to in this podcast are incredibly useful. That quarterly review is in the 2019 calendar. Thank you.

  26. Hey man, regarding this week’s 5-bullet Friday email: it really made me smile to see that you’re following Speedo’s story, and not just because it’s an incredible story of a really talented dude. I sing in the Met Opera chorus full-time (yes, it’s MORE than a full-time job), and it always makes me happy to see influential people who are not in the music business shine a light on the opera world, in whatever way possible. So thank you for that! Also, you should come to a show and see Speedo sing. He’s fantastic.

  27. Hi Tim,

    I have recently been introduced to your show via a recommendation from my brother. I am very grateful as I have been really enjoying listening to the show. This was a fascinating episode, thanks a lot for uploading it.

    I was really interested in the section when Greg unintentionally discussed the next book you are planning to write. You said you have done a huge amount of research into psycho emotional trauma, with that research have you found any links with ‘healing ceremonies’? Do you believe there are means of resolving inherent emotional trauma through alternative methods? I would be really fascinated to hear more on this, would you ever do a podcast on the subject? Or will I have to wait for the book 

    I am sure this is a very naive message, but I was curious to ask the question.

    Thanks again,


  28. Loved the most resent episode with Greg McKeown. Essentialism and “The power of a positive no” by William Ury are two books that have been life changing for me. If you struggle with the application of the essentialism (for me figuring out how to say no was very difficult) I would highly recommend the book by William Ury.

  29. I know Greg McKeown and he is an amazing and smart man. He changed my life when we where kids and now he is inspiring thousands of peoples. Keep on the good work!

  30. I was just listening to Brian Buffini who is one the the preeminent real estate coaches and he also uses offsites with his wife. I wonder if he got that from Greg? It seems to be working for him.

  31. In this episode you shared that you want to write a book about anxiety and mental health. I am a European living in the US for a couple of years now. And anxiety might be the biggest difference between our cultures and therefor is deeply fascinating to me.

    Are you aware of the fact that there is no word for anxiety in German and many other languages? And guess what – if you don’t have a word for it you don’t have the problem. Also are you aware of the Ari Grinberg Method from Israel? And his approach where pain (or if you prefer anxiety) is your best friend in getting to the root of things? Since I moved to the States I found myself talking a lot about all these thought schools that see anxiety as a good thing 🙂 Anyways. I guess I just wanted to say that maybe it could be interesting for your research to look at mental health not from the US perspective only.

    Thank you for your great work. You help and touch so many people with what you do.

  32. I’m immediately putting my favorite comment to use, which was:

    Change “I have to ___” to “I choose to ___, because___”; then test your answer.

  33. You’ve mentioned in the podcast your upcoming work on mental health, and in passing also referenced your persistent back pain.

    As the son of a physiotherapist, I thought you might be interested to look at relatively recent (last 15 years) body of work that is reframing our (physiotherapy) understanding of persistent pain from being driven by “tissue that’s damaged and needs to be repaired” to “a person who has a perceived threat” and the implications this has for management.

    5 minutes here with one of the leaders in this area here from the San Diego Pain Summit: [Moderator: YouTube link to “Peter O’Sullivan: Paradigm Shift in Understanding & Treating Back Pain | San Diego Pain Summit 2017” removed.]

    This talk has some technical information/jargon, but you should get the idea.

    Note this is not my area of research, and I am NOT a good person to get advice on this from – your researchers will be able to find the relevant people here.

    Best of luck,


  34. LOVE LOVE LOVE this particular podcast episode featuring Greg. I have re-listened to it three times! And I have sent it to all of my friends as well as posted it all over my social media channels. THANK you for being a light on this subject matter. Saying “NO” and learning the art of gracefully declining, has been one of my biggest struggles. I have a GIGANTIC circle of friends and I find myself being everyone’s “best friend” – all at the cost of my own creativity and productivity. My productivity suffers while everyone else benefits from me being like the “Alexa/Siri” of friend-land. I often joke to myself “When did I become the Google of having the answers, my friends could have easily researched for themselves?!”

    I was inspired to keep this templated answer in my email drafts for when social requests come in that I wish to decline. Just wanted to share.

    Graciously Declining Response:

    “Well, hello there. As I implement the principles of essentialism (check out Greg Mckeown’s book “Essentialism: the disciplined pursuit of less” and the Tim Ferris Podcast interviewing Greg — my all time favorite book and podcast interview); I have to hang up my social butterfly wings in order to

    nourish the projects and relationships I have already made commitments to. I find I can’t be present and pursue a level of creative excellence when my schedule is jam packed with so many meet ups and dates. So in service of giving my all, while also staying balanced + grounded, I am saying yes to less. Thank you for thinking of me. I am sending you so much love ❤️ And wishing you an absolutely beautiful week. 💕🌟💕

    Love your work Tim. Keep staying the course. AND PLEASE keep featuring Greg and the essentialist topic on your podcast. It’s food for my soul and brain!

    [Moderator: Signature and website removed.]

  35. I’m a newcomer to Tim’s podcasts and loving them! Thanks for the thoughtful notes and links…this allows me to be out and about and listen without the stress of note taking.

    In listening to your desire to conduct further exploration around psycho-emotional trauma and how this trauma drives patterns of behavior in our lives, I invite you to explore Depth Hypnosis. It’s the proprietary work of Dr. Isa Gucciardi and a very powerful means of addressing trauma with scientific studies that document the effectiveness of the modality.

    Like you, I’ve been a meditator for years and have found this to be an extremely beneficial avenue to personal healing by tapping into the unseen world that so strongly mediates our existence.

    Just an offering to all of us who are on own own journeys to relieve anxiety, heal from traumas and live our very best lives!

  36. Tim,

    Great to have Greg on the show. I read his book last year and have found approx 60 hours per week that I have “Essentialised”. Great to hear Greg and yourself tease out the thinking towards Essentialism.

    PS: St Vincents hospital in Melbourne Australia have just announced that they will be doing a trial on Psilocybin for terminally ill patients commencing in April this year. Very excited to see more of this

  37. Hi Tim,

    I think it would be really amazing for you to do more work into looking at trauma. I would love to hear you bring Bessel van der Kolk onto your show. There’s a great interview with him on Krista Tippet’s On Being podcast. His book The Body Keeps the Score is a fascinating read.

  38. Tim! Are you holding back your project because you don’t want to be identified as “charlatan” bc like you said, there are no metrics to fall back on–to point to when some is critical of your idea?? At some point, someone will identify you that way NO matter how well researched this new book is. Maybe you have to confront the new self id you will gain after you release the book? Just a thought.

  39. Greetings, Tim. I acknowledge you for taking on big projects that make a difference. I’ve been pretending that you’ve got it all figured out and I’ve got nothing to offer you. When in fact, after listening to this episode, I am confident I’ve discovered something that would touch, move, and inspire you to catalyze your most important book yet and generate a transformation for every single person who reads it. The impact of this inauthentic way of being and acting is that I’ve avoided taking on the challenge you gave to your students at Yale. The whole time I’ve been being and acting this way, what’s been missing is any sense of certainty that I’ll be able to reach you and confidence that I’d generate the “right” words, if I did. The possibility I am creating for myself and my life is the possibility of being a powerful contribution to you and your work. I’m committed to being in communication with you, and inviting you to experience something you’ve never experienced before. You now know how to reach me and if I don’t hear from you first, thanks for the challenge. Thank you being a powerful interruption to the noise and making a difference in my life. _Clarisse N. Lopez

  40. This episode (well, the first 25 minutes) isn’t my favourite, but it did inspire me to buy the book Essentialism. It’s a very, very good book. As a writer myself, I really appreciated the crisp and efficient use of language. George Orwell would have approved. Of course, the content is what makes a book, and that too is invaluable.

    As for healing modalities, if you find something that works, then that is all that matters. If you will allow me to share, I have been fortunate to work with some wonderful and wise people in my time. In the end I found a process that is incredibly simple. I simply sit and be present with whatever I feel. This includes giving healthy expression to fear, sadness, anger, shame and so on, including voicing any beliefs that arise – but crucially without believing in the story that goes with them. It’s an observation process. You can’t get rid of trauma. You can only deepen into the right relationship with it, and that is what heals it. This process has been around forever, and variations in it can be found in many teachers and traditions. Leanard Jacobson is one teacher who shares this knowledge.

  41. Hi Tim,

    Just wanted to say that I’m so thankful for your podcast and blog. It’s become an essential part of my day to listen to it and I’ve learned so much.

    The information is always so valuable and you always ask the right questions. I especially loved this podcast as it was so universal and it’s something I was currently struggling with.

    1. Also, the book “Vagina” by Naomi Wolff is a fascinating book that focuses a lot on female trauma. I have literally nothing to do with and no connection with the book, just thought I’d pass on the info.

  42. Tim, this episode was so good. I appreciate you working through the Greg’s exercise in real time. Perfection is such a blocker for me as well and I wouldn’t have identified it without hearing the podcast. I know now why I continue to create and write, but share little. I’ve been inspired and taking action now. Thank you.

  43. The 2 quotes that really resonated with me are

    “Good now is better than perfect later” and

    “There are 3 types of people; those who see, those who can see when shown and those that will never see”.

    Great interview.


  44. This was a very timely podcast for me. I’m moving to SF for a job and I’m reevaluating everything that matters and trying to prioritize those things. Unfortunately I feel like the essentialism lifestyle described necessitates that you have a certain level of independence already. Moreover, while evaluating what’s essential in my life, I have a hard time identifying a scale that I can check against for the things that are essential aside from my own feelings at the time. I’m sure I’m doing it wrong but it feels like to have essentialism, you must have a level of privilege that lets you focus on what matters as well as a firm set of beliefs that what you wanted then is correct and what you will want. How then do I apply essentialism to my life without focusing first on things that will give me financial freedom?

    Thank you so much for this interview. It’s really helped me to consider personal impacts against social impacts and consider essentialism as a family unit.

  45. Tim, I’m sure I’m one of many you’ve helped in ways you might never even know about. I’m so incredibly grateful to you and Greg for the “emotion” project you discussed. By naming emotional suffering as a central obstacle to “success,” the need to move beyond the “Wild West” and “Germ Theory” (love those–hilarious and true!) era of emotion, and the trickiness of sifting the wheat from the chaff in the tools out there for transforming emotional pain–you gave just the boost needed, at just the right moment, to the clarity and courage needed for a project underway. A little bit of the-sky-opening-up! LOL Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  46. I was recently listening to your podcast with Greg McKeown and heard you discuss the prospect of writing a book that touches on trauma/mental health.

    I am a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor. I completed my clinical internship at Brown University where I primarily worked with veterans with PTSD and alcohol/substance use disorders. I am trained in the two leading evidence-based treatments for PTSD, prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapy.

    I would be happy to weigh in on any content you dedicate to trauma, PTSD, mental health, etc.

    Either way, thanks for all of your content, it’s been super useful!

  47. Thanks for the podcast Tim!

    If you do personal experimentation for research on various therapeutic modalities for the next book I really recommend you personally explore two:

    1. family constellations

    2. equine therapy

    It is funny that Greg touches upon ideas behind both, but never talks about these therapies. And few of your other guests in the past mentioned equine therapy. Don’t write a book on therapy until you did this one!

    I found these two among 5 modalities that I have personally found super effective: psychedelics, group therapy (in the form of tantra in my case, but does not have to be), equine therapy (in groups and one on one), family constellations

    For both of them you really need to choose a great facilitator, that’s critical. Equine therapy was founded by Linda Kohanov. I believe she is somewhere in the USA, so should be trivial for you to find.

    For family constellations I can recommend Alun Reynolds in London, UK. He is probably in his seventies, so great amount of experience. But more importantly he keeps it very clean, without adding any unnecessary mystical stuff.

    Looking forward to your next book!

  48. Dear Tim,

    I was quite moved by the questions that Greg McKeown asked you in this interview and your responses which described your reasons for wanting to write a book on experiences of trauma…

    I am currently undertaking a PhD on the effects of childhood sexual abuse/trauma on people’s lives. I am also practicing as a therapist, working with survivors of sexual abuse and trauma. Your comments about worrying about ‘getting it wrong’ (in regards to your book) and the amount of time you’ve been dedicating to researching this topic meant a lot to me – as a research and therapist. Furthermore, I agree that there is a lot of well-intentioned, but unhelpful and frankly untrue/un-researched advice out there. I know how disorienting the literature can be on responding to experiences of trauma and I have also experienced first-hand, how many mainstream approaches to working with trauma do not translate into what is actually helpful in practice. My research is focused on narrative therapy (developed by Michael White and David Epston in Australia) and I believe they have offered some unique and very useful approaches to responding to experiences of abuse/trauma. I also wonder if you might enjoy the literature in narrative therapy as it privileges ‘insider knowledge’ (i.e. people who have actually lived through the difficulties) over ‘expert/professional knowledge’…which is something I witness you doing across many topics.

    I realise how busy you are (and heard you speak about this in this very interview!). So, I am not asking anything from you… Just wanting to provide some information about what I have found helpful in the realms of trauma/abuse. I hope they are of some interest to you and I wish you all the best in your research and writing.

    Here are some links if you are interested:

    (video of Michael White describing his work with survivors of trauma)

    And here are some of my favourite articles/resources on the topic:

    Thanks Tim and Greg. I learned a lot from your interview 🙂



  49. Rehab of your SI injury… Writing book about trauma… ESSENTIALISM… Relativity of these 2 areas…. we HOLD TRAUMA in our body…work to heal the SI in body, touch root of trauma. Neurobiology says connect with our body- sensations and visceral experiences- the body is the only way to the amygdala (emotional brain). Talk more on this with me?… my trauma…. my dad died suddenly when I was 10… Lp(a) related… @peterattiamd … I’ve researched obsessively….

  50. Dear Tim,

    I recently heard your interview with Greg McKeown and I am especially interested in your thoughts on addressing psycho-emotional trauma and the idea of tapping into the subconscious thoughts that drive behavior and patterns. I would be eager to have a meeting of the minds on the subject should your schedule allow and would welcome a conversation whenever it might be mutually convenient. I am not interested in an interview, coaching, or advice, simply an opportunity to share and explore mutual thoughts and data on the effectiveness of approaches to doing this work in a therapeutic context.

    As a therapist and clinical director at [Moderator: name and location of program removed], this concept is essential to the core process and therapeutic work we do with families. Specifically, our team creates a safe and supportive environment (not ironically in a wilderness setting which is often perceived as inhospitable) that enables students and families to explore their personal strengths and skills while working to challenge limiting thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs. At the center of this process is addressing maladaptive patterns and exploring the positive intention behind patterns that otherwise can get in the way of effective communication with the self and others.

    While I imagine you aim to practice an ethos of essentialism and not simply promote it, I hope you might find a discussion of this nature valuable. I can be reached at [Moderator: contact info removed.] should you like to schedule some time to connect.


    Evan Oppenheimer

  51. This was a great podcast! So many grat takeaways that I will be using in my classroom this year. Choices play such a huge part in our lives, and cannot be stressed upon enough.

  52. “If you focus on what you have you gain what you lack, and if you focus on what you lack you lose what you have.” Be grateful!