Greg McKeown — The Art of Effortless Results, How to Take the Lighter Path, the Joys of Simplicity, and More (#510)

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“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.”

— Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown (@GregoryMcKeown) is the author of the new book Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most and a previous book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which hit The New York Times bestseller list and has sold more than a million copies. He is also a speaker and the host of the popular podcast What’s Essential.

Greg has been covered by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Fast Company, Fortune, Politico, and Inc., has been interviewed by NPR, NBC, Fox, and The Steve Harvey Show, and is among the most popular bloggers for LinkedIn. He is also a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum. Originally from London, England, he now resides in California with his wife, Anna, and their four children.

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Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#510: Greg McKeown — The Art of Effortless Results, How to Take the Lighter Path, the Joys of Simplicity, and More

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear the last time Greg was on the show? Check out our conversation in which we discussed applying Essentialism to project hurdles, making allowances for poor planning, separating decisions from relationships, a third option when processing a “yes” or “no” response to someone’s request, what happens when we decide not to make a choice, and much more.

#355: Greg McKeown — How to Master Essentialism


  • Connect with Greg McKeown:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


  • We begin with some thoughts on Gandhi and four words he said that neatly sum up Essentialism. [06:22]
  • On the power of symbols and a story about how they helped Greg’s family through a profoundly difficult time. [11:17]
  • What prompted Greg to write his latest book, Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most? [26:47]
  • How Effortless is like three books in one — covering effortless state, effortless action, and effortless results — and what we can learn from them. [37:56]
  • Why holding grudges and dreaming up ways to even the score when we feel wronged by others is a huge waste of time and energy, and what we might accomplish instead by spending this time and energy more constructively. [44:00]
  • Greg demonstrates how life experiences can unwittingly write scripts that hurt us more than they serve us, and I talk about what I’ve done to close the loops on my own grudges and overwhelming need to right perceived wrongs. [51:49]
  • The three questions from Byron Katie’s The Work that I ask myself when I cross paths with — and need to cope with — one of my biggest peeves: entitlement. [1:02:20]
  • An estimation of the wasted energy I’ve spent holding on to grudges and other useless hangups, and what Greg suggests to those of us seeking to lower our electric bill, so to speak. [1:07:59]
  • The real lesson of observing gratitude, and the “habit recipe” BJ Fogg uses to make gratitude actionable. [1:15:52]
  • The star chart game Greg and his family have used to get through pandemic lockdown together. [1:19:57]
  • How Greg helped his son use effortless action to accomplish a not-so-effortless goal: to become an Eagle Scout by age 14. [1:24:08]
  • To avoid unnecessary steps, sometimes you’ve just got to start from zero. Just ask Mike Evangelist how Steve Jobs taught him this valuable lesson. [1:28:56]
  • The tragedy of the Vasa and what the King of Sweden learned about making a project impossible to finish by constantly redefining what “finished” should look like. [1:31:44]
  • What’s the difference between effortless action and effortless results? [1:35:58]
  • Sometimes the right question to ask is “Who?” not “How?” [1:39:16]
  • A powerful example of effortless, residual results. [1:41:39]
  • What does Greg’s editing process look like, and is there anything that got left on the cutting room floor that was particularly difficult to omit from the final book? [1:44:57]
  • Greg shines a little more meaning on his previous answer to the billboard question. [1:47:19]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:51:00]


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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11 Replies to “Greg McKeown — The Art of Effortless Results, How to Take the Lighter Path, the Joys of Simplicity, and More (#510)”

  1. Dear Gentlemen,
    This episode reminds me of a book that I am reading now. “Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer. It has really helped me release all of those ridiculous thoughts and fears that I keep agonizing over.
    Thank you

  2. Best quote from this episode: “It’s all so simple.” The only problem is I can’t recall the full story behind them and there’s no mention in the podcast notes. I think they were the wisdom of a dying man. When Greg shared this, it was so beautiful. Is there a full transcript I can access to refresh my memory?

    Thanks for your work. Each episode gives me something new to chew on. Amazing value!

    1. Hi, Karen.

      For links to all transcripts, please refer to the sidebar at the right. Under “Topics,” you’ll see “The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts.” If you’ll click that link, you’ll find the transcript you’re looking for.

      You’ll also see a transcript link below the bio of each guest once a podcast is published on the blog. (The link for the transcript typically appears within 24 hours of the podcast going live.)

      Here, also, is a direct link to all the transcripts: .

      So glad you enjoyed the Greg McKeown interview.


      Team Tim Ferriss

  3. Hi Tim, this was another great episode, thank you.
    Over the years you have discovered and passed on so many useful and life changing resources and I just wanted to return the favour.
    I would like to recommend a book to you that I have discovered recently and found incredibly useful. (You may have read it already, it was published a number of years ago.) The thing that I like most about it is that the information is very practical and the technique is instantly applicable. I have heard you talk in the past about the notion that perhaps emotions come up first and then our mind grabs on to thoughts to justify that feeling. This book speaks to that. It’s called ‘Letting Go. The pathway of Surrender’ by David R. Hawkins.
    I hope you and your loved ones are safe & well. Best wishes, Miranda Nolan (Actor and fan)

  4. If you focus on what you have you gain what you lack. I was on a tram listening to this podcast and my mind stopped tram stopped and a deep sense of “it’s simple” prevailed. As always thank you my journey always makes more sense listening to your podcasts

  5. Tim: Thank you for the radical transparency and truth seeking around your depression and trauma. After years of listening, I am a bit concerned by your continued consumption of alcohol (major depressant) and also the seeming bias against cannabis. You have commented that CBD helps your sleep, but I don’t recall much focus otherwise. Pro tip: try microdosing THC 2-5 mg per day and see how it affects your mood and especially the negative inner voice. Also please check out the recent book Cannabis is Medicine by Bonny Goldstein and perhaps consider her and other medical cannabis doctors as guests on your podcast. With the legalization of cannabis, the potential to reach and help people NOW is huge. Psychedelics, which is your passion project, is still perhaps decades away from widespread availability (but still fascinating of course). Thank you for all that you do.

  6. These days, I feel like my whole personality, inner world, and physical body are going through re-construction.

    I’m someone who often gets stuck in their head about things and struggles with doing the things that I want to do. And my inner voice, for a while, has been very analytical and critical, which doesn’t help.

    I’m trying to get better at these things, along with a lot of other stuff. The pandemic made me really aware of how unwell I was all-around.

    I’ve always respected Tim’s approach as a curator of life knowledge: he scrapes all the best “truths” (for lack of a better term) out there from people who are “proven” (also for lack of a better term), helps his audience digest all these approaches, and offers his own input. He specializes in taking the work of specialists and breaking it down for a general audience to understand. Tim is a smart person paying attention to what other smart people are saying and doing.

    Similar to personality archetypes, I believe that there are “brain/thought archetypes”, where certain combinations of nature, nurture, or whatever-the-fuck can cause your brain to fall into an archetype of thought.

    I’ve always felt gravitated towards Tim’s work, as I feel he thinks similarly to me. While listening to this episode, this was even more deeply affirmed to me, as I discovered that Tim, like me, went through deep trauma and had to figure out the hard work to do to heal from that.

    The reason I had to explain all of that to tell the main story is because it resulted in this: perhaps subconsciously, I let my mental guard down. I was truly listening to the ideas put forward in Tim’s work and letting them interact with my mind in a challenging way. And I could really relate to the mental struggle of trying to bridge the gap between the awareness that you want to heal and actually doing that work to heal.

    Coming out of the pandemic (rewinding a little here), I knew that I wanted things to change, but I couldn’t figure out how to start making effective movements towards my goals. One of the first things I started doing was going to the gym, and listening to Tim’s podcast while I was there.

    This is long-winded, but bear with me if you made it this far.

    So over the past few months, Tim’s podcast has highlighted for me a lot of different tools that serve as guides to “leveling up”: physical exercise, meditation, mindfulness, inner voice work, journaling, gratefulness, and a cautious, well-intentioned sprinkle of psychedelics.

    Well, I have been actively putting in effort along all of these fronts… but the contents of THIS episode sparked a butterfly effect of thoughts and actions that might truly be life-changing.

    When Greg was telling the story about his daughter, I was on the treadmill, working up a good sweat. When he got to the point where he described the painting “She Will Find What Is Lost”, his thoughts in that moment, and then how his daughter is “back” now… I started getting chills. I had goosebumps running down my arms while I’m on a fucking treadmill, sweating.

    So I looked up the painting. It’s beautiful. And contents of this episode lingered on my mind for a while, so I listened to it 2 more times over a few days.

    There are so many powerful ideas that are dropped in this one episode alone that it’s crazy.
    In fact, I think a lot of the ideas discussed in this specific episode can cause a coalescence of sorts. I now feel even more energized about all the OTHER good stuff that Tim talks about in other episodes, which is creating a positive feedback loop. This is new for me.

    I truly think these ideas can be radically life-changing, especially if you’re an overthinker like I am. I can’t describe what I’m currently going through as anything other than a liberation from a prison of thought. I feel like I can more readily tap into the effortless state to live life, not just work towards goals.

    This shit is SO powerful that today, I caught myself thinking “what if I change too much too fast?”

    As someone who has spent 8 or so years in stasis……… I never guessed I would ever get to a place where I’m having thoughts like this. Or that it could happen so fast, and through something as simple as gratefulness. I am surprised by myself, and it’s thanks to the ideas put forward here that got me here. Thanks, Tim and Greg, for this conversation, and to both of you for your life’s work.