The Truth About Trade-Offs

From Our Monthly Newsletter Offerings - January 2021

When I, (Vicki Syal,) discovered the brilliantly pithy principles contained within the pages of Greg McKeown’s Essentialism , it felt as though someone had burst into the dark room, where I was futilely chipping away at infinite to-do lists, unable to make a dent, and switched on a bright (and unnerving) light.

Essentialism is the process of disciplined elimination of the things that do not enrich or serve our lives, allowing us to focus on only the most meaningful and significant pursuits. The concept is profoundly simple and comes with tools that can be implemented immediately.


But first, we must get over the teeny spiritual barrier that is our own fear, and realize that no matter how hard we work, or how much we deserve it, we will never be able to have it all.

I’m reminded of some entrepreneurs I met outside a coffee shop last year. One, a techie, was cramming a sandwich into his mouth, while filling out a spreadsheet, one-handed. He apologized, and said he was “ supposed” to be on vacation, but the work kept on coming. Still in the afterglow of my Essentialist epiphany, I replied, “you can’t set boundaries without a few-trade offs.” “Boundaries," he laughed ruefully, "tell me more.” Saying NO can be tricky thanks to "FOMO" aka "The Fear of Missing Out." 

Saying NO to FOMO

We live in a world that seems to value people based on the number of projects they’re currently balancing on their forehead. Suffice it to say, this is not conducive to streamlining. This is where Essentialism comes in. It demolishes the idea that being busy is equal to being productive. More importantly, it reminds us that without prioritizing, we set ourselves up for failure, or at best, mediocrity.

Essentialism challenges us to accept that life is about trade-offs. By mastering the art of picking the best trade-offs, we make the best decisions for our lives. It asks us to make strategic sacrifices that will aid our ability to execute.



Key Insights from Essentialism

Saying No

Did you know that “no” is a complete sentence, and it can be said kindly? Saying no frees you from burdens, and you may even garner respect, as people become aware of your priorities and commitments.


Much like a film-editor, by subtracting the plot points or scenes that aren’t vital to the story, it allows what remains to have more impact. You choose to include only that which is integral to your life. Commit to this trade-off.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

This allows you to say no to things that would otherwise damage your happiness. Anticipate future issues, create systems of elimination, prepare your boundaries before the requests arrive. Have a list of deal-breakers: actions you cannot take because they interfere with your agenda.

 Beware the "PINCH" 

The Pinch is the not-so-great feeling you get when your boundaries are violated in a minor way. If you identify what triggers the pinch, you can set boundaries to prevent it from happening again. 

Implement Buffer Zones

Despite my best intentions, I often underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete a project or assignment; it's actually a common issue known as "The Planning Fallacy." 

There's a simple solution: give yourself 2X longer than your original estimate, seriously, 100% more time! Conduct scenario-planning, problem-shoot in advance. And, surprise, you'll meet your deadlines! 

Minimal Viable Preparation

This is the grail, in my opinion.

Ask yourself: what is the smallest thing I can do to prepare for said event, assignment, etc. Science favors those who prepare ahead of time, even if it’s only a few minutes a day. MVP embraces the reward of incremental bits of progress, which you can see, if you use goal-setting software or journals. It’s an incredibly effective way to motivate people to stick with long term goals.

There are many treasures contained within Essentialism.

By integrating its methods into your daily life, you can achieve Flow: mental liberation thanks to routines.

These Automated mental structures free our conscious focus from mundane issues, so our higher self can do what it’s meant to do: Run Wild, Work Hard, and Think Sans Distraction.

Speaking of Focus , stay in the present by asking yourself: What is the most important thing right now? Focus on yourself and what you can do, knowing that this small action moves you in the direction of your goals.

If you incorporate the Essentialist doctrine, you can transcend to "Be." This is the hallowed realm, where goals, projects, aspirations, etc. are carefully selected, strategically cultivated, and intentionally limited.

By saying yes to less, it leaves enough time to accomplish your goals without neglecting everything else you care about. This is a true win-win.

Relevant Goodies