Greg McKeown (@GregoryMcKeown) is the host of the What’s Essential podcast, and author of the New York Times bestseller Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. His latest book, Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most, is out now.
What We Discuss with Greg McKeown:
- If you want 10x the results of any endeavor without putting in 10x the effort, it’s important to understand your ROE (return on effort).
- How the disciplined pursuit of less keeps you from getting overwhelmed with unexpected options and opportunities that come from what should be the good news of success.
- Why, if you find yourself procrastinating on a project because it’s not perfect enough to your liking, you should delay a bad first draft and create a truly awful zero draft.
- Why “easy” does not (always) equal “lazy” and what you can do to work smarter rather than harder to avoid earning the meaningless badge of honor that burnout has become in the modern workforce.
- Five questions to ask yourself before taking on a project that’s in danger of being overthought, overwhelming, and anything but effortless.
- And much more…
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Just as your computer slows down when there are too many tabs open, your brain slows down when you have too many things going on and you no longer have the bandwidth to deal with what needs to get done. But if the pandemic has done anything positive, it’s forced us to learn the difference between what’s essential and what just takes up too much bandwidth and leads to burnout. Many of us understand now, more than ever, that we can greatly simplify the way we do things and enjoy optimal results, but a wealth of new opportunities can make the act of deciding what to simplify and what to focus on seem overwhelming.
On this episode, we’re joined once again by What’s Essential podcast host and author of the New York Times bestseller Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less Greg McKeown about his latest book, Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most. Here, we discuss what we can do to best handle everything coming our way and make sure we’re enriched by these opportunities rather than feeling waterboarded by them. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Miss the show we did with Shark Tank heavyweight Mark Cuban? Catch up with episode 362: Mark Cuban | Tales from the Shark Side here!
Each week on The Prof G Show, bestselling author and NYU professor Scott Galloway offers a no mercy, no malice take on how listeners can level up their game in the world of business! Check out The Prof G Show here or wherever you listen to fine podcasts!
Thanks, Greg McKeown!
If you enjoyed this session with Greg McKeown, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most by Greg McKeown | Amazon
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown | Amazon
- The What’s Essential Podcast
- Greg McKeown | Website
- Greg McKeown | Twitter
- Greg McKeown | Instagram
- Greg McKeown | The Disciplined Pursuit of Less | Jordan Harbinger
- Jessica Jackley | Twitter
- Loans That Change Lives | Kiva
- Ryan Holiday | Stillness Is the Key | Jordan Harbinger
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey | Amazon
- Steve Jobs’s Leadership Style and What We Can Learn From It | Idea Drop
- The Vasa Museum
- The Fastest Way to Reach Eagle Scout: A 2-Year Timeline | ScoutSmarts
- Ex-Apple Insider’s Blog Gets to Core | The Denver Post
- Why Amazon’s ‘1-Click’ Ordering Was a Game Changer | Knowledge@Wharton
- BJ Fogg | Tiny Habits That Change Everything | Jordan Harbinger
- A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted by Will Bowen | Amazon
- Power of Positive Parenting: A Wonderful Way to Raise Children by Dr. Glenn Latham | Amazon
- An Overview of Broaden and Build Theory | Verywell Mind
- Jordan Harbinger on Elite Time Management and Networking | What’s Essential 20
- Six-Minute Networking
- Jon Acuff | The Surprising Solution to Overthinking | Jordan Harbinger
Greg McKeown | How to Make What Matters Effortless (Episode 534)
Jordan Harbinger: Special, thanks to Hyundai for sponsoring this episode.
[00:00:02] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:05] Greg McKeown: If you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. If you focus on what you have, you gain what you lack. So gratitude is not just a nice thing. It's not just a polite thing. It's not just something that makes you feel a bit better in this moment. All of those things are good, but it's a catalytic thing. It will help you to see more clearly what to do next.
[00:00:34] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show. We decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We've got in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, psychologists, even the occasional billionaire investor, national security advisor, or economic hitman. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:01] If you're new to the show, or you're looking for a handy way to tell your friends about it, we've got episode starter packs. The starter packs are collections of your favorite episodes organized by popular topics. It'll help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started or to help somebody else get started with us, which of course we always appreciate.
[00:01:21] Today, my friend, Greg McKeown, author of the classic book on productivity or non-productivity, Essentialism and his new work, Effortless, now, also the host of the What's Essential podcast. Just like our computer slows down when there's too many tabs open, likewise, our brains slow down when we have too many things going on and we no longer have the bandwidth to deal with what needs to get done. The pandemic has revealed a lot about what is essential and things that we do or have done in the past that lead to burnout. This is sort of a forced lifestyle experiment, right? The pandemic is forcing us to boil things down to actual essentials in many ways and also forcing us to simplify a lot more than we're used to. Some of that is a blessing. I've got so many good things coming in all at once it seems. Sometimes it feels like I'm just being waterboarded by opportunity. I know a lot of you feel the same. So let's talk about how we can handle everything coming at us in a better way, by focusing on the right things. This might sound basic, but I promise you, Greg and his work are popular for a reason, and this discussion is worth your time. So let's get to it.
[00:02:20] And if you're wondering how I managed to book all these great authors, thinkers, and creators every week, it is because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. By the way, most of the guests on the show already subscribed to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:02:37] Now, here's Greg McKeown.
[00:02:42] The system is the key, right? So there's a lot of people that'll say things — and I'm sure you get this all the time with Essentialism or now with Effortless, your newest work, which we'll link in the show notes as well — people go, "Oh yeah, I'm pretty good at boiling things down and focusing, or I'm pretty good at not getting bogged down in the details." And you're like, "Oh really? Because you're not really good at i.t" Like, you're good at it when you're paying attention to it. And when you, in the example, you're thinking of right now where you are good at it, that one time, five years ago, or like when you were getting your PhD in 1997, like, yeah, you were good at it then. Now, you're 43 and you've got three kids and you volunteer at your church and you've got this other business that you're running, and then you're also helping your brother-in-law with his bike shop and you never sleep. Are you still good at it? Or is it just, you remember this one, so you have this like delusion when you were good at it once with this one very specific thing, and then you never did it again.
[00:03:35] Greg McKeown: Sometimes people think because they understand the concept that they are, therefore, good at it.
[00:03:39] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:03:40] Greg McKeown: And then there's a difference between being good at something and having a system. And that's really the big shift. You mentioned Effortless. I don't normally start at this point with it, but I am in favor, I'm as in favor, as putting an effort as anyone ever going to meet. I'm in favor of that. I want my children to put in effort. I want to put in effort myself. I'm a believer in that. The reason that I wrote Effortless is because if somebody wants to achieve at the next level, let's call it 10X results. They want 10 times better results. Can anybody listening to this right now, put in 10 times more effort. Nobody listening to this can do that. And I mean, by those that are listening to this, they're already self-selecting to be high achievers. Part of actually what my brother, Justin calls, the HIT squad, hardworking, intelligent, talented people.
[00:04:28] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that's cool. The HIT squad.
[00:04:29] Greg McKeown: Yeah. I liked that too.
[00:04:30] Jordan Harbinger: Very fancy.
[00:04:31] Greg McKeown: Yeah. They're already in this category. So the question isn't should you put an effort? It is, what's your return on effort? What's your ROE? Oh my goodness. I'm an acronym sissy right now for a second.
[00:04:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, but I love that. I mean, this is the nerd central kind of podcast too, where they're like, "Oh my God, I'm writing in all these acronyms." Those will be in the worksheet for people who are jogging. There's this other thing, we make the worksheets because people are like, "I listened to you while jogging or I listened at the gym." Or, " I listen to, while running or on the elliptical." So it is the HIT squad. It's people who are like, "I can't just sit down and learn. I need to also be getting physical." They're digging an irrigation system in their backyard or something.
[00:05:07] Greg McKeown: I like podcasts for that too though, because you can be doing something that generally can be a little mindless, but you can still be feeding yourself while you're doing so I like that wherever people are doing it.
[00:05:17] So now you have to say, "Well, how do you utilize that effort?" And let's start at the end, which is effortless results. Let's imagine the perfect scenario is that you have used your effort in such a way that results flow to you, because even without additional effort, like, so I'm giving you an extreme example, but you've set up a system that serves you, that stacks the deck in your favor. And that's the ultimate scenario, because that means it's scalable. Because if you aren't required to put more effort into getting the same result that you're achieving today, then you have this residual result. Then it means you can put the effort that you would normally put into getting the result to get a better result.
[00:05:57] I'll give you an example. That just is so inspiring to me. My friend, Jessica Jackley, years ago, went to Africa, wanting to make a difference with her husband and a team of friends and so on, and they're trying to help and they find an entrepreneur. She's making subsistence level money. So she's in the absolute opposite of everything we just talked about.
[00:06:16] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:06:16] Greg McKeown: She has to put in effort every day by selling the produce on the street to be able to feed herself and her children. That is how she survives. That's how she helps them survive. She cannot take a day off ever. She just has to be there. And if she doesn't, then she doesn't eat. Okay, so that's completely the other end of the spectrum.
[00:06:34] So as Jessica and at el see that they say, "Okay, well, how could we improve it? How could we help her to create a system." And that looked like a microloan $500 would do it. Because $500 would allow her enough time off to be able to go and negotiate with the fisheries, with the farmers, and set up a process where they'll send the stuff directly to her and she can cut out the middleman, put profit into her business and start to get ahead, instead of just always being a subsistence level. But then they got clever, it's a bit massive, but they said, "Well, hold on. If that would work for her, what if we created a system to create systems?" So what if we could create a way for lots of people like us, they're not big investors, but you have a small amount of money you'd like to do some good with, and we're going to put it in as a micro loan, into a platform they don't know this entrepreneur in Africa, but they would like to be serving them, helping them. And so this is how Kiva got started,
[00:07:28] Jordan Harbinger: I was going to say, it sounds like kiva.org.
[00:07:30] Greg McKeown: That's what it is. And this is just the backstory, the origin story of Kiva. So instead of $500, this is now up to $1.3 billion of loans that have been given with a 97 percent return repayment of those loans. That's the difference between linear results and residual results.
[00:07:50] So when I say 10X, maybe it doesn't sound realistic to people, but actually what it is, if you build them right, is it can be a hundred X, it can be a thousand X. In this case, it's significantly above a thousand X return. And it will go on and on as well. So it's not like, you know, that story isn't even over, it's not finished, it can continue to scale and the impact will be enormous as well.
[00:08:10] So to me, that's not a bad place for us to start. Like we want to design systems that create results for us and the things that matter most to us.
[00:08:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I think creating systems is always something that is, it comes after you get results after a while and you're like, "Oh, why doesn't everyone do this?" And then you start to maybe become a little bit of an informal coach to other people and you go, "Yeah. Okay, just do this." And it's like, one in 10 people sort of picks it up and is able to do it. And you're thinking, "Why is it so difficult?" And then you start hammering habits into people and that kind of works, but then it kind of doesn't or people fall off after a while. Then you realize we don't have the medicine system or this system to set up systems, if you will. And then either way people can't really pick up the system.
[00:08:53] And it's funny to look at this and then look at our previous conversation, which I went over once again in preparation for this, and a long time ago, I guess you were probably having one of your first kids. I don't know if it was your first child, but you had a client meeting and it was like overtop of the birth of your kid. Am I getting the story right? It was like you had to go to a meeting during birth, something like that.
[00:09:12] Greg McKeown: I got an email from my boss at the time that said, "Friday between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. would be a very bad time for your wife to have a baby because I needed to be at this client meeting." And I'm sure at least at some level they were joking, you know, but either way, either because of the way I was wired or the way I read that I was feeling torn when we were in the hospital. It's Friday and our daughter had just been born a few hours earlier and I'm feeling, well, I've got my laptop open. I've got my phone on, and I'm trying to figure out, I don't know how to do it all. And so my answer to that was to go to the meeting, you know, to my shame. And even afterwards, I remember my manager saying, "Well, the client will respect you for the choice you just made."
[00:09:52] Jordan Harbinger: Probably not though.
[00:09:53] Greg McKeown: Yeah, I don't — the look on their faces didn't sort of evince that sort of respect. And even if they had, I made a fool's bargain. It's obvious. And what I learned from that was if you don't prioritize your life, someone else will. And that was one of the defining moments and later creating and writing Essentialism and then teaching those ideas. Essentialism really is about looking at your life through the lens of what is essential. Eliminating what is not essential, and then back to the magic word of a conversation so far, how to build systems to make execution of what is essential, as easy as possible.
[00:10:31] Jordan Harbinger: So a lot of people are probably thinking, "Okay, great. So it's a productivity system," but not really because it's been seven years since your last book. And if you were really that productive, you would be candidly sh*tting out a self-help book, like every other author that has a book in these niches where it's like, okay, "Essentialism, Essentialism two, Essentialism for teams, the Essentialism workbook, the Essentialism for families, the Essentialism for entrepreneurs." I'm not trying to be too specific because I don't want anybody to get offended, but you know, you've seen this pattern before where it's like, you get hyper productive and then you end up just producing a lot of stuff. I'll leave it at stuff.
[00:11:06] Greg McKeown: Yeah. The subject matter of the book helped me to avoid that. If we want to think of it as a trap, I think of it as a trap. It helped me avoid that, you know, because the idea is that people get off the focus on what's essential because they become successful and it breeds so many options and opportunities. You know, you can do the next book every year and so on and you get into that pattern. And the antidote to that is the disciplined pursuit of less. And so even having that language helped me to say, "Well, I'm not going to just jump into the next book, just because it's available, just because the agent wants it. We're going to wait until we're sure until we're ready until the time feels right." And so, yeah, as a result, I haven't done any of those sort of spinoffs that one could. And I think the world is probably better off for having me not do those spin-offs and certainly not write any of the other books that have been on my mind to do over that period.
[00:12:00] Jordan Harbinger: At least you have books in mind. I mean, there's a lot of people that — I was talking with Ryan Holiday a couple of weeks ago and I was like, "Yeah, I don't know if I want to write a book. I mean, I have all these things that I would write about." And he's like, "Oh, you're not lacking ideas." And I was like, "No." And he goes, "So it sounds like you only want to write a book when you have something that you really want to say." And I was like, "Yeah, I think that's it." And he goes, "Yeah, that's exactly who should be writing books. So thank you for not just writing a book because you got like a bunch of checks dangled in front of your face."
[00:12:28] Greg McKeown: Yes. Actually, he's advice, that is really good advice. I had someone on the podcast. I'm trying to remember who now, but she was just basically giving this advice. She's like, "Know what you want to say?" And it sounds so obvious. I mean, of course, that's true for everyone, but maybe it's especially a warning for people that have already written books because the doors open because they have the relationships. There's fewer gatekeepers involved or rather the gates are completely open.
[00:12:54] Jordan Harbinger: Get this, they're coming out of the gate and they're trying to pull you in. And you're like, "Nah, I kind of like hanging out with my kids," and they're like, "Here's a million dollars. You can buy a brand new beach house." And they're like, "It's yours to not take." And you're just like, "Well, great. Now, I feel like a turd. I should be doing this." I'm deliberately screwing up my life. I could retire five years earlier if I just write a book and they don't even care what it's about.
[00:13:15] Greg McKeown: You sound like you're not speaking hypothetically. You sound like this is actually something you think
[00:13:20] Jordan Harbinger: about quite well.
[00:13:21] Yeah. This is something that I've been thinking about. And I will — I don't know the rules of disclosure on these things, but like, there are people that have a vested interest, namely, a commission on whatever book they sell and there are publishers that are great to work with. Not like, you know, crappy, "Oh, we'll print them if you buy them first," but like real publishers. But I just go, "The problem is I know too many people that have written books, right?" So they go, "Yeah. Oh man, I've dedicated the last three years. And then I've got to do this and then you got to do the tour and then the tour is five years long." And I was just like, "This all sounds pretty miserable. I don't know if I really want to be a part of that right now."
[00:13:55] Greg McKeown: Yes, yes. And now, it's all about this, so knowing what you want to write about cost matters.
[00:14:00] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:14:01] Greg McKeown: But you don't know what you want to write about yet. Is that right?
[00:14:03] Jordan Harbinger: Well, I have different ideas, but none of them are like, "Oh, that would be such a fun and great book to write." They're all kind of like, "Oh yeah, that would probably go over well with my audience." And they're like, "That's good enough. Write it."
[00:14:13] Greg McKeown: Yeah. I mean, I think, there'll be a tipping point where you feel good enough about the subject itself and you're confident enough about it. It becomes a definite yes for you. I think that will happen subject wise. But I think that the real tipping point will come when you think about residual results. Because one of my frustrations in writing Effortless, it was kind of a painful moment for me, was realizing the ratio of my effort. Where I've invested my effort, the portfolio of effort. Too much of my work has gone into things that return results one time.
[00:14:52] I do keynotes. I'm very selective about the keynotes I do, but I do them. I traveled all over the world, doing them. The demand is strong. I love that. That is a business I'm in and grateful for. But every time you do a keynote, you do it one time for that one client with that one audience, and you hopefully have an impact and you want it to be a home run or at least not to be rubbish.
[00:15:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:15:12] Greg McKeown: And so that sort of linear result, you get the return one time. And even if the return is significant and it's like satisfying on lots of levels, it's still just one time. And in fact, a Stephen Covey, when he decided he would write 7 Habits, one of the reasons he did that, what should've pushed him over the edge was that he had a friend who was very successful at the time as a speaker and had ideas and had people that were interested in so on, and then he died prematurely and that was it. It was gone. His ideas were gone. There was nothing else left. And that was when he said, "Okay, well, I've got to create something that is independent of me. When I don't show up for the event, you know, when I can't show up to the event anymore, this thing carries on."
[00:16:02] So for me, my goal, when writing Essentialism and now writing Effortless, isn't just to have a New York Times bestseller. I'm glad they both have been. But the key is to write something that can exist in perpetuity. So you do put in effort, not just to write a certain kind of book, but then the journey, you know, Stephen Covey's marketer said he spent three years, day and night, making that book and overnight success.
[00:16:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I mean, I remember reading it in like middle school or something. I don't know why I was reading that in middle school.
[00:16:36] Greg McKeown: Because they create an organization. As part of that organization, there's a school and education arm. They have a team's book and they have programs in schools to teach leaders in early age. They built two systems. They built the ideas into books and they built an institute, so to speak, a business that would continue it. Stephen Covey died almost 10 years ago now. The influence continues. So I think that might be, you know, that's where it parallels our conversation as well today is can you build something that starts producing results when you're sleeping and so on. Obviously, the podcast does that in a lot of ways, people can find any of these episodes that you've done for all this time. The weekly viewers, listeners increases, the downloads because you have more episodes over time and the whole thing is cumulative, but it's still very dependent on you. The book can exist independently of you if you build it a certain way, if you get it to a certain point. And then the returns can be much, much higher than any other activity. So that to me is the justification for doing it.
[00:17:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It does make sense. It does make sense. I think the other part of it is the usual fear of failure. Like, oh, what if I write this and it just kind of sucks, right? Or like it doesn't do anything. You know, you wrote Essentialism and I remember when it came out, I was like, "Oh, this guy must be some like super famous author because this book is everywhere." That was when you hit the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for a while, I think if memory serves. Like, that's great. But what if that doesn't happen? And it's like, nobody wants to sort of like start with a squish, right? That's sad.
[00:18:13] Greg McKeown: Yeah. So, but we can talk about that, right? So principles in Effortless, I've started at the end, right? There's a sort of a model here, effortless results, we've talked a bit about that, then there's effortless action. And then inside the core of it is an effortless state. But let's just talk about effortless action for a moment, because there's a principle that I think is helpful, which is the courage to be rubbish. And unless somebody has the courage to be rubbish, they don't begin. They just procrastinate because they're being too perfectionist about it and they want the first draft to be perfect. And so there's so much pressure on, "Oh, this thing has to be so successful for me even to begin it." It's like, well, yeah, well, those are at odds. It's fine. Hold the aspiration for excellence. Hold the aspiration as high as you like. I think the highest aspiration is to be a perennial bestseller, right? So it's successful for years and years and years. That's stuff. I can't think of much higher than that when it comes to books. But in order to get there, you have to not only have the courage to write a first draft, but something that I've come to call zero draft, which is like, it's so bad. It's just terrible.
[00:19:20] Jordan Harbinger: But the ideas are there.
[00:19:21] Greg McKeown: But you're going to start there. You just start there. You just start with terrible. You just start with rubbish. You don't publish rubbish, but you got to be willing to stare at rubbish. Just put anything down. You don't ever have to show it to anyone. Just here's a bunch of stuff. And then in the process, to me, the difference between that rubbish and then exceptional, you know, let's say it's on a scale of one to 10, it's just how many iterations you have involved. It's just a process. And that doesn't mean killing yourself, burning yourself out to do it. It means that you start early as early as possible, and you just keep working on it and getting people involved in a very pacing yourself in the journey. But all the time, you're making it less and less rubbish all the time, and eventually it becomes — and all writing is like this. I can hardly think of any exceptions to what I'm describing. When you think of the great classics literature, most of the time there has been this very iterative process and you just got to see the very final version. And that was the 10th version. If it was ended up being rubbish, the one that was published where you probably got the fifth version or the second version, they just didn't keep going until they were like, "Yeah, every word is great."
[00:20:33] Jordan Harbinger: That's what Game of Thrones' final season sucked, right? They put down whatever they could, there was no book. And then, you can tell that that was the first version. That was the zero draft. It's unfortunate that that was what got produced.
[00:20:44] Greg McKeown: Yeah.
[00:20:45] Jordan Harbinger: It makes a lot of sense. I love the idea of having the courage to be able to start with that. And it does go a little bit against sort of coming back to Effortless and some of the things that you talked about in the book. It makes sense, but it also somehow seems to go against our obsession with always busting our ass and putting out a ton of work. I don't know if that's an American thing or a Western thing, but culture sort of implicit method is that if we're not working so hard that we basically break ourselves and come up with something that's almost perfect every single time. We're just not working hard enough. Wall Street culture is like this. Startup culture is like this. Silicon Valley hustle culture is like this. Burnout is almost the goal. And I know that's a slightly different turn than starting at zero draft, but the workload going into everything, it feels overwhelming because it almost feels like work always has to be so hard that it's going to be miserable no matter what.
[00:21:30] Greg McKeown: Yeah. You know, that's a big driver of Effortless, right? I mean, I think it's not Western. I think it's industrial.
[00:21:39] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:21:39] Greg McKeown: Wherever you have an industrialized nation, you're going to have norms around this and you have all through Asia with work deaths, overwork deaths. There's like different words for it in each of the languages in Korea, in Japan, in China. But it's the same idea. And it can be very extreme in those cultures, but it's also true in the United States as well. It can be where people basically, it's a good thing that gets taken to an extreme, and then people just burnout and they still haven't achieved the results that they want to achieve. I think the reason this happens, actually there's many reasons, but one of the reasons this happens is a mindset thing, which just says effort equals results.
[00:22:22] So as soon as you say that and you say, "Well, I'm not getting the results I want." Well, what are you going to do in that over simplistic equation in your head? "Well, I need to put in more effort." Now, see what happens as somebody continues to do this, they start running out of space. They're part of the HIT squad. They're already running out of space. They want to achieve more still. They're still overachievers. They're still motivated. They double down on it. Now, they start to burnout and they think, 'Well, I'm not getting the results," because they don't say, "Well, because I'm burned out." They say, "Because I'm not putting enough effort in it."
[00:22:52] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:22:53] Greg McKeown: So you just doubled down even as you get into burnout. And this can be very damaging, first, of course, to our health, our wellness, but also to our relationships. How well do you turn up in your relationships if you're exhausted, if you're burned out, if all you're doing is Zoom, eat, sleep, repeat living. When you look at your Fitbit at the end of the day, and it says 300 steps. I mean, how well do you turn up in your relationships in that way? So your burnout continues to affect the most important relationships in your life. And then eventually even the goals you're trying to achieve. So this is sort of a recipe for a bit of a disaster, but you can't escape it until you change the paradigm. And one of the things that keeps people trapped in this paradigm, this no pain, no gain effort equals reward paradigm is that they've also, many of us have been taught to distrust the easy.
[00:23:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yes, because that's for losers looking for the easy way out or the shortcuts.
[00:23:45] Greg McKeown: Exactly. And so you take the other side where you say, well, if it's easy, it can't be the right path. It's going to keep you stuck in one strategy. I've already said I think it's a strategy that can help to a certain degree, but it's a finite resource. Effort is a finite resource. Time is a finite resource. So if you want to 10X your result, you have to find a smarter, better, easier strategy, not cutting corners in any way unethical. I made a virtuous, moral, good but easier approach. You know, one way to just state this to try and break the strategy, the mindset on the other side that's keeping us trapped is just to say, "Look, easy does not equal lazy." Just to break that in some overachievers minds to say, I mean, if you literally look up the words in the dictionary for easy and lazy, they're not the same. I'm just stating the obvious, right? Lazy is an unwillingness to work. Easy is just something doesn't require a lot of effort to get it done. That's what we want. We want to make things as easy as possible so that we can do them consistently and even expand our contribution because we've found a smarter path to achieve it.
[00:25:02] And just to give one example of this, someone in the HIT squad, somebody I was coaching. She's the kind of person who's up until four in the morning, Photoshopping for her church, youth activity, the next day.
[00:25:12] Jordan Harbinger: Four o'clock in the morning, yikes.
[00:25:14] Greg McKeown: Exactly. And she's telling me about this and she wasn't boasting about it, I don't think, but she was just trying to say, "Look, it got too extreme," but she's again, driven by all the things we've already been described. She's the type of person who, if she eats lunch, she feels guilty. But I don't mean, take time out for lunch. I mean, if she even eats, she feels guilty because it's about sacrifice. That's how you achieve better results but, of course, that isn't. That's how you plateau where you start to fail altogether.
[00:25:40] Jordan Harbinger: Dad was like that. Like, he'd come back and he'd be beat up, you know, tired of working at Ford and he'd be like, "I haven't eaten in two days." And my mom's like, "Yeah, why? What are you doing?" And he's like, "I've been too busy." And you could tell, he was kind of like, "Yeah, I haven't eaten in two days,"' but he was also like, "Okay, I'm 50. And I haven't eaten in two days. Like, this is not good," but that was like what he was raised with. He was raised, I guess, this is like German kind of, you just got to work so hard that your eyeballs fall out. I don't know, you know, just that, and it doesn't work long term.
[00:26:10] Greg McKeown: Totally. And if we said it succinctly, we could gently say burnout is not a badge of honor.
[00:26:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:26:15] Greg McKeown: But for a lot of driven people, they do want it to be. And a lot of cultures can even make it a badge of honor by celebrating heroics instead of consistently working at the stuff that matters so that you can get all the cumulative advantages. So with this particular person I was mentioning, I said, "Look from now on, you're going to ask a new question to get you into this new mindset. So you stopped distressing the easy, so you stop just leaning into a strategy. That's burning you out, just ask how can it be effortless? The next time you're doing something, you know, it's important, but how can you do it in an easier, more effortless way?" So she gets a call. She works at university, a professor calls, says, "I want you to be at this. I need my class to be videoed for the semester." And she just jumps in mentally. She just starts going through, "Okay, we'll get a whole team there. We're going to do intros and outros. We'll add music. We'll put graphics in, edit the whole thing together. I'm going to wow him."
[00:27:10] Jordan Harbinger: Three angles.
[00:27:11] Greg McKeown: Right.
[00:27:12] Jordan Harbinger: Got to get a drone footage of the class. Yeah, whatever.
[00:27:14] Greg McKeown: This is just how she's thinking, right? And then she paused and she's like, "Okay, hold on. Who's this for? What does done really look like? What's the simplest way to achieve it?" And what it turns out is that this is for one student, who's going to miss a few classes because of an athletic commitment. So the solution they come up with together is another student will record it on an iPhone whenever he's going to miss and send it to him.
[00:27:37] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Like set up a little tripod in the front of the classroom, record it, save it in 1080P and email it.
[00:27:43] Greg McKeown: The professor is delighted. She hangs up the phone. She's been on for 10 minutes. She saved four months of work for an entire team.
[00:27:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:27:50] Greg McKeown: That's the power of this. I'm telling you. It's so true that people make essential things, important works, so much harder than it needs to be so much more complicated than it needs to be for a variety of reasons. And this is one question that can invert the situation and suddenly reveal a whole bunch of helpful strategies and tactics to be able to achieve more without actually putting in more effort.
[00:28:17] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Greg McKeown. We'll be right back.
[00:28:22] This episode is sponsored in part by ZipRecruiter. If you're a business owner who's hiring finally, right? You probably face a lot of challenges when it comes to finding the right person for your role. I know that jobs are scarce right now, or at least the right hires are scarce. Sometimes there's not enough applicants with the right skills. There's too many resumes to sort through. You've got to make sure the job posting reaches the right people often compared to the challenges of dating. Hiring can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. And sure you post your job online to some board. You just pray the right person comes along. That's why you should try ZipRecruiter for free at ziprecruiter.com/jordan. When you post on ZipRecruiter, it gets sent out to over a hundred top job sites with the ease of a click, then ZipRecruiter's futuristic matching technology finds people with the right skills and experience for your job and actively invites them to apply. In fact, ZipRecruiter is so effective that four out of five employers who post on ZipRecruiter get a quality candidate within the first day.
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[00:29:32] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Klaviyo. Ever wonder how the e-commerce brands you admire do it, how they know just the right messages to send the right people at the right time? Guess what? Not experience. They have the right data and the right tools. They have Klaviyo. Klaviyo's data-driven marketing automation platform is sophisticated enough to power those legendary campaigns from the brands you admire, but they made it simple, easy, and fast enough for anyone to use. Klaviyo helps brands create personalized multi-channel marketing campaigns, using your most powerful asset, your customer data. Klaviyo integrates with all the leading e-commerce platforms, helping you use your customer data in real time to send more relevant email and SMS automations. Plus building a marketing campaign is drag and drop easy. You can get started with your first campaign in under an hour and easily build from there with Klaviyo's best performing templates. Klaviyo gives you all the power of an enterprise marketing automation platform and none of the complexity. So you can compete with the big guys. No wonder more than 65,000 brands can't get enough.
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[00:30:34] Jordan Harbinger: Now back to Greg McKeown on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:30:39] It sounds like, "Oh, he just found the perfect example," but I recently — oh, I guess the last year now — had an animator come on and then quit after a few rounds. And finally, I was like, "Hey, why did you leave? You know, this was really good." And he goes, "Well, I'm just so not used to working in—" I can't remember exactly what it was like in this aspect ratio. So like, "I'm used to working on phones that are being flipped over and you wanted them in the portrait mode." And I was like, "Oh, I don't really care which one you work in." And he was like, "Oh, well, it's easier for me to do them this other way." And I was like, "So if we do it this way, then when people do flip their phone, there's going to be like a black line on each side." And he's like, "Yeah. And it looks awful." And I was like, "Oh no, one's going to care." And he was like, "Oh, all right." So we ended up trying them again, but it's like, "You just lost a year of income working for me because you didn't want black boxes on the side of the animation, because you thought that was unacceptable. When really it's just a test to see if anybody even gives a crap about us having these. So it doesn't matter." Like today, receive — we posted a few — zero emails and complaints about the black boxes on the side of the end. No one's even noticed it. I didn't even notice it until he pointed it out.
[00:31:42] And it kind of goes along with overthinking things. I mean, do you find that the people that are the chronic overthinkers/procrastinators sometimes are the people that — or just the overthinkers let's keep it to one vice at a time. Are these the people that also find it impossible to be effortless or essentialist in many ways?
[00:32:00] Greg McKeown: Yeah, that's right, absolutely. There are five questions that I would encourage people to ask if they're trying to take on a project, especially if they're procrastinating because of overthinking. So we can put those two together, they're overthinking it in a way that makes it overwhelming to start or they've started, but they're overthinking and adding all the time to it and making that more complex than it needs to be. So it's hard to make progress. Or they haven't really got clear about what completion looks like, so they can't get it over the line. All of that is a version of procrastination. One stop is you're starting. One stop is you're progressing. One stop is you being able to get it done. And so these questions cut through, I think, the clutter on this and help action to be more effortless.
[00:32:40] So next time you have what seems to be an overwhelming project, this is what you do. It has to be important. If it's not essential, you're talking to the wrong person, right? Don't do it. But once you think it's important and you're going to do it, question one is just like, what does done look like? A lot of people are dealing with such vague goals, such vague big sense of a project that they haven't actually defined visually in their mind. Like, what does it look like when we're finished with this?
[00:33:07] Okay, we talked about a book before. Finish is I've given this to my editor and she has looked through all of the chapters and said, "Every one of them is solid and great. And I'm really happy with them." Now, maybe that's what done looks like for the book. Question number two is just, what steps can I delete? How can I just — don't streamline each step, streamline the steps themselves, get rid of steps that aren't necessary. Just because someone else took all of these steps doesn't mean you have to. Just because you think you have to add all the bells and whistles, somebody else has done doesn't mean that you have to do it. What can you delete? Or even better, Steve Jobs was especially good at this, but there are some others that I could point to that they don't just take complex processes and remove steps. They say, "Let's start with zero and add." Can we do it in one step? And if not one, can we do it in two, but they start with zero. So that's the question, what steps can I delete?
[00:34:03] Three, question three is what is the obvious first action? Stop worrying about the thousandth action? Stop worrying about the hundredth or even the 10th. It's just like, literally, what is the next actually obvious first action I can do? As soon as people identify that, as soon as they have that clear, it's like the whole physiology changes and they're like, "I can do this. I can do this." And they know they can, and they can get that first thing done.
[00:34:30] The fourth question, what gradual pace can I sustain? So once you've begun, you need to have not just lower bounds. So like, "Okay, so every day I'm going to open the Google Doc that has my book manuscript in it." That's the lower bound, but you also have to have an upper bound. What I found is that it needed to be something like no more than three hours of working on the book. If you work on it for 5, 6, 7 hours, you end up getting diminishing returns or even negative returns, or you become very intermittent in your action because it's just too much and you sort of, your brain gets sore and then you put it off for a week or two. And so what you want is to be sustainable so that you can do it day in, day out. So that's question four.
[00:35:11] And question five is what can I be grateful for? You know, it doesn't matter what the job to be done is if you end up getting into a complaining cycle, you make something harder than it needs to be. It's just simply looking for what can I be grateful for in the process. Will help alleviate the burden along the way? Well, I'm grateful that I have a team of people that were working together well on this project. I'm grateful that my editor's pleased with this section. You know, like if you can get into that mode of thanking them, thank you, being grateful yourself. It eases the whole process, improves the sense of energy and culture on the team, and it helps you to be able to keep going on your journey. So those are five questions that I think help to make it easier to get project that matters done.
[00:35:53] Jordan Harbinger: Let's break these down a little bit because you did a great job there. That's an awesome overview. I know in the book you go over each of these steps in great detail. We don't have to do that, but defining what done looks like in the case of — well, first of all, it sounds like every startup or software project where it's like, "Oh, this is going to be this." And then it's like, "Oh, we need to add this and we need to do this." And there's feature creep and scope creep and things like that. And the goalposts keep moving. And in the book you told this story about, I think it was in the book. You told the story about this like Swedish warship.
[00:36:20] Greg McKeown: Yep. Yep. The Vasa.
[00:36:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:36:23] Greg McKeown: The Vasa is — the king of Sweden is really concerned about all of the Naval powers around him. And he decides that one of the things he can do about this is to build one massive warship that, you know, the Creme de la Creme of the region, and he picks out his person Henrik [Hybertsson], who's going to be the lead ship builder. He sets them up. He said, "That you have unlimited funds, a whole forest with a thousand trees. And I want you to build this," you know, whatever, "75-foot, long ship." Then after they'd cut the — I can't remember if it was 75 or not, but after they cut the wood for it which is a huge project, he changed his mind. He said, "I actually, I want it to be 135 feet," which means they have to re-cut all this wood. Then he changed his mind. "Oh, actually, let's do it 165 feet. Okay. And now let's have 32 cannons." And then he changed that. "Actually 64 in two." "No, let's change that." He just keeps on going like this. After he's done all of this for like a couple of years, he changes his mind again on something massive. And it is said to have killed the shipbuilder. Like the shock of it gives him a heart attack and he's gone.
[00:37:26] So he literally kills off this guy. He just didn't fire him or he didn't just leave. I mean, he killed him with his endless ambiguity and vagueness. And so then the number two, comes in. So he's now trying to help. And an example of just tremendous, like non-essentialism, he said, "Well, actually what I now want is to add 700 statues. They'll go all along the side of the ship. It's just everywhere." This is a glorious looking thing from his point of view in a totally, totally non-essential for the original purpose of what he was trying to do achieve.
[00:38:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I was going to say highly impractical at this point.
[00:38:03] Greg McKeown: Highly impractical. So here it is, now he hasn't had time — you can see because he hasn't defined clearly what the real end goal is, but to actually test the ship, but he has had time to set up a VIP showing of the ship to the other people from the other regions. He wants to show this thing off. And so they sat the ship off for the maiden voyage. They're about to do a gun salute. So all the cannons are out. A gust of wind comes along, pulls Vasa over, just enough that all the cannons go into the water. So water starts flowing into the Vasa and filling up the center. Well, within one hour of that time, the whole ship goes down, 53 sailors with it, to their deaths.
[00:38:45] Jordan Harbinger: Oh that's awful.
[00:38:47] Greg McKeown: It's totally, absolutely horrific. And so in the maiden voyage, this ship has gone not more than one mile, and that is the end, the tragic end of the most expensive ship in Swedish history. It has been fairly recently found.
[00:39:01] Jordan Harbinger: I was going to say, it's got to still be there. And if there were statues, then there's still there, right?
[00:39:05] Greg McKeown: And it does look beautiful. I mean, you can't knock it for that. It's a pretty impressive looking thing, but it was not fit for purpose and all of that because really he had not defined what done looks like. I love that story. I think it's such a dramatic example of how expensive and complicated and unnecessarily hard we make it to achieve goals sometimes. And so if you can just define really clearly what does done look like, you can cut out many of the non-essential things that keep you from getting it over the line.
[00:39:39] Jordan Harbinger: Ironically, his goal was accomplished in many ways, right? He was remembered for a long time. Just not for the reason that he wanted to be.
[00:39:46] Greg McKeown: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It depends what his real goal was, but it certainly was a very costly way to approach what he was doing. And I can't imagine that he ever felt that he'd achieved his purpose.
[00:39:55] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:39:56] Greg McKeown: As he watches this thing sink — can you imagine that moment? Okay. There it goes.
[00:40:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:40:01] Greg McKeown: Okay. A bad day.
[00:40:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. "Next time I'm just going to build a library. This was not a good use of funds.
[00:40:07] Greg McKeown: This was not good use of funds. So that's like question one, but you can use all these questions for different projects. I mean, I remember when my son came to me, he's about 12 years old, and he decided he wanted to get his Eagle in scouting both before he turned 14.
[00:40:23] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that's really — I got mine at like 17.95 years old.
[00:40:27] Greg McKeown: Ah, you relate to this story. You see, because what happened is that we did everything. We did it together. It was great bonding stuff. We'd go through the steps. You know, there's loads of hoops to jump through. He finished his Eagle project, a 175-foot fence with a whole team of people. The whole thing felt great. And then there's the final writeup. There's the final report you send in. And we just dive both of us. I mean, it's on him, but still both of us are like procrastinating. We think of how we need to work on that. And we are just doing nothing. And then a few weeks go by, and then it's a couple of months, and I know some of myself who did everything for that Eagle, but then procrastinated the final report. We handed it in the day after he turned 18, which totally didn't work. It wouldn't accept it. They're absolute sticklers on that. And so he never became an Eagle because of this.
[00:41:15] Jordan Harbinger: That's pathetic. That sucks.
[00:41:18] Greg McKeown: Isn't that pathetic? I see that people just sometimes don't get it over the line for a variety of reasons, because of the things we talked about. So what we did with this, as we started to see the procrastination slipping in, is we literally went through the questions we just talked about. Right? What does done look like? The scouting office says, yes. What steps can we delete? There were a lot of steps to delete because we had seen very glossy facets, either really expensive looking wooden boxes with reports inside that took a hundred hours of probably parental time to make happen. And we suddenly were like, "Well, just because they did all that, we don't have to do all of that. What steps can we delete? What is the minimum process for a successful completion of this?" And what's the first obvious action? Well, just go get the three-ring binder. What's the pace we can sustain? Well, we'll work on it every day. I can't remember what we said now, but let's say it's even one hour a day until this is done. What can we be grateful for? We're going through the process so we can enjoy this. And he got back in within a couple of weeks of starting the process. So there's no more procrastination. Get it. And he graduated as an Eagle scout one week before he turned 14. To me, these questions are very practical. They can be utilized, you know, immediately on some important project and they really do help us to get started, continuing making progress, and actually get the important thing done.
[00:42:35] Jordan Harbinger: That's impressive. I mean, the Eagle, I think, had to be like a hundred man hours and then I remember getting up to like 60 and being like, this thing is almost done, and they're like, oh, remember you can count the man hours fairly, that you assume other people in the school like ordering this because we had done like playground renovation. And then you can say like, oh, it probably took them an hour to order at least an hour to order the wood chips. The driver had to come with the wood chips and dump them. And then like, you can count that. And then I was like, okay, I think we're close enough. My scoutmaster was like, this is probably fine. Like the idea is to do the project, you know, not have every second meticulously accounted for, but like I said, I think I needed tons of parental help at age 17 and a half to get it going. And so to do it before age 14 is really something else and speaks to the power of these questions and of having a system in place of any kind, because I definitely did not do it for one hour a day for a hundred days. It was more, "Oh crap. I've got a very limited amount of time to do this. I'm spending all day for the next six days during the summer doing only this until I fall asleep, you know, on a pile of wood chips or with paint covering me on the ground and sunburn."
[00:43:45] Greg McKeown: But you got it done so well done for that.
[00:43:47] Jordan Harbinger: It did get done, yeah. Looking at the second question when trying to simplify something you mentioned, don't just go from the complex to the simple, actually start at zero, and use the minimum number of steps to get the result. And you mentioned before Steve Jobs.
[00:44:00] Greg McKeown: Yup.
[00:44:01] Jordan Harbinger: And in the book, you talk about this DVD burner that had like a thousand page manual and cost $35,000. Actually, I was trying to envision what this could even look like. It seems like now that our exposure to DVD burners is the Steve Jobs' Apple example, where you put a disc in and it says burn and you drag a file into there. I can't even imagine making it more complicated, but obviously did start extremely complicated and almost nearly impossible to use.
[00:44:27] Greg McKeown: Well, that's what it was.Mike Evangelist was the engineer that I talked to about the whole experience. And so he worked for this company separate from Apple. And at the time it was very industry specific. It was, as you mentioned, expensive machines and you had to be in the recording industry to be able to afford one of these. And so they just kept adding functionality and functionality and complexity to it. When the company got purchased by Apple, they had two weeks to prepare for a meeting with Steve Jobs and they knew they'd been given the direction. You've got to simplify everything, right? This is supposed to be an app that's going to go on the Mac standard. The whole thing has to be simplified. And that's what they did. They said, "We've got a thousand page manual. Let's keep reducing and reducing and reducing and so they did. By the time they get into that room with him, they are really proud of what they've brought together.
[00:45:17] Jordan Harbinger: Their 200-page manual, right? Yeah.
[00:45:19] Greg McKeown: They've got a slide deck. They feel it looks slick. They feel it's going to be terrific. You can imagine why they felt that because they're going from the complexity they're going from. Steve walks into the room and he walks up to the whiteboard. This is the part that if people know the story, they've heard this piece of it and he just draws this rectangle. It goes, here's what we're going to do. You drag your file to one button that says burn, and then you click burn. That's the app we're going to build. And the moment he said it, Mike and the other people in the room were like so uncomfortable now. They didn't want to show their slides at all. They had no interest in showing that and that was, he said, the lesson was that they had gone from complexity, trying to get to simplicity. Steve was starting from ultimate simplicity, zero and add, can we do it in one step.
[00:46:03] And by the way, that's not just Steve. I mean, there's other examples of people that are terrifically good at this. I mean, you think about over at Amazon as well, not a dissimilar time period where Jeff Bezos is having a meeting with a lead engineer that had been asked to simplify the shopping process. Now, this is a time when the Internet is still new. People are uncomfortable buying in an e-commerce environment. You know, there's a lot of reasons for them not to do it and just go to a traditional store. And at the time the checkout process was like so many clicks. Put your name and clicks, second name, click, address, click. You're putting everything every single time. And each page is a set per page and he'd been assigned to simplify it. And he'd spent two months simplifying each step in the process. He goes for this meeting at this brewery in Seattle. He's got the first employee of Amazon there. He's got Jeff Bezos there and they're talking at some point in the conversation. Jeff Bezos said, "Listen, I don't mean how to simplify each." Jeff Bezos said, "Can we do it in one click?" And that's how one-click shipping existed for Amazon, still does to this day. But for 20 years, they had a patent on that, which I'm sure some people could say, "Well, that's an unfair thing to have a patent on," but that's what's impressive about going from zero and valuing this level of simplicity and frictionless effortless e-commerce is that nobody else in any e-commerce industry was doing it.
[00:47:29] And that's why there's so much power in it is that there is a competitive advantage in your life and your career or in your business, if you can take something that used to take 20 steps, and now it takes one every time afterwards. You have produced an actual advantage over the effort other people have to put elsewhere. So yes, I mean, this is the value of starting from zero and maximizing the steps not taken.
[00:47:54] Jordan Harbinger: So starting from zero means don't just simplify each step. You start from zero steps and then you build up from there. And this is important, this difference, because originally I didn't get it when I was reading the book, but you're not just chiseling away complexity. You start without the complexity there at all in the first place. And then you build the minimum viable method or product on top of that, because otherwise you go, "Oh, okay." That's how we ended up with, "Is your billing address the same as your shipping address? If so, click here," but you've already entered an address and you're like, "Why am I doing this versus one click where it goes, we shifted here last time, you used this credit card last time. If those are the same, and these are the items you want, just click that button." And you're like, "Okay, great." They just built that step on top of everything. Not trying to go, "Oh, we don't have to enter the address twice if they click that box. And then if their email is the one they're logged in with, they can click that box." You're still just reducing down complexity. And then you end up with something that looks like the least amount of complexity that you can have, but still has 10 times as much complexity as you really need.
[00:48:52] Greg McKeown: Exactly. We all experienced this when we're working with other companies. And there's a great advantage that those companies can have if they can simplify it significantly for us. Because we're already overworked, already have too many things, too many steps in our lives, but we can also apply those same strategies ourselves to remove from our lives, things that are making it harder than it needs to be to get things done. Complexity grows over time. We add something and we often don't take it away.
[00:49:20] You see this happening, even in some areas with what's happening with COVID. You had a variety of steps in place to protect people. Then as the threat changes in the CDC rules change and so on, some of these steps, at least here in California, are still there even though they sort of break with common sense that they should still exist. And that's just a small example. I'm not making any political point. I'm just making a point about how complexity grows over time. So it takes a certain approach, an essentialist, someone who cares about making the process as simple and effortless as possible to come along and start removing those things and say, "Well, did these serve anymore? Or are they things that we would actually increase the value by removing them now. That's a particular approach and one that I advocate for.
[00:50:05] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Greg McKeown. We'll be right back.
[00:50:10] This episode is sponsored in part by stamps.com. Have you started to feel the welcoming signs of life returning back to normal? People less than six feet apart, seeing people's smiles again, buzzing restaurants. Finally, you can get back to enjoying life's little pleasures, like going to the post office. All right, some parts of normal life, not so great, but with stamps.com, you can skip trips to the post office and save on postage. I love how easy stamps.com makes it for small businesses like ours to mail and ship. We can also print official US postage and shipping labels 24/7 without having to leave the desk or buy any fancy equipment. All you need is your computer and a standard printer. Once your mail is ready, just schedule a pickup or drop it off. It's that simple stamps.com is a no-brainer. Save money with deals you can't get anywhere else. Like up to 40 percent off USPS and up to 66 percent off UPS shipping rates.
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[00:51:20] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Hyundai. Hyundai questioned everything to create the best Tucson ever. Every all-new Tucson has been completely re-imagined resulting in an SUV loaded with available innovations, both inside and out. From design to technology to safety, every aspect of the new Tucson has been improved upon. Hyundai's digital key allows you to transform your smartphone into a spare key. And if you're geriatric like me and you forget your keys are, it's just one less thing to remember. LED daytime running lights are stylishly hidden within the cascading front grill, making them invisible when not in use. Set multiple user profiles. So if you share your car like I do, I love that I can hop in, have the seat, mirrors, climate control, all personalized for me on the 10.25-inch full touch infotainment screen. There's also a blind spot view monitor. I love those things. No more mirrors, no more cranes in my neck around. The SUV has been completely redesigned inside and out to create the best Tucson ever. Learn more at hyundai.com.
[00:52:13] This episode is also sponsored in part by Progressive progressive helps you get a great rate on car insurance even if it's not with them. They have this nifty comparison tool that puts rates side-by-side. So you choose a rate and coverages that work for you. So let's say you're interested in lowering your rate on your car insurance, visit progressive.com to get a quote with all the coverages you want. You'll see Progressive's rate, and then their tool will provide options from other companies, all lined up and easy to compare so that all you have to do is choose the rate and coverages that you like. Progressive gives you options so you can make the best choice for you. You could be looking forward to saving money in the very near future. More money for say, a pair of noise-canceling headphones, an Instapot, more puzzles, whatever brings you joy. Get a quote today at progressive.com. It's one small step you can do today that could make a big impact on your budget tomorrow.
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[00:53:22] And don't forget, we've got worksheets for many episodes. If you want some of the drills and exercises talked about during the show in one easy place, that link is also in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[00:53:33] And now for the conclusion of our episode with Greg McKeown.
[00:53:37] There's another couple of steps/questions to find the first obvious step and what gradual pace can I sustain. I think people can grab those in the book, but I want to jump down to number five, which is what can I be grateful for? And usually I just hate this kind of positive psychology nonsense, but I actually really liked this one because it does have a practical element to contributing to the effortless stage. Can you take us through this?
[00:53:59] Greg McKeown: Yeah, I mean, let's just stop at the top. I like want to disagree with you about positive psychology, but that's not going to be helpful.
[00:54:05] Jordan Harbinger: You can, but you're right. It's probably like a kind of a tangent, right?
[00:54:08] Greg McKeown: It's not helpful. One thing that I've found that you can do immediately to apply gratitude in a practical way is to simply say this, "After I complain, I will say something that I am thankful for." That's an important behavioral shift using BJ Fogg's habit recipe approach, because it's not just being grateful once in a while, not even once a month or once a year at Thanksgiving, it's in the in-between. It's in the normal experiences of life. And when I started that practice, I found at first that I complained a lot more than I realized that was my first takeaway.
[00:54:45] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:54:45] Greg McKeown: And I think of myself as a positive, grateful person. But I just found it, I just slipped into it itself a very easy way. Oh yeah, that meeting took longer than I thought. Oh yeah, I'm feeling a bit cold right now. Oh, I'm hungry right now. I mean, just see the children. Well, why are you doing that? Why aren't you doing this? And did you just find that it's in fact, a flow of complaining and that just adds a tax for yourself and for everyone around you. It doesn't make anything better. It takes whatever's going on, however, hard it is and makes it harder. What I found once I started this, as I immediately lightened my own state, I felt better, and other people around me feel better. It gets them into a better state themselves. And from that a whole slew of positive momentum takes place.
[00:55:28] For example, let me summarize this in a single idea. If you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. If you focus on what you have, you gain what you lack. So gratitude is not just a nice thing, it's not just a polite thing. It's not just something that makes you feel a bit better in this moment, all of those things are good, but it's a catalytic thing. It will help you to see more clearly what to do next. In fact, I now advocate also for positive prioritization. So in addition, that first practice, I would recommend that once a week, people prioritize using gratitude. So you say, "Okay, what are the five things that I'm most thankful for from this last week?" So that, at first seems just like gratitude, but you're also prioritizing because you're thinking, what are the important things? What are the things that really mattered to me? And then from that you can say of each item, you say, "Well, why does it matter so much? And then what's the next obvious action I can take to improve and to build on the momentum that's already there."
[00:56:32] That's the really, the deeper idea here with gratitude is that if you can splice it into your state, into your culture, into your processes, then it increases the speed of progress. Personally, you feel that sense of satisfaction. I'm making progress with your relationships. They feel, "Oh, I'm doing well. I'm being encouraged, instead of only pointing out what I'm doing wrong." And it can have a very powerful, upward trajectory.
[00:56:58] Jordan Harbinger: I did like this one, you know, a lot of times I feel like some of this stuff is a little hokey, but this is highly practice, especially for me because I'm one of those people who's like, "Oh, this is 99 percent good. There's one percent things that we could improve upon." But I don't mention all the other great positive things that have worked out. I only focused on that 1 percent, so it can come across as like, "Oh, well you just don't appreciate anything." "Oh, we set up this whole thing and everything works great, except for this one little thing." And you're just focused on that. It comes across as quite negative and it's not great for leading a team or a family. That's for sure.
[00:57:31] Because it's kind of like those parents that go, "A minus in physics," and it's like a straight A report card and that the kid's like, "Really?" Straight A's, A minus in physics. You're focused on the A minus. Come on.
[00:57:42] Greg McKeown: Exactly. What do you want more of? I mean, you mentioned parenting and the principle we're talking about here is truer in parenting than in any other setting. There's a great book. I swear by this, it's a manual. You don't read it cover to cover, but it's called the Power of Positive Parenting and I don't know, I just sworn by this, whenever we've found ourselves struggling in parenting, whenever we've found ourselves going, "Well, we know it's important." That's never the question, it's essential to us, but we are just, "This thing is hard. This thing is painful. This thing isn't working." We pull us out and he repeats the same principle all the way through which is what you focus on, you will get more off. If you focus on the thing they're not doing right, you will get more of that. If you focus on what they're doing right, you will get more of what you're giving attention to. He has like all these examples of how to go about this. And of course, it isn't just parenting. It applies to all leadership interactions. You've got to be clear about what you want and a very good way to do that is to emphasize what people are already doing right to get there. Catch your team doing things that are right. Stop the next meeting that you have by simply asking what's gone right since the last time we met? When you asked for a report from someone on your team say, "Listen, I always want your report to start with like, 'Hey, what are the success has been since you last sent your accountability report.'" You build into the culture.
[00:59:03] Barbara Fredrickson has done some great research about this and she calls it the broaden and build theory. And it basically means that if you get into a positive state and gratitude is the fastest way to do it, then it increases immediately your creativity, your sense of optionality. So instead of fight, flight, or freeze, you have this sense of possibility. You can do lots of different things and the same is true in your relationships. They start to become more productive and creative as well. And so this actually builds your network. It actually changes the assets that you have at your disposal. So whatever the next challenge is around the corner, you are in a better position to handle it. That is a different way of saying it will be easier to handle if you have this kind of culture, this kind of system, and these kinds of assets at your disposal. It's an upward cycle. That's what she's saying when she says broaden and build.
[00:59:58] Jordan Harbinger: So what about people like me who feel bad or useless when we aren't working? Like, I've been trying to remap what it means to be useful or get rid of the need to be constantly doing something useful, but it's not easy. Like playing with my son, right? I shouldn't have to be justifying it in my head as useful or worthwhile. I find myself saying things like, "Okay, I'm at the sandbox, but it's okay don't worry about finishing that other thing right now because the sandbox and playing with Jayden that's important too." Like that's crazy. I should be saying, "Forget everything else. I'm playing with my kid. This is the most important thing." But instead I'm in my head, I'm like, "No, no, no, this is the most important thing. So it's okay that I'm not working on the show prep for tomorrow. I can finish that later after he goes to bed."
[01:00:38] Greg McKeown: How old is he?
[01:00:39] Jordan Harbinger: He's two.
[01:00:40] Greg McKeown: Right. You're raising two problems as far as I can see. One is the challenge of interacting as an adult with a two-year-old.
[01:00:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:00:48] Greg McKeown: Right, that's a particular challenge. And then the second is just the more general question of how can you be more comfortable with not working. And I think those are two things. So let's deal with that second one first, because overachievers as a general rule are very bad at relaxing.
[01:01:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:01:06] Greg McKeown: They are much more comfortable for all the reasons we've talked about with just doing more work. That's a capability, it's a competence and they've taken it sometimes to the point that it's unhelpful. But when it comes to relaxing, somebody says, "Hey, you've got to relax. You've got to recuperate, you've got to rest." And they go, "Okay, I'm doing it now." And then they get into that moment. And they're like, "Well, this is very awkward for me." It's very uncomfortable. They are not in any way enjoying it. And it's because their competency in it is zero. They do not know how they've not been taught how, they have never developed knowledge in it. And it sounds like a strange thing that you would have to teach somebody how to relax so that you would have to learn how to relax, but you absolutely do. That's what I've learned as you have to learn how.
[01:01:51] And so I would recommend people to do the following, to stop paying attention in their lives and make a list of 10, or I did 20 things. My wife, Anna, did 20 as well of things that relax us, that rejuvenate. And at first, those were quite generic things, but over time they became more and more precise as we paid more attention to them. And so we find that there are things that we go, "Yeah, I'm enjoying that." When I go to, you know, when my wife — we have a garden and she likes to work in the garden. When she's working there, in lovely weather outside, maybe working with one of the children, if I'm out there helping her, she loves this. This relaxes her, this is recuperating. That's a very signature thing that might not be the same for anyone else listening to this. But you come up with these building blocks of rest and relaxation. And they work for you uniquely.
[01:02:39] And so then you can say, how can I now build in rituals of relaxing and recuperating with other people? And you start to be able to build them together so that you aren't so pooled back to the thing that you know, everyone who is good with a hammer thinks everything is a nail, right? Like you just go, "I just need to go back at that because I'm good at that. I'm competent there. I don't feel competent at relaxing," because you're not. So you have to build it from zero and build it up and build it up. It's really necessary.
[01:03:08] Now, let's get to why it's necessary for an overachiever because we are not machines. We are held back significantly by an always-work-always-on approach. This idea that we're just machines as part of the industrial revolution. It's a carry over from that where it was just efficiency based and all you need is the machine to be on 24/7, and you'll increase productivity significantly, but we're not a machine. We're biological creatures who are rhythmic. And so if you want to propel forward, it's like a slingshot. Then you need to have a done-for-the-day list. These are the things I'm going to be done. When I'm done, I'm going to be done for the day. A time when you're done for the day. Mine is five o'clock. We need a done-for-the-day list. So that, you know, "Hey, I'm not just going to do an endless to-do list. When I'm done for this, I'm going to be done." You need a time to be done for the day. So you build in that boundary. Mine is 5:00 p.m. People can choose whatever they want in their circumstances, but that makes it a lot better with my family experience afterwards. If I can be there to help set up dinner, help gather everyone while people aren't too hungry, too tired, including me. But it also means that you have this slingshot experience whereby having these boundaries by the time you're working again, you're better able to discern what to work on, the essentials, and how to approach it to make it as easy as possible.
[01:04:27] Jordan Harbinger: Greg, thank you so much. I really appreciate this. It's hard to find a unique angle for a lot of this, because, of course, you've talked about these things in a lot of places, but I think we did that today. I think we managed, which is always nice and I appreciate the expertise. It's also tempting to over complicate doing things in a simple way, and that wouldn't be a good look for you, I think right? To over-complicate effortless and essentialism.
[01:04:52] Greg McKeown: Yes, yes. I mean, you know, it's in the eye of the beholder as to whether I've achieved that or not, but it didn't matter to me to try, when I was writing Effortless, to write a book that could be effortless to listen to, or to read. And so it, you know, is story-based and I think it's a simple process, right? You've got just to summarize effortless state is the core of it. You want to try and remove all the complexity from your brain. The gratitude is a fast way to do it. Resting is a way to do that. Having boundaries is a way to do that. But then you also want to simplify the process so that you have effortless action.
[01:05:26] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:05:27] Greg McKeown: And then the final thing, effortless results, so that the results eventually have a systematic way and they return to you.
[01:05:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Thank you very much. Yeah, I'm imagining a book effortless 750 pages. It's not really. What did it come out to? I listened to it. It was relatively short.
[01:05:41] Greg McKeown: Well, my rule was, it needed to be shorter than Essentialism and it is. I sat goal on this one. And I think it was probably the wrong goal, but it could have been worse. One of my goals for this book was to not write a rubbish book.
[01:05:57] Jordan Harbinger: That's a low bar. Well, maybe not these days.
[01:06:00] Greg McKeown: But that's the thing. Yeah, but the thing is, is that there is a huge — there's very often that authors write a rubbish book after a book that's done really well. That is really, really often done. And I don't mean by like, not a good book, I mean a rubbish book. A book that is 450 pages long, a book that had many different books shoved together into it. Because everyone goes, "Oh, well, it'll be fine. Everyone's going to buy what Greg McKeown writes next." And it isn't like that. And so my goal was to put certain safety rails on the process so that okay, it can't be longer than Essentialism. That's one thing. Okay, the graphics have to be at least approximately equivalent inside and outside. Some of these things were surprisingly challenging to get approved and to work through. But it just meant, okay, you know, the goal I'm working on the next book already right now. And my goal is different. For the next book is to write an exceptional book and that is different, but I don't feel the fear I felt on this second, on Effortless now. I just feel like, okay, great. You know how to write a not-rubbish book competently now. You're not worried about that. Now, just write something that's absolutely the best thing you can possibly write. And that is the goal.
[01:07:11] Jordan Harbinger: What's the concept of the new book?
[01:07:13] Greg McKeown: On the record or off the record?
[01:07:14] Jordan Harbinger: On the record. Yeah, on the record.
[01:07:16] Greg McKeown: Okay. On the record, the book — see now, I now have to think about—
[01:07:21] Jordan Harbinger: What you're allowed to say?
[01:07:22] Greg McKeown: Well, I mean, I want this book to be around the themes of deep empathy and the power of really understanding other people fast, accelerated understanding. Let me answer it this way. The deepest human need is to be understood, to be accepted, to be known. The complication is that we're really bad at understanding each other and certainly bad at helping people to feel understood. The result of that is that everybody's misunderstood most of the time, clamoring to be understood. And so my position is that we can learn exactly how to do this and to do it really well. And if we do, we can increase our influence significantly, maybe even a 10X increase of influence and fast. That's kind of the premise of the book.
[01:08:09] Jordan Harbinger: Great! That sounds right up my alley. When does it come out? Seven years.
[01:08:12] Greg McKeown: I think sooner than seven, but I don't know.
[01:08:14] Oh, okay.
[01:08:15]Hopefully, not a seven-year process. You should see what the journey is, but I think it's an important book. I think it may be the most important book that I've worked on so far. Your conversation on What's Essential podcast was brilliant. I loved that. And I have been myself.
[01:08:29] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you.
[01:08:30] Greg McKeown: Changed by it. I have not been terrible at networking in my life, but I found the conversation we had, I'm like, oh yeah, but I, that's not the same as having a system for it.
[01:08:41] That's the difference. And in fact, I would say that — sort of the people that know me, normally family, friends, and someone would be like, "Oh yeah, you know, he's great at getting to know people working, even helping other people and so on." But system, once you have a system, it's a whole 10X possibility without actually more effort going into it, it's been a real game changer.
[01:09:00] Jordan Harbinger: I'm glad to hear that. And for those of you who are listening and wondering what he's talking about. He's talking about the six-minute networking thing that I talk about in every episode of this show, jordanharbinger.com/course. Thanks for letting me plug my own thing, organically. That's cool. That's cool.
[01:09:14] Greg McKeown. Thank you so much.
[01:09:18] I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that, I wanted to give you a quick bite of the episode I did with Mark Cuban of Shark Tank and Dallas Mavericks fame. Mark gives advice to entrepreneurs and founders in these uncertain times, tells us how he stays on top of trends in technology, and how the US can compete with China.
[01:09:36] Mark Cuban: When everybody's afraid, the best way to deal with it is by coming together. It certainly seems a lot bigger than anything we've seen, you know, in my lifetime. And the combination of the protests and looting and the pandemic, all of these things combined together to make for really uncertain times. And when people are uncertain about their future, that's why people rebel. Martin Luther King said "Rioting is the voice of the unheard," and the only surprise is that it's taken this long.
[01:10:03] Kaepernick didn't even bring the focus to himself. You know, he just happened to be taking a knee and somebody caught him with a phone camera.
[01:10:10] Jordan Harbinger: What would you have done in that moment, at that time? If he were your player, how would you have handled that?
[01:10:15] Mark Cuban: I'd hug him.
[01:10:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:10:16] Mark Cuban: Yeah, absolutely.
[01:10:18] Jordan Harbinger: If you were president, how would you improve race relations?
[01:10:21] Mark Cuban: I mean, I'd hug a few people.
[01:10:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:10:23] Mark Cuban: You know, I'd walk out there and listen. I'd take advice. I wouldn't think I had all the answers.
[01:10:28] Jordan Harbinger: This piece you wrote, "Dear white people, we're the ones that need to change," this is probably controversial. I would imagine you get some blow back from something like that.
[01:10:35] Greg McKeown: A lot of people felt I was calling them out as racist, which I wasn't doing. In order for things to change then people need to take measures and understand, be very self-aware about what's going on with them and how people are living their lives.
[01:10:50] Jordan Harbinger: A lot of people don't seem to have much to look forward to right now. What do you think we should be looking forward to as a nation?
[01:10:55] Mark Cuban: I mean, look, there's no better time ever to start a business than right now because all businesses are effectively going through a reset. And so there's a lot of advantages and with the protests and the riots that gives us just one inkling of hope that maybe we'll make progress. Maybe this time we'll listen.
[01:11:13] Jordan Harbinger: For more with Mark Cuban, including the future of the technology economy, check out episode 362 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:11:22] Always fun here with Greg. A couple of practical things, one, never do more in a day or a week, and you can recover from that day or that week, right? If you do too much work and then you need three days to recover or another day and a half to recover, you're burning out. So, how do you lower that workload? You build in essential work times and breaks. I know that seems obvious in some ways, but many of us borrow from future energy to do work right now. And then we simply never make up that debt. That is a recipe for burnout.
[01:11:48] I learned this the hard way. I forced myself not to go to bed early and sleep later. And that has actually upped to my work quality and quality of life way more than working more ever could have. I used to be the opposite. I used to work until I burned out. Burn the midnight oil. Force a vacation. I'd feel guilty the entire time for not being productive and then get back to work. It was miserable. Speaking of overwork, we also talked about overthinking in this episode. Our episode with Jon Acuff on overthinking is episode 495, and BJ Fogg, the episode on habits that we mentioned is episode 306. That's all going to be linked in the show notes, along with the What's Essential podcast that Greg now does as well on these subjects. So definitely check that out if you're interested in his work.
[01:12:29] Big thank you to Greg for coming on the show. His newest book is called Effortless. Links to his stuff will be in the website in the show notes. Please use our website links if you buy the book. It does help support the show when you use our website links to buy books from Amazon or elsewhere. Worksheets for the episodes are in the show notes. Transcripts are in the show notes, and there's a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. We've also got a brand new clips channel with cuts that don't make it to the show, or just highlights from the interviews you can't see anywhere else. jordanharbinger.com/clips is where you can find it. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or just hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:13:04] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships, using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you get thirsty. Most of the guests on the show subscribe to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you.
[01:13:21]This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when he finds something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who is burning the candle at both ends, overworked, looking to figure out some focus, share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode of this show. Please do share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:13:58] Hey, a lot of you asked me which podcasts I recommend, which ones I listened to. One I've been catching, for quite a while now actually, is The Prof G Show. It's Scott Galloway. You've heard him on the show at least twice now. He's just an awesome guy. I really think he's an amazing thinker. He's really a great speaker. He's got great advice. He's just a guy that I think — I aspire to be like this guy, when I grow up, if I ever grow up. That's up in the air right now. I love The Prof G Show. You can find it in any podcast app. He's got office hours where he gives advice if that sounds familiar. It's usually business stuff or career stuff. He also talks a lot about the tech market, the way the economy is going to be post-COVID. It's a really interesting show that always gets me thinking. And he's just a funny entertaining personality. So go ahead and check out The Prof G Show in any podcast app or go to section4.com and you'll find The Prof G Show right there.
[01:14:50] And special thanks to Hyundai for sponsoring this episode.
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