Home > NewsRelease > Greg McKeown — How to Master Essentialism (#355)
Greg McKeown — How to Master Essentialism (#355)
Tim Ferriss - Productivity, Digital Lifestyles and Entrepreneurship Tim Ferriss - Productivity, Digital Lifestyles and Entrepreneurship
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Francisco , CA
Wednesday, January 09, 2019


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

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

Please enjoy!

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

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

This podcast is brought to you by Peloton, which has become a staple of my daily routine. I picked up this bike after seeing the success of my friend Kevin Rose, and I’ve been enjoying it more than I ever imagined. Peloton is an indoor cycling bike that brings live studio classes right to your home. No worrying about fitting classes into your busy schedule or making it to a studio with a crazy commute.

New classes are added every day, and this includes options led by elite NYC instructors in your own living room. You can even live stream studio classes taught by the world’s best instructors, or find your favorite class on demand.

Peloton is offering listeners to this show a special offer. Visit onepeloton.com and enter the code TIM at checkout to receive $100 off accessories with your Peloton bike purchase. This is a great way to get in your workouts, or an incredible gift. Again, that’s onepeloton.com and enter the code TIM.

This podcast is also brought to you by WordPress, my go-to platform for 24/7-supported, zero downtime blogging, writing online, creating websites — everything! I love it to bits, and the lead developer, Matt Mullenweg, has appeared on this podcast many times.

Whether for personal use or business, you’re in good company with WordPress, which is used by The New Yorker, Jay Z, Beyonce, FiveThirtyEight, TechCrunch, TED, CNN, and Time, just to name a few. A source at Google told me that WordPress offers “the best out-of-the-box SEO imaginable,” which is probably why it runs nearly 30% of the Internet. Go to WordPress.com/Tim to get 15% off your website today!

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

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Greg McKeown:

Website | Twitter


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


Posted on: January 9, 2019.

Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.

Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.

Author, Princeton University Guest Lecturer
Random House/Crown Publishing
San Francisco, CA
Other experts on these topics