Getting to the Essence

On Friday July 13 the first meeting Rotary LA5’s 110th year began with a bang – that is, the bang of the gavel marking the tenure of Erick Weiss, our new President. The meeting began with an inspiring song by Laura Dickenson backed-up with a talented dance troop from Erick’s long time business colleague and friend, Doug Johnson of Entertainment Plus Productions, and sponsored by Rotary 5 members Michael Hart, Joshua Mandel and Ben Harati. Then after some Erick inspired hoopla, the club heard from author Greg McKeown who wrote the best-selling book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

Mr. McKeown opened his presentation by asking “What would you do if you could do anything?” The premise relates to the underlying question, why do so many successful organizations and individuals not stay successful? He compared this to our closets at home. What is in it – how long have some things been in there, and how many of those things do we no longer need or use, for any of many reasons!

Like a closet, we accumulate things over time and some which were once useful still are but many are not. We need to get to the essence of what is most important and useful to continue in our lives. He explained it isn't about getting more done in less time, but about doing only the right things, what is essential.

From his work with corporations and organizations, he noted that as success starts to slip away, there is a pattern consisting of three phases, and once discerning and addressing it, successful outcomes can be regained.

The first phase is clarity, where the individual or organization dedicated themselves to the right things at the right time. That is, a main mission or purpose was pursued with focused attention. Phase two is success itself, reaching goals and then perhaps extending beyond them to the next phase, options/ opportunities. It is about this phase that Mr. McKeown sounded the alarm as here is where people begin the “undisciplined pursuit of more,” leading to chaos and loss of success. The focus of the main mission has given way to multiple pursuits, clouding and diffusing the clarity of the initial undertaking. His solution is to review the essentials of the mission, prioritize and return to it, stripping all that is non-essential. That may not be easy, like cleaning out the closet, but the rewards are success and not having to do it all, yet having all of what can be had from those specific pursuits.

He concluded by suggesting that we each ask ourselves, what is the best use of me, and will what I am doing matter in the future? The answers to those questions should illuminate the essence by which we can achieve personal or organizational success. And finally, he urged each of us to Be an Essentialist!