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VNM Virtual Book Club | January: Community Forum

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Welcome to the VNM January Book Club Forum

We’ll use the comments section of this post to share our reflections, thoughts, and stories from reading the month’s book, Essentialism. I’ll be updating this post every Monday with my favorite quotes & thoughts and I’m excited to hear from you!

The January book is my top recommendation when people ask. I read it at least once a year and I am so excited to finally have a group of people to read it with! So, let’s dive in…


Guidelines for sharing:

  • You can share at any time. You don’t need to wait for my updates. The space is open and here at any time of day for you!

  • Keep it clean & kind. Racist, homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic, sexist, etc. comments will not be tolerated in this space.

  • No Unsolictied Advice. If someone is sharing vulnerably about their experience with a book, that is not an invitation for unsolicited advice. If you have something to offer you can ask first, but that ask must be paired with a willingness to receive no as a response.
    Intention is not important here, it’s the impact of what you say that matters.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Week One

Well, I’m sitting here writing this unexpectedly from San Francisco. Daren got a last minute job in New York City, so Daelu and I took off for our first solo adventure. After a long day of travel, we’re here in SF.

Since I’m solo this week, I’m just starting with my favorite quotes from week 1. I have a lot more to say about why I love these pieces and how they’ve been with me over the years since I first read this book, but for now we’ll start here:

  • “How many times have you resented committing to do something and wondered, ‘Why did I sign up for this?” How often do you say yes simply to please? Or to avoid trouble? Or because “yes” had just become your default response?”

  • “The way of the Essentialist isn’t about setting New Year’s resolutions to say “no” more, or about pruning you in-box, or about mastering some new strategy in time management. It is about pausing constantly to ask, Am I investing in the right activities?”

  • “The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things.”

  • “…sunk-cost bias: studied have found that we tend to value things we already own more highly than they are worth and thus that we find them more difficult to get rid of. If you’re not quite there, ask the killer question: “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it?” This usually does the trick.

  • “Essentialism is about creating a system for handling the close of our lives. This is not a process you undertake once a year, once a month, or even once a week, like organizing your closet. It is a discipline you apply to each and every time you are faced with a decision about whether to say yes or whether to politely decline. it’s a method for making the tough trade-off between lots of good things and a few really great things. It’s about learning how to do less but better so you can achieve the highest possible return on every precious moment of your life.”

  • “What do I feel inspired by? and What am I particularly talented at? and What meets a significant need in the world?”

  • “As Peter Drucker said, “People are effective because they say ‘no,’ because they say, ‘this isn’t for me.’”

  • What is schools eliminated busywork and replace it with important projects that made a difference to the whole community? What if all students had time to think about their highest contribution to their future so that when they left high school they were not just starting on the race to nowhere?

  • Mary Oliver “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?”

  • There are deeply entrenched assumptions we must conquer to live the way of the Essentialist: “I have to,” “It’s all important,” and “I can do both.”

  • To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.”

  • For too long, we have overemphasized the external aspect of choices (our options) and underemphasized our internal ability to choose (our actions). …Think about it this way. Options (things) can be taken away, while our core ability to choose (free will) cannot.

  • When we forget our ability to choose, we learn to be helpless. Drip by drip we allow our power to be taken away until we end up becoming a function of other people’s choices - or even a function of our own past choices. In turn, we surrender our power to choose.

  • What is the most valuable result I could achieve from this job?

  • The overwhelming reality is: we live in a world where almost everything is worthless and a very few things are exceptionally valuable. As John Maxwell has written, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

  • A Nonessentialist approaches every trade-off by asking, “How can I do both?” Essentialists ask the tougher but ultimately more liberating question, “ Which problem do I want to solve?” An Essentialists makes trade-offs deliberatel. …As Economist Thomas Sowell wrote: “There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.”