Greg McKeown is the founder of McKeown Inc, a company whose mission is to teach people essentialism worldwide. Mckeown is an accomplished public speaker with many high profile clients who entertains audiences from Bulgaria, Canada, China, and beyond. He’s also the author of the New York Times best-selling book, Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, and his writing has been covered by Fast Company, Ink Magazine, and Harvard Business Review.

In this ON Purpose episode, he sat down with Jay Shetty and discussed the critical aspects of essentialism and how you can apply them to your life, making it as effortless as possible to do what really matters. 

New Beginnings

While attending law school in the United Kingdom, McKeown found himself facing a moment of truth. He stared at a piece of paper with the question, “What would you do if you could do anything?” and realized he had not written “law school” as an answer.

Instead, McKeown longed to write and teach. Unable to put that question out of his mind, McKeown decided to call and talk to his parents.

It wasn’t an easy call to make. McKeown’s parents had invested a lot of time, money, and effort into his law school education. They had encouraged him to attend law school his whole life. His mom answered his call and listened before telling him that he needed to talk with his father.

His father’s advice changed his life, “Son, do what we’ve always told you. To thine own self be true. Choose what is right. Let the consequences follow.”

It was the answer McKeown had hoped for. “I want to become more of who I really am and less of who I really am not,” he told Jay Shetty. ”Particularly around my sense of mission in life.”

That little seed of advice from his father has governed McKeown’s life from that day forward.

“It was about being careful not to let non-essential pursuits, even good pursuits, keep you from what it is you’re here to do,” he shared with Jay Shetty. “There is such a pathetically short period of time left for all of us. You don’t have time for doing what other people are doing just because they’re doing it or just following opportunities just because they’re good. Instead, try to find that particular message, that particular path, that you’re supposed to be on.”

Straddle Strategy

Living a life guided by the expectations of others can leave you feeling unfulfilled. Giving yourself permission to follow your heart and find your purpose is something that most people are scared to do. Instead they settle, and their passions take a backseat to others’ expectations.

When you try to walk both paths, you will never make significant progress in either direction. You straddle both, never fully committing to one or the other.

“It’s about trying to discern the difference between the path you’re supposed to be on and the parallel path you’re on right now,” McKeown explained to Jay Shetty. “A parallel path never meets the essential path.”

When you seek internal clarity, you can have honest conversations with yourself and others about the path that leads to your purpose.

“That clarity can build to the point that you have a lot of courage,” McKeown explained to Jay Shetty. “When you get enough clarity around what matters most to you, you’ll have the strength to be able to say no to other things. You can have a conversation, a negotiation, and if necessary, perhaps a disagreement, where you can say, ‘Okay, you want this, but I can tell this is the right path, so I’m going to do it.’”

Three Tips for Finding Success

Setting out on a path to success is one thing. Finding success is another. McKeown shared his best ideas for finding success with Jay Shetty.

First, seek out successful people. Make a deliberate point to connect with people who succeed in the area you desire to be in. Let your intentions be known, and gain as much knowledge from them as you possibly can. Take in all the trade tips and tricks and figure out how to apply the best practices to your craft. 

Start immediately. Do not wait for others to give you permission to start. Do not second guess your decisions. Begin immediately. Take the wisdom you gained, apply it to your pursuit, and jump in with both feet.

Have the courage to fail. Allow yourself some grace. Be okay with the idea that not everything you do in the beginning is going to be perfect. Allow a little bit of rubbish each day – it will help you to become better at what you are doing. Be patient as you wait for your greatness to emerge.

Being Productive in Your Day

Waking up with too much to do in your day is not a bad thing. It means you have a purpose. How you go about being productive in your day is what will steer you toward it being successful.

“It has got to be a choice you make every day,” McKeown told Jay Shetty. “It becomes a habit. You don’t have to think about it. It becomes a routine.”

Having a routine to start your day allows you to get in the mindset to tackle the day. Organize your goals into long-term and short-term goals, and prioritize which you are going to complete first.

Jay Shetty agrees, explaining that he approaches each week by asking himself what he can do to make the week a good week. He never wants to get everything done on his to-do list and feel dissatisfied.


When you permit yourself to stop trying to do everything and say yes to everyone, you can put your time and energy into the things you are passionate about.

“It doesn’t mean doing less for the sake of less,” Mckeown explained to Jay Shetty. “It’s about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy to operate at the highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”

When we overextend ourselves, we under invest our time and energy in the areas that matter the most. Organize your priorities and invest your time and energy into the things that are at the top of your list.

Just as Greg McKeown and Jay Shetty discuss, no one wants to get to the end of their life and realize they didn’t do the things that mattered. When you strip things down to your life’s essential areas, you’ll live every day doing what matters. You direct your days. You don’t live life by default.

The Practice of Anchoring

When it comes to forming a lifestyle that allows Jay Shetty to live a life of highest contribution, he attributes the success to a practice called anchoring, created by behavior scientist, BJ Fogg, and popularized in his best-selling book, Tiny Habits. This practice enables him to create structure and habits.

“I believe that any new habit you want to create needs to be anchored around a stable habit, Jay Shetty shared with McKeown. “I always eat at the same time every day. It’s something that’s very regulated in my life.”

Utilize your life routines to help set aside time to do the things that matter. Meditate, call family – whatever is important to you. The habits you already have established allow you to intertwine practices that help you achieve the purposeful life you desire.

Three Practices of Essentialism

McKeown bases his life on the three practices of essentialism:

“It is the small things that make the biggest differences,” Jay Shetty said. “Life is made up of all of these tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny moments. And you know how we feel in a day affects how that week goes, how we feel in a week affects how that month goes, and how that month affects a year. And so it’s so important that we don’t underestimate these things.”

When you peel back the layers of life to reveal a stripped-down version of yourself, you can start to find some clarity in the world around you. The integral aspects of your purpose will reveal themselves when you follow essentialism’s three practices, explore, eliminate, and execute.

When you wake up each day with a disciplined pursuit of what is essential and ask yourself what is important now, you will continue to adapt to whatever situations and circumstances come your way.

“Essentialism is not about doing more things. It’s about doing more of the right things,” McKeown told Jay Shetty.

More From Jay Shetty

Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “Essentialism and Doing Less to Get the Most Out of Your Life” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at

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