Asking the “Essential” Questions …

Focus 2

Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, is a master at getting to the point of things and he has a real knack for asking the right questions to challenge us our of our ruts.  

My current favorite quotes from his excellent book are these little mash-up gems:

“When we don’t know what we’re really trying to achieve, all change is arbitrary … How will we know when we are done?”

followed closely by:

What is the obstacle that, if removed, would make the majority of all other obstacles disappear?

(Essentialism, pg. 190)

To whet your appetite further, the link below leads you to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) interview with Greg in which he explains some of the things that get in the way of focusing on what is really important:

The Emotional Boundaries You Need at Work – Greg McKeown – Harvard Business Review.

Note:  You will probably need to sign in with HBR to read this article.  They are a trusted source, so my advice is to do so, if you are not already a member of their online group.

Enjoying a book more than I thought possible in the Heartland ….



Greg McKeown writes, teaches, and speaks around the world on the importance of living and leading as an Essentialist. He has spoken at companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn,, Symantec, and Twitter and is among the most popular bloggers for the Harvard Business Review and LinkedIn Influencer’s group. He co-created the course, Designing Life, Essentially  at Stanford University, was a collaborator of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Multipliers and serves as a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum. He holds an MBA from Stanford University.
Image:  via
Related Links:
Priorities (The Strategic Learner) 
Keep It Simple (The Strategic Learner) 

Three Good Reasons to Say “I Have A Question …”

QuestionsI have this reputation for asking questions …

… in public forums where important issues are being discussed.

… in classes, usually right after a student comment or the end of a team presentation.

… when I am listening to one of my children explain things to me.

… during conversations with old friends, professional acquaintances, and total strangers while chatting in the check-out line.

Maybe I’m just a curious guy … but maybe there is more to this …

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Fail Well, Fail Often …

File:Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895.jpg“Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.”

George Eliot


Well, what do you think? …

Are we better for having struggled for a while, but ultimately failing in our endeavors?

This saying seems to show that our honor require that we attempt something for a time, before admitting defeat and retiring from the field.  I have labored long on some tasks, only to finally lose.  The question I have to ask myself is “Was this worth the time, even though I did not meet my goal”.

Some folks might say that the answer to that question involves the ability to show that we have learned and are better for it … some folks are probably right on.

How do you determine when your striving is “good enough to be called a failure?”

we are often told that failure is a bad thing and we should just work harder when we run into difficulties.  Sometimes that advice is helpful and we are able to move past a temporary “bump in the road” on the way to ultimate success.  Sometimes we are just prolonging our agony and spending time, money, and emotion on something that was not meant to be.

Of course, the trick is to know when your failure is “good enough” that you can quit and apply the learning to another task.

What constitutes “long perseverance”?

I have endured seconds of agony that seemed to last for hours, while my children’s lives seem to flash by at supersonic speed.  The word “long” is one of those relative words … your “eternity” may be my “heartbeat”.  How to decide the mark at which point you fold your cards and say “I’m out” is not clear or easy to do.

One thing is sure:  If you start to feel like you have tried for too long, you still have a little more distance to travel.  We feel like quitting before we should quit.


So failing is not the end, unless we let our failures define us.  As long as we learn from those failures and apply our learning to the next task, we have not ultimately failed.  As always, how you navigate the waters of failure to still struggle on and up is deeply personal to you and your experiences.


… What do you think of all this?  Solid or all wet?    Short-sighted or reflective?  Short view or long view?


Just trying to make sense out of the words in the Heartland ….



“How to Capture Attention and Establish Trajectory” via Dan Rockwell

The Leadership Freak once again adds to our knowledge by admitting he waited to add to his own.  Great little essay about the value of questions and some different ways of thinking about how to use that power:

How to Capture Attention and Establish Trajectory.

One Little Acorn …

Acorn Eating SquirrelThe creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

… of course, you still have to plant and nurture that acorn for quite a while.

What acorns are you holding right now?

What might they grow into being?

What do you need to do to make this happen?

Reviewing my small collection of nuts and dreams, and planning hard in the Heartland ….