Jodi Morris gives us her take on essentialism, optimism, and why she isn’t afraid of saying no.

“I heard you’re really good at saying no.”

I have to admit, when Barbara Waxman walked up and said this to me, I froze. I pride myself on being an optimist. I think of myself as generous and helpful. Seriously, me? Known for saying no? By the coach I admired and who would lead that evening’s leadership workshop? She continued.
“The group needs to hear why that’s important. Would you mind if I called you up during the workshop to share a story about how saying no makes you better at saying yes?” I smiled–half laughing at my initial reaction, and half delighted at the prospect of sharing a quick story about a belief I’ve turned into a life-changing practice.


I made this commitment to myself after reading Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. His central message is that while most of us believe we should spend our lives doing what is most important to us with the people who are most important to us, we seem to fill our days with tasks, conversations, and activities that matter very little.


Essentialism starts by simply identifying what you truly want to say yes to. It’s feeling empowered to pursue what is essential to you, making the right small choices repeatedly so that at the end of the day you win where it actually matters to you.
Essentialists get comfortable with pausing before answering requests. They see trade-offs as a natural part of life. They don’t ask “what do I have to give up?” but “what do I want to go big on?”


While McKeown is a business thinker and consultant to leading global companies, this isn’t a business book. Essentialism is a personal leadership book. McKeown is honest in sharing his own personal mishaps. He generously shares his strategies for evaluating opportunities and communicating a graceful “no,” and how he carves out space to think, read, write and sleep.


I now proudly call myself an Essentialist. And while I’ll never be perfect, when Barbara requested that I shared a personal story, my response was immediate and enthusiastic– heck, yes!
Look at a Book is a series I’m hosting to help keep you informed about the latest books having to do with adult development and middlescence. The series is an efficient, enjoyable way to stay informed.

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