Episode 23

#023 - Finding Your Essential Intent in 2021

Published on: 11th January, 2021

Do you ever feel like you are just reacting to life? Most of us are caught in the success paradox, we become successful through taking on more responsibility over time, but those tasks just keep piling up, spreading us thin like peanut butter.

Today Robert, Igor, and Charles talk about finding your Essential Intent in 2021 in order to give you greater clarity in your personal and professional life, as well as equip you to fight the success paradox.

The two things holding us back from finding our essential intent are:

  • We are doing too many non-essential things
  • We are not clear about what is essential

We also cover several topics around the idea of essentialism and doing your best work:

  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
  • Time Block Planner by Cal Newport
  • The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield

Thanks for joining us today and don't forget to hit the subscribe button or reach out at [email protected]. We'd love to hear your thoughts on your Essential Intent and how it is guiding your actions in 2021.

Transcript

Charles Knight 0:07

Sup, guys. Hey,

Robert Greiner 0:08

how are you?

Charles Knight 0:09

I'm good. I'm feeling excited.

Robert Greiner 0:11

Yeah. Is it because Slack is back up or for another reason?

Charles Knight 0:17

e getting together to chat in:

Yeah. Like, it felt like you're getting back from, you know, vacation to school. And instead of your regular teacher, there's a substitute teacher, and they just roll out the TV cart. We're just gonna watch TV this class. And you're like, Oh, yeah, this is why I came back. So coming back to slack being down felt like that, it brought me back to that sort of feeling. So I was all positive about it.

I thought I didn't quite follow you until the end

Igor Geyfman 0:56

There's no deeper meaning here.

It was just, I get to not use slack for a couple of hours on Monday morning.

Robert Greiner 1:02

Normally, I would be totally fine with that. And I think I mentioned to you before, I'm not a huge fan of slack, mostly because it's difficult for me to get actionable things into OmniFocus. And make sure I don't let stuff fall through the cracks. And I've done some things like use Zapier to when I start something, sends it OmniFocus, things like that. But really, it's one of those things that is been a bit of a hassle to work around. And so when it was down, I was thinking, Okay, that's good. But we had a bit of a crisis on one of our clients and needed some support. And a lot of our internal systems and processes rely on slack collaboration to get things done. And so stuck while slack was down, it was a little bit frustrating.

Igor Geyfman 1:44

You write about Slack, though, being hard. Because if I can think of things falling through the cracks, let's say over the last year, that's always Slack related. It's always me reading a message, then moving on to something else, because I have to move on to it. And then that message never got recorded. And then three days later, I'll be like, Oh, I'm gonna dm this person, then I'll be like, holy cow. I totally did not respond to this person in time. So it does create awkward situations in a way that I think other communication modes don't.

Charles Knight 2:17

Yeah, makes me wonder, getting this a little closer to the topic, I wanted to discuss with you all, how essential Slack has become in our work lives. And it was definitely a big part of my work life pre pandemic. But I think yeah, it's probably crept up in terms of essential communication, not as my primary preferred mode of communication, but certainly, for my teams. Like the best way for people to get ahold of me, asynchronously, you know, not face to face real time is through slack. And so it has become essential. And that's actually what I want to talk to you all about today, is a book called Essentialism. And I know we all know about this book. But Igor, have you read this book? Actually, by George? No. Greg McCown.

Igor Geyfman 3:14

Yeah, I have probably about 2 years ago.

Charles Knight 3:17

Okay. And, Robert, have you read this book, just a level set here?

Robert Greiner 3:21

s this thing was published in:

Charles Knight 3:33

My entree into this book. And this topic of essentialism is through a podcast episode that I listened to. It was an interview with Greg McCown. And that's kind of how I got into this thing. And there was a quote, either in it, or that he said, that really resonated with me, and I wanted to share it with you all and get your reactions to it.

Robert Greiner 3:55

to talk about, first week of:

Charles Knight 4:00

Yeah. So here it is. Here's the quote, if you don't prioritize your life, someone else will.

Robert Greiner 4:07

Absolutely 100% agree with that.

Charles Knight 4:09

If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will. And when I was trying to think about how do I try to distill what essentialism is about, the one word that came to mind is priorities. And I felt like that quote, really summarized the purpose of the book. And I think, essentialism. And here's the subtitle for people that don't know the book, The disciplined pursuit of less. And I think that's really important to pair with essentialism, because the disciplined pursuit of less, to me has the same feeling as the pursuit of happiness. It's like this ongoing thing. There is no final destination, you will not arrive at happiness. You will not arrive at what is most essential. It's a discipline pursuit, right? It's an ongoing effort. It's a journey, if you want to call it that. And to me essentialism is about finding out what is most important in life. And I wanted to get you'alls reactions to that and thoughts on what does essentialism mean to you based off of what you've read and how you've practiced it, and things like that.

Igor Geyfman 5:22

I read that book couple years ago. And what I found really fascinating is that sometimes I feel like I read books at a perfect time. And it wasn't so much about essentialism for me. I tend to be decent at that sort of thing, through years of practice, and now it's just instinctual. What was great as I had a client, at that point, who was trying to do everything, for everybody, and they were thinking about their product this way. And the book gave me really great vocabulary, and a framework to help walk them through doing less, which was paramount for them to be successful. And, and then I've employed the methods in that book now with clients several times, because it does seem like a pattern that people want to do more. They want to do different things. They want change things to progress, but they never seem to take anything off their plate. And so just adds to a pile. And then other people add to that pile too. And then it becomes unfocused, unmanageable and destined to not succeed. And so that was really my initial experience with that book and how I applied it. And I really thought it was quite brilliant.

Charles Knight 6:43

Yeah, there's one thing that Greg McCown talks about which Robert, maybe I can get reactions to this. He calls it the success paradox. And it's interesting when people asked him why he wrote the book, one of the answers that he said is that, hey, there's a lot of books out there about how to become successful. He said, there's not a lot of books out there about what to do when you are successful. And that's what essentialism is. And Igor, you were hitting on I think what he was talking about here, where, because you are successful, you have way more things that you could do, than you can do. You have way more opportunities to do whatever the heck you want. Because you have achieved some degree of success. I'm not going to try to define what that success means. But when I heard that, like the success paradox, it's like, the more successful you are, the harder it is to do the essential things because you keep taking on these things that you want to do. But also you keep taking on things other people want you to do, because they see that you're successful. And, Robert, I don't know if you have any reactions to that. I see you nodding your head here.

Robert Greiner 7:56

Yeah, I definitely have a reaction to that the idea of intentionally doing less is time honored and works across really anything. If you look at the life changing Magic of Tidying Up Marie Kondo, she's got her own Netflix special. One of the first things they do is they just throw bunch of stuff out, trying to unclutter your house in your space, Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares. Most of the time, what they do is they come in, they delete half the stuff off the menu of failing restaurants. And it's a focus on these things, hit a hit a home run on the things that really matter that are really core, you don't need 10 pages of menu, you need to do 10 things really well, not 100.

Igor Geyfman 8:33

But Robert, our customers love those menu items, they come in here specifically for that. And every day they're in here, ordering those,

Robert Greiner 8:41

Which could be true, which could be true, but the fact is, you can't cook them all effectively. So if you give someone their favorite dish, which you would normally have to delete from the menu, but you cook it poorly, who cares, right, then there's gonna have a bad experience and never come back.

Igor Geyfman 8:54

And also, you're failing

to have Gordon Ramsay come in here. And

Robert Greiner 8:58

cus on as you're heading into:

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I think I want to take a little bit of a step back, because I like how you tied this back to productivity systems. Because remember, essentialism is about how you prioritize. And that absolutely plays into your productivity system. I want to touch on a little bit why I think we as leaders, and we, as individuals, need to care about finding the priorities here. And because I think I may take this for granted. So I want to the reason why I care about prioritizing, is because I want to be more successful than I currently am. Like, that's just probably an innate part of my personality. Yes, I may have achieved a certain level of success, however I define it. And maybe you have to, I want to be more successful. And for me, success is not just getting promoted, although that's part of it. I like getting promoted. I like the recognition. I like the monetary incentive that provides. But I also like the larger impact that I can have on our organization, on our clients, on our communities. And I can only do those things, if I focus on what is essential. And so that's like, why this is important. It's not because I just want to get a lot of stuff done. It's because I see this being the primary thing that can hold me back from having the the impact that I want to have in the world. And but I don't know, you know, what's the phrase here? attack that assumption, right? Is that a valid assumption is do you think that's true of all people? Like all people want to be successful? No. Okay.

Robert Greiner: thinner. And it's there's the:

Charles Knight:

and I will, I would say I do. And I would rephrase that last part that you're saying is that even if you don't have aspirations, like I do, like I was describing to have a bigger impact in the world, recognize that this success paradox does impact your work life balance, being stretched too thin means you're stretched too thin across work, at home, in the community, like with your kids, it's across the board. And success for you might be how do I achieve more work life balance, because I think everybody wants that. I would hope everybody wants that. I want that for everybody.

Igor Geyfman:

I think everybody wants to make progress and develop their competency in something they care about. And, Charles, I think, for you that might be expressed in this idea of making progress at the job, because of various factors. Some people might want to be a better parent, better Deacon at their church, Better Call of Duty player, who knows. But I think the need to progress the need to build higher and higher levels of competency. I feel that's pretty universal human thing. Unless there's, obviously, there's certain things that get in the way of that, right. Someone who's depressed, for example, may or may not be driving towards competency at that point in time, because they're not able to make that choice. But I think for the most part, people want to make progress and want to be competent.

Charles Knight:

Let's get down to,

I think, what, again, I was trying to distill down what I knew about this, what are the two things that are holding people back from achieving work life balance being more successful? And I think both of you touched on these things. Two things, pretty simple. I think, one, we're doing way too many unessential things. Like we've got too many unessential things on our plate. And the second one is, we are not clear on what is essential to us. And this goes back to that quote that I started with, if you don't prioritize your life, someone else will. And it's speaking to that. It's even if you recognize that it's like, have I always known what I want to prioritize? No, like, I've had to work on that. And so that's what that second thing is, I think, or maybe that's what has helped me. So can God Robert,

Robert Greiner:

can I repeat those. So you have too many unessential things on your plate, which divides your mind, share and saps your energy and ultimately, doesn't keep you from doing the things that you need to be doing? And then the root cause of that, I think is what you were saying as the second one, which is you don't know what is essential so that you can make those decisions? Is that what you're saying?

Charles Knight:

Yeah,

I don't know if it's root cause I think you can have both of these in parallel. I don't think there there's a causal connection here.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, they do seem more like first order problems, though. Because what went into my head whenever you ask the question, when you said there were two things, I was thinking, you know what, with our leadership responsibilities that we have at work, I've been guilty of this tons of times in the past, where I pick what I want to work on, because it's fun or interesting, or I'm good at it. But it's not what's needed. It's not what's essential. And you don't you just sign up for all of that work, all the support that goes along with it, all that distraction and churn when it would have been better if someone else did it, or if maybe if it wasn't done at all, but you thought it was cool. So you just opted into it. But I think that falls into the second one you said which is there's a lack of understanding or acknowledgement or opting into the fact that you don't know what's essential, or you choose not to do what's essential. It's like, you know, flossing, it's important. Exercise. It's important. Some people choose not to do it, though, right?

Charles Knight:

Yeah.

Robert Greiner:

I'm not sure if that's, is that a in line with what you're typing?

Charles Knight:

I

think so. Yeah, I think so. on that second one, though. It's okay. We're not really clear on what is essential. There's, I have maybe a paradoxical statement to it. I believe that because I felt that it's I'm not sure what is essential to me in my life right now. Sometimes I've had great clarity, other times not. But there's a caveat to this, or there's a another line to this. I think, though, even if we don't know, and we're not clear on what is essential, I believe, deep down intuitively, we know what is essential.

Robert Greiner:

Let me dig on that. So I think we feel it in the form of tension. Sometimes though, it requires some work or discussions or collaboration to get to the point where you can actually articulate that essential ism and those feelings. And so I think yeah, we talked about psychic wake before this is a little bit different, where you're working on something you could be doing a really great job being productive, but you feel that attention that something's not right. And that needs to have some exploration and discussion and unpacking so that you can get to the point where you can articulate what your essential intent is. And I think that's when you're at that point, right? That means you haven't done that exploration but you feel like you are a bit adrift from where you the direction that you should be going.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I agree with you. I think that we know deep down, we have a feeling we need help to elicit what that essential nature is or what that essential intent is. And that's where we can get to some questions that we can ask ourselves to help with that. But before we dive there, I forgot which one of you said this too many unessential things, and not being clear on what is essential. They are deeply related. And I think, you know, y'all were talking about, hey, the first thing that people do is they slash menu items, just like they throw things out, like figure, what can you throw away from your? That's essentially, what are the low hanging fruit on essential things that you're doing? Just stop doing them, there's probably a set of unessential things that you can cut right away. And you could probably just ask yourself, hey, what are some things that you're doing right now that are no longer serving you? Right? If we ask ourselves that, I bet we could rattle off at least three things that we're doing that maybe was valuable six months ago last year, that is just utterly non essential right now. And that's a pretty simple practice to do. But I don't think that gets you all the way there. No, I don't think you can simply cut unessential things. I think you also have to think about what is essential to me right now. Because you're going to get to the point where even after cutting, you're still gonna have too many things on your plate. And you need the motivation to let go of these things that you think are really important and valuable, but unessential, which is why I think you need to be clear on what is your essential intent here? What is the end game that you're striving for? Is that relationship Make sense? Between?

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, did you see the sort of the four part flow, the four pillars of essentialism, from the book

Charles Knight:

Is this like generic concrete, boring inspiration.

Robert Greiner:

So basically, understanding essentialism, which I guess would make sense, if your book is essentialism, then the other three are a little more practical. So explore. So that's the Learn to prioritize and eliminate, which is, you're absolutely right, it's a key component, but won't get you all the way there, it's a good place to start, because you need to start cutting stuff out to create room and space for new stuff. And then there's this sort of execute around doing actually doing the things that you have come to understand are priority and important and you've created space for it, then you actually have that stuff, probably the hardest part, and the most important part, which is actually doing the things that cause the outcomes that are focused, moving you towards those essential outcomes.

Charles Knight:

And you described earlier, an aspect of the eliminate step is Hey, based off of leadership goals, you've got these five big rocks, and you're going to just shed things that you're doing before that no longer contribute or fit into those big rocks. I see that as an elimination step. And

Robert Greiner:

yeah, and I will say, I have two things going for me there one, I've been in our company for nine years. So I have some relationship and reputation capital, where if I drop something right around now, I can mostly just apologize and it would be okay. And then two is I'm willing to get in trouble for stuff. Yeah, I like the home run hitter persona, where you know, if you think of the guy that bats fourth, where they might not be very fast, they might not be able to field can't throw very hard, but they hit a lot of homeruns. And the home run hitter really changes the game or a series of games with one swing of a bat. And so I like that kind of like that idea. But I think your approach, you don't have to do it like I do it. You don't have to do like Charles or Igor does it. But it is one of those things. Definitely do that exploratory exercise to figure out what's important what your priorities are. It's very easy to go and have a conversation with the people around you to say, here's what I think the priorities are based on what I'm hearing. People love that stuff and help confirm. And you can then articulate going back to your point before Charles that'll help remove some tension off your chest. And then it's a matter of doing the things that are aligned with the priorities that you've defined and articulated. So I think if you can't say them, then you're probably not quite there yet.

Charles Knight: is one decision that settles:

Robert Greiner:

I have two so go ahead, Igor.

Igor Geyfman:

Go for ir Robert and I'll

follow up, give you the space.

Robert Greiner: bligatory thinking going into:

Charles Knight:

Thanks for sharing, Robert. Yeah, you have them right at the ready. So is that a result of you being the end of your stuff? You think or no?

Robert Greiner:

Is it just like what you talked about? I feel like some of these episodes we record are perfect timing. I had that underlying low grade tension, like a headache all year. And, you know, but you don't, you haven't like fully brought it into an articulation of Hey, this is wrong, just like the podcast host did. That was great. Like, that's what a great realization to be able to say it out loud. And then when you hear yourself, say it out loud, you're like, Oh, yes, that's it. And so this is a like a thing that I've maybe articulated to myself in the December timeframe, and have put some things in place. I think it's also important not to go like full hog. You have to set your your objectives sufficiently low. Yeah. So they can meet them. And but I'd say I'm making some progress that just one of the things I want to talk about, too, that there's this book called The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. Have you heard of that? He did. Legend of Bagger Vance.

Charles Knight:

Robert.

gave me that book once. Yeah,

Robert Greiner:

I might have. Yeah. So Steven Pressfield articulates, makes real a concept makes concrete a concept called resistance in his book. And it's the thing that keeps you from doing your art, your best work, your art could be fitness, it could be your professional work, it could be getting better relationships with your family, whatever your work is, resistance is what keeps you from doing it. And so I think there's this without the articulation of a once you've articulated your essentialism, your priorities, and then you have to do something about them, I think them you don't just have a feeling that something's off, you know what to do, then it's almost a question of ethics at that point. And so this resistance is the thing that keeps you from doing the stuff that matters. And so you have this weird, unnamed, invisible force working against you, once you have defined what's essential. And that kind of sucks. I think that's why a lot of times if I could add one thing to the two mentioned earlier, is we do a bunch of things that just are busy working, keeps us focused and keeps us you know, entertained or whatever, but it's not the important thing that really matters. And then once you hone in on the important thing that really matters, there's this other force that takes over it that doesn't want to happen.

Charles Knight:

Can I ask a question to try to maybe cut through some of that resistance for you on either of your your things?

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. Yeah, love it.

Charles Knight:

I forgot your Oh wait. Yeah, and You take your pick, you want to talk about physical health or spiritual health,

Robert Greiner:

I'll take the easy route and say physical health because I think that's a little bit more concrete, the formula is more simple.

And here's a question that we can all ask ourselves if we have this kind of epiphany, like, Oh, yeah, this is obviously the essential thing that I have been under investing in. And again, I'm pulling this from the podcast is not my question. He then asked, hey, great, you want to write this book? Robert, you want to improve your physical health? What amount of time daily is needed to no longer feel like you're under investing in your health? So what's a number? Like time day, 30 minutes, 30 minutes? There you go. Although there is resistance, right, there's still resistance, you're really just talking about finding 30 minutes a day. And that I think, once you get there, like quantifying, then you can go back to all of the unessential things that you have on your plate and say, Where can I drop 30 minutes, it's a lot easier when you've got a quantified there versus, gosh, I have all this stuff on my plate, I need to improve my health. I don't know really, I don't really know what to do. But now you've gotten down to I just need to find 30 minutes. And so I think that doesn't solve the problem. But I think it goes a long way to start to overcome that resistance that you're talking about.

Another thing that helps, too, so Cal Newport, one of my professional heroes here, so he wrote deep work, digital minimalism, he has a new book out, which I have right here, the time block planner. So it's like a notebook, I'll put a link in the show notes. And the idea is you scheduled blocks, like your entire day blocks of time. And in the intro, he's basically says, Hey, I got my PhD at MIT, I have two young kids, I have all these publications, I wrote five best selling books. And I don't really work past 530. Like, Oh, my gosh, that's some next level, essentialism, right? productivity, he has overcome all the things we've talked about in this podcast, all the way up to resistance, right. And he even has fitness in there, he maintains his physical health. And he does it because he got to an essential understanding of, in his mind, I fully he says, I fully believe a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. So he's got that baked in. And he blocks his day out his full work day to, you know, basically every hour every 30 minute chunk. And the thing that I think helps with that, it's pretty tedious. I I started looking at that and pulling on my calendar right now, I have needed to pick up something I Emilia school, had a meeting, my first meeting of the day was at nine o'clock, there's a 30 minute window, right in there. And if I schedule out all the other things I need done, I'm actually not free today until 630. And by then it's going to be dinner, I'm not gonna feel like working out after dinner, then the bedtime ritual starts, then I finally get some time with Diana. So I can't really say with any kind of honesty today, on January 5, that I can work out later. And also didn't have an hour or an hour and a half today either. And because sometimes you can trick yourself into you get on the bike or the treadmill put the TV on hour and a half later, you've burned some calories, it's fine. But I need to be focused. And I knew I have to do it this morning, before my meeting after this thing gets picked up. And that helped me because they helped me overcome some of that resistance because I knew good and I would not do it later today. And so today, I did the right thing, did some exercise this morning. All the time. I feel better because of it. But we'll see how if I can keep this up. I don't really feel like that's a resolution per se. But I think that is a practical manifestation of what we're talking about is, which is hey, this is the thing that's important to do right now.

Charles Knight:

And I think you've touched upon a lot of, I think the result of doing too many unessential things. Like we end up getting into this reactionary state. Like we're reacting to our schedule on a daily, hourly, you know, by minute basis. Oh my gosh, what's next? As I'm constantly thinking about what am I going next to. And I think that the antidote to that is to be proactive, obviously. And for me, that's where meditation has actually helped me. It's a practice meditation is just a practice and exercise. It's like brain training, to not get caught up in the events of the day. Whatever happens if somebody says something or computer crashes or break a glass in the kitchen, that is not getting swept up on that is the practice of meditation. And I think what I've learned and there's other practices to be less reactionary for me it's meditation. What that's gained me though, is sometimes there's a glimpse into this. So wait a second. I don't have to just operate day to day, you know, hour by hour. I can actually zoom out take a look at my week overall, and say, You know what, on these dates, I'm going to work out for these 30 minutes, every single week. And those time blocks are sacred. Like they're absolutely sacred. And I will not move them for anything. Because you know, what, 30 minutes is not much time, like in the grand scheme of things. And yes, I schedule it in a way to avoid other essential things, like time with my kids, if I'm going to eat lunch, at their school, I'm not going to do it then. But it's taken me getting to the point where I say, this is so essential, that it is sacred above all else, because I'm a big believer too see vitality is the number one thing that I can invest in, that makes me a better father, son, friend, partner, consultant, whatever. And, yeah.

Robert Greiner:

Let me poke on that though. You've picked vitality. It's a great one, you don't get to do what you just said you did for everything. And so that's a tough decision. Right? It's not so obvious that vitality should be the thing to focus on. And we talked about this, I think last episode, where you know, the core areas of your life, if you look at something like the life wheel, that's an investment portfolio, and you will likely be under invested everything to be going great, you're still you could look at something and it could be better. Maybe those are the things that are essential for you, because they are lagging the most. Or if you're at a point in your career, where you're trying to really step on the accelerator, you double down on your strengths at the expense of everything else. Charles, we talked about this, too, like, we've done that at the expense of vitality, before career over health. We've made that trade tons of times. And maybe that was right, maybe it wasn't. But I think that's where, again, coming back to what's essential for you at this moment in time is so important. Because you could say things like, my health is important. Above all else, maybe it's good enough, though, maybe you do just enough to stay the level of health you need. And that time and energy needs to be spent on relationships, or family or career or whatever. That's a hard decision to make. Because once you do that once, that's your thing, and I don't think you really get a second one. Maybe you get two, certainly not three, and so yet

Charles Knight:

And I will tell you vitality is essential to me. And there is nothing else there is no other time other than good time. Like when I have my kids, that is sacred, everything else, work, friend, all of that stuff is unessential. But it makes it sound bad. But you have to get to that level of clarity and focus because you can't do that for everything you shouldn't. And yeah, I agree. But to me the whole,

Robert Greiner:

You have to be ruthless about it. Right.

Charles Knight:

There's a

the one decision that settles:

Robert Greiner:

and that's really hard for those of us who are achievement oriented. That's a really hard thing to do.

Igor Geyfman:

Just going back to, to your question about the essential bit to me, I think, vitality, number one, there's something that is essential that I've been under investing in. And that's so strange, that's three of us all have a similar answer to that. And, and it doesn't take much, right, maybe 60, even 60 minutes, even 90 minutes a day. Let's say let's say that that's what you're devoting to vitality, because maybe you're including cooking a healthy meal, and a bit of exercise in that it's still not much given the benefit that it bestows.

Charles Knight:

Why do you think, given how obvious and how easy it should be? Why is it so hard? I have an idea, but I wonder if you have a thought.

Igor Geyfman:

I think it's the lack of intentionality, and letting priorities be set for you. You said this earlier as a quote, if you don't set your priorities somebody else will. But it's not one somebody. It's a lot of somebody, it's your boss. It's your partner. It's your colleagues. It's people who report to you. It's the random person that sent you an email this morning and asked you to do something, what's the slack message yet? All those things, they're basically setting their priorities for you. And if you're if you are not applying the discipline of intentionality and essentialism, to your day, it's very easy to let yourself down and I think I think one of the ways that we let ourselves down is by allowing our like lack of non intentional behavior and non essentialism, especially in the vitality area, I think a lot of people feel that we're just a small sample here. So I don't want to extrapolate that to everybody. But I do think it's pretty common. And I'm pretty sure for most people, they are doing their new year's resolutions or whatever people do. Boy, the gyms sure are full on January 1. And the joke is always there, they're always empty by Valentine's Day, it's because you didn't set up a system of intentionality, and thought of it as a consistent practice. So I think, yeah, people just don't act with intention in that area of their life.

Robert Greiner:

And I think part of it too, is the long term nature of health, you can get away with a day or a week of unhealthy behavior, it creeps up on you slowly. In the book, he talks about instead of asking, How can I have both things, I think the example he used was friends and family can have both, and there's a chance you over index on friends, and then your family is shot. And Greg would say to ask, What problem do I want? Would you rather have your family saying, Yeah, Dad never spent time with us or your friends saying I wasn't around as much as it could have been? That kind of thing. And so I think also framing it in that may help with the resistance as well, which is, Hey, I don't want these long term health problems. Charles, we started the discussion today where you took some actions over the break, because you said, hey, maybe this will help with my longevity. That's the thing that you really are prioritizing. And so it's this idea of, and do you want these long term health problems or be able to focus on the near term crisis? Does your widget there's always more work? But there's not always? There are certainly not more hours.

Charles Knight:

I think there's a useful concept here that I use, both with things that are essential, like working out and stuff like that. And with helping me to say no, to myself, and to others, to those unessential things. Because, Robert, I hear you on, it's hard to say no, to almost everything when you're achievement oriented. It's probably it may be equally hard for those people pleasers, to say no to everything, too. And that's what I'm guilty of. I want to say yes. Because I want to help people at the expense of myself often. And so this concept that I've found has been helpful is this idea of minimum effective dose. Have y'all ever heard of that before? It actually comes from like pharmaceutical, like medical field, whenever they do studies, like double blind, placebo controlled studies, part of what they're looking for is what is the minimum effective dose for this treatment, right, whether it's a pill or some sort of intervention, because you want the minimum amount of dose to achieve the effect that you want, because that's how you avoid harmful side effects. Because if you give too much of a medicine, it may solve the problem like lower blood pressure, but it may cause secondary unintended consequences. And so you're trying to find what is the minimum effective dose, I asked myself that,

Robert Greiner:

so maybe I need to be able to run a marathon, right? If you want to votality.

Charles Knight:

I only need 30 minutes, right? Twice a week, as opposed to three hours every single day. And so that, I think that might be a helpful thing to ask, Hey, what is the minimum effective dose? When it comes to friends? Is it like, go out to eat pandemic side, right? go out to eat every single night, go out for drinks every single night? Or maybe it's just like once a week? I think that might be helpful. What What do

Igor Geyfman:

That used to be my minimum effective dose

is drinking with my friends. It's been really hard for the last 10 months to not take that drug.

Charles Knight:

Yeah.

Robert Greiner:

So just if you're listening, Igor and Charles both said something very true, which might not have found a true one is Igor definitely hadn't been his minimum effective dose, his nightly interactions is that much of an extrovert. And then Charles, I did not believe you the first two or three times that you said, some of the actions that you take and things that you do or to benefit those around you above yourself at the expense of yourself. I've seen that from you time and time again. So I know it's true, because I've witnessed it, but I didn't believe it isn't true.

Igor Geyfman:

Because if you know Charles long enough, you you know, that's a very accurate reflection statement.

Robert Greiner:

And I point those two things out because those are, illustrate why how Charles is wired differently than Igor, is wired differently than me. And that's totally fine. You have to come up with your own essential intent first, like personal I think that's very important because if you're out of whack, personally, it's going to that's going to bleed over into professional anyway. But this also applies in your career, as an individual, whatever level you're at, and then with a team and organization, so whatever your sort of sphere of influences. All of this stuff is applicable at every level of granularity. I think it's important, though, to get past that sort of low grade tension, that low grade headache that we talked about and articulate for yourself what those priorities are, you can or you can just take ours, which is.

Igor Geyfman:

Charles, you asked the question like, why is it and I've been giving it a little bit more thought. And I wonder what your reaction to this is. And I don't remember if he talks about this in the book or not, I think it's, I think it can be very much tied to a dopamine addiction. And here's what I mean by that, as requests of you come in via slack via email, whatever it is, you get a ping, you look at it, and you're like, oh, boy, I can resolve that fairly quickly, that can check that off. And it feels really good. Like when you get a request from somebody that needs your help. And you can take just a little bit of time and satisfy that request, they're happy, they're able to make progress in whatever they're trying to do. You've helped them along the way, that's an activity loop that's very alluring, right, it definitely gives you a dopamine hit, right, as much a dopamine hit as grabbing a cigarette out of your cigarette pack and then smoking it, you're just people reach for the next cigarette, some people reach for their next email or the next slack message. And that's dopamine cycle, shortcuts, things that don't have quite as clear, or as Quick Hits, like focusing on your vitality. Obviously, if you're going for a run or getting some exercise, it releases endorphins. And there's other chemicals in play that the body enjoys. But it's just not as quick and it's not as clear cut as doing some unimportant thing, but you get to check it off your list. So just thoughts and something popped into my head, but I'd like to maybe hear your response.

Charles Knight:

And I think you're spot on dude. Think as somebody who has struggled with addiction in my lifetime, that really resonates that and I think it fits what we were talking about before around 99. I was gonna say 99% of the time we operate in a very reactionary mode, whether it's a dopamine spike or not. It's like the thing that I think we have to try to remind ourselves and each other is that it just because you might be able to satisfy that request, right now, it doesn't mean you you need to or you should. And there's a quote here I wanted to share, and where did it go? It was about how do you say no, because it's hard. But let's say you have the mindfulness to look at that slack message. And, and you've overcome the resistance of that dopamine spike that you want to that you can get by satisfying that. Let's say you're able to overcome all of that. And you're in the place where you want to say, No, at that point, it's really hard for me to do that. But I found that if you say no respectfully, like with as much empathy as you can, most people are okay with that. Yeah. And if they're not okay with that, like you've explained your reasoning, you've said it, you've said no respectfully, why do you want to satisfy them in the first place? If they're not willing to respect you and your decision? Are they really somebody that you're wanting to satisfy? And maybe you have to, like, I know, everybody's situation is different. Maybe it's your boss, and your job is on the line, like I get it. But generally speaking, I think most people are open to saying, Hey, I'm sorry, I can't do that. But this is what I can do later. Most people are open to that. I was gonna say a quote here. This is again, from the author. It's not being unhelpful to the world, for you to say no to something that's less important. That's not being selfish. And this speaks to me, with my people pleasing tendency. I feel it's selfish to say no, and this is the part that resonates with me the most. He goes on to say your obligation is to make the highest contribution that you can make to society. That's your obligation, like not every request from every person in this particular moment, that's not my obligation.

Robert Greiner:

Do you feel like people are being selfish when they say no to you? Even though you feel selfish when you say no to other people?

Charles Knight:

No one says no to me.

Igor Geyfman:

You're the apex predator. Nobody says no to you.

Charles Knight:

I'm joking. I'm trying to flex my human muscles right amongst you to

Robert Greiner:

on January 5th

Charles Knight:

I don't think its selfish at all. Not at all. Never have I felt that. Now I'm also surrounded by very good people, high integrity people, and we're lucky to be surrounded by people like that. No, I don't feel that way. Even though I feel that way when I say no to others, it's just helpful for me again, taking the longer time perspective here, that it's okay if I think about the week, the month, my lifetime, if my obligation is to try to maximize my contribution to society. Let me then make a decision. Let me think about that. And then make a decision as to Whether or not I should do this thing, it sounds wild and crazy to think that far out. That doesn't have to be your definition of success. It's just useful to take a broader time horizon view, when you're trying to make a decision in the here and now. Like, I've heard this advice for making purchases, like large purchases, like when you want to buy something, should you impulse buy it? Ideally, maybe you just wait a week? And then do I still want it? Sometimes you wait a week, and you're like, No, I didn't really need it. I didn't really want it either. It was just something on sale that I thought would be fun. And it's just that, that, that dimension of time that we lose when we're so reactionary, that I think if we can gain, we can have more clarity, and we can make better decisions. So if there are no other thoughts from you all, I know, we're coming up on time here. I think I wanted to summarize for our listeners, hey, what are some practical things that that they can do? And I think I would go back to the two things that are holding us back from being more successful from achieving work life balance. We're doing too many unessential things. And we're not clear on what is essential. And I think we can ask ourselves, those simple questions that we did, and say, Hey, what are we doing right now that is no longer serving us that we can just let go of?

Robert Greiner:

And then that other question you asked oto, which was the one that Greg asked in the podcast.

Charles Knight:

Was there something in your life that is essential that you're under investing in? I think those two questions can have probably pretty immediate, at least insights into what you can do to pursue this discipline of what is the subtitle, the disciplined pursuit of less? I think those questions get at that subtitle of the book.

Robert Greiner:

And that's really the scope of what we're talking about today. Which is the articulation of what's important to you. Getting to the point where you can answer those questions, and then you have to do something about it. That's a whole nother scope. But I think getting that clarity upfront for you, personally, for you professionally for your organization, is a really good place to start. Because then you can start building around, you have a concrete problem that can be solved, instead of an ambiguous tension that you that really just forces you into those dopamine hits of quick wins and checking slack and Facebook and all those things, because you don't have that clarity of essentialism.

Charles Knight:

Thanks, guys. Enjoy the conversation.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, thanks, Charles is a good one.

Igor Geyfman:

Thanks, Charles. Thanks.

Robert Greiner: Great to see you in:

Charles Knight:

Yeah, ditto.

Robert Greiner:

Looking forward to the next one. That's it for today. Thanks for joining and don't forget to follow us on Twitter at WannaGrabCoffee or drop us a line at [email protected]

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About the Podcast

Wanna Grab Coffee?
Join us for weekly discussions about careers, leadership, and balancing work and life.
A podcast about all of the topics we discuss during our mid-day coffee breaks. We bring you stories, thoughts, and ideas around life as a professional, leadership concepts, and work/life balance. We view career and leadership development as a practice that spans decades and we are excited to go on this journey with you.