Essentialism with Greg McKeown

By Greg McKeown, Scratch Audiohouse

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Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin? Felt busy but not productive? Or like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas? I'm Greg McKeown, and welcome to the Essentialism podcast. Through my best-selling book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, I've been fortunate to help many people deliberately distinguish the vital few from the trivial many and then remove these obstacles to create a clear path to accomplishing what matters. The Way of the Essentialist is not about trying to fit it all in - it's about fitting in only what matters. Aspiring essentialists are always asking me for how they can apply these principles to their own lives. They want real examples from real people. This Essentialism podcast is my answer. Every week, we have conversations - sometimes with thought leaders, sometimes with celebrities, and often with people like you and me - to understand what they want to prioritize and help them apply Essentialism to achieve their goals in real life. I answer listener questions and talk about my own experiences as well, as I too am an aspiring Essentialist! You're invited to join us and take an hour or two a week to focus on learning how to put what matters to you first. After all, if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

Episode Date
An Essential Conversation with Derrick Johnson
In this week’s episode, Derrick Johnson (NAACP President and CEO) shares his perspective and experience as a black man in America. Derrick and Greg have a candid dialogue about the current climate and the differences in how they have had to interface with the world. Together, they explore the importance of embracing that which makes you unique and discuss ways we can all be a part of the often uncomfortable, but necessary change. Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Scratch Audiohouse Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Scratch Audiohouse Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Co-Produced by Emma Gladstone and Paul Dizon See for privacy information.
Sep 14, 2020
Ben Bergeron on Defining Success and Chasing Excellence
Former Ironman triathlete turned CrossFit competitor and coach Ben Bergeron (author, Chasing Excellence) shares his perspective on what it takes to obtain ultimate fulfillment and personal success. Ben and Greg discuss the core values and actionable guidelines in creating a winning mindset through an Essentialist path. Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Scratch Audiohouse Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Scratch Audiohouse Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Co-Produced by Emma Gladstone and Paul Dizon See for privacy information.
Sep 07, 2020
An Essential Intervention with Robert Glazer
Robert Glazer (author of Elevate, and founder of Acceleration Partners) and Greg discuss the all too common problem of overworking our physical capacity and the obstacles to prioritizing self-care.  They expand on practical solutions to ensuring a balance between elevated productivity and essential well-being. Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Scratch Audiohouse Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Scratch Audiohouse Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Co-Produced by Emma Gladstone and Paul Dizon See for privacy information.
Aug 31, 2020
An Essential Intervention with Danielle LaGrone
This intervention episode introduces us to Danielle LaGrone — college professor, wife, and full-time mom. Danielle and Greg discuss the struggle in choosing between outward accomplishments in the corporate domain and the type of fulfillment that comes from a life centered around family. They ponder the influence of society and family on creating this false dichotomy and the empowering clarity to determine what is truly essential. Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Scratch Audiohouse Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Scratch Audiohouse Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Co-Produced by Emma Gladstone and Paul Dizon
Aug 24, 2020
Ryan Holiday on A Conviction of Excellence
How exactly does everything from parenting style to ancient literature influence our accomplishments and constant pursuit of more? Ryan Holiday (The Daily Stoic and Stillness Is the Key) and Greg explore the impact of elite-level motivation, discipline, and introspection on finding essential fulfillment in our personal success.  Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Scratch Audiohouse Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Scratch Audiohouse Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Co-Produced by Emma Gladstone and Paul Dizon
Aug 17, 2020
Cal Newport on Unplugging the Static
Cal Newport, author of both Digital Minimalism and Deep Work, shares his research about the inevitable noise of technology and social media in our minds. He and Greg explore practical methods to unplug digitally and cover essential strategies to find deep focus. Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Wheelhouse Entertainment Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Wheelhouse Entertainment Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Co-Produced by Emma Gladstone and Paul Dizon
Aug 10, 2020
An Essential Intervention with BJ Fogg
This intervention episode explores the mind of BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits, and founder of Stanford's Behavior Design Lab. BJ and Greg discuss the challenges of balancing the demand of an ever-busy work schedule and cultivating optimal quality of life. They discuss how the resolution can be achieved by simply applying small changes with an Essentialism approach. Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Wheelhouse Entertainment Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Wheelhouse Entertainment Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Co-Produced by Emma Gladstone and Paul Dizon
Aug 03, 2020
Eve Rodsky on Playing Dysfunctional Games
Eve Rodsky, author of Fairplay, and Greg discuss the age-old universal problem of gender imbalance when it comes to allocating domestic responsibilities. They dive into the toll this has on couples and families, and explore real, essential solutions to rebalance life at home through organizational and time management strategies. Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Patreon: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Wheelhouse Entertainment Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Wheelhouse Entertainment Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Co-Produced by Emma Gladstone and Paul Dizon Edited by Deanna Markoff
Jul 27, 2020
Patrick McGinnis on The Fear Of Missing Out
Patrick McGinnis, creator of the term FOMO, and Greg discuss the anxiety we all sometimes feel, globally known as the fear of missing out. From its roots as a biological response to a term amplified in culture through social media, this episode helps us to understand how to combat this feeling through practical decision making, prioritizing what is essential, and turning FOMO into a positive mindset. Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Patreon: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Wheelhouse Entertainment Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Wheelhouse Entertainment Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Edited by Emma Gladstone, Deanna Markoff, and Paul Dizon
Jul 20, 2020
An Essential Intervention with Nurse Emily Stewart
This special intervention episode takes you through the eyes of a frontline nurse working through a global pandemic. Emily Stewart (National Health Service) and Greg discuss that authentic struggle we can all relate to. Finding the balance between work and family, putting it all on the table, and having something left at the end of the day. They identify real-life, actionable steps we can all take to begin the Essentialist path. Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Patreon: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Wheelhouse Entertainment Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Wheelhouse Entertainment Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Edited by Emma Gladstone, Deanna Markoff, and Paul Dizon
Jul 13, 2020
David Allen on Getting the Right Things Done
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, and Greg discuss the practical ways and key specifics to immediately begin the journey of cutting out what is non-essential, both personally and professionally. They go back and forth on the deeper and visionary elements of why it’s beneficial to focus on doing what matters most. Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Patreon: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Wheelhouse Entertainment Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Wheelhouse Entertainment Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Edited by Emma Gladstone, Deanna Markoff, and Paul Dizon  
Jul 06, 2020
Rachel Hollis on The Montage At The End Of Your Life
Rachel Hollis (CEO of The Hollis Co) & Greg discuss the silver lining of quarantine, taking time to appreciate the things you love, and never being afraid to fail in order to succeed. This powerful episode also touches upon the difficulties of female entrepreneurship, and the importance of living life to the fullest.  Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Patreon: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Wheelhouse Entertainment Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Wheelhouse Entertainment Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Edited by Emma Gladstone and Deanna Markoff  
Jun 29, 2020
Arianna Huffington on What Is Essential Now?
Greg and Arianna Huffington discuss growing up as an outsider, the challenges and silver linings of COVID-19, and the importance of prioritizing your life before you get to a point of burning out. Tune in to hear a new side of Arianna's life, journey, and successes pre-Huffington Post and Thrive Global.  Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Wheelhouse Entertainment Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Wheelhouse Entertainment Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Edited by Emma Gladstone and Deanna Markoff TRANSCRIPT SPEAKERS Arianna Huffington, Greg McKeown   Arianna Huffington  Okay, we've made it work.   Greg McKeown   It's amazing, isn't it? All the steps we need to go through!   Arianna Huffington   The conversation will be the easy part.   Greg McKeown Yeah, exactly. I feel like any learning that any of us have make us experts, because we're all so new at some of these technologies we're using now.   Arianna Huffington  But we kind of love it right? I mean, I never want to go to anything else.   Greg McKeown You're enjoying the changes?   Arianna Huffington Yes.   Greg McKeown   You seem, I know you're literally at home, but you seem at home at home to me?   Arianna Huffington   Yes, I am. I'm at home at home. Let me first of all, though, start by saying how much I love you and your work, and how completely and urgently important more than ever your message is now. And we can discuss that in more depth in our conversation. And yes, I feel that all my life, I have really worked and, sometimes more successfully and sometimes less so, to be connected with something deeper in myself. And at a time like this, we all have to- it's like it's very hard to get through these times, navigate the time of unbelievable uncertainty. And without being connected to a deeper place, centering ourselves, which is a place of strength and peace and wisdom and trust. And nobody that I know lives there all the time, but we all have access to it.   Greg McKeown   You're saying that really these times call forth that kind of reaction within us?   Arianna Huffington   Absolutely. And we need it, it's always important. It's always for me, and at the heart of a good life, you know, of a life that actually focuses on the essentials. But right now, without that the levels of anxiety and stress become really hard to bear.   Greg McKeown   It's like we're all involuntary essentialists now.   Arianna Huffington  Yes, exactly. Those of us who have chosen it are more at home than those on whom this is thrust.   Greg McKeown  Yeah, that that's right. You know, in a crisis, everyone's an essentialist. But those that chose to be essentialist earlier, still have the advantage of being more familiar with this. And there's less disruption in a time of discombobulating disruption.   Arianna Huffington   Exactly, because for so many of us, for most of us, actually, and to some extent for all of us, you know, being busy and living in the shallows and relentlessly and breathlessly going through our to do lists was the way we lived. And it's now very hard to live that way and we will pay a much, much heavier price if we do.   Greg McKeown  I agree with everything that you're saying here. There's something you said earlier about “all through my life,” you said and then “the good life.” And it puts me in mind to a question I wanted to ask, because we could go through the bio right best selling author of Thrive and 14 other books and the founder of Huffington Post and founder CEO now Thrive Global. I could do all of that, but somehow that misses the more important bio; the story. And if you're willing, I'd like to do it in an unusual way. I'd like to do a sort of intergenerational bio. It doesn't have to take that long, but I'd like you just to start me off right at the beginning. And I mean, by the beginning, actually, just tell me about your grandparents.   Arianna Huffington   So, my grandparents were all Greeks and on my mother's side Greeks, from Georgia, in Russia. My mother was born in Greece, and met my father when she was recovering from TB. And he was recovering from having spent the Second World War in a concentration camp in Germany because he was a journalist, and he had been writing against the German occupation. So they came together in this very raw circumstances, and my mother definitely has been the foundation of my existence in every respect. She definitely was an essentialist, Greg, she would have loved you. And she had a real sense of what mattered in life and at a time when I was totally swallowed by everything I was doing, she kept reminding me of her favorite expression, which was "don't miss the moment," and she kept reminding me of what mattered. So that was kind of the way I was brought up. Also, she was the one who always encouraged me to go for my dreams, but always made me feel that if I didn't succeed, it didn't matter. Life is about more than success in material terms. In fact, we have a podcast called Meditative Story and mine is about this pivotal moment when, with her help, I applied to go to Cambridge.   Greg McKeown   Yes. Tell me about that.   Arianna Huffington   Well, it was one of those kind of magical moments when I saw a picture of Cambridge University in a magazine and I told my mother I wanted to go there. And everybody else I said that to said "Don't be ridiculous, you can't go there. You don't speak English. You don't have any money. Even English girls have a hard time getting into Cambridge." But my mother said "Let's find out how you can learn English and how we can get a scholarship." It was an adventure, you know, it was never like we must make that happen. It was like- let's try that and then if it doesn't happen, we'll go on another adventure.   Greg McKeown But she was a believer with you. When this little moment- this sort of revelatory moment, comes to you, this possibility that seemed against all odds was born in you, she supported you.   Arianna Huffington  Yeah the whole point was go for it, and go for it 100%; but with that peace of mind that if you don't get into Cambridge, it's not the end of the world.   Greg McKeown   I'm really touched by that story, surprisingly emotional about it because I had an experience when I was a little older than you were at that time, a couple of years older, and I was with my wife. We'd actually gone to church and somebody there mentioned that they were at Stanford Law School. And that was like, it was like an absolutely crescendo moment for me. I never spoke to them or anything else, but just what if that's where I should go. And that was so unrealistic for me at the time. My GPA did not support that sort of thinking. But it was a material moment, a game changer, yes. It sounds like Cambridge was an early game changer for you.   Arianna Huffington   Yes, exactly. A complete game changer because suddenly I started thinking and writing in English, which, obviously if you want to have a message that resonates with a lot of people, it's hard to do it in Greek.   Greg McKeown   Yeah, that's really true. And also, but I'm now extrapolating here, but also just the sense of possibility. If you can go from Athens to Cambridge, against all odds, then why not the next dream that's put in you? Why not something else that's marvelous? Has it been like that for you?   Arianna Huffington   Yes, absolutely. And also, and just as important, I think, it's not being afraid to take risks, which is what often stops us from going after big dreams. And in a way, you know, when I left the Huffington Post to go back to launching another startup. I mean...   Greg McKeown   Right.   Arianna Huffington   It would have been very easy to say, as a lot of my friends urged me, "Why are you doing that?" You know, "Why do you need to take such a big risk? What if it doesn't work?"  But I think that's what following your heart and seeing an unmet need, which is what so often drives me, means. Yeah, I'll take the risk and so what if I fail? And that takes us back to what is a good life. And that was really the point of Thrive, you know, the book I wrote. In terms of just money and startups, then yes, you are much more reluctant to take risks. But, if you define it in terms of having an impact and constantly evolving and gathering more wisdom, then why not?   Greg McKeown   I love that. I don't think I'd ever made that connection before in the working Tribe. Fill those in, that aren't familiar, with the story that sparked the Thrive book, and then of course, from there, the Thrive movement. Tell us about the story that you begin Thrive with.   Arianna Huffington   So I begin this story with collapsing, two years into building the Huffington Post. A divorced mother of two daughters, I hit my head on my desk and broke my cheekbone. And that was like one of those moments in life that nothing is ever the same again. I'm a bit of a research nerd, so I started researching burnout after I got my own diagnosis; after multiple echocardiograms, and MRIs to see what was wrong with my brain, or my heart, and got the diagnosis- burnout.   Greg McKeown   It's good news and bad news.   Arianna Huffington  Good news and bad news. Actually, I had a great doctor who collected it all. And he said to me: "The good news, it's burnout. The bad news is, it’s burnout. You have to change your life." And that really was just a more revelatory moment because I saw that burnout was a disease of civilization, and that hundreds of millions of people around the world are suffering from it, many with infinitely worse consequences. So many of the chronic, pre-existing conditions that we are now focused on because of their impact on the severity of the corona virus infection, like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, stress, of course, are all so connected to burnout. If you include mental health, we have the data now that shows 90% of chronic diseases and mental health conditions are based on our behaviors. A lot of these behaviors are based on the way we lead our lives in this breathless, stress-induced way where we don't value the basic things, like sleep, like movement, like cultivating mental habits that are focused more on gratitude rather than on anxiety.   Greg McKeown  It's almost like we've been put in timeout right now. The sort of gentle way it's like a mother or father saying to the teenager "Look, you just go to your room and you think about that for a while."   Arianna Huffington   Oh I love that. We've been put on timeout for bad behavior.   Greg McKeown   And there's an opportunity, and maybe it's even more than an opportunity in the sense that it's only if we pick it, it's like, we are going to be changed by this.   Arianna Huffington   Yes.   Greg McKeown   I'm not sure exactly how but the status quo has been attacked, and whatever we do next is going to be different based upon this.   Arianna Huffington  Absolutely. And it's also the Chinese ideogram of crisis and opportunity. I'm taking this breakdown and turning it into a breakthrough. And, you know, what makes me so optimistic, Greg, is that big changes like the one we're going through now never happened with everybody coming along. We only need a critical mass of people and that's how change has always happened. So as long as you have a critical mass of people recognizing that we need to live and work differently, we are going to come out of that in a new normal that is so much more powerful and exactly what humanity needed.   Greg McKeown What does somebody do right now, in your view, to thrive?   Arianna Huffington   Well, right now, what is very important, and I wrote a piece on that, actually, that took your word, about the Coronavirus that is forcing us to ask what is truly essential to our life.   Greg McKeown  Mm hmm.   Arianna Huffington   So we need to ask that question. And also, we need to take what at Thrive we call "micro steps." Nobody's going to be able to change overnight, but small steps that affect our mental health, that affect our physical resilience, and immunity are absolutely key. And let me just give you some of my favorites: establishing a cutoff point when we stop consuming news around the Coronavirus. I read one of the things you wrote about how, instead of consuming constant news and junk, you're reading big books.   Greg McKeown   Yes.   Arianna Huffington   I mean, that's the time to do that. It's like, what are we doing with our time? And also, how can we strengthen our own resilience and immunity? How can we make sure we get the sleep we need, which is harder and harder for people. We are launching, I'm not quite sure when this will air- so we are, on Tuesday, in the middle of April, we are launching a partnership with Audible, for example. And because, right now, sleep, which is foundational to our immunity, is harder and harder to come by for people because of the growing stress and anxiety, we are releasing, for example, a sleep meditation by Diddy, you know, Sean Combs.   Greg McKeown   Right.   Arianna Huffington   And it's kind of amazing. It put me to sleep last night.   Greg McKeown   Really?   Arianna Huffington  Because he has this amazing voice, and it's in his language. And the reason we did it with him is because there are so many people, especially so many African American men, and men generally who think sleeping, you know, it's not for strong men.   Greg McKeown   Right.   Arianna Huffington   And as we see this disproportionate impact of the Coronavirus on the African American community; we wanted to reach people to help them understand that this is actually foundational to their health. And I love the counterintuitive idea of having Diddy do this meditation. And we have Nick Jonas do a meditation. So we want to actually use people who have a lot of influence to use that influence to convince people of what they need to do at all times, but absolutely imperative at this time to strengthen their health.   Greg McKeown   I love what you're doing. Is that, I was going to ask you, is that what is truly essential to your life right now? Turning that question that you posed in that excellent article that's just blown up online, what is truly essential to your life right now?   Arianna Huffington   Well, to me, what is truly essential on the personal level is that I show up every day at my best, and that means getting enough sleep and that means starting my day, you said with 20 minutes journaling. I start my day with my meditation before I go to my phone.   Greg McKeown  Yes.   Arianna Huffington   Making sure I have enough movement, and I can't believe you and I have both given up on sugar.   Greg McKeown   Well, you certainly feel good. Well, how are you feeling? You're giving up, you're giving up sugar. How are you feeling?   Arianna Huffington   Oh, amazing. Absolutely amazing. And I don't miss it because there's so many great substitutes, like Greek pistachios.   Greg McKeown   The Greeks need to employ you as the best ambassador for Greece in a long, long time.   Arianna Huffington   But I love that. I feel, like you, that it's easier for me to end something 100%, than to say I'm going to have sugar once a week.   Greg McKeown   Yes, I do think that having a single decision- I once decided that for just for one year, I would just drink water and I wouldn't drink anything else. It was easier to do that once than to have to decide and re-decide every time there's an alternative put before me. Let me ask you this. This is a trickier question, but what is something essential in your life right now that, if you're honest, you're under investing in? Don't overthink this, just first thought that comes to your mind.   Arianna Huffington   Probably reading, philosophy, and the big books, Shakespeare, that I love going back to because there's so much wisdom, and every time I go back to them, I'm in a different place and find different things in. Right now my life is very regimented in a good way. I do the things I said to make sure I show up at my best and most creative and most empathetic. I am very blessed to be here with my two daughters, and my oldest daughter's fiance, and my sister, and Horacio who is a great Thrive Global colleague, who is helping me do everything I need to do on the work front, and Thrive has never been busier. So why Thrive was created, which is to help people and companies adopt healthier behaviors in order to be healthier, happier, and more productive, is now kind of essential.   Greg McKeown   Mm hmm. Yes.   Arianna Huffington   People before might see it as "nice to have," but now they see it as a "must-have." The demand for what we're doing for a behavior-change product, for our services, has escalated to the point where we can't hire fast enough to be able to deliver it. So that means that there are a lot of demands on my time, which I love. I'm not in any way complaining.   Greg McKeown   You're not complaining, you're very grateful, but it's still causing its own challenge when it comes to deep breathing in the way you just mentioned.   Arianna Huffington   Exactly, because I find that getting all that done, and then having time with my daughters, going on our long walks, and having dinner all together, going to sleep in time to be able to get up...   Greg McKeown Yeah.   Arianna Huffington   And that's fine, but that's the answer to your question.   Greg McKeown   Why does that deep breathing matter so much to you? I mean, you're describing it as essential, which means it's very important, why does that matter so much?   Arianna Huffington  Because it always helps me put everything in perspective.   Greg McKeown   Mmm.   Arianna Huffington  And life is really like, it's almost like, life consists of these two streams. One stream takes us out in the world, getting things done. Another stream takes us back into ourselves, to nurture ourselves, to put things in perspective, to remember what really matters. And deep breathing has always helped me do that.   Greg McKeown Mm hmm. It centers you.   Arianna Huffington  Yes, exactly. Like what you said about the inspiration you found in John Adams- different things inspire us in different ways.   Greg McKeown   In the article that you were just talking about you, you quote Jacqueline Hidalgo, Chair of Religion at Williams College, saying "It's not just about the end of the world, it helps us see something that was hidden before." And then you add, "Indeed, apocalypse derives from the Greek 'apocalypsis' meaning unveiling, or revelation." I love this and I'm wondering for you personally, have you felt an unveiling or revelation recently? And if so, what has it been for you?   Arianna Huffington  I have felt it more as a deepening of a revelation. Because I've been a spiritual seeker all my life, you know. When I was 17, I went to India and studied comparative religion at Visva-Bharati University outside Kolkata. I've been meditating ever since I was 13. I am so profoundly aware of the fact that the essence of every spiritual tradition and every philosophy is the same- that we all have, by virtue of our birthright, that place of peace, wisdom and strength in us. Tapping into it and connecting to it in a deeper and deeper way is life's ultimate purpose. So, I've always been conscious of that, but at a time like this, that consciousness is deepened.   Greg McKeown   Do you feel guided by that process when you're making decisions, when you go back to this moment that you were describing before when you could just go and maybe take the retirement path, so to speak you did this other thing. Did you feel guided to do that? Or was it just a logical thing for you?   Arianna Huffington  No, I feel guided; I don't know if guided sounds too grand. I feel connected with what I want to do in my heart rather than what may be the more rational thing to do, and I can't ever imagine retiring. I love my work. I don't see any division between my work and the rest of my life. I get so much joy from speaking to you now, or doing webinars for Salesforce, or Accenture, or any of our big clients, or building teams. So that's- God, what would I do instead? Lie on a beach in the south of France? I would be bored to death.   Greg McKeown  I remember Stephen Covey once said to me, he said that he believed that retirement, the idea of retirement, was like a sick concept. He said he had no interest. It was very similar to what you just said, that life is a mission more than a career. It's not a career. It's a mission. And if you happen to have a career as part of a mission, fine. So therefore, the mission never ends. You're going to keep pursuing that mission. I remember that he told me that he interviewed Viktor Frankl, the author of "Man's Search For Meaning," right before Victor passed away, and he talked to him on the phone. And he told me that Viktor said, I mean, he's literally on his deathbed, but he says, "I have a couple of really meaningful projects that I'm working on right now and I'm hoping to get them." And that sense, of course, Viktor Frankl calls it logotherapy. But that sense of meaning and mission, I sense that in you. It's not really really about Huffpost or even Thrive Global. It's a mission and you're living it in that way. Is that too strong of a way of putting it?   Arianna Huffington   No, not at all. And I feel that having any kind of impact as we are changing the way we work and live, as we're seeing the casualties of the old way of living proliferating is so key at the moment, and so needed. And that's why I love that feeling of recognition when I read what you are writing, or essays right now. Like Arundhati Roy, the Indian novelist, I don't know if you read her piece.   Greg McKeown  I haven't, tell me.   Arianna Huffington She wrote such a beautiful piece in the Financial Times about how important it is for us to see this time as a portal- not as something that you need to get through to get back to where we were, but as a portal, as a rupture through the old times and the broken way of living. And now she said, "Let's get through without all the baggage of the past, ready to imagine a new future and fight for it." These were her last words.   Greg McKeown   This is so beautiful. I thought, myself, recently that we have the Great Depression, we had the Great Recession. What I hope for this, is that we can have the Great Reset.   Arianna Huffington   The Great Reset, exactly, that's the key. It's so interesting because in our behavior change-up, we have a feature that has become the most popular feature, called 'reset,' which was launched before the Coronavirus. It's a 60 second reset on the grounds that science tells us that it takes 60 seconds to course-correct from stress. You know, that's how long it takes for the cortisol hormone to course through your body. The rest of the stress happens in our heads. So, 'reset' asks the user to put together things that are joy triggers for them, that help them focus on what they love in their lives. Like in your case, or mine, it could be pictures of our children, our pets, a landscape, a great quote we love, music we love. Then we put it together for them, and anytime they're stressed, they can play it.   Greg McKeown   Oh, that is so brilliant. These are just perspective restorers.   Arianna Huffington   Perspective restorers, and joy restorers. And so reset, you know, that we have the power to reset during the day. These moments of stress will come- they're inevitable. But we don't have to allow them to be cumulative.   Greg McKeown  In the article that I loved so much, you quote Pope Francis in a blessing that he delivered while praying for an end to the Coronavirus. Here's his quote- he says, "It is a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not." My question without trying to compare anyone to the Pope or anything like that, is just this: what would your prayer for the world be right now?   Arianna Huffington  So my prayer for the world would be to remember what is a good life, to remember it now, not just on our deathbeds. So that we can live our lives in a way that is most meaningful, most essential, and also that gives us the most joy. I think joy is a barometer for me, a barometer of how I'm living my life. It's no longer enough for me to be efficient and productive and get stuff done. I want to find the joy in what I'm doing because that, for me, is an indication that I'm on the right path.   Greg McKeown   There's an Indian philosopher who just recently said- it's a very beautiful way, the way he puts it. He just said, "Before, people were complaining when they had to go to work; now they're complaining that they need to be at home." He says, "Please, have joy in the work, have joy when you're at home. Otherwise, you're going to miss the whole thing, no matter what the circumstances."   Arianna Huffington   I love that.   Greg McKeown  Arianna, what a lovely opportunity to talk with you. I'm glad that you're well. I'm glad that you're safe. I'm glad, very very glad, that you are on this mission that you're on to help us all to thrive. Thank you for your time today.   Arianna Huffington   Thank you, and thank you for being on a very similar mission. I hope we can break bread together on the other side.   Greg McKeown  Amen to that. Thank you again. Bye bye.
Jun 22, 2020
Drew & Linda Scott on The Disciplined Pursuit of Home
Drew and Linda Scott go into detail on their vastly different upbringings, and how their parents and families have molded them into the people they are today. Greg, Drew and Linda discuss how the world can be changed for the better, and the individual steps it takes each person along the way to create an effective and lasting change.  Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Wheelhouse Entertainment Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Wheelhouse Entertainment Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Edited by Emma Gladstone and Deanna Markoff   TRANSCRIPT SPEAKERS Greg McKeown, Drew Scott, Linda Scott   Greg McKeown  How are you doing?   Drew Scott  Doing great. Yes.    Linda Scott How are you doing?   Drew Scott You have a very soothing voice. I think this is a great way for us to spend our day, it'll get us relaxed.I tried putting on a British accent; it didn't help me because my accents aren't the best.   Greg McKeown I want to hear your British accent.   Drew Scott   It depends what you want me to sound like. I could do more of a queen. I do hybrids. I don't actually do real accents.   Greg McKeown   I don't mean to knock a man, you know? But I didn't know what that accent was.   Drew Scott Nobody does. Not even me.   Greg McKeown   Linda, do you do an accent?   Linda Scott   Well, I don't know.   Greg McKeown   That was all right. When I try to sound like an American, I just sound like Bill Clinton.         Drew Scott  Oh, that was like Bill Clinton from the Wild Wild West.   Greg McKeown That's it, I can't do anything else.   Linda Scott   I was picturing the cowboy hat.   Drew Scott  So you know, when I was an actor as a kid, way before hosting or real estate or anything, my first real passion was acting. So I started - I did some theater and then we did some - my brother Jonathan and I both did acting at the same time and we did some commercials, and then as I was a young adult, I got into, late teens or early 20s, Smallville, it's a series where you know, Superman is in this village. It's a huge CW show-   Greg McKeown   I know Small World.   Drew Scott  Smallville.   Greg McKeown Smallville.   Drew Scott   Smallville, yeah. Small World is another show that was awesome, but I was too tall for that one. But anyway, in Smallville, though, I had a small bit part, but then I actually got to be Superman stand in and photo double. So-   Greg McKeown  I like this. I like this. I want to go back to the beginning. I want you to give me like, two minutes on parents.    Drew Scott  So, starting on my side? Growing up mom and dad - so my mom worked 9 to 5, she was a paralegal at a law firm in Vancouver. We lived and grew up in a town outside of Vancouver, Maple Ridge, up in Canada. And so I remember, you know, usually she was gone before we got up in the morning, and then she would come back later in the day. And then mom would always, during the week, she would prep all the meals for dinner, and then she would do meals on weekends for us. Whereas my dad usually prepped breakfast for us because he worked. He was a child counselor, and he would have flexible hours. The whole reason my dad actually gave up, he was in the movie industry and did these other jobs before that, where he was always away. And he gave that up to be at home with us so he could raise us and spend more time with us. And so I thought that was a really amazing thing. We'd get our mornings with dad, our evenings with mom and dad, and our weekends together.    We grew up on a ranch, and so that was a big, important thing for them to have us really integrated in that farm and ranch life where we'd be out on our horses all day, taking care of the horses. We learned a hard day's work through them on the ranch. I think it really did shape us. The life lessons that they gave us as well really shaped us. They encouraged us to go into whatever we were passionate about. And they supported us through and through, which really meant a lot.   Greg McKeown  How big was the ranch?   Drew Scott  So when we were younger, we had - first our horses, when we were kids, were over in another property. It was a neighboring property. And then we got a 5 acre hobby farm. And then end at the of grade 9, our parents bought a quarter section. So it was about one hundred and sixty acres outside of Calgary. And yeah, it was smaller when we had the 5 acre property, but the horse trailer went up into the Golden Ears mountains, so up into the mountains, it actually passed right through our property. So it's pretty cool for us having horses, we could just hop right onto the trail and ride for miles and miles up into the mountains. There was no being lazy. I mean, our dad is one of the hardest workers we've ever met. He just - no complaining. He just gets out there and he just does it. And I do remember as a kid, actually, it's funny. There are all the jobs we'd have to do - every year we would have to repaint - my dad had fences, these 3 board white fences all around the entire acreage around all the different individuals.   Greg McKeown  Yeah, horse fences in fact.   Drew Scott  Yeah, horse fences. And it’s all - the rings had different fences around them. So there was fencing everywhere. But my dad was always, we always joke that we're Scottish, so we're cheap.   Greg McKeown   Can you do a Scottish accent?   Drew Scott   Well, I kind of tried to do some Scottish accent, but none of my accents are really that great.   Greg McKeown   This is from a child actor.   Drew Scott   Yes, who is claiming to be good with accents. But the thing is my dad would always get a cheaper paint. And so we would have to repaint. It would fall, it would flake off every year, we'd have to redo it. I'm like, Dad, let's just do a bit more quality work. And then we wouldn't have to redo this every year. I was always trying to find ways around the ranch to get out of doing what I thought was unessential labor around the ranch, I was always trying to find more effective ways. For example, picking up rocks. My dad would have us as kids, collect these little buckets, small buckets, that we would put rocks in. This a five acre parcel, and we would be constantly picking up rocks all the time. And so we finally protested and we said, we're not doing this unless you can pay us a nickel a bucket, and he said sure. Because it was still a heck of a lot cheaper than him having to pay what he would have to pay to get guys to come in. And then we realized we'd go for 10 cents.    Then we went up to a quarter a bucket and I remember saying to my dad, why don't you just pay $200 and get one of those big rakes that come behind your truck and then it'll pull all the rocks up and save us all this hassle. He's like, no, no, that's what you guys are here for, it's fine. I was always trying to find a more effective and more efficient way to do anything even as a kid.    Greg McKeown   Yeah, that is very interesting. I want to come back to it. But it sounds to me like your dad wasn't, you know, like, it wasn't about the rocks?    Drew Scott   You know, in reality, I feel it kind of was, but no, I mean, what I really love looking back now as an adult, is I could see when my parents were trying to have us do things that was a life lesson. And I could see that they were actually coordinating a plan of attack for certain things too. Because you know, sometimes as a kid, if my dad says "no" I try and suck up to my mom so that she would say "yes", I can do something. And I know that they always backed each other and they always communicated with each other to not let that happen. And they would call us out on it right away so that it's not a habit that we would get into. And so they definitely did a lot of things around the ranch property that were life lessons for us.    Greg McKeown   Well, and the other thing they did, which, you know, when you're young, you don't really think about your parents making big strategic decisions, you're just living in this reality, this is normal. But what they did was they lived on a ranch. So that's like a huge decision. That's like one decision that made one thousand decisions for the experiences that would happen and all the work that would be required and all of the, just the whole, the whole experience that you then lived with was the result of that, you know, original strategic decision.    Drew Scott Yeah, I mean, their true passion when they first met was surrounding a ranch as well. I mean, my dad, he's Scottish. He was born in Lanark between Glasgow and Edinburgh. And so for him, he used to watch old cowboy movies as a kid and his dream as a teenager was to go out to North America and work on a ranch and become a cowboy. So at 15 he had no money to his name. He worked his way over on a ship and he lived out his dream. He became a cowboy. And then he met my mom. And their dream together was to have a business where they would have a ranch and they would take people on pack trips up into the mountains on horseback, you'd camp for up to a month. And they lived out their dream. They did that together. And they did it for many years. And so when we were born, they had moved from the Rockies in Banff, just outside of Calgary. They moved from there out to Vancouver, because they wanted to take this business out to the West Coast and attempt to grow it there.    And that's where we had the hobby farm, and that's where I learned to ride, and we had horses, and it truly was a great story hearing how they met and lived out their dream and then they were passing that on to us.   Greg McKeown  And then Linda, tell me about your parents.   Linda Scott Yeah, so they grew up in Vietnam and came to Canada in '77, I think yeah. So yeah, I grew up in Ontario-   Greg McKeown   Where in Ontario?   Linda Scott   In Toronto and Mississauga.   Greg McKeown Yeah, I know Mississauga. I know Toronto. I actually lived there for 2 years.   Linda Scott   Oh really?   Greg McKeown   Yeah on a service mission I was in the inner city areas of Toronto. I could, I don't think I should,  but I can sing Oh Canada    Linda Scott That’s great.   Drew Scott  It's interesting though, when you learn it in elementary school we learned to sing it and then we also learned to sign it.   Linda Scott  And in French.   Drew Scott  And we did French. So we learned it 3 different ways.    Greg McKeown  So I have a part of my heart up there. In fact, one of my friends at the time Paul Dodd  just sent me an email today with some letters from back then. So I'm very much in that special time, it was formative. It was a really thrilling part of my life as I'd left England and suddenly was on the other side of the world and just getting to know people. So on, and so anyway, so you came from Vietnam, you're in Toronto?   Linda Scott  As kids, they would often tell stories of how they got to Toronto. And that was through a series of boats. They were part of the boat people that can get to Vietnam. And my sister, second eldest sister, was born in Malaysia in a Red Cross camp, which I think is just so crazy.   Greg McKeown   Amazing.   Linda Scott  Yeah. And it's wild what can happen in you know, in dire times, but yeah, they made it over to Ontario and that's where we grew up. And as kids, I would remember my parents as being like serial entrepreneurs. My dad was always running around starting businesses.   Greg McKeown  Like what? What businesses?   Linda Scott  So they were always in like the wedding and entertainment business-   Drew Scott Electronics.    Linda Scott Electronics. We had a DVD or movie rental store. And as soon as we were old enough, so 8 or 10, we would work with them. So we would spend our weekends at the stores and we would help move all of the LaserDisc and set up the microphones and the karaoke sound system for weddings. So as much as I didn't enjoy it as a kid, when I think back I, you know, I feel lucky that we were a part of that experience.   Drew Scott Also feel lucky that your parents let you wait until 8 years old to start working. I started working at 7.   Linda Scott   Yeah, that's pretty late.   Greg McKeown There's such a visual in my mind of the boldness of your parents to even go, I'm doing this, we're going to America against all odds, you know, we're going to figure out how to do this. We're going to get on those boats, we're going to arrive by, I'm making stuff up here, but it would be consistent with the other stories of that generation. They start with nothing. They just make this happen.   Linda Scott   Yeah, definitely. And the stories are just so overwhelming. And whenever I think about it, it does remind me how lucky we are to even contemplate, what am I going to do today? Because we have that choice. Whereas people who have gone through that experience, they didn't have the choice to think you know, what are my passions that I'm going to live out? Their decisions were based on survival.   Drew Scott   Oh, exactly. Yeah.   Linda Scott Like, how are we going to get food? How are we going to get off this boat safely? Where are we going? Like we don't know where we're going. So, yeah, everyday, I'm thankful that they did that which gave us the opportunity to even think, you know, what are we going to do with our lives to make a difference?   Greg McKeown  John Adams has a quote and I'm going to not get it quite right. But it was when he was the French ambassador in France, or at least was there working with the embassy there, and he's asked in court, you know, what do you believe? What are you about? And he said, look, I study war, and economics so that my children can study art and philosophy and culture. And I think there's more to it, maybe even goes to grandchildren and so on. But the idea that we have to sacrifice and build a certain set of things so that our children and grandchildren can have the opportunity that we literally cannot reach right now. So it's investment, it's intergenerational investment. And so you're having these two very different experiences at this point in your lives. When did you two meet?     Drew Scott We met 10 years ago, just over 10 years ago, in Toronto. So it was the first season of our show Property Brothers. And we were filming in Toronto, the show had started airing but it hadn't taken off yet. And Jonathan and I were asked to be the celebrity models at this Fashion Week event. Our wardrobe sponsor was asking us to come and walk the runway for them. And so we said, sure, you know, maybe it's a good opportunity with press and what not. And anyway, so at this event, I noticed this girl backstage, and she was stunning. But I noticed her personality is what was really pulling me towards her. She was talking with some people, and she just had this energy around her that was just this fun loving personality. And so I wanted to get to know her. I didn't get to know her, instead I saw Linda and I started trying to.... No, but yeah, in the beginning there, it was Linda that I saw, there was nobody else I mean that she caught my eye right away.    And I made an excuse to come over and talk and bond, without, you know, hitting on her. I was of this state of mind, nobody wants to be hit on, but I wanted to create a conversation with her. And so my in was just that she was holding a bottle of water. And so I just said, “Where'd you get the water?” And she quickly came back with, “Where'd you get the pizza?” That I was holding and we just kind of noticed we had the same sort of similar personality character, you know, humor, and we hit it off and we started chatting and you know, I think our relationship grew pretty fast because we connected on a different level. And she ended up being my tour guide of Toronto, showing me a few cool spots to go.   Greg McKeown   Which spots did you go to? What were the cool spots?   Linda Scott   We went to Soma which is a chocolate-   Drew Scott   Hot chocolate.   Linda Scott   Yeah, but they make chocolate too. A mini chocolate factory I'd say. Do you remember the Distillery District when you were there, in Toronto?   Greg McKeown I'm trying to remember that but it is not coming to my - there's a lemonshe that I remember.   Linda Scott  Oh yeah. So that's downtown, on front.   Greg McKeown   This was downtown, you're saying?   Drew Scott   Yeah, the distillery is close in that downtown area, but it's a bunch of old brick buildings. It used to be factory buildings. And yeah, it's a distillery as well. So this was all on our first day we did sushi, hot chocolate, and then karaoke, because well it was supposed to end after hot chocolate. And I said, okay, I'll see you later. It's my best friend's birthday and we're all going karaoking. So, it was a great date-   Drew Scott   And then when she said karaoke, I'm like, oh, I'll come. And I invited myself.   Linda Scott   Yeah, he invited himself. And when we got to this karaoke bar, no one else was there. So I'm calling my friend Rodney and he's just too drunk to know where he is. He ended up at the wrong bar. So we got the karaoke room to ourselves for an hour.    Drew Scott   I knew at this point, I knew I had her hooked because karaoke is my jam. And I was like I know a few songs that I know are gonna win her over. And I'll walk this in right here.    Linda Scott   And yeah, I mean, I don't remember thinking, man, this hour is taking forever. It is fun. It's a blur now. Yeah, I think on a first date one might think oh man, I'm like stuck in a room with this new guy...   Greg McKeown  It could be a very long hour.   Linda Scott  Yeah. But it was fun. It just felt comfortable.   Drew Scott   Wouldn't you say the voice of an angel was just permeating through the walls?   Linda Scott   Yeah. When I sang?   Greg McKeown When you say it was your first date, what was the period of time between when you met and the “Hey where'd you get the water? Where'd you get the pizza?”   Drew Scott It was a couple of months.    Linda Scott 2 and half months?   Drew Scott Yeah, because we were filming and then we were just leaving town almost right away. And then I ended up coming back again for some press and stuff. And so yeah, I feel it was actually a good thing that we met, we connected, because there was the event we were at then there was an after party. So we really got to hit it off, learn a bit about each other and then give ourselves a bit of distance so we didn't jump on it too fast. I'm very analytical with everything. And so I find in the past sometimes that I've seen with myself, as well as friends, is if you have someone new that you meet, and you then all of a sudden jump in and you spend too much time too quickly with that person, it doesn't last as long. And I really enjoy the fact that we had that time apart; talked a little bit via phone or email, and then we were able to grow from there.   Greg McKeown   And then okay, so I know I'm gonna jump fast here. But when did you get married?   Linda Scott   2 years ago already.   Drew Scott   2 years ago. May the Fourth. We are nerdy Star Wars peeps. And it was in Italy. And so for us, you know, we wanted to go - we wanted a destination wedding. We wanted to go somewhere where we could actually spend a week with family and friends because the last 10 years since we met, our lives have been extremely busy on the road. We were in a different city filming every few months. We're on a plane every couple of days for whether it's press or whatever it might be, and so we don't get to see a lot of our friends and some of our family as regularly as we would want to. Or as if we were at home the whole time. And so yeah, we wanted to bring everybody somewhere. And we went to Italy, Puglia, and it was a sort of a throwback to the pizza and water. So the pizza when we first met was Italy. And also we ended up, instead of people giving us gifts for the wedding, everybody donated for us to give clean water for life to this village in the Amazon.     Greg McKeown It's very cool. And then just explain this to me now, you go from the ranch to you said, first in theater. I'm not sure I would put those two things together naturally. So is that because your dad was already in, you know, prior to being on the ranch he'd worked in movies and that's why? How did you make the jump from horses to theater? And what was the first show, too?    Drew Scott Yeah. So when we, you know, while we were at the ranch growing up on the ranch, we were going to, you know, our school had a good theater program. And even before we were in theater, Jonathan and I, we had so much energy. We were at home, we were always, you know, we were kind of making our own little songs, making our own little plays, trying to entertain our parents, family, friends, and anybody who would even look at us, we were trying to entertain them. We had a ton of energy. I'm sure we were annoying as hell to my parents. And so yeah, they at one point, they had said to us, you know, they're trying to look for a way that we could have an outlet for all of our energy and the local parks and rec, they were doing a course on how to become a clown. So you could actually be paid to entertain at birthday parties and such. And so we loved this idea. So we went. We learned to juggle, we learned to blow-up balloon animals, and paint faces and-   Greg McKeown How old were you when you did that?    Drew Scott So Jonathan and I actually started our first business at 7. And then actually we started clowning at 8. So it was all around that same time.   Greg McKeown   So what was the first business? If you did clowning at 8?   Drew Scott   Yeah, so the first business was actually an arts and crafts kind of a thing. It was making these decorative hangers. So we would take a wire hanger, then we would weave a nylon around it and create our little rosettes. And so just these pretty hangers, and we saw them, we were at some sort of an I don't know, it was an art show or craft show or something. And Jonathan and I looked at each other and we're like we could do this. We were always looking for some way to make money, some way to be able to afford to get the things we wanted to get.   Greg McKeown   What did you want to get?   Drew Scott   At that age, what we wanted was, well, our parents had taken us to Scotland when we were 5 years old. And our dad got us hooked on our Scottish heritage because he would tell us all these stories about the knights, and the armor, and the swords, and the battles, and kings, and queens, and the cathedrals, and all these amazing stories, and he took us around to show us all these old buildings and properties. And I was hooked. So was Jonathan. We were totally hooked on this heritage. And so we wanted to collect swords. And so our dad said, we'll go back to Scotland in a few years. But you guys, if you want swords, you have to buy them yourself. I'm not just gonna buy it for you. And so he really lit that fire under us. If we want something, we have to earn it ourselves. And, and so we were always looking, you know, whether it was, you know, getting the quarter from the shopping carts in the parking lot, or whether it was recycling bottles and getting the 5 cents.    We looked for every way, a paper route - and I was always looking for a more efficient way to make more money to be able to afford these swords that I wanted. So by the time we were 10 we had started this business, sorry, I'll back up, we started the business at 7. We did that for a couple years. Then we started clowning. And these hangers we literally, Jonathan and I would make them by hand and we got so busy, we had a woman from Japan who started ordering them from us by the thousands. And so she wanted these American paraphernalia, you know, hangers in her stores in Japan. And so we hired on our friends, our older brother, our mom would make rosettes for us while we're sitting there watching cartoons-   Greg McKeown   How many of these hangers literally did you sell? Give me the number.   Drew Scott I don't know the exact number, but it was thousands because we had you know, we started door to door, we were selling them to neighbors, friends, family. And if I recall, I think we were charging something like a dollar seventy-five a hanger, and people would buy 5 or 10. And we came up with marketing materials. Jonathan I had our sales pitch down. So here we are, two little 7 year olds, sales pitching people door to door on, you know the quality, the handcrafted quality of these hangers. And if you buy more, it's better for consistency and the aesthetic of your closet. All of a sudden, we just had a whole, we made up all this stuff that we thought would help us sell. And then we started selling to some larger groups. And when we saw this woman who was buying them in for Japan for stores, that's where we shifted and we were selling less to, you know, neighbors and friends, and we started looking at businesses that might be interested in these hangers.    So, something like that, you know, it was fascinating. It was great. It was a fair bit of work, you know, making these hangers but then we're always looking - what's a more efficient thing that's more fun to do. And when we started thinking about clowns, entertaining at parties, we get to be our own, you know, center of attention. We thought that was amazing. And here we were, after we did our course, 8 years old, and we started being hired by parks and rec. We were only making I think, eight dollars an hour doing these birthday parties for kids. And we would do one here, one there. And then one of the birthday parties we went to, we heard the parents say that they were paying the leisure center. They were paying them a hundred dollars for us to come. Yet, we were only getting eight dollars. So Jonathan and I created our own little business. I think by this time, we were 9 or 10.    But we started our own entertaining business where we would rent ourselves out as clowns and we started making one hundred dollars an hour at 10 years old. And so that was sort of us always trying to look for a way that we can improve ourselves and do more for ourselves and grow our business. I think a lot of that work ethic did come from growing up on the ranch.   Greg McKeown  Did you buy a lot of swords?   Drew Scott   Yes, I have a pretty extensive sword collection. We have medieval. We have, you know like, Spanish Toledo blades. I have Japanese samurai and katana blades. But past that I mean Linda and I love antiques. I love historic homes. And we also have, I have a coin collection. I have a super nerdy coin collection and I have coins that date back to two thousand years ago. You know, eleventh century England. And so I've expanded upon that nerdious ways when I was a kid as an adult.   Greg McKeown   You have collections of these things still?   Drew Scott   Yes, I definitely do. And it's funny with coin collection people, you know, will say to me sometimes like, oh, that's so smart. Such a great investment, a coin collection. I'm like, it's not a smart investment. I'm paying thirty dollars for a penny. But no, it's something to pass on to my grandkids one day, and it's just a passion and I love how I got hooked on it as a kid with my parents and my dad, the stories he’d tell us in Scotland.    Greg McKeown But what's so interesting to me is that image of 7 year old, 8 year old, 10 year old doing these businesses, like what's driving that? Is it just the desire for these swords as you're saying? Was it being modeled in some way? Or do you just think look, we must have become that way, that we were just built to do this together.    Drew Scott You know, like Linda and I talk about this all the time. And Jonathan and I talk about this from time to time and you know, I don't know exactly what it was that clicked when I was a kid that made me obsessive over that. Wanting the swords and whatnot and growing but even I remember as a kid when I would have at our bank, we would have the little passbooks, and my dad would take us in every week and any savings that we had, we could put it into the bank and then we would see on the passbook, the new lines. How much we'd saved and how quickly that would start to grow. And there was something about that I can remember that I was addicted to seeing this money I was saving grow. I was a really good saver. I know a lot of kids spend, spend, spend, Jonathan and I, both we were really good at saving and it was growing fast. And we were always finding new ways to make money to put into our accounts and grow. And you know, as a kid, I think part of it was the fascination with seeing more money in the bank.    But then even more than that, I think for me, there was such an interest in seeing if I set my mind to something, I could make it happen even when other people were saying you couldn't do it. And you know, that was a piece of advice my dad gave me when I was young too. There are a million and one people out there that will tell you you can't do something so why don't you go and find 5 ways to do it. And that stuck with me and everything we did. People would say you can't start your own business at 7, we did it. You can't make a hundred dollars an hour when you're 8 years old, 10 years old. We did it.    Greg McKeown It's interesting. How you, both of you, had parents that were entrepreneurial in their thinking, and modeled that, and then of course from that encouraged it in you, does that sound fair?    Drew Scott Yeah, I mean, you know, when I think growing up with my mom and dad's personalities, my mom was always a real outside the box thinker, very creative. Always tackling something new and willing to tackle or try something new and different. My dad's personality, he was more just get in there and do it. So whatever the idea was, I mean, he was always open to new ideas, new things, but he's like, he doesn't wanna hear excuses, doesn't want you to take time, too much time thinking about whatever it is, just get in and do it. And so I think the blend of their 2 personalities and their outlooks is what really shaped me...   Greg McKeown Yes because there's a culture that you were being, you know, that you were born into. And at least as I hear the story, I think of that phrase, fish discover water last. It's like you were just in that culture, you were just in an environment of yes, you can try new things. And if you're going to try them, you better get on and do it. And, so that combination, you just were being taught and demonstrated, why not? Go try it. You know, you're being literally told that, literally encouraged that. That was just normal for you. Whereas I think for a lot of people, that is not the norm.    Drew Scott Yeah. And I remember as a kid, too, you know, in school, our mom was always helping us with work projects for school, and she always wanted us to get the best grades possible. But she wanted us to think creatively. So how can we get extra points? I can remember, like, you get your grades and your marks, but how can we get extra bonus marks and stuff like that? And she was all about it. And so she was always trying to get us to think of creative ways that we can pitch an extra assignment to the teacher. And I remember there's this course that she found, you know, the saying where there's a will, there's a way? There was an old course that was called Where There's a Will There's an "A". And it was sort of like a little test for you to be able to think outside the box to get better grades, and really shape yourself and grow in school. And so she was all over that. And I remember we, Jonathan and I, got to the point where we started, not even with our mom pushing us, we would start creating opportunities to pitch teachers, but me and my minimalistic ways or efficient ways.    I started pitching teachers in on assignments that I could use for multiple classes and multiple teachers. So for example, in French class, I was wanting to get my grade up from a B to an A. And so I pitched to the teacher, I'm like, “Hey, what about if I do this little play, I'll put on a play, I'll write a play. And it's going to be Jonathan and me acting out a scene in French.” It'll be all French, whatever, and she did it. But what I had also done is I pitched that to my theater class as a scene that I'm going to do. And I pitched it to a writing class because I was writing the script and all of a sudden I just cut my workload down by a third. Because I was now using this for three different classes for grades and so, yeah, I mean, right from the beginning, our parents were shaping us to really be thinking outside the box and always finding new ways to create a new path.    Greg McKeown Yes, there's a way of thinking that you're describing, a game that you were playing of “What if we put this together differently? Could we put the same amount of energy but get 2, 3 times, 10 times the results of what would normally be done.” That's what I hear in that story.    Drew Scott Yeah. And that's honestly the way we are now in our lives and our businesses that we run. I mean, we're always, we're very efficient. That's one thing that our production or our network partners know of us is, we can take a show that might typically take, you know, another production company, you know, a month to shoot, we could shoot it in, you know, maybe three weeks or two weeks, and we can get more quality content and we can get all this engaging content. And we can also do it at a better price point. And I think it's because Jonathan and I are always challenging ourselves to find ways to improve. Like, we honestly feel like we're lifelong students. I don't think I'll ever master anything because I think I'm always wanting to learn how to improve.    Greg McKeown Give me a specific example of what you would do differently that cuts it from a month to 3 weeks or 2 weeks.    Drew Scott You know, there, it's easy in production. If we're just talking about production, it's easy just to throw more bodies on a production site on a shoot to get more content. Or there's the order of how you shoot things could make you have extra days that you need to shoot to get it. But what we've been good at doing because we'll have up to thirty-nine houses at one time, that we're doing thirty-nine episodes at a time, and the way we shoot it, we layer our projects and our productions so that, one, it's more cost effective for us overall as a company. We can also utilize you know, we don't just do our shows we also produce other shows with other talent, but we can utilize them, have our resources across all of our shows, which again, helps us minimize the amount of time and cost. And so it's layering all these different aspects of production that really brings us in, sort of under what typical budgets might have been, or timelines.   Linda Scott   Yeah. And I think in all of that, what you're really good at doing is delegating it or finding the right team members to help carry it out.   Drew Scott   We have our team who are the best of the best. I mean, they're amazing. We could not do what we do if it wasn't for them. And that was a hard thing for me to do earlier on. As I started getting into my adult years, graduated high school, went to college. I am a perfectionist, I like everything being the best it can possibly be. And it was really hard, early on for me to let go of that control and trust that other people can also do a good job. And they'll even bring some cool ideas to the table that I would have never thought of.    Greg McKeown Linda, why did you point that out specifically? What is it that you observe, that's made all of this possible?   Linda Scott   I mean, we talk about it all the time where a lot of people look at the shows and think, wow, how do you guys do it? What they don't see is the immense amount of work and energy and effort and creativity in the teams that surround us that make it all possible. Yes, they're the faces of whatever product we're creating, but the machine runs because of all of the people part of it. And what Drew and Jonathan are great at doing is identifying those talented people you know, who give themselves to a project so selflessly.   Drew Scott But Property Brothers, that one show alone, Property Brothers Forever Home, that creates a hundred and fifty jobs between production and construction, and our team back in the office and edit post facilities. So when you think of the number of people, a hundred and fifty people just for that 1 show that is what makes it seem seamless. There's no way we could do that on our own but this has been a slow build to that. I mean when we started at the beginning we were a lot smaller company. I mean in the very beginning Jonathan and I would just make our own little projects and we would run and kind of do it all ourselves.    Greg McKeown   Tell me about that very beginning part of it. Like, how did it begin?   Drew Scott   Well, so Jonathan and I both loving acting, so when we were clowns way back to those clown days we realized, I did find it a little annoying to have to put on all that makeup, and the time we were spending doing that, and the fun for us, I loved being on stage. I love to entertain whether it was a birthday party or whether it was a parade. I loved being out there entertaining people. And then I got an itch for acting because my dad had taken me to a few sets. You know, I think we went to one of the Rambo or the First Blood sets with Sylvester Stallone and I went to a set that had John Travolta and Kirstie Alley for “Look Who's Talking” and to see them acting on camera, I'm like, “I love that, I could do that, I've done theater, why could I not do this?” And so, as we got more into that passion, Jonathan got more into magic as his passion totally random, but he's very, very good at it. And he loved that aspect - from a clown, we used to do magic tricks as clowns.    And so these passions, we realized, you know, we don't have any money. And if we wanted to make our own films, or he wanted to tour with his magic, we needed to make some money somehow. And so that's where we started thinking about real estate as a way to fund our creative endeavors. And so in the beginning, what we would do is we would work a little bit, and then we would make a short film, or we would work a little bit, then we'd write a script, and then we just get something on camera. And the quality in the very beginning wasn't great, but at least we were creating and that was feeding something in us that was just growing as energy. And then 10 years actually went by and we had barely done any acting or magic. It was almost all just real estate. And that's when I actually went to go back into acting. I missed it. I wanted to audition more.   Greg McKeown   But hold on, just to be clear. So for 10 years, you're not doing any Property Brothers stuff. You're just doing the property. You're actually just doing work in real estate. Is that correct?   Drew Scott   Yeah. At that point there was no Property Brothers, you know, before all the real estate, I was just wanting to be an actor. And that's all I was thinking about. Just me, you know, having an agent. You know, I remember when I was a teenager, I auditioned for a few things, and I would wait to hear back. Didn't really book a lot, just some small things. And then, as we got into real estate as a way to fund our creative endeavors, this is you know, flipping houses trying to make money off of flipping houses and doing the work ourselves. We learned to be handy. And our dad taught us how to, you know, finish a basement and drywall and do tiling and all this stuff. Anyway, so then I did 1 commercial, I did a Toyota car commercial; I was a basketball player. Over those 10 years, that was the only thing. And so when I came back to Vancouver to do more acting to follow my passion, I was networking. I had saved up some money from our real estate, our company had done well and grown a little bit.    And I was putting all that money over into networking, acting workshops, everything I could think of to try and create opportunities; making my own short films, independent films, working on other indies. And I was quickly going through all of my savings. I had about forty grand of savings. And I went all through it. And then I realized without even checking in, within less than a year, I had spent about a hundred and forty thousand dollars. So I put myself into about a hundred thousand dollars of debt, trying to go after this passion of acting and creating my own films. And then that's when I had stopped and I had a check in with myself and was saying, like, “What am I doing?” This is a passion, but I don't want to cripple myself and make myself go bankrupt.   Greg McKeown You were like, I need to go I need to go back to hangars.   Drew Scott   Exactly. Where's that young, 7 or 8 year old? So I was only doing acting, I wasn't focusing on the real estate. And then I realized, well, what I need to do is, I need to have that support net of the income that was great for real estate, that can help me with this pursuit without crippling myself financially. And at that same time, I had actually started getting pitched as a host for a real estate show, because I had all this real estate experience. And I'd never thought about hosting. And so this was the very first time in my life where I wasn't thinking about acting, I was proposed this idea of being a host. And I had done stand up, sketch, and improv. I was really good on the fly. I was good with improv. And that really helps as a host. And so all of a sudden, several production companies started pitching me for host opportunities. And then I booked a gig that was called Realtor Idol. It was basically American Idol for realtors. It was a terrible show idea. It didn't end up working out for me. But the production company liked me. They thought I had some great personality. I have this great experience. And at this point, though, when I'd come back to acting, I started seeing myself more as a brand, as a brand and as a business instead of just seeing myself as an actor waiting for an agent to call me for a gig.   Linda Scott  And I think that's how you treat everything, though. So not just when it comes to your TV personality brand, but I remember you talking about your real estate company. You know, it's not just a real estate company that offers services, like you are a brand. And you guys always marketed that way.   Drew Scott Well, exactly. I mean, most realtors are independent, they work under a brokerage, but they work independently. And a lot of them just wait for clients to come around. And then they work with the client and then they wait for the next one. Everything I did, I started seeing it more as a brand that I could build. If there was integrity in the brand, that would create more business. That's great marketing, and promotion. And so as an actor I was pushing myself like a business. And so I was creating a lot of these opportunities that came my way, especially these ones as a host. And so in the end, I ended up pitching back to this production company. I have a brother, we work with clients in this way, we find them houses, we renovate these houses for them. We try to give them their dream home. I feel there could be a show here and they picked it up and they started pitching us-   Greg McKeown   They didn't know you had a twin brother at this point?   Drew Scott   No in the beginning because Jonathan wasn't interested in acting. For Jonathan, he just wanted, at the time he was working our real estate company out of Calgary. And I was back to Vancouver pursuing acting. And so, in the beginning, I didn't think to pitch, Jonathan, because I was only pitching myself as an actor. But once I started getting interest as a host, Jonathan and I had a chat and we thought, you know, we're twins. That alone stands us out, you know, apart from ninety-nine percent of the people out there. And what are the interests that we have? One we do real estate together. So we start pitching ourselves to production companies and networks. And we pitched Jonathan for a magic show, me for a sport related show because I was all about sports. But the thing that really hit was us working with clients and doing real estate. And then in the end, that turned out to be Property Brothers.    Greg McKeown   One of the things that's really interesting to me about that story, is that there is, no Property Brothers, there's no - that whole story hasn't happened. So you're just trying to, you're spending all this money,  you know, not necessarily wasting it, but just burning through this money. Doing acting, he's doing real estate, like there's no method in the madness.   Drew Scott   Yeah, I mean, I would say there was some method, but I was not fully structured and how I should have been, I should have been following my finances a little bit better. But what I was thinking at that point was, if I just did everything I can think of that could create an opportunity, acting classes, networking, creating my own shorts, all these different things, working independent films, doing student films, whatever it might be. I thought if I did it all, that's going to help. But in the end, it did help in some sense because it created some of these avenues, but I did too much. And I ended up doing too many things that were just distractions from things that could have been better focused that would have made a bigger difference.   Linda Scott  But I think what you did do consistently, and you've talked about this before, is that you were very methodical about making your contact list. And you know, being genuinely interested in learning from these professionals and these experts and being very mindful of keeping in touch and checking in with them every few months. And you do this when it comes to personal relationships as well, which I think matters the most because, you know, in friendships like it works in friendships as it does in business. And I think the fact that you do it in both shows you care.   Drew Scott  Yeah.   Greg McKeown   It's the easiest thing in the world for somebody to slip out. Somebody you have a good relationship with, you slip out for a month, and it becomes a yes, yes. It happens to me still where I'll get an email suddenly from somebody or come across somebody and I look at the date and it is literally five years or even longer, it's not intentional. It's an unintended thing. Linda, tell me what's going on in your world while this is all happening. We know where it crescendos. We know that moment that you meet but, but tell me, what were you doing through those years?   Linda Scott   Where do I start? I mean, I guess if we pick up where my parents influenced me, as a kid, and as a teenager, my dad would always say, yeah, you have to get into business and I always thought like, why? Why do I have to get into business? And like you said, you know, the fish is always last to discover water. I didn't realize that. Everything is business. I always thought, you know, why? Why do I want to get into that when I just want to be an artist, or I just want to draw or design clothes all day. So I kind of wanted to go against what my parents were doing. Not that they ever forced anything on us. But yeah, I always thought business is so boring, not realizing that, you know, it's just a way of life.   Drew Scott   It's funny that in your mind, the way it sounds is that business was just like, it's almost like a building.    Linda Scott   Yeah totally.    Drew Scott   That's business. You're gonna go do business, instead of, anything is an aspect of business.   Linda Scott   Exactly. Yeah. And I saw it as a dichotomy of like business and art, not knowing that, you know, anything you're passionate about could be a business.   Greg McKeown But that's what you saw. You didn't see your parents from your description. Oh, this is what they were passionate about. They were like “This is an opportunity, and we're trying to make it, and we need to make it because we don't have something to fall back on.” And you know, so that's what business was, that's what you observed, that's what it seems like.   Linda Scott   Yeah, it was definitely a necessity and not a passion, which is what I was always, what I am always, you know searching for.   Greg McKeown What was your passion? What did you want to be at this point?   Linda Scott  Oh, geez. Um, let's see.   Drew Scott   This could take a while.   Linda Scott   A flower shop owner, ice cream shop owner. And again, see business, it's still business.   Drew Scott  Shoemaker.   Linda Scott   Shoemaker, fashion designer, for two seconds. Maybe I wanted to be an actor.   Drew Scott  Architect.   Linda Scott  Architect for two seconds. Forensic scientist. Yeah, like and that's always been my mind. I've always just been the, you know, the butterfly or like the hippie of the family. You know, Linda never knows what she wants.   Drew Scott   She's a dreamer. You just have so many things that you want. And that's what I actually fell in love with, is that Linda has such a positive outlook and she's a dreamer. And nothing is impossible. If you really just let your mind flow.   Linda Scott  I've always had the passion for it. But when I look at Drew and his passions and his drive to make it happen, I think that's where we differ a lot. Because I will feel so many things and have so many passions, but I don't innately feel ready to or courageous enough to go out there and get it.    Greg McKeown And just make it happen.   Linda Scott   Yeah, yeah.    Greg McKeown Even now, what would you do if you could just do anything? If you didn't have to have it perfect, what would you do, if you could do anything?   Linda Scott   Okay, that I know because we've talked about this. So I would open up boutique hotels around the world. That would have, you know, vernacular architecture so that when you wake up in this hotel, you know where you are. And you're a part of that community just by staying here. And that kind of stemmed out of our experience of traveling on the road so much and literally waking up. And I'm sure you have this too; not knowing what room we're in, what city we're in, and it's a void of culture. So yeah, my dream would be to open up these boutique hotels that serve the existing community, not just tourists; and it would have a community garden, yoga studios, art studios, and it would give visitors a chance to experience the local culture.   Drew Scott  We're trying to find ways with the infrastructure, of what we have where we can. We're moving towards making that a reality because I think that would be amazing. Some sort of a sustainable farm, a spot that is a draw. There's an attraction, we do events for the community, but it's also something great for tourists. But the one thing I find has been really interesting, the differences between Linda and my personalities with all of these sort of passions, you know, is the way: so for example, when Linda has something that she loves, she dreams of something and she has all these ideas for it. We've found it interesting that sometimes when something starts to come to fruition, and it starts to happen, there's certain processes that need to be in place for it to happen; it becomes more of a business. Then she loses the drive and the passion for it because as a dream, it was amazing and whimsical and fun, but as a reality, it's a business. And it's structured, and structure is not as interesting.    Whereas for me, I have a dream, a passion of something, I push to make it happen, and when it starts to happen that lights even more of a flame under me and I love it and I love to see that thing grow. So it's always been this interesting dynamic, and I think it's why Linda and I actually work well together is because I can start to take those things and make it grow. As long as I'm still keeping you passionate about your original ideas.   Linda Scott   Yeah and definitely that is why we work so well together. And yeah, I do have a love hate relationship with structure and I think I've learned how I feel about it more while in isolation. I think typically I would say that I don't like structure. But after the first couple weeks at home, and I work from home a lot anyway, so I'm used to setting our own hours. But I realized that I felt so directionless and that I, you know, we started making a schedule because I need structure to feel purposeful. But in terms of our dynamic, I do love that when I have a dream or a passion I do deliberately share it with with you, Drew, because I know that in your head, in your brain as soon as I say what the idea is, you're already putting the pieces together of the tools that we need to make it happen.   Drew Scott   It's actually very systematic for me when she gives me an idea. I purposely don't tell her all the hard, tough things that you have to do behind the scenes to make it a reality. I try to handle all of that infrastructure, and just keep it fun, and entertaining on the surface.   Linda Scott  No, I don't need it always to be fun and light. I understand that, you know, business is not always fun. And that's not what I'm after. I don't know what it is-   Greg McKeown So I have a question for you, Linda. Is it for you just that the structure of business itself is sort of boring, painful, whatever, or is it a neural association? That business is what you observed when you were growing up? What do you think?   Linda Scott  I'm sure it's more of the latter. But I think in addition to that, it's maybe my perspective of typical businesses where it's purely driven by profit. And that's what I don't want to get lost in. Even though I know that that is at the heart of business. It's hard for me to operate with that directive.   Greg McKeown You have an aversion to that.    Drew Scott  Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. We have this conversation all the time. Whereas, you know, my outlook is if you have this thing that's a passion and it can start to drive revenue and grow, then that's more money, and more strength of that passion that can actually do good…   Greg McKeown  So clearly, you don't have an aversion to that. Right. Like, from 7 years old you have, you love that, your association with earning money in a business is seeing it in your bank account. It's the fun of doing it. It's the family enjoying this possibility. For you it is associated with, it's all upside. That's what I hear in that story. But for you, Linda, I hear it's almost like there was a sort of breaking point or a real like delineation where it was like, not this. Like, I don't hear in your story ingratitude. Like, I'm not grateful for what my parents did. It's just, I will not do this. I am not going to do this with my life. That's what I hear in your story.   Linda Scott   Yeah, and maybe that comes from the fact that a lot of our childhood growing up, our parents, because they had to, you know, the immigrant mentality we were talking about. They had to work all the time. And we never faulted them for it or we never gave that a second thought. But that was the reality of it. You know, they were always working. We were either at home by ourselves, which was, you know, great. It was fun for us. But I guess I just don't want to throw, not throw time away, but spend our entire lives working. And that's why when, when and if we are spending all of our time working, I need it to be purpose driven.   Greg McKeown You just said something that I thought was interesting. You created a visual of you being at home. Sounds like with your siblings, while your parents are working in the business. And again, it's not like that’s some terrible memory, but there's a feeling about that memory that you say "That's not the life I want to create in my future family".   Linda Scott   Yeah, definitely.   Drew Scott   We've talked about that too, with, you know, Linda and I, both of us, especially with what I do with hosting the shows, and we're in different cities for long periods. Neither of us have this desire to be absentee parents. I mean, for us family is everything. And I think that I can totally see that.    Greg McKeown   When you reflect on this now with a sort of perspective, what are your thoughts right now?   Linda Scott  I definitely think that's where part of the aversion comes from, even though you know, no ill will towards that parenting style or out of necessity. But it is definitely something that I am grateful to have had the experience to know what I don't want to do.   Greg McKeown Yes, it was important. It sounds to me that it was this really important line in the sand. You know, breaking with something, you'd seen something, in fact they had earned for you, in a way was the opportunity to not do what they had done. But what I wonder is whether this has now served you, you know, it got you into a new way of living, you know, a new kind of life, you've taken a completely different course in your path. Like I wonder if it's outlived its usefulness? You know, that that decision early on, that, you know, basically business means X and creativity means Y and the two cannot over, you know, like maybe that's lived its purpose, lived its usefulness. And it's time to, you know, discover a new mindset going forward. What's your thoughts?   Linda Scott   Yeah, that's a completely clear perspective of it. And when I say I'm grateful for that experience, I should use that to fuel, you know, to fuel the fact that we, or I, now have the opportunity to explore different passions that I even have that opportunity is being wasted if I'm just continuing to be, like avoiding it.   Drew Scott   Yeah. I like the fact that you have something to learn from and now you can define what business is to you.    Linda Scott Yeah   Drew Scott I think that's pretty cool to define business in a whole new way, an exciting, passionate, fun way. That means something completely different than what you remember as a kid.   Greg McKeown   Well, I think that when we're young, we have a young person's understanding of the world, right? Like we can't not have that. We have the experiences we have and we can't pretend we don't. And so we make decisions that are based in that worldview. And my experience is that those decisions live with us for a long time into the future, and we're not even aware that they're with us. Let me just give an example. I remember as a, you know, I don't know forty year old something like that certainly well into my thirties, staring in a mirror at myself, dressed head to toe in a high quality, expensive stormtrooper costume. And I'm looking at myself about to buy this costume. And in that moment, I think first of all, there is not one part of me that wants this. I do not want to buy this and in the second moment, I realized that I have wanted to buy it for thirty years. It was the time when Return of the Jedi came out. And my older brother said to me, wouldn't it be great to own a, you know, legit stormtrooper costume.   And from that moment, I held that idea. I held that, that is the mental model I'm going with. And I didn't really realize it was with me. Until you know, years and years all these years have gone by I've been holding this intent, this understanding of the world until this Halloween moment, and I'm suddenly free of it. I go, I have no need for the stormtrooper costume. That was like a 10 year old idea. You know, 10 years old. That sounded cool. But I've carried it with me all these years not knowing it. And so that became a shorthand for Anna and I most often, her using it with me saying, look, is this a stormtrooper? Is this something you've held on to past its usefulness?   Drew Scott   Is this a sword? Is this a coin?   Greg McKeown Yeah, well, that's right. And of course, it's true for the things of our lives, the stormtrooper, the physical stuff. But it's also true for the decisions we've made that keep carrying on with us, through decades. Yet sometimes not just through decades, in fact, sometimes for generations. I have found this very touching myself to actually not a dissimilar time to the stormtrooper moment to discover at a similar point in my life, that there were ideas. I had beliefs, I had weaknesses. I had concerns I had, that were like a fault in the stars. Like a real weakness that I had no idea about, because they'd always been with me. And when I started to look at them and discover them and understand them and put language to them, I found that they were intergenerational in nature, that they had been passed down through generations. Unspoken, undiscussed. Passed down to me. And I came to describe this as the little black box problem, which is when a generation doesn't deal with something, when they just don't want to talk about it.    Their motive generally is I don't want to pass this down to my children. I don't want to give them this pain or this issue or this, you know, so we won't talk about it. But actually what happens is you pass it down unopened, unaddressed and just more nameless. And so sometimes, it can pass on and it doesn't even have language anymore. So there's weaknesses within those problems and challenges and all sorts of burdens and stormtroopers that we need to examine, look at, pick up and say, do I want this anymore? Do I want the stormtrooper? Do I want this belief, this idea, this decision? Or can I, in an act of intergenerational liberation, put this down, pass on this, so that I can deal with it, handle it, and then grow into a better version of myself in the future, and also free up generations that come after me. What I'm curious about is when I think about the description of, Drew, your father, this dream is so vivid, in my mind, of I want to be a cowboy.    I mean, I'm in Scotland, and I want to be a cowboy. I mean, what I'm trying to say about that, first of all, is like, there's not many people in Scotland who are trying to be a cowboy like that, you know, in a similar way. Obviously different but in a similar way, Linda with your parents coming from Vietnam, the average person from Vietnam, and I know of course, there's a whole generation that did do it, but still the average person didn't do it. They had their own endless dream. And it changed. I mean, every aspect of both of your lives are completely transformed by this decision that was years before you, it's not just one decision that makes a thousand as we think in our decision making processes, it's one decision that's made a million, right. It's just almost impossible to state how many different decisions have been made in each of your lives because of those decisions. And so, this leads to this question of what's the endless dream that you could create together? You know, or separately and then complimentary?    I don't know, but like, what's the end of the dream now? If we could be free of all of that, but recognize the power in this moment, this new freedom, what would you build? Would it be these hotels? Or would it be something or would it be the shoes? What would it be? What would this impossible dream be for you now?   Linda Scott   My biggest dream would be, and to share this together would be to create and sustain a movement of kindness. And that's it.   Drew Scott   I think though, what I love, Linda on this scale, a small scale of who we are with our family and our friends. She evokes this emotion in people of being a better person or she evokes kindness in people, and I think to be able to take that, and elevate that to a grand scale. So what I was going to say, different wording, but was, I would love to create and sustain change. Whereas people are continually considering others, considering the planet, considering doing what is what they know in the deepest roots of who they are, is right. Treating other people the way that people should all be treated with respect. And creating that positive change, I think would be an amazing thing. And I think there is a path just doing that. I hope in some way we're already doing that.   Greg McKeown   There was a very profound answer I found for both of you that Linda, will you express that phrase again? It seemed like that was, was that just a spontaneous phrase? Or one you've used before? Can you say it again?   Linda Scott   I think I said that my wish would be for us to share this dream and making it come true of creating and sustaining kindness.   Greg McKeown   Creating and sustaining kindness. I mean, that's obviously, it's a concept. It's a principle. It's a statement. It's not concrete yet, but that is an unusual answer. When I hear that continue a sustainable kindness, it feels higher aspiration, even than what has been done so far. You know, it reminds me, let's say, I know you know that Oprah Winfrey right in the middle of, you know, her success and she's doing all these kinds of shows and she's, you know, she's becoming a phenomenon. She's become a phenomenon actually. She's probably, it was probably around the same time as you are in this phenomenal journey that you are on. And she goes, it's not right yet. You know, like, or it's not yet fully manifest.    And each episode from then on with her show, she said every episode has to have an intent. And she understood differently about this higher intent of what she was doing. And I think that's what took the show from being a successful daytime talk show into something that I think has been pretty unusual in television before or since. And I just wonder, it's a question. I don't expect the answer today. But I wonder what this new manifestation will look like, could look like, 5 years from now? Or 10 years, let's say 10 years from now. What might it look like?   Drew Scott   Yeah, I mean, it's an interesting thing to try and think of what this concept in our heads right now of kindness could manifest into, could become. I am, you know, the thing that you look at what Oprah has done and how she affects so many people in such a positive way. And she puts so many people first in many ways, but it's obviously her brand as a business too, and she's done such a great job growing in a way that gives her the strength to affect people across the globe. I mean, to me, what it looks like to me is that we could see, like, physically see more happiness in the world. We see more stories in the news or we see more moments on social media being shared of positivity and people together. Because you can look in the news or you can look on social media and there is a lot of negativity. And the way that people perpetuate that is by sharing it and talking about it growing it but, you know, is there a way to start to get people to think more about sharing and creating positive ways of sharing positivity and stuff. But it's infectious. We were chatting with a medical professional not too long ago. I can't remember who it was. But they were saying how you look at a virus like COVID. It's contagious. And if you think about emotions, they're contagious. If you think about happiness, if you think about a smile, a smile is contagious. And so if you look at things in a different light, there is a way for us to spread. Kind of like the way Deepak Chopra says too, if everybody took a minute to take a deeper breath, and reflect and find a moment of positivity and stillness, that could really change this world. That's what I see. I mean, I hope to see.   Linda Scott   And adding to your reference of you know, it's not right yet, I, for me, I do feel you're right in connecting to that reference for me. I do feel that, regardless of all of the amazing things we've done, and I don't want to minimize that at all, but I always do feel currently that something is not just right yet, like, there needs to be, I feel some sort of a major pivot in perspective or direction for it to feel right for me.   Greg McKeown  There's a higher manifestation of this platform, of this impact, you can see that it could be used differently. That there is a, let's call it a 3 dot 0 version of everything that's being done. I don't mean to put words in your mouth, but does that sound about right?   Linda Scott  Yeah, totally. Exactly. It's not you know, better than, it's just, you know, serving something greater.   Drew Scott   If you see you know, like the shows that we've done, and you know, our with our magazine which Linda is a huge part of our magazine and the team that we work with too. It's always that we're trying to reach people in a different way to create this change in positivity and inspire people in their lives. And I think if you look back 10 years to the beginning of our shows, what we do now is very different than what we did before. And that's why I feel 5 and 10 years from now, it'd be very different than what we're doing right now. But I hope and I feel that that's a way of us continually honing in on what's important, how can we make the best mark for what we're trying to do? And go from there.   Greg McKeown  The opportunity I think you have is so great and so important. I mean, to me, this really matters, cracking the code on this for the next 10 years, you know. Not simply doing more of what's been done, however great that's been, however successful that story is and books have been written and could be written about it. But to discover, what could we do, really? What could we do?    You know, just look at this whole John Krasinski thing, which of course, you've seen, I'm sure, and it's great that he's doing it and that they can be applauded, of course, but just to contrast it with the negativity you see in almost every other medium. News, is to me what is so striking about it. What has the journey been over the last 10 years, when you say it's different than it was before? What's that difference been?   Drew Scott  I think the one thing that is a big difference is we have been, you know, we try to listen to our audience. We try to listen to what is important to them, what they would like to see, things that we see that we think could help inspire them. And so the type of show, you know, Property Brothers too has had many iterations as well before it was people buying a house that we were renovating to help the family. And then we realized, well, there are a lot of families that already have a house that they might have inherited from their parents. Or the kids, you know, have grown up in the houses, they love their home, but it's not quite working for them. So we've been trying to say, well, how can we find a way to connect with these people who already own these houses and that's what Property Brothers Forever Home became.   Linda Scott  I think for me, the most notable evolution I've observed is, you know, obviously, when you're first starting out, as a new face, a new brand, you don't really have much pull and you're at the mercy of the professionals, the experts already in the field of TV and production. So you have what the network wants. Now, we've all done a great job at building this brand in this platform. And now we have the say to create media that can say something more than, you know, just design. We can talk about how design affects families.   Drew Scott   Well, and I think actually, in that note, too, we've really honed in more on family and the importance of how we can actually truly affect positive change in in a family with what we do, whether it is the renovation, whether it's the peace of mind that a functional and beautiful home can bring to people.   Linda Scott   Yeah, not that the original iteration of the shows didn't, I mean, family was always always at the heart of everything. I think now we are fortunate to be in a position where if we have a cause we're passionate about, we are able to creatively find a way to integrate it into whatever projects we're working on.   Drew Scott   Yeah and expanding on that, like for example in the beginning, it was just Property Brothers. But with growing and listening and finding ways to impact, so our kids series, we have a kids book series called Builder Brothers. And that's been a way for us to reach a younger audience. And there's, you know, great lessons and messaging for kids about working together and supporting each other. And, you know, there's more good ideas than just yours. Our magazine “Reveal,” being able to show people in all aspects of lifestyle, how they can get the most out of life. And so that's the big change. For me. I think that we've grown to a spot where we're able to go after, like Linda said, all these different avenues that are passionate for us to try and really see what's really making a difference. And we'll continue to grow from here, I'm sure podcasting is the same.   Greg McKeown   It sounds like the shift has been, if I simplify it, from house to home.   Drew Scott  Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think it's house to home and home to lifestyle, really is like that growth because there's so much more than just the structure we've always defined. The difference between house and home. A house, it's the studs, it's the windows and doors, it's the roof. But a home is where the heart is. A home is where there's an emotion and a connection that you have that your family has. And that carries throughout your entire day. It affects you in your relationship, in your business life, in every aspect of your life.   Linda Scott   Yeah, I think that's a clear distillation of, I guess the meaning of what we do. And Drew mentioned the podcast. The entire purpose of the podcast was to force us to slow down and to have these conversations in a context that everyone is familiar with the home. And we wanted to bring out certain concepts and values that should and could start at home, you know, important conversations that need to be had whether it's regarding relationship, or healthy eating, or business or-   Drew Scott   Well also, like you had said to us before we were chatting, Greg, you and Anna had said too it's so there are things that, you know, you don't realize it's ingrained in you from your younger years, or it's just something that is just the way it is. And there's so much that you, so many ways that you can influence the younger generation, or you can influence your kids by your actions when they're growing up. And so we wanted to make sure you know it with everything we do. A lot of kids watch our shows. We want to have kids. We spend a lot of time with our nieces and nephews, and our friends' kids, but we want to make sure that we are always putting ourselves out there in a way that truly feels right to us in that way that we can affect positive reaction in anybody around us.   Greg McKeown   I think you're right on target like the very red hot center of what matters when you say it's about home, and bringing somehow light into that place.   Drew Scott  Yeah, we, you know, everybody deserves to love where they live. Everybody deserves to love the time they spend with their family and wherever that center point is for them they're home. You know, you want to have that at home, that evokes that emotion in you that does feel positive for your life.   Greg McKeown In a way, what I want to do is sort of leave on this, not the past, not the sort of hundred years in the past, but into the future. Which is your marriage, in your life, in your business, can have such ramifications. When you multiply it down generations. These decisions that have disproportionately affected your life and given you these opportunities, given this moment, can be paid forward, not just for a year, not just for another show, not just today. But something very profound can change. I guess in the business, but also in your own home environment.    Because that really, at least to my estimate, is the thing that lasts the longest. You know, I've been a student of human systems now for, you know, for quite a while, and what I've learned is that they're very brittle. Countries are very brittle. Cities last a lot longer than countries. Companies are the most brittle thing almost imaginable. They just blow to bits in hardly any time, massive failure, right? Cities last a lot longer, but nothing lasts even in close to intergenerational family, right? That's the longest thing. And so even things that we don't think of that profound right now, you know, we don't see them as being that significant, can have tremendous impact when you multiply it by a few generations from this. And you have that chance to do that in your own marriage, in your own family now, but also, in this platform that you've been given that I think is a gift that I think is part of your unique mission, you know, part of your purpose.    I'm speaking out of turn to say that, but that's my conviction. And I just wonder, what is possible and what is in store as you go forward? And I think discovering that, really asking what's essential, what's the highest point of contribution? How can we create that kindness, you know, through that platform? What a difference this is going to make. To me that matters. To me, that is essential. And I think on that note, I will simply say, thank you for your time. Thank you for being so open. Thank you for talking, for challenging me, for teaching me in your example.    Drew Scott   And I think what we need to do is talk in 5 years to see if things did actually move in the direction we hoped and dreamed.   Linda Scott   But also sooner than that.   Drew Scott   We’ll talk sooner than that too.    Greg McKeown  You're like I've had enough. 5 years, Greg.   Drew Scott   No honestly, I want to say a huge thank you to you because you know, obviously, I've told you this before. You're very inspiring for us to listen to. Your thought process and everything that you've worked on throughout your life, it’s very, I can see how you change people's lives in such a great way. And it excites me having this conversation because I think this is helping us move in the direction we want to move.   Linda Scott   Yeah, thank you so much for taking all this time to chat and for sharing your wisdom and yeah, it does really get me excited. I don't know at which points but several points during our conversation my hands were getting sweaty because I was getting, you know, excited for hearing this clarity. You know, it did make me want to jump up and take action.   Drew Scott   And then she wiped those sweaty hands on me.    Greg McKeown No, but what you just said was a material change. Because I think what you said was, what I heard you just say was, I could see the connection points between what my real passion and mission really is, at the highest level, and how this platform could maybe be merged and more often developed into something that those things really meet and they don't have to be falsely separated. That's what I think the sweaty hands moment is.  Drew Scott   And the other thing I got out of this chat is that I really need to work on my accents.  
Jun 22, 2020
Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD on Why Black Lives are Essential
Greg interviews Dr. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology. In an upfront and candid conversation, Greg and Dean Williams explore the difference in their experiences as academics, leaders, and human beings. Dean Williams' perspective as a black woman, academic, and leader on everything going on in America, and how to most effectively move forward and make change, is a conversation you will not want to miss. Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Wheelhouse Entertainment Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Wheelhouse Entertainment Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Edited by Emma Gladstone and Deanna Markoff   TRANSCRIPT Speakers Greg McKeown, Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD    Greg McKeown Well this is an absolute pleasure to be with you, Dr. Helen Williams. Welcome to the show.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD  Oh, thank you. Thank you for having me Greg, it's a pleasure to be with you.  Greg McKeown So let's just do some backup here. Dr. Williams, you are the Dean of the Graduate School of Psychology and Education at Pepperdine University.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD  Yes, that I am, now for the past six years. Greg McKeown And, if I understand right, the first African American woman to hold a dean position at the grad level at Pepperdine. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD  That is true. The first African American woman to...the first African American leader, central administration at Pepperdine, yes. Greg McKeown I think this, and many other things, uniquely qualify you to give insight into what is going on psychologically, in the world, in these communities, in the black community. I am thoroughly looking forward to this conversation; to engage in it, to learn from it. Let me just share one vignette, one experience I had that I think sets us up well for this conversation. One of my classmates at business school taught me something, and he explained that if he didn't have a conversation with someone about him being black and them being white, it wasn't that they couldn't have a relationship, but there was a portion of who he was that just couldn't be available, that the relationship would tend to be at a certain sort of surface level.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD  Yes.  Greg McKeown And that was news to me when he taught me this. This is years ago, but it was news because really I'd grown up with the idea that what you wanted to be was colorblind. You doesn't matter. But he was saying, "Yeah but it does matter, just in a different way. And we've got to talk about it". So first of all, you know, let's say it this way: you're black, I'm white, let's talk about it.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes, I like the way you say that. Your friend was absolutely correct. You know, we try to coexist in this environment called America, and truly the rest of the world, and find the best possible way of communicating with each other, relating to each other so that we don't upset the applecart, if you will. And that often means that the person of color, in this instance the African American, is inclined to, and in some ways required to, put a portion of who they are aside and live this schizophrenic kind of life so that we are accepted, so that we are valued and appreciated. But truly we cannot be fully accepted, fully valued, fully appreciated, until we can bring all of ourselves to the table. So we sit and we talk about anything and everything, but we don't talk about our blackness and your whiteness. We don't broach that, and we do everything couched in the colonialized way, couched in your whiteness. We are appropriated, if you will, we are compromised, and so we often say we leave part of ourselves at home. We go to work every day, but we leave a certain portion of ourselves at home. It is a joy when you have a friend who is ready for all of you. Greg McKeown Yeah, that's a beautiful statement, "a  friend who is ready for all of you". What percentage, do you feel, is traditionally left at home? Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD What percentage? If I had to put a number on it I couldn't. Because if, in my mind, if you leave part of yourself at home you are not you, you know? So if we have to put a number on it, I could say half of myself. Greg McKeown Wow.    Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD But I would say it's even more of that because I am identified, judged, communicated with based on the color of my skin, yet that subject isn't broached. Greg McKeown It's this immense part of every social interaction... Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Immense. Greg McKeown …But it's not only not talked about, we can't even talk about it not being talked about. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes, yes, yes in too many situations, in too many. It takes a long time to get to know someone, to be able to discuss it, and to discuss it in its fullness. Some people who have experiences already can readily get to that point, like you and I are talking about this now. Sight unseen, we're talking about this now. It's a rare occasion that you can just jump into the deep water and just enjoy a conversation, because some people will feel threatened. They won't know what to do with this information. If this information that I received from this other person runs counter to what I have been taught all my life, what do I do with this information? And so it creates a situation where the person just doesn't want to address it, either knowingly or unknowingly. Greg McKeown When I learned this information, the next person I worked with, who was African American, it was like right after being told about this, and I went there, but I'm telling you it was a pretty scary moment for me to go there. I thought surely this will be offensive, you know. Surely I'm going to be saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing. But he responded, well, in a not dissimilar way to the way you just did. He's like, "Wow, well that's good...great!". And I suppose in that moment I realized, and again in this, it's not like it's not obvious for him, it's not like not obvious for you. By me saying it, it's just, "Well, great. I'm already dealing with this reality every day". Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Every day.  Greg McKeown Hmm. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD You know someone said to me recently, and I think it's in Dr. Kendi's latest article about How To Be an Anti Racist. I think it's in there where it's spoken of that America experienced one of its worst moments on 9/11. It was a moment when we all came together, we were all impacted in the same way. And it was a terrible experience and we all know it was terrible, and every year on September the 11th we all feel that in some way. Well, the African American experiences 9/11 every day. Every day. And so when you approach your next colleague and openly begin the conversation, regardless as to how scary it was for you, it was I'm sure a delight. "Wow, I get to talk about me in my fullness, who I am. I get to bring all of me to the table". It must have been a great moment for both of you. Please feel free to go deep with this conversation.  Greg McKeown Just to broach the subject, you're saying is refreshing, different, and all this that you've been holding back, constantly keeping, you know, in a bottle somewhere... Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes. Greg McKeown ...gets to just be, rather than constantly forced into a corner. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Right, because we are acculturated to be according to someone else's standard, someone else's definition. And it's impossible to be according to someone else's definition. It's, in my mind, a form of schizophrenia, a forced social schizophrenia. People can't wait to get home to pick up their full selves, okay? "Phew! I'm home. I can be me now. All of me". Greg McKeown I mean, you're describing walking on eggshells all the time. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD All the time. Greg McKeown That you're a fragmented version of yourself where you're, "I can't say this. I can't do that. I can't say it that way ". It's like speaking a different language, being in a different country every day in the workplace. That's what you're saying. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Sure, sure. And not just in the workplace. All the time, everywhere we go, yes.  Greg McKeown Wow. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yeah, you know in the Bible it says, "How do we sing a song, the Zion song, in a strange land?  Greg McKeown Hmm. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Well if we don't sing the song we'll go batty, we'll just lose it. You have to be able to sing Zion’s song, because we live in a strange land. Greg McKeown You said something a moment ago that I want to double click on. You said that, "Every day is like 9/11". I've never heard that description, and I would not have imagined that intensity of feeling.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD It's every day. Well, it's every day, and it's to have this skin. And so it's every single day. With every encounter you are being measured, and measured according to someone else's standard.  Greg McKeown Hmmm. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD And we won't even begin to talk about whether one standard is better than the other, because it isn't. It's just different. It's just different. But to be required to conform to a particular standard, and standard is a terrible word because it implies measurement, a way of doing things, a way of speaking, a way...Okay, so we're speaking here, and we're speaking the Queen's English, right? We're attempting to. And when an African American goes home, or even in the workplace when they see someone of color, there is a different kind of language that is spoken, verbally and non verbally. Because there's a different communication style in different communities. And so the African American has to be really adept at adjusting from one communication style to the other at the drop of a hat. Greg McKeown It's bilingual, bicultural. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD It truly is. It's multilingual and multicultural because there are a number of other different cultures in our society, and we all communicate differently. And so if you're going to climb the corporate ladder, if you're going to excel in whatever area you are working in, you have got to be able to manage this particular area. Again, I'm trying to find another word for standard. This particular circumstance, you've got to be able to master that. You have to be able to master that other environment while you master your own at the same time. Greg McKeown You're describing, I think, an additional layer on top of every other layer. So yes, you have to be competent at your job. Yes, you have to learn hierarchical systems in order to be able to figure out what your file leader wants and what the, you know, their leader's trying to achieve, what the organizational goals are. There's all of that to learn. But you're saying in addition to that there is another layer that you believe, imagine, experience, is invisible for someone who's white because it's normal for them. But you have to learn it and dance within that additional, you know, non natural cultural expectations. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Right, exactly. And we're all human. But the African American, the person of color, is expected in America to be able to master all of them. Otherwise it would often be said, "I don't know, but I don't think John is...", or shall I use, "I don't think Jerome is a good fit for our organization". We have to spend, in this moment, a lot of time and energy to decolonize our educational system, our medical system, our legal system. We have to decolonize every aspect of our society in order for this layer that we're speaking of to be lifted. In order for every man and every woman to walk side by side and be considered equal, understood to be equal, we've got to decolonize all of this. Greg McKeown When I know I travel a lot, I fly around the world a lot...and within the US especially there are some places, and I won't name the places...not trying to knock on any particular place...but there are some places when I get off the plane, and just the moment I walk into the airport, I can feel a change that's happened. It's not that anybody that I see is being rude to anybody else, it's not on the surface in that way.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Mm hmm.  Greg McKeown But I mean, let me name some specifics: everybody in the airport that's a worker is African American. Most of the people traveling are white. Okay, that's one distinction.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yeah.  Greg McKeown But I had this other moment. When I was going to the bathroom, as I came out there was a man talking to the worker in the bathroom. So again, the workers African American, the man that's talking to him is white. The man speaking, in one level, was clearly being polite. He was stopping, he was taking the time to talk to him. But something of that interaction felt really off to me. And I think what I felt, and I could just be wrong, but was this condescension. And I felt that even in that interaction which was, as I say, on the surface kind, almost more revealing of the assumed natural order of things, how things should be.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yeah.  Greg McKeown When I share this am I way off? Does this feel familiar to you? Talk to me about it. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD It's familiar, it's familiar. It's quite common. Some would call it a white patriarchal way of managing, but it is often meant to be a good thing. It's meant to be a good thing that the white person, in many cases, is really trying to move to the next level of interaction with this African American, this black individual. They realize that something has to change, and they are open to making this change. They feel safe doing it with someone that they are clear is not of the same socioeconomic level.  Greg McKeown Hmm.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Because that allows them the liberty of making this gesture, this positive gesture, but maintaining what they see as their superiority. Because if it goes wrong, you know, if it doesn't feel right, if it doesn't work out the way they want it to, then they have that to fall back on.  It can often be seen as a very condescending kind of interaction if in fact there's risk involved. There's risk involved when you've grown up in a society that for hundreds of years have existed with certain norms,  recognizing those norms need to be changed and to actually begin the process of changing them. It's very risky, because you have no idea what you're going to end up with. And that's why we say, in education, when you are the professor of color in the classroom and you introduce discussions around race, color, and gender, you have the power as the person of color teaching, the leader, you've got that leadership role, you have the power to deconstruct the realities of the white people in the room. But just like you want white people to respect and honor your humanity, you must do the same. So while you deconstruct their reality, you must do something to help them to rebuild. You can't leave them wounded, you know, going out into the world with nothing to hold on to you. You see what I'm saying? You've got to have enough compassion, maybe compassion that hasn't been shown to you. You've got to have enough compassion to help that person heal once you have deconstructed their reality. Greg McKeown It's such a valid point in any interaction with other people. I know Anna and I once went through a class together, and one of the psychological terms that was introduced was just the idea of monitoring an interaction with someone else. Looking for whether you are being one up or one down, and trying to come back again and again to the center. So don't try to be above them, but you won't be below them. And I think that what's interesting is that as you try to live that, as we tried to live it with you know, in our own marriage, when we tried to live it with our children, when we tried to live it just with people in general, if you had previously had a relationship that tilted to being one up or one down and you went now to center, to equal, it disturbs the relationship. It's uncomfortable for people involved because they used to it being a certain way.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes, yes. Greg McKeown And that's what I hear you describing is, well, if you're going to try to deconstruct the existing, it's going to be disturbing. You're not trying to be disturbing, but it's going to change everything in the rest of the interaction. And you're saying, so be compassionate because even if what you're doing doesn't sound scary, doesn't sound unreasonable, look we're talking about equality, we're talking about just not being one up or one down together. It does disrupt a lot of the expectations involved. Does that sound right? Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD It's absolutely right. And you see, the old adage, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth"? Greg McKeown Yeah. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD You may have the power and you can deconstruct someone's reality, but that doesn't give you the right, you don't have the power to leave them wounded. You must take on the Good Samaritan role and help them heal. You must do that, you cannot do "eye for eye". And that, even that, is an affront to the African American who has been subjugated, demonized, demoralized for 400 years, who's ancestors have been slaughtered and hanged and maimed, psychologically maimed, even to have the responsibility of helping someone else, helping the oppressor to heal. Even that is an affront. Greg McKeown I mean I get what you just said because it's violating to go, "Okay, well, I'll lift you up when I feel like. Maybe it wasn't you of course, but people for a long time... Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Mm hmm.  Greg McKeown ...Have left me hurting." Now I introduce a little idea that now you feel damaged, and I've got to come over there. And that's what I think I heard you say when you said 9/11, and I'm putting words in your mouth, please correct me if I'm hearing it wrong, but I think what you're saying is every day you have to play the role, not rather than just be yourself. Every day you're experiencing that the 9/11 of it is slavery. The 9/11 of it is the oppression. You're not playing slavery, but you're still playing in the same system that at one time tolerated that and was built on that, and so you're still playing within that, you know, tempered down version of the experience from back then. Am I getting this approximately right? Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD You're absolutely right, but it was a system that created that. The system created the racism, and it upholds it even today. It's now even more. Before it was a very direct personal experience, now it is more of a psychological experience that cause the ramifications to bleed into the next generation and the next generation. And that's why the Black Lives Matters movement is so important. You can call it what you will, it is the civil rights movement of the 60s. It's the Jim Crow, you know, it's the same revolution that has been occurring in our nation time and time and time again. We live today with the psychological ramifications of what happened 400 years ago, because the systems remain in place that support what happened 400 years ago. Greg McKeown I mean, it makes so much sense to me as a systems thinker from a, you know, just from a professional point of view that what you're saying would be the case. Systems are immensely powerful because they're invisible, they're the norms, but it's all invisible, right? Fish discover water last. It's all there in, you know, in the air. It has it's impact, not because necessarily it's hard to dismantle it. It's greatest power, I think in general systems, is that we don't even see it. So you can't change it, you're not even aware of it. You're saying you do live with a much greater awareness of it. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes. Greg McKeown Then the average Black person is going to feel that and see it more clearly than the average white person. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Right. And when we see it there is an, "Aha!" moment, because that's where you know the line is. When you see it, you know, "So there's the line, I can't cross over that line", or, "I'm going to have to figure out some other strategy to get across that line". And that strategy typically is to become more like the white person, so that you can become more acceptable in their eyes. And then that line moves. It's a clear thing, another tragedy, that is another moment when a Black person has that experience, they are traumatized yet again. And they realize that oftentimes it is the system, and they realize that the system is in place to keep them in place. I recall when I entered an institution, and I was leading, every time I turned around I was meeting someone that was new in my division. And I wondered how can this be, because I'm the one that's responsible here. So how is it that we keep bringing new people into this division and I don't know anything about it? Greg McKeown Hmm. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD I realized that the system was set up so that if there was a vacancy someone could recommend their friend, or their cousin, or their sister or someone, and they would fill that vacancy. And then I would be told, "Oh, here's Jim. Jim is new". And I'm thinking if something happens I'm responsible, the leader, you know. You take responsibility for the good and the bad, mostly the bad. So I checked the hiring process, I dismantled it, and we rebuilt it together. And the first thing that happened was people went to the HR and said, "She's taking away our power. She wants to get rid of all the white women and hire Black men". And I had to stand before the HR powers to be and explain my plan, even though my position was higher ranking than any of them. There was nothing that says, "She's the leader, we do as she says". I had to explain to those who...oh, my. I had to explain to others who on the pendulum of power and authority within the organization did not come close to my position, and get their approval to move forward. And it ended up that they said, "Oh, we like this! Can we use this as a template? Can we borrow your system and build around it for our unit?". Because it put equity in the hiring process; that's one of the very first systems that has to be corrected. You can't see it, but you know it when you hit that particular point, you know what has happened. And so that's where you know you have to overcome that point, but it's also a point where you know you have to begin to reconstruct that system. Reconstruct rather than deconstruct. Greg McKeown In telling that story there was a moment you said, "Oh, my". There was a lot in that "Oh my". Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes, because I felt it all over again. I experienced that moment all over, the humiliation of being the leader and having to report to others. And they go back to someone else, and then finally it comes to me from the leader that's on the same level that I'm on. I could not sit down and have that conversation with my colleague, I had that conversation with people that reported to my colleague. And then it came, I felt it all over again, right, "Oh, my", because I couldn't say what I wanted to say. I couldn't engage in righteous indignation in that moment because it would have been counterproductive. Greg McKeown Because the system would have pushed back so hard. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Exactly. Greg McKeown So you had to...submit? Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes.  Greg McKeown Build it slowly, just to get it to parity. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes. Greg McKeown You're going to feel tired. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD You go home exhausted every day because you're, you understand Greg, you're doing more work than can be seen. Greg McKeown Mhmm, yes, because you're doing two jobs. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD You're doing the job you're paid to do, you're doing your work. And by your work I mean your inner work, because you've got to maintain your presence, you've got to maintain your persona, you've got to maintain all that is about you so that you can be productive, so that this system can eventually be fixed, reconstructed, so that countless others can win, can get beyond that point of revelation where they understand they can't go any further. If you are going to be a benefit to society as a whole, you have got to swallow all of that until you see it work. And then you have to make sure you put systems, you put processes and procedures in place so that once you walk away it is not dismantled. It's tiring, yes. It's exhausting. Greg McKeown I mean, again, back to systems thinking for a second. In every relationship there is three: there's me, there's you, and then there's the system. And if we don't understand that there is the system, then we could end up with a very strange relationship. We could have a broken relationship, thinking it's just each other, pointing fingers at each other not recognizing that there is this, well to use John Adams' term for the economy, the "invisible hand". There's this invisible hand of this system affecting everything else.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes.  Greg McKeown And you're saying that you're confronted with it all through your life, all through your career, every day still. And every time you come up to it, "Oh there's that system again. Okay, I'm going to have to take a pause, fix that, layer by layer put that system in it's, you know, how it should be to be able to support this interaction equally and effectively for the next person who passes this way". Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes, and you have to be willing to fight for it because invariably someone will see what you're doing, recognize that it means change, and it may mean a redistribution of power, and there will be pushback. Power concedes nothing without a struggle...I think that's Frederick Douglass, huh? Greg McKeown Where there's so much alignment it's just recognizing how systems don't give up easily. Systems want to maintain their current shape, you know, that they want to spring back to the existing forces that put them into existence as they are. And I would say from a personal point of view that my biggest mistakes as a leader have been where I have announced something rather than worked it out together. And then you sort of announce it together because there's some energy behind it and there's a feeling of alignment behind it. It takes longer, or at least it feels like it takes longer because you can't just do the announcement. The execution is faster. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD It's basic strategic planning.  Greg McKeown Mm hmm.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Basic strategic planning. You get as many different people involved at the table and let them all give input, create this new document, this new way of proceeding, have everyone agree on it, have everyone sign it, sign on the dotted line, and then spread it out, because you bring people that others trust to the table and it works. Greg McKeown Mm hmm. I love that. Let me just look at this system now with you from a different perspective. I want you to go back to the beginning, and I don't even mean when you were born, I mean go back further, and just tell me a little bit about your grandparents. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Okay, I need to send you a letter I wrote to my G.S.E.P., my Graduate School of Education and Psychology family. My grandparents were sharecroppers in South Carolina. I was born into a family of nine, I think it was nine of us. We had a four room home that set up on cinder blocks in the deep woods of South Carolina. We lived on someone else's property, and every morning we would get up and walk before dawn to the big road, the big dirt road, someone would come along in a pickup truck and we would get on the back of it and ride to a field. And we'd work all day, and then we would go home. I remember one day, and this is in the letter that I will send, I remember one day I was picking cotton with my grandmother and others, and I love to sing, always did. So I was singing. I was good seven years old, and I was singing. And the man that drove the truck was now sitting in the back of the truck in a rocking chair, his legs crossed with a gun in his arm, holding it in his lap, right? But I'm just seven years old, singing away, you know? And the man said, "Who is that gal?" Not that little girl. That gal, with a deep Southern accent. "Who is that gal?" And nobody said anything, and he said, "Make her hush", and my grandmother leaned over to me and said, "Baby girl, hush. You gon' get us all in trouble". And I didn't understand it, but I knew to follow directions. You never cross grandma, right? I knew to follow directions, plus the man had a gun, so you know...We were living, we, my nucleus family, father, mother, couple sisters, living in Baltimore at the time, but we would go back to South Carolina every summer to help the family pick cotton, crop tobacco, dig potatoes, the whole nine yards. So September came, we went back to Baltimore and my teacher said, "Write on this piece of paper what you did all summer". Everybody in the class had to write this assignment, it was her way of judging our progress during the summer, or the lack thereof, right?  Greg McKeown Mhmm. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD And I was excited because school, to me, was next to heaven. I'm still in school, right? I sit here now. So anyway, I get my paper, pencil, I write my story about the cotton field, and I turned it in so excited because if anybody could make sense of it, my teacher could, because my teacher was next to God in my mind. So the next day she handed out our papers, I'm so excited. She stood at my desk. I'm the last one to receive their papers. She stood at my desk, she leaned down over me and stared in my eyes and said, "This did not happen." Greg McKeown Wow. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD "Don't you ever say this again, do you hear me?" Greg McKeown Wow.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Once again, I knew to be quiet. I knew not to say anything, but I was crushed because this did happen. This was my truth. When I got home my mother always said, "Helen, what did you learn in school today?". And I gave her my paper and I told her my story with tears streaming down my face, and she held me really close and she said, "Helen, that is your truth. It did happen. That is your truth. You hold on to it, don't let anybody take that away from you". And so that takes me all the way back to the beginning of our conversation. We as African Americans have all these truths that we are not allowed to speak of. We are not allowed to live out our truth. We have to take someone else's truth and make it our own. Ah, Jesus.  My grandparents were the greatest, they lived through that experience. And that was minor compared to what they experienced, you know, and yet they were men and women of honor. My grandfather was a Methodist preacher, and every Sunday he had a circuit, he went to several different churches and he would preach. When we came back to the south during the summers we were – we my sisters and I – were his choir from up north. And so we would sing for him, we would practice, get our songs ready, so that we could go with granddaddy and sing for him as he preached. And so, I don't know if you know, I am an ordained Elder in the A.M.E. church, and I think that's that's where I got my, you know, that nurtured my calling, even then. Greg McKeown Where you saw his powerful person, character, leadership, and felt something inside of you, yes. This. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes, absolutely. To see him get up and work his fingers to the bone on someone else's property, and be called boy, even though he may have been older than that person who owned the property, to be emaciated at every turn. And yet be a man of honor, yet to love the Lord with all his heart and try to bring others to Christ. Ah, my granddaddy and my grandmother who stood beside him. Imagine, I mean, okay, beautiful Black woman. Her skin was soft and beautiful. Big smiling eyes, long beautiful black hair. I thought my grandmother was made of gold, and she baked the best biscuits. She can turn berries and blackberries into a meal, you know, my grandmother. To imagine the pain and the suffering that they endured... That's why I work so hard. That's why I burn the midnight oil. That's why I stand and bear the strain of this double consciousness, because they worked and they bled for me to be here. And I will not let them down. The next generation will have it easier, I will not let them down...I get too carried away.  Greg McKeown No, no, I loved everything you just shared. First of all, just the anger of injustice. Even before you told that story, the word that kept coming to mind for me as you were describing this system and this dance, and how careful you have to be and playing this game and all of that, the word was suffocating. You know, and of course that has these extra layers right now, of course, right? "I can't breathe", and all that gives language to something, but then you tell that story of "This did not happen to you". And I think in all dysfunction, in all damage that people experience, either the first or the last defense is not being able to speak the truth about it. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Right, yes. Greg McKeown And I think a lot of people listening to this can relate to that feeling in a variety of different experiences. I grew up in a grandmother, who I never met, was an alcoholic. We never talked about that. And if I'm totally honest, even saying it now, right now here with you, knowing that other people will listen to this, I wonder what will happen. And it's not like anything necessarily will happen, but I feel the fear of having broached that subject. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes. Greg McKeown Saying what's not allowed to be said. The impact of that upon my mother and upon all of us was immense, but we could not talk about it. And I relate to this in this small way, but I relate to that sensation, that violation. "I cannot talk about this and not allow to talk about my actual experience". That's what I'm having to hold in. That's what's suffocating. That's what I hear in your story. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD It's so true. You nailed it. It is suffocating, and at some point,  I would tend to believe that at some point everyone, and as I say this I'm thinking multiple times, maybe daily, we make a choice. We have to choose if we're going to say it, if we're going to live it, if we're going to speak it, or if we're just going to swallow it. Swallowing it emaciated us all over again, it traumatizes us all over again. Making the choice to speak it and speak it in love; that is one of the greatest gifts that the African American community brings to our nation. It is the ability to love thy neighbor as thyself, to love the oppressor, to look beyond their own hurt, their own pain, forgive, and love. It is what has kept us alive, kept us going. Oh, yes, we have fought back many times in violence and it hasn't gained what love has gained. Greg McKeown I just was listening to a talk over the weekend, which was President Nelson, in a speech at the N.A.A.C.P. National Meeting in Detroit said, "We don't have to look like each other, but we can love each other."  And you're absolutely right that what even makes this possible, this literal conversation that you and I are having today, is because lots of people involved over generations chose love so that it even could happen.  Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yeah. Greg McKeown That this has come by way of sacrifice. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes. You never allow… Oh who said this, these quotes are running through my head...You never allow your hater to bring you down to his or her level. Always reach up. Always reach up, and love is up. Greg McKeown Mhmm. Love is up. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD We have identified the ouch, we've identified the strategic planning. Those are two in our conversation right here today. Greg McKeown And I think even right to the beginning, when I think about the whole conversation we're having, to be able to start a conversation simply by saying, acknowledging it, not thinking that that's being insensitive, saying, "You're Black, I'm white, let's talk about it", I think is it's own thing, because you start to say this thing that we could not talk about before, as someone who's white you don't want to talk about it because you think it's insensitive and insulting and you're not supposed to see. On the other side, you feel like maybe you can't talk about it because, well, that's the system and I suppose similar things, of feeling, "I have to play this game and I'm not keeping myself at home, and I'm trying to play by these rules that we've been talking about". For both reasons the conversation doesn't happen, but I think, I hope, that people listening to this will feel encouraged that they can start a conversation just exactly as directly as this, and are more likely than not to have a really positive interaction as a result. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD You know when we say...well, we have the ouch we have the strategic plan, and we have let's talk...why don't we change that to can we talk? Greg McKeown I like that. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD We need to ask permission because we don't know where the other person stands in that moment, you know?  Greg McKeown You say, "Okay, I need to choose to have this conversation when we have it". Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes, yes, yes. Greg McKeown It's a really important distinction. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD The willingness to be open – open to, you know, whatever the conversation brings, and to make the changes that the conversation reveals.  Greg McKeown So brilliantly said. I want to take one one more angle about this, that the system that we've been talking about, this theme, and there's something really meaningful going on here. As we learn, even in the midst of all of this, what is chaotic on the surface right now, underneath all of that, I think good things are coming. I think that we will discover more of who we are individually, we will discover more of who we are in community, that even as these things look like they're all just breaking into pieces, being dismantled, as you've been saying. I think that, I can't remember who said it but, "Come my friends is not too late to build a newer world". That really genuinely good things are coming, that as we break down these barriers between us and between the past, I just say in a general sense special things are coming. That's how I feel, I hope, even in the midst of what seems quite hopeless sometimes. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Yes, yes, yes. I love talking with you! The Bible is all about redemption. It's all about restoration. The Freedmen's Bureau, it's about redemption and restoration. Jeremiah I: "God is speaking to Jeremiah and he tells him before you were born, before you were formed in your mother's womb, I knew you. Before you came forth, I ordained you and sanctified you to be a prophet to the nations". It goes on to say that Jeremiah's job as a prophet to the nations is to pull down, to destroy, to cast down and then it says to build up. We've got to dismantle the broken, we've got to dismantle that which is wrong. We have to destroy the work of the enemy, and then rebuild his kingdom. What Satan means for bad, God will turn into around for our good. I think you're onto something. This looks bad now, but out of the ashes comes... Greg McKeown It's so beautiful what you're saying, amen to everything you're saying. I want to leave you with a quote here that I think speaks so aligned with what you just said about redemption  and reimagination, and recreation, and that endless process until we become what we're supposed to be. It's from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Listen to this, it's so beautiful. He said, "During the darkest days of apartheid, I used to say to P.W. Botha, the President of South Africa at the time, that we had already won. And I invited him to join winning side. All the objective facts were against us: the pass laws, the imprisonments, the tear gassing, the massacres, the murder of political activists. But my confidence was not in the present circumstances, but in the laws of God's universe. That is what had upheld the morale of our people, to know that in the end, good will prevail. It was these higher laws that convinced me that our peaceful struggle would topple the immoral laws of apartheid". Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Thank you, thank you for that. Greg McKeown Thank you for this conversation, thank you for what you represent, thank you for teaching me, thank you for helping this conversation go forward. For all those that are listening to this, give us the final word. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD You bring up Desmond Tutu. Desmond says, "I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights". Greg McKeown Thank you so much. Dr. Williams, thank you for being with me. Thank you for spending the time. Thank you for this essential conversation. Dean Helen Easterling Williams, EdD Greg, it was my pleasure.
Jun 22, 2020
Anna McKeown on The Birth Of Essentialism
Greg's first guest is his wife, Anna – listen in as they go back in time to the start of Essentialism, on that day when Greg realized he got it all wrong. Greg and Anna discuss the importance of family, gratitude, and not over-extending yourself and your time in order to create a positive home environment.  Essentialism Podcast Twitter: Facebook: Greg McKeown Twitter: LinkedIn: Instagram: Wheelhouse Entertainment Instagram: LinkedIn: Credits: Hosted by Greg McKeown Produced by Greg McKeown and Wheelhouse Entertainment Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson Edited by Emma Gladstone and Deanna Markoff TRANSCRIPT SPEAKERS Anna McKeown, Greg McKeown   Greg McKeown  If you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. If you focus on what you have, you lose what you lack. Essentialists, I'm Greg McKeown and welcome to the Essentialism Podcast. This is it. The very first episode and I am so thrilled about that! To be able to come directly to you to share a message that I think can be inspiring, but also practical in helping you to live an essentialist lifestyle. If you don't know about essentialism, there's no better place to start then checking out my book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less. Understanding what essentialism is, is looking at the title. It's the word essential; it's to look at your life through the lens of that single criteria. Is this essential? And if it's not, you at least question it, and maybe eliminate it altogether.    For this first episode, I asked my followers on Twitter and LinkedIn who I should have a conversation with. I also wanted to talk with someone who has really had an impact on my life. So that's why I was absolutely delighted that when I asked all of you on social media, "Who should I interview?" The most frequent answer, the most popular answer, was my wife, Anna. Particular thanks to @austin_strong, who made this suggestion; also Jason Moore @jsmooreoutdoors, and the many people that then participated in that conversation as well supporting it. People wanted to hear from Anna and I'm delighted with that because she's the most important person to me, she epitomizes everything that's essential to me. And also, as you will see, she's absolutely key to the birth of essentialism. Without her there wouldn't be the book, and there wouldn't be this podcast. There couldn't be this podcast. So I'm going to be interviewing Anna as we take you to the very beginning, the birth of essentialism, and also discuss how essentialism has shaped and continues to shape our everyday lives and our everyday decisions.    So by all means subscribe to the podcast and leave a review. I'm going to be reading those reviews; and some of them I'll read here on air because this is critical to building an essentialist community. And what an exciting idea that is. We're trying to start a conversation here, and we want you to be part of it. And so with that, let's turn to my discussion with Anna McKeown. All right, well, here we are. So how are you doing?   Anna McKeown   I'm doing well.   Greg McKeown  How are you feeling about this conversation?   Anna McKeown  A little nervous.   Greg McKeown But you don't know, you don't know quite what we're doing.   Anna McKeown   That would be an accurate assessment, Greg.   Greg McKeown   Yeah. Is that normal with me, do feel that often or occasionally?   Anna McKeown  I would say often, but I don't feel nervous often. But we definitely are quite skilled, maybe that's an overstatement, but we need agility, a lot of agility...   Greg McKeown   To handle me?   Anna McKeown  I was gonna say you and I.   Greg McKeown  In our life?   Anna McKeown  In our life and in your career, and so we try and roll with things.   Greg McKeown   Yeah, you're really good at rolling with that and amazingly supportive in the work that we're doing. I mean, really, there wouldn't be an essentialism book and therefore could not be an essentialism podcast without you. I mean, that's like, that's a simple fact.   Anna McKeown   I think we make a good team.   Greg McKeown   Well, I think we do make a good team. But somebody was just asking me the other day about my writing process for the book. And then he said, "Remember that you wrote that in essentialism about the writing schedule,” and I'd forgotten that was even in there. But that was 4 am in the morning, I would go out to that office and write, and stay there for, I don't know, at least next six hours, maybe eight hours even. And we did that for nine months if I remember right.   Anna McKeown   It sounds about right.   Greg McKeown   Why did you make that sacrifice? Why were you willing to make that trade-off?   Anna McKeown   We both felt that that was what was required for you to have the mental space, and the focus, and just the ability to write. I wanted to enable that for you. I believed in the project, in your ability as a writer, and I wanted to make that possible. I wanted to absolutely enable that. Not just unselfishly and I mean, sure, if there are some sacrifices that are required; I think that both of us try and make for each other to achieve what we hope to achieve.   Greg McKeown   Thinking about this, I suddenly am reminded of another way in which essentialism was born. I've shared this story a few times now, but I can't think of any time I've shared it when you and I have been together when I was sharing it. This is you know, when people say, "Okay, when did essentialism begin?” There’s lots of ways to answer that question. What they mean is tell us the story of when you, Greg, got it all wrong. That's what they really mean.    And so the situation was that I had received an email, asking me to be at a certain client meeting between 1 and 2 on Friday. They said, "That would be a very bad time for your wife to have a baby." That's what he said. And I have, especially since then thought, "Well, I'm sure they were just joking" or that it wasn't like a really serious thing that certainly I allow that. But Thursday comes along and that's when you go into labor.   Anna McKeown   Well, I mean, the actual details of that situation was that I was overdue. And I'd never been overdue before. So it was, I don't want to give too many details, I guess. But it was getting to the point where an induction was looking like that needed to happen. And I felt like the whole time we were even in the hospital, you were agonizing over this. Because the baby was coming. So you knew that this baby was going to be here within a few hours and that you had a meeting the next day.   Greg McKeown   I don't remember that agonizing.   Anna McKeown   I remember it taking up a lot of our conversation, is what it felt like to me.   Greg McKeown But the next day I go to the meeting, to what feels like now to my shame. And afterwards, I remember, my colleague said, "Look, the client will respect you for the choice you just made," but the look on their faces didn't have that sort of confidence. It just didn't seem, I mean, it wasn't like some home-run thing. And even if it has, it's clear to me, to everybody, to anybody, who hears the story that I made a fool's bargain; violated something more important for something less important. And what I always say I learned from it, and what I did learn from it is that if you don't prioritize your life, someone else will. But what's your side of that story?   Anna McKeown   You know, hindsight is definitely, I mean, they say it's 2020. But we remember things emotionally and you know, I can't be accurate.   Greg McKeown   Yeah.   Anna McKeown   I'm sure, I mean, this was a long time ago. But I remember my emotions around it, and I wanted you there with me. I did. And I wanted you to want to be with me, and I felt vulnerable. I think, for me, when I have babies, it's a vulnerable time. And it's hard sometimes for me to advocate. But I mean, how could I really expect you to understand the complexity of emotions that I was feeling in the moment you know? I think I might have said, "No, I want you to make this decision." But it was a very difficult decision for you at the time. It was very difficult for you to discern what the right thing was, and you call me an empath; I could understand where you were coming from. I could understand the struggle that you were having that there could be real negative consequences of not going to this. And surely, I could sacrifice a few hours with you to go do this thing to support you, you know.    So it is complicated for both of us. And I need to take some responsibility. You know, if I had been more assertive if I'd been like, "No, you can't go to that meeting tomorrow. I need you here."   Greg McKeown   Even the way you just said that is stronger than you would have had to say. If you'd simply said, "No, don't go to that stay here." I would have done that.   Anna McKeown For me, I think it says something about what we were learning still, as a couple, and I have a real aversion to pressuring anybody to do anything. Maybe it's because I value freedom so highly, because I'm particularly sensitive to manipulation. I don't like it. I don't like to feel like someone's trying to manipulate me. And so there's something in me that just really tries not to do that to you or to my children. And I don't want to be the reason, if it's a decision that you regret, or that you make or that makes you unhappy. I want you to make your decision fully responsible, wanting to make that decision yourself.   Greg McKeown  You wanted me to prioritize that on my onesie. You didn't want to have to be the person, the conscience in that moment going, "Come on, you know, pick me."   Anna McKeown  Right.   Greg McKeown   "Or pick this, be here."   Anna McKeown Yeah. Now, I think though, I really admire and think that it's something that I had needed to work on to be able to communicate those things. I think that it's important, in a relationship, to be able to communicate what is important to you and what you need in a relationship. So I am very grateful for the experience, as challenging as it was, as vulnerable as it was.   Greg McKeown   You're grateful for it now?   Anna McKeown   I am.   Greg McKeown   Really?   Anna McKeown   Yes. How would you have learned it?   Greg McKeown  I suppose that's right. You know, failure teaches.   Anna McKeown   Absolutely. That was a lesson that needed to be learned that hadn't been learned.   Greg McKeown  But that's what begs the question, though, doesn't it? The question is, do you think I've learned since then? Honest answer.   Anna McKeown   Yes. Are you perfect at it? No. Am I perfect at what I've been trying to learn from it? No. But absolutely, you've learned from it, and it has benefited our lives.   Greg McKeown   What are the tangible evidences of that?   Anna McKeown   Putting me on the spot.   Greg McKeown   Yeah. Is there, is there anything? I mean, it's easy to say that but, you know, I suppose I'm asking a broader question, which- I think people always want to know even if they don't say it. Is this Greg, living as an essentialist? You know, and you're the most credible person to answer that question, you know, in our life.   Anna McKeown All right. Well, I mean, yes, Greg is living as an essentialist. I would say that. Well, you have an example that you like to give about the closet, and keeping a tidy closet. And I don't think that I've met anybody, not that I'm going into everybody's closet, but, your closet is impressive to me. It's so tidy, it is so curated. It really is a sight to behold. My closet is not at that level.   Greg McKeown  Yours isn’t bad.   Anna McKeown   It's not bad.   Greg McKeown   Yeah, and it's interesting because, I mean, I do talk about that metaphor of the closet and eliminating you know, everything that's nonessential in the closet and how that would apply to life. And so for anyone who's read that or here's that metaphor, when I've shared that with them. Well, okay, they have the answer now about my closet. But when I hear you say it, I think that's the least important application of essentialism.   Anna McKeown  But it's an easy one.   Greg McKeown   It is easy and it's concrete. And I'm not trying to knock your example. I'm just putting myself out there more vulnerably about this because, I think, yeah, I mean, organizing your closets is good and metaphorically it's good too. But the question I'm asking is, am I living as an essentialist in my life?   Anna McKeown Well, we could get right to something you could improve on.   Greg McKeown   Yeah, go on.   Anna McKeown  And it's not a surprise to you; we've talked about it before. And that is trade-off. Trade-off is really difficult. You love to explore and one of the things I love about you is that you hate it when somebody says you can't do something. I mean, I don't love that you hate that. I love that you have a kind of optimism about the impossible that many would give up a lot earlier than you to achieve certain things. "Oh he can't do that." "Oh, can't I?" You know? I mean, that's one of the lovely things about you.   Greg McKeown   It's a trigger.   Anna McKeown   And it is a trigger.   Greg McKeown   I love that. I just think it's such an evidence of how lovely you are; that you would frame that in the way that you just did. And with that sort of richness. No, it's a trigger. If somebody says, “Well, it can't be done.” I don't know that it fills me with rage, that's not quite right.   Anna McKeown  Yeah, you get a steely look in your eye like, "Oh, yes, I can."   Greg McKeown  Oh, yes. I don't want to be told it cannot be done. Yeah, I just refuse. I certainly don't think it's an entirely good trait. It can be a challenge when it comes to essentialism.   Anna McKeown   It can be a challenge for us, I mean, especially with time. I think, time is where it really becomes a challenge for us because you will want to fit more things into a certain amount of time than I think is possible. And me saying that doesn't help the situation.   Greg McKeown   Yes, because I think, oh, you're disappointed that we can't do this thing.   Anna McKeown   Right.   Greg McKeown   And so I'm like, "Yes, we can." Which is exactly opposite of what you're really saying, which is sensibly, wisely.   Anna McKeown   “I'd like to make a trade-off here.”   Greg McKeown   Let's make a trade-off.   Anna McKeown   Yeah.   Greg McKeown   But I hear it as...   Anna McKeown   “Oh, you have to give up on this great thing.”   Greg McKeown Yes, you would really love to do this. Well, I can try and make that happen. I will make that happen. Is there an example that comes to mind where either we've got that right, or we've done it wrong when it comes to trade-offs?   Anna McKeown   Well, I mean, it's something that still isn't resolved.   Greg McKeown   That came really easy to you just then. I thought you were going to be stumped.   Anna McKeown   I didn't want to overthink it. But, I think horses, and horses is complicated because I have an emotional, I've had an emotional desire to have horses.   Greg McKeown   For as long as I've known you.   Anna McKeown   Yes.   Greg McKeown   It's a very first world problem isn't it?   Anna McKeown   Yes!   Greg McKeown   I didn't grow up with horses; you didn't grow up horses. This was like a dream beyond dream that one day, maybe we could do this. When I came to America more than 20 years ago, I literally had no money at all. We have not come from money.   Anna McKeown No, frankly that's why we are struggling so much with the horse situation, because we're complete novices at it. We don't have the history and the knowledge of- this is how you deal with horses.   Greg McKeown We are not horse people, no.   Anna McKeown   No, and so my grandfather was a cowboy, and in Idaho and Montana. That was where he, I'm embarrassed I don't even know, wrangled cows? Where he herded them? Where he gathered them?   Greg McKeown You can't be asking me to give you the answer.   Anna McKeown   I know. He was a cowboy, and his son, my uncle, owned horses for a while and oh my goodness. If I could ride them, I asked to ride them every time we went to visit him. So whenever I would talk to anyone about owning horses, "Oh, it's so much work, it's so much work." But I was like, I think that's okay. And I don't mind if my kids have something physically-   Greg McKeown  Physical chore.   Anna McKeown   Yeah, I thought that that would be a benefit as well.   Greg McKeown   Because this was our family project.   Anna McKeown   This was my vision, yes.   Greg McKeown  This is the vision. Well, that stuff, but that stuff has come to pass.   Anna McKeown   It has very recently, within the last couple of years, and the kids work hard, and I work hard. And I did a lot of the chores in the beginning, and then taught them how to do it and now they do it. And it's relentless; you can't just leave. You can't just take off for a weekend, you need to have someone who can take care of them. So it's a lot of responsibility in that sense.   Greg McKeown   And you're taking the lead on this, completely. I've been in a support role.   Anna McKeown  Absolutely.   Greg McKeown   And, you know, I would give myself like a "B."   Anna McKeown  Very supportive, very supportive.   Greg McKeown Alright good, "B+?"   Anna McKeown   In support? An "A." In work?   Greg McKeown   Actually going out there and doing it?   Anna McKeown   It's not really your thing.   Greg McKeown  It's not what we've talked about. It’s not like I haven't done what I said I would do.   Anna McKeown It's not like Greg, when I get the horses, you're going to go up there everyday? No.   Greg McKeown  But the whole, the dream of it, I have been supportive of. I've been wanting to do it and have worked hard to enable this dream to happen. We have two horses now.   Anna McKeown   Yes, we have a space for them. And now, I'm reaching a point where I am not quite sure that this is-   Greg McKeown   Worth it?   Anna McKeown  Yes, yeah. And when I first started bringing that up to you, because I'm sad about it. I feel a little, failure is probably too strong of a word, but a little like, what was this for? Did I achieve what we'd hoped you know? And so when I first brought it up to you, you were like, "Well no, we can make this work. I think we should still do this. What can we do to make this work?" You know? And so every problem that I would bring to you, you would solve.   Greg McKeown  Like what?   Anna McKeown  Like we needed more fences, we needed another section of shelter, shed to store their food.   Greg McKeown   All examples of helping to make this dream continue to be possible, so they're well intended.   Anna McKeown  Yeah, but possibly a sunk cost bias. Ah, yeah, it's you know, and the kids aren't like, raring to go up there every day. And so for the work, and I am wondering, is it time to move on? And to not do this? And we haven't decided yet, but I feel like you've come around to the possibility of not doing it anymore. But it's been a journey. Where you originally, when I started saying, "No, I don't know that we should do this anymore." You're like, "We can do this. We can make this happen. We can make this work."   Greg McKeown   Yeah, the sunk cost bias was stronger in me than in you, not because of just the time invested in it and so on, the resource invested in it, but the emotional attachment.   Anna McKeown Yeah.   Greg McKeown   The dream of it; the romanticism of it.   Anna McKeown Yeah.   Greg McKeown   You know, you can make something like this happen, for you, when you have supported me so much in so many ways. What you're saying is that it can be to a fault because actually what you're really saying is, "Help me..."   Anna McKeown   “Free myself from this.”   Greg McKeown   "To be okay with this. Let me feel sad. So it can be behind me. I want to be sad about not having them. I want to get past that."   Anna McKeown  Yeah, I want to process this and hopefully achieve a sort of freedom.   Greg McKeown   So I want to jump forward now to another way in which you've been key to the birth of essentialism. And that was the day that Tina and Talia, and the whole team at Crown, call me on the phone.   Anna McKeown  Oh, yeah.   Greg McKeown   Tell us about that moment.   Anna McKeown   When you found out your book was a New York Times Bestseller.   Greg McKeown   Yeah. Yeah, but that sounds, now that just sounds like I'm saying, yay for me.   Anna McKeown  No, that was such a magical moment. That was a dream that you and I had shared.   Greg McKeown   The thing I remember about that moment in the room together was that we screamed. Both of us, spontaneously.   Anna McKeown  Lots of screaming, lots of hugs, few tears.   Greg McKeown It was symbolically way more important than just, hey great you know, this badge of honor. This little named, the little thing. It was such a sense of completion of the last chapter that had been a multi-year process. I mean, whenever something like that happens, when you feel like you're on an errand, on a mission, and we're on it together and then it happens. It's not just the elation of you reached the mountaintop, it's the feeling that the other mountain ahead of you can also be reached. The other things that seem impossible, now, seem just implausible.   Anna McKeown  I think that's a gift of yours.   Greg McKeown  What is?   Anna McKeown   Just your vision. You know, and your excitement about achieving the impossible? I wouldn't say that's my superpower at all.   Greg McKeown  But speaking for a moment there about your superpowers. I mean, as you say, "Well those aren't, that isn't your superpower." And I sort of reflect on that, I think, yeah, that's true. You use the word empath before, which I'm not sure is a word everybody would know. But you understand the meaning of it as soon as you hear the term empath, right? It's that deep understanding, there's multi-faceted emotional circumstances. What people are experiencing, how they're feeling, and feeling it with them, and incenting what they might well be thinking and feeling. And your ability to do that has always been impressive to me, and is a gift. And I've felt it towards me; I've felt it towards the children. I've felt it in almost every analysis that you've made over these, it's not quite 20 years yet, but 20 years this August, since we've been married. And there's so many interactions and conversations you can see and sense the nuance of what they might be feeling, or what might be going on and these multiple levels.   Anna McKeown  You know, I don't know. Maybe my training in theater helped with that. But I just, I think it's so important to be slow to judge, and understanding that there's just so much going on in everyone's life. There's so much that we don't know. There's so many possibilities for why someone said what they said or did what they did. And it's important to strive to be compassionate, and with our children. I mean, one of the very first things I realized with our first was, this child is very, very different from me. Yeah, who is this little person? Because...   Greg McKeown   I mean, that is really true. And it's been true as she's even grown. Now she's a teenager; you have really different temperaments.   Anna McKeown   Yes, very different. And I think that could have been a source of conflict in our relationship. And at times, you know, it is challenging. It's not like, "Oh, I know what to say and how to respond." And you know, perfectly to all of the developmental.   Greg McKeown   I think you deal with that really well though.   Anna McKeown   Well, thank you, I do try.   Greg McKeown I think you deal with that better than I do.   Anna McKeown I think you and her are more similar.   Greg McKeown   Yeah, I think that's right. There's a word you haven't used in all of that description. But I feel like it's key for what brought us together in the first place. And then it has been key in our worldview towards our children, and then literally towards everybody else.   Anna McKeown  The world, yeah.   Greg McKeown And that is the sense that each of us has a unique and essential mission in life.   Anna McKeown   Yeah, that definitely brought us together. I feel like in an odd way, you know?   Greg McKeown Well, so we shouldn't, I can't imagine that we should go through the entire story here.   Anna McKeown   I think you could summarize it.   Greg McKeown  Why don't you do that?   Anna McKeown  By what brought you to America, and what was going on in my life, at the time, and how those two things came together?   Greg McKeown   Yeah, what was going on in your life at the time?   Anna McKeown  In my life, I was at university getting my undergraduate, and the process to deciding what my undergraduate was actually quite painful. I really wanted to do something, felt like I needed to do something, I think in the humanitarian kind of realm of things. Like being a nurse or something, some way that would bless people's lives. And yet, I kept feeling drawn to acting, and I had done some theater in my youth, not a ton, but I've done some and it was really enjoyable. And I was taken, I just thought for fun for an elective, I'll take an acting class. And my professor was amazing, Barta Heiner, I just love her to death. And I made some good friends there, and you know, through a series of soul searching and pondering and, frankly, prayer; I took this decision really seriously. And then I felt guided, and I felt a mission about getting my degree in acting.    And then someone suggested I audition for the Music Dance Theater Program, I thought, well, why not? I'll just give it a shot. And, I made it in, I couldn't believe it. I just felt excited, I felt right, I felt mission driven in pursuing this. And I thought there's got to be a way to bless lives this way too. And so I, you know, took that leap of faith and went ahead and got my degree in it, and it was not easy. There’s so much rejection, and I got the question all the time. "What are you going to do with that?" And I didn't know. But I knew that it was what I was supposed to be doing, and that things would open up. That this was the path I was supposed to be on, even though I didn't really know what It was going specifically. I knew that I should develop these talents; I should continue to audition. I should, you know, try and make a career out of it.   Greg McKeown  Yeah, exactly. And meanwhile, so we didn't know each other at all, but we were going through a similar wrestle. Mine, I come to the United States, I was visiting different friends, somebody put me in touch with Jerry Lund and I went and met with him. And then at the end of this meeting, he says, "Oh, if you do decide to stay in America, then you should come and help me with this, Beyond The Consultation Committee for this curriculum that we've been talking about." And I never did that, but the question had a curious and powerful force about it. And so as I left his office, it's dusk outside and everybody's leaving for the day, and I grabbed a piece of paper and I just brainstorm; what would you do if you could do anything? And what I noticed when I look at that list is not what I've written down, but what I haven't written down. Law school is not on the list.   Anna McKeown   I love this story.   Greg McKeown  That's a nice way of saying you've heard it before.   Anna McKeown   I love this story.   Greg McKeown  And so law school suddenly becomes a question mark. And I wasn't loving my experience there, but I was at law school in England. And so, you know, it's still what do you do about it? So I call my parents and my mother answers, fortunately. And she says, "Well, listen, I think you better talk to dad." And he comes on the phone. After he listened, he said two things. And normally when I share this story, I just share one of them. But he said, "Son, do what is right. And let the consequence follow. To thy own self be true." Which is a hybrid from two different sources; one of them is a hymn children's psalm, and the other from Hamlet, because all Englishman quote Shakespeare.    Anyway, the short of it is law school's out. I mean, what was in, was teaching and writing, but that's in a sense a placeholder for what the real thing was, which was, you know, mission or bust. Follow your central mission in life and nothing else. And so I went back to England, didn't go back to law school. I just left and started applying to university in America, applied six months late, had a whole summer where I just started writing and researching. And from that point was born, I say that's where it was born, but really, the desire was already in me. I mean, that's the thing, as you talk about our children and our own journey, too. I felt that from so young, and that's part of the challenge in discovering what your essential mission in life is. Or to even discern what is essential, because sometimes I think it's so familiar to a person. It's like that old phrase right? Fish discover water last. It's that you don't even notice it. This is just how life is, it's like you dismiss it out of hand. Oh, well that can’t, you know, that's nothing special. That's not, you know, I'm going to go do something serious; look what everybody else is doing. I should do what other people are doing. I should be a lawyer; that's a sensible thing, that keeps your options open. I will teach and write.   So that was, it wasn't like that was the birth exactly, but it was the manifestation of it. It was like the first time I was making a proper trade-off in order to pursue it. And that led us to the same university. I went and wrote 200 columns for the university newspaper, and of those 200 how many were published? One. They cancelled it after the first day. Which is not really a great beginning in one's teaching writing journey.   Anna McKeown   But I read it.   Greg McKeown But you read it, but I didn't know that at that moment.   Anna McKeown  I know, I felt so oddly giddy reading it, and felt silly because I knew nothing about you. I mean, they had a little introductory article talking about you having quit law school and coming to university in America. And that just resonated with me. I was like, yes, I understand that. I feel that in my own life, and I just didn't know that I'd ever marry, but, or marry you, that I'd ever meet you. I didn't know if our paths would ever cross. But I think I went home and wrote about it in my journal because I felt like this was something I needed to record.   Greg McKeown We didn't know each other still but there was something noticeable again to literally write it down, right? Noteworthy, literally. Another one of my roommates gave me the paper a few weeks later, and had me read an article, and I read about you in it. Coincidentally, we were working at the same training institute. And really what happened for me from my point of view, is you had said to me now in person, when we had met that you felt a resonance, a sense of alignment, that life is a mission. And an essential mission, and a unique mission that you felt that yourself; suddenly came with greater credibility to me as I see the article and paper is about you being selected as the understudy for Bell in the national tour of Beauty and the Beast.   Anna McKeown   That's right. It's funny how things can change.   Greg McKeown   Go on. Why do you say that, what does that mean?   Anna McKeown   My resume was still quite sparse, I guess is the word. And then all of a sudden, this opportunity came. And it's just, I don't know, a testament to me of pursuing things that you feel right about when everyone else is wondering why the heck you're doing it and making the sacrifices you're making. But you still feel that this is right. And eventually, things happen.   Greg McKeown Yeah, there's a principle of build up and breakthrough.   Anna McKeown Yeah, sometimes it's logical and you see a path and you know, like to become a doctor, there's a very clear path. But with other things, you just don't know when that moment is going to come.   Greg McKeown  Yeah, and I would argue probably in more circumstances than not, the path is not clear. If especially, if what you want is to pursue is a mission in life and a central mission. Especially if you are trying to, you know, do what you came here to do. Then you will find yourself, at least this has been definitely true for me, on the path less traveled by.   Anna McKeown  Yep.   Greg McKeown   And so as a result, you don't know how to go from point A to point B.   Anna McKeown  No, and sometimes you're looking around going it’s pretty lonely here. Is this, you know, no one else is doing this- is this really the right path?   Greg McKeown Yeah, nobody else is doing this, which is part of the point because it's a unique mission. But in the moments in between the breakthroughs, you're in the build up phase and once the breakthrough happens, it's like, this is what the overnight success story looks like. Is that people just notice the breakthrough. Oh, they've been discovered. Oh, they've been this. Oh, this thing has happened. As if it just did blossom out of nowhere, but really there has been build up and quiet, steady, small and simple ways just going and keeping on going and keeping on going and then suddenly, something happens. This was suddenly something happening out of this consistent journey that you were on.    And the first year of our marriage was me traveling with you. You know, following you to 24 different cities, and you know, all over North America. And it was this great crash course in America for me; I got to see you perform as Bell 30 times, I would think. And myself, getting to watch that and then of course, every night, I'm out there. I was one of the people selling the merchandise. I mean, there's a hierarchy and in theater, I don't know quite what the full top looks like, but I know I was at the very bottom of it. But I think that formed a sort of foundational experience that now is still manifest with our children in trying to help them find their essential mission in life and to remove all non-essentials, including us. I mean just today in our little family, you know, meeting this morning, you were talking to them about that exact thing; that our job is to help get them ready to leave and to want to leave when it's time. You know, to want to get on to the next phase of their life.   Anna McKeown  We have three teenagers. They're, we're entering that phase where I need to be more of a support than a driver.   Greg McKeown  I feel like this leads naturally to the essence, really the essence of essentialism. Right? The very center of the center. I mean, we feel that the work of parenting is effectively finished when our children can follow the voice of conscience. And so our job is not to tell them everything. At the beginning, you're sort of doing more of that, because they're less capable. But at every possible turn, it's to remove that and instead, create an environment and a culture, and my heavens you've done such a good job at doing this, an environment that allows them to grow into that clarity. So that they can themselves set goals; that they feel uniquely pulled towards drawn towards, that they have a gravitational pull to do those things. And that's our job. I think that's universally applicable. Essentialism isn't saying no to everyone and everything without thinking about it; that's like the first counterfeit.   Anna McKeown  Definitely not. I mean, the one of the very first things in your book is explore. That is such an important thing that needs to happen to be able to discern what you are choosing. With my own children I want to explore who they are; I want them to explore what their interests are and what sparks joy, you know, to use word of Marie Kondo. I think, I really like her philosophy with organizing and I think there's something about that in organizing one's own life is- what sparks joy. And, I mean, I do hear us and recognize we are speaking from a place of privilege where we have a lot of options, but I still think that what sparks joy is a question anyone can ask. While options might be seemingly limited, by following that by trying to do those things, and do the things that will take you to where you're hoping to be, is something anyone can do.   Greg McKeown   Mm hmm. Yeah, I agree with everything you're saying. This idea of what essentialism isn't, it's not just saying no to everything- that's no-ism. That's a different kind of book. This is about pursuing what really matters. You know, a lot of people get caught up on the elimination thing, which I completely agree that elimination is important as part of the process, and I do emphasize it. We need to make trade-offs, we need to rid ourselves of the other things that get in the way.   Anna McKeown  Well, especially in a world where stuff is being shoved at us constantly.   Greg McKeown   Yeah, we've been bombarded.   Anna McKeown  We are being bombarded, absolutely. Absolutely.   Greg McKeown Just this last week. I remember on one of the days just feeling flooded with all the noise. There's a lot of fear right now, there's a lot of panic right now, there's a lot of uncertainty. We have no control over many of the things going on right now. And, I felt this awareness that I was feeling; I was working hard and we were communicating, we were talking about things. But I just felt myself, it was harder and harder to really hear that calm guidance, that this is the right way. You know, so essentialism is doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time. And so the price is primarily pushing out all the other noise, all the other voices, to be able to hear that most essential voice that carries you through. And I think that is a timeless and timely principle and practice; that in good times and bad, in relatively certain times, and in times of just crazy complexity, uncertainty and so on volatility- it's the same principle. In times when we have had no money at all. In times, where we've had masses of student debt, and no money at all. At times when the children were little.   Anna McKeown I know, everyone is sending their kids to preschools, and sports, and music, and we couldn't afford any of those things. And I was panicking going, "Oh, my goodness, are we, am I too late? Can we not?"   Greg McKeown  "We're going to be behind."   Anna McKeown   Yeah. Yeah.   Greg McKeown  And for a lot of people listening to this, I mean, there's such a huge range of experiences right now. That heartbreaking situation where so many people are literally in food banks for the first time in their lives. People who have previously, maybe were living paycheck to paycheck, who now have lost that paycheck and have no certainty as to what comes next. Many millions of people suddenly on unemployment benefits that weren't before. Plus, you've got some people on there that maybe on the other end of this spectrum where they are, that they actually have full employment and so on, in that sense they're okay. But they still are now for the first time working from home. Yeah, first time that homeschooling, they've got all of this uncertainty too. And I suppose what I'm asking you, and I'm asking me to is to what extent does this element of essentialism, this core tenet of it, apply across the board? Does it apply? Or is it really just a place of, yeah, it's fine for the privileged, but it's not okay for everybody else?   Anna McKeown  Well of course, I believe that it does apply. I can only speak from my own experience, and that is limited. But when our children were young, and we didn't have money, things were stressful and tight. I think that was a time when I started reading to them; it became a really beautiful habit. You know, you might look at that and go, that's not essential. And, you know, maybe it isn't. But it made all the difference. It was something that drove our family together when we didn't have much. And that brought in voices of simpler times, some of them voices of wisdom, heroes, aspiration, humor, adventure, doing hard things, these mentors from these books.    And I just believe wherever we are, if we do the best with what we have, we will get more out of it than we put in. And we will be guided as we listen, as we're able to clear out the voices that are competing for our minds for a time, for our resources, for our brains. You know, that we will be guided to do what's essential and that those things will lift us to a higher place.   Greg McKeown  And if I had to summarize, like the most important learning from the last couple of years of our life, I would say gratitude is there. Maybe the most important.   Anna McKeown I think maybe for my whole life. I mean, there were times before we ever met, where gratitude changed my life.   Greg McKeown There's so many lessons to pull from this, but one that I feel like I've been able to articulate recently was this. If you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. If you focus on what you have, you lose what you lack. Everybody's had experiences that were uncertain, stretching, challenging, unexpected. Everybody right now is dealing with something and many things. And so I just feel like this idea of gratitude in all things, for all things; believing that every experience can be for you, not just happening to you is a particularly powerful principle relevant right now. It's like the essential thing right now.    If you can focus on what you're grateful for, then it will generate positivity around you. You can create that positivity right now and that can generate the same kind of magic, even in difficult times; help make the pivot faster, help make the shift to what opportunity is here, clearer than before.   Anna McKeown I think there's no end to the power of gratitude. I'm not saying it's a cure-all exactly. I mean, I know there are traumatic things that people go through.   Greg McKeown   You're not saying gratitude is a quick fix.   Anna McKeown  No, and not the only thing ever needed. I think it's pretty close.   Greg McKeown   Might be the closest thing we have to a quick fix and a cure-all.   Anna McKeown   Well, certainly with the normal human challenges of life.   Greg McKeown   Hmm, I've noticed with our children, we've been instituting a policy recently, where it's fine to complain but every time you complain, you have to say something you're thankful for afterwards. Remember, Jack one time complained about something, and I was "Okay, well that's fine, you can complain, but now you got to say something you're thankful for." And grumpily, he said, "Fine, I am thankful for seven grains of sand." That is what he said. And then he complained again a moment later so he had to do it again; the other children were there too. And he said, "Okay, fine. I'm grateful for six grains of sand." And here's the thing, and he kept doing that, random numbers of grains of sand. And he just thought it was, he thought it was so clever, he was delighted with it because he knew he could do it forever. Here's the thing about gratitude.   Anna McKeown  It made everyone laugh.   Greg McKeown   That's what I'm saying. Is that when you're grateful, even when it's rumpy gratitude, it's so powerful. It changes the mood. I have yet to see this not be true. I've had the children sometimes go, you know, I'll say “Okay, right we're all gonna say three things we're thankful for.” And I've had them go, "I'm so grateful that dad wants to play that dumb gratitude game right now." And it doesn't matter, it changes the feeling, it's a powerful thing. That is what I've learned. And right now, I'm so amazed at how quickly it shifts things. So normally I don't, I say nothing is a quick fix, nothing's a cure-all; but this is pretty close.    And as people are trying to have a rebirth in their lives right now, right as they're trying to figure out the whole world is asking this question, what's essential, now? I've never seen anything like that number of people being confronted with that reality, and everyone's doing that. I think these principles like right there, this is what will give us the energy and the insight to be able to do that work. Give us a final word.   Anna McKeown   No pressure. I think it's within everybody's ability to discover what is essential to them. I think it takes time. I think sometimes you already know. I think that we don't give ourselves enough credit. We don't always listen to that voice inside of us to the things that we really do know or really do believe, because the voices of others are so loud sometimes. And I know that certainly I've found a lot of confusion sometimes, in all the voices out there, there's so many opinions. But I think that we really do know what is essential for us, and that if we take the time to find that out and to prioritize it, that we'll have that peace and confidence that we're doing what really matters.   Greg McKeown This is Anna McKeown, the most essentialist person in our home, the true enabler of book, now this podcast and many other things. I feel sure will still be built as we turn this conversation into a movement. Of course, the most essential person in my life, you embody everything that matters most to me. A person of great wisdom, I am delighted to have had this conversation. I am delighted for anybody to have heard this and to be able to have a sense of what the journey has been to this point. I really do sort of think this, what we've talked about, is like the birth of essentialism. So thank you.   Anna McKeown   Thank you.   Greg McKeown  So thank you for listening. If you've enjoyed the podcast, then please subscribe on Apple or Spotify, Stitcher, Google. And please leave a review of why essentialism matters to you so that we can extend this and invite other people to be part of the essentialism family. Continue this conversation by following me at Gregory McKeown on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram. Follow the podcast as well for updates and inspiration, or We've made the next few episodes available ahead of time with exclusive bonus material, interview transcripts, and an invite only site community for those essentialists who support our community via Patreon.  This podcast was produced out of pocket by myself and my partners at Wheelhouse, so anyone who can jump in and really invest in this, is appreciated. If you're on Apple podcast, check out the show notes to subscribe. If not, we're at, and also you will find out there, whatever actually happened to the horses. Thank you.
Jun 22, 2020
Trailer: Essentialism with Greg McKeown

Essentialism Podcast

Greg McKeown

Wheelhouse Entertainment


  • Hosted by Greg McKeown
  • Produced by Greg McKeown and Wheelhouse Entertainment
  • Executive Produced by Greg McKeown, Avi Gandhi, Brent Montgomery, Eric Wattenberg, and Ed Simpson
  • Edited by Emma Gladstone and Deanna Markoff
May 14, 2020