See what really matters

Published on Sep 20, 2020

This is my ongoing series with notes as I explore the concept of Essentialism.

Introduction to Essentialism

The power of choice

The unimportance of practically everything

Trade-offs: Which problem do I want?

The perks of being unavailable

Journalism students are very familiar with the concept of a "lead." The lead of a story contains the why, what, when, and who of the piece. It covers the essential information. It's not enough to know these facts, though. You need to understand the point.

In every set of facts, something essential is hidden. The best journalists do not simply relay information. Their value is in discovering what really matters to people. Being a journalist of your own life will force you to stop hyperfocusing on all the minor details and see the bigger picture.

We know instinctively that we cannot explore every single piece of information we encounter in our lives. Discerning what is essential to explore requires us to be disciplined in how we scan and filter all the competing and conflicting facts, options, and opinions constantly vying for our attention.

Essentialists are powerful observers and listeners. Knowing that the reality of trade-offs means they can't possibly pay attention to everything, they listen deliberately for what is not being explicitly stated. They read between the lines.

Nonessentialists listen too. But they listen while preparing to say something. They get distracted by extraneous noise. They hyperfocus on inconsequential details. They hear the loudest voice but they get the wrong message. In their eagerness to react they miss the point.


Pays attention to the loudest voice

Hears everything being said

Is overwhelmed by all the information


Pays attention to the signal in the noise

Hears what is not being said

Scans to find the essence of the information