Trade-offs: Which problem do I want?

Published on Aug 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

A strategic position is not sustainable unless there are trade-offs with other positions.

The reality is, saying yes to any opportunity by definition requires saying no to several others. Trade-offs are real and we can't "do it all." We can either make the hard choices for ourselves or allow others--whether our colleagues, our boss, or our customers--to decide for us. We can try to avoid the reality of trade-offs, but we can't escape them.

A Nonessentialist approaches every trade-off by asking, "How can I do both?" Essentialists ask, "Which problem do I want?" An Essentialist makes trade-offs deliberately. Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, "What do I have to give up?" they ask, "What do I want to go big on?" The cumulative impact of this small change in thinking can be profound. 


Thinks "I can do both."

Asks, "How can I do it all?"


Asks, "What is the trade-off I want to make?"

Asks, "What can I go big on?"

Trade-offs are not something to be ignored or decried. They are something to be embraced and made deliberately, strategically, and thoughtfully.