Ep170: How to Avoid Burnout and Live a More ‘Effortless’ Life | with Greg McKeown

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“There are two kinds of people in the world – people who are burned out, and people who know they are burned out.”
– Greg McKeown

There is an epidemic of exhaustion and burnout in not only Hollywood but globally across countless industries. The culture of overwork and exploitation specifically in the entertainment industry is beyond toxic at this point, and something needs to change. My theory is that many of the people at the top in Hollywood did not get there because they are always the best at what they do or because they are great leaders. I believe a lot of those who dictate how the industry works got where they are today because they have simply been willing to endure the most abuse, and they are the ones willing to maintain the status quo – i.e., saving money at the expense of saving lives.

“The Great Resignation” is evidence that people are fed up with the status quo. The old model of “work longer and harder” is not a tenable model anymore. There are no more hours left in the day to work harder, therefore finding a way to work smarter is the only solution left. Luckily, there is a new model already out there, and my guest today, best selling author Greg McKeown, is here to tell us all about how to live not only an essential but also an effortless life.

Greg is a return guest who made his first appearance on the show to talk about his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (which I thought so highly of I included it as core curriculum in my Focus Yourself program). His latest book, Effortless: Make it Easier to do What Matters Most, picks up where Essentialism left off. After making his own life “essential” and achieving great success from his book, Greg found that ironically he could no longer even fit just the essential things in his life anymore. He was doing all the right things, but he was doing them the wrong way. And in today’s conversation Greg and I discuss how we all can apply his Effortless model to both make our lives easier while also having a positive effect on our work culture as a whole.

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • Recap of Essentialism for the uninitiated.
  • How the success of Essentialism led him to a new problem and his new book.
  • How to apply the concept of the three rocks to you life.
  • Why the old way of thinking that working harder is what will get you success is not sustainable anymore.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY:  Ask yourself “how am I making this harder than I need to?”
  • Greg reveals his true feelings and best insights of the culture of Hollywood based on his experience working in a wide variety of industries.
  • Why Greg believes competition against Hollywood is a good thing.
  • How the pandemic has led to more burnout than ever before.
  • Greg’s mindset for adapting to the pandemic and how it led to greater success in his career.
  • The pandemic created an experience of involuntary essentialism for many people.
  • An illustration of how the effortless way led to greater success in a race to the South Pole.
  • The importance of knowing your lower bounds and upper bounds of any particular task or endeavor.
  • How I changed my ANW workout routine to make it more effortless and the results I achieved from it.
  • Greg explains the difference between running hard and running fast.
  • Why we should reject the motto: No pain. No gain.
  • How gratitude helped Greg make dealing with his daughter’s illness easier.
  • One simple rule for practicing gratitude.
  • The advice he received that inspired the idea of effortless.

Useful Resources Mentioned:

Greg McKeown – Essentialism Advocate | Inspirational Speaker | Bestselling Author

Ep34: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less | with Greg McKeown

Effortless – Greg McKeown

Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Amundsen vs Scott: The Deadly Race to the South Pole – Life in Norway

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Episode Transcript

Zack Arnold 0:00

My name is Zack Arnold, I'm a Hollywood film and television editor, a documentary director, father of two, an American Ninja Warrior in training and the creator of Optimize Yourself. For over 10 years now I have obsessively searched for every possible way to optimize my own creative and athletic performance. And now I'm here to shorten your learning curve. Whether you're a creative professional who edits, writes or directs, you're an entrepreneur, or even if you're a weekend warrior, I strongly believe you can be successful without sacrificing your health, or your sanity in the process. You ready? Let's design the optimized version of you.

Hello, and welcome to the Optimize Yourself podcast. If you're a brand new optimizer, I welcome you and I sincerely hope that you enjoy today's conversation. If you're inspired to take action after listening today, why not tell a friend about the show and help spread the love? And if you're a longtime listener and optimizer O.G. welcome back. Whether you're brand new, or you're seasoned vets, if you have just 10 seconds today, it would mean the world to me if you clicked the subscribe button in your podcast app of choice, because the more people that subscribe, the more that iTunes and the other platforms can recognize this show. And thus the more people that you and I can inspire, to step outside their comfort zones to reach their greatest potential. And now on to today's show.

There is an epidemic of exhaustion and burnout in not only Hollywood but globally across countless industries. The culture of overwork and exploitation, specifically in the entertainment industry is beyond toxic at this point, and something needs to change. My theory is that many of the people that have gotten to the top in Hollywood, they didn't get there because they're always the best at what they do, or because they are great leaders. I believe that a lot of those who dictate how the industry works today, simply got there because they have been willing to endure the most abuse, and they are the ones willing to maintain the status quo, meaning they are here to save money at the expense of saving lives. The great resignation is evidence that people are fed up with the status quo, the old model of work longer and harder. It's just not tenable anymore. There are no more hours left in the day to work harder. Therefore, finding a way to work smarter is the only solution that we have left. Luckily, there is a new model that is already out there. And my guest today, Best Selling Author Greg McKeown is here to tell us all about how to live not only an essential, but also an effortless life. Greg is a returning guest who made his first appearance on the show to talk about his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which I think so highly of that I've included it as core curriculum in my Focus Yourself program. His latest book, Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most picks up where Essentialism left off. After making his own life essential and achieving great success from his first book, Greg found that ironically, he could no longer even fit to just the essential things in his life anymore. He was doing all the right things, but he was doing them the wrong way. And in today's conversation, Greg and I discuss how we can all apply his effortless model to both make our lives easier, while also having a positive effect on our work culture as a whole.

If today's conversation inspires you to take action, pursue more fulfilling work and design a more balanced life without sacrificing your health, your relationships or your sanity in the process, then I invite you to subscribe to my brand new weekly newsletter that I'm calling Your Cure for the Case of the Mondays. Every Monday morning I will share with you my favorite resources, mindset strategies, and practical tips to give you more energy so you can be more productive and so you can optimize every facet of your life, such that you no longer dread the week ahead. But instead, you can't wait for the next Monday morning to start all over again. To subscribe and become the newest member of the revolution. Simply visit optimizeyourself.me/newsletter. Alright, without further ado, my conversation with New York Times bestselling author Greg McKeown made possible today by our amazing sponsor, Ergodriven who's going to be featured just a bit later in today's interview. To access the show notes for this and all previous episodes, as well as just subscribe so you don't miss the next inspirational interview, please visit optimizeyourself.me/podcast.

I'm here today with Greg McKeown who's the author of both of the New York Times bestsellers, Effortless and Essentialism and you're the host of the What's Essential podcast you've been covered by the New York Times, Fast Company, Fortune, Politico Inc. I mean, frankly, if I read all the accolades, I'm probably going to waste half the amount of time that I have with you today. So I'm just going to stop now.

Greg McKeown 4:55

Not essential, none of that is essential.

Zack Arnold 4:57

None of it is I love that none of it is essential, but here's something that is essential. until that I have to put on the record and make very clear to my audience. In addition to all those accolades, I know it's not the New York Times or Fast Company or anything else. But you have become one of the five most essential voices that I have in my ear, that has guided me towards the life transformation that I've made over the last several years reading your book, essentialism was a game changer, just an absolute game changer. And you and I talked about it extensively. I don't want to rehash that entire conversation, because it's available already. I'll put a link in the show notes. One of the reasons that I gravitated to you into that book, and we're going to talk a little bit about this is how you explain the process of essentialism, like a Hollywood film editor, and I said, Oh, this guy's for me, because I understand that process. Yeah. So we talked all about how we can become the editors of our entire lives. And that actually spurred me to make a major career transition and build the business that I have, which is now helping other creative professionals, rewrite their own stories and find what's essential.

Greg McKeown 5:57

Well, I'm delighted to delighted to be a part of it. And thank you for thinking of me, and I'm very much looking forward to this conversation.

Zack Arnold 6:08

So I want to thank you for that, personally, you're now a core foundation of the programs that I teach. And I mean, hundreds of my students have have listened to your podcast over and over and over ad nauseum. So I thank you for all of that.

Greg McKeown 6:20

Thank you. That's very kind of you. And I I'm sure there's, there's a lot to the story that you just described, I can I can, you know, it's not you're not giving lip service to something, I can tell that to that significance. And I'm, I'm interested to hear about it

Zack Arnold 6:38

just for anybody that's come into this completely cold that isn't aware of you that isn't aware of essentialism. Let's talk for just two minutes, let's give them like the trailer version and Hollywood speak, give us the trailer for essentialism. So we have that as a backdrop to then make the transition to what you're doing now.

Greg McKeown 6:53

Yeah, I mean, there's there's a contrasting way to look at life. One is as a non essentialist. Non essentialist, thinks they have to do everything, because it's all important. And as a consequence of that these fall into the undisciplined pursuit of more, that's what they do. And the consequences of that is not that they get it all as they imagined they will, but that they end up stretched too thin work or at home, both. They feel busy, but not necessarily productive. They're saying yes, just to please just to avoid trouble. And their day is constantly hijacked by other people's agenda for them. So it's an unsatisfying way to live, and it doesn't fulfill what's on the packaging. It does not give what it promises. And the reason it doesn't is because non essentialism is based on a lie. Essentialist on the other hand, they they that it's we can start with that point on the lie, it's like, the first rule of being essentialist is, it's a blunt way to say it, but to stop lying about being able to do it all. Just stop lying that if you can do it all, you'll have it all, none of that's true. And so that's the inconvenient reality of the whole approach of the non essentialist, it doesn't matter what the motives are, it will it will lead to an unintended set of consequences. The essentialist sees, does and get different things. An essentialist sees a world where only a few things are essential, most stuff is non essential. And so they're trying to create space, therefore, to figure out what's essential, explore what matters, to eliminate the non essentials to get rid of as much of that the trivial many as possible. And then to make it as effortless as possible to do what matters most. And if you do those things, you get something different, you get the right results. And without burning out. You have joy in the journey, because you're not trying to live by everybody else's sense of, of prioritization, you're not just trying to keep up with the crowd or, or live by FOMO, or live out of your inbox, or live or zoom, eat sleep, repeat life. So there's this sense of improved quality of life, and also improved quality of results. Those are the contrast between being an essentialist on the one and a non essentialist on the other. That's kind of the framework behind essentialism.

Zack Arnold 9:24

You sound like you've summarized your book once or twice in the past that was that was very essential and concise. I must say. The best way that I could summarize it very very quickly and it's probably the the keynote slide gets the the most jokes basically stealing your joke picture of a tombstone and on the tombstone it says he checked email I'm like, is this what it's all about? And people just instantly get it. They're like, Oh, my God, I totally get it. Right and, and that was me as well. Maybe not the email so much. But I was so wrapped up in what I thought the definition of success was supposed to be in Hollywood. But as a professional and everybody defines, it's the same way you get on the stage at the theater, and you're holding up the Oscar, and you've made it. And other than that, it's always working toward something. And I realized that there were such a tremendous cost in pursuing that, that I had to strip out so many things in my life and decide what is indeed essential instead. And I want you to talk a little bit more about this process. And this analogy of the big rocks. This is something that Stephen Covey had popularized in the 90s, that you've also talked about extensively. And I want people to understand that first, so then we can make the transition to talking about how to make things even more effortless.

Greg McKeown 10:37

Yes, I mean, it's, it's a, it's a valid and powerful metaphor. It's this it's was popularized by Steven, Steven Covey. But, but of course, it predates him. It's a, you know, been around is hundreds of years, I suppose. And the story is of a mentor that comes along and says, Okay, here's the container, your job is to put those that sand those small rocks that those big rocks in the container. And if you put the sand in first, then the small rocks, then the big rocks, then it doesn't fit geometrically it doesn't end. And the idea and Stephen would do this on stage, and he'd say, Okay, well, let's put the big rocks in first, let's work out of a different paradigm, and you put the big rocks in first, then the small rocks, then the sand, and it fits. And most people have heard of the big rocks theory. And, and I would say that essentialism is somewhat analogous to that, that you're saying, Look, get the essential things clear, put them first. I mean, maybe you don't even put the small rocks that are even the sand, you don't even have to bother with it, you just get the most essential things. And that's the way you focus. And so I believe in that I still believe in that. But I also found myself partially because And ironically, because essentialism did well. And it opened up so many opportunities for me, that even with being more selective than I'd ever been, I still found myself going this is this, I'm not quite sure how you put this in. And it begged a question for me, which was, what do you do if you just have too many big rocks? You know, that's not the same. Now, you can't just say what put them in first, it's like, yeah, but they might just not fit. And, and then in the midst of that already experience, then one of my children became very, very sick, and very inexplicably sick. So urologists will be involved and she was taking on symptoms like, would be similar to Parkinson's disease, and this tremendous freefall and capability. And that was in addition to what was going on. And so. So, you know, that's that that's sort of the premise for why I realized, well, we've got to go beyond essentialism, and go deeper into some of the things that are within these ideas. And that was sort of the birth of the effortless, and I should say, because otherwise, I'll maybe forget to say that the two years after all these problems started with my daughter, everything she is, well, she is doing very well now. But the experience taught me things perhaps I couldn't have learned in any other way. And one of them was this idea that there are two ways to execute even after you've identified Okay, well, here are the rocks, here's the essential stuff. If you, you know, an overachiever might still take, take a rock and an over complicated, add layers onto that rock, like it's essential to things important, but you might over over complicated. And lots of, I don't know, just bells and whistles that make it harder to fit in your life. And so if you can start to strip away not just the non essential stuff, but the over complications, and that makes it harder than necessary to get the right things done. They can make a huge difference and it did to us.

Zack Arnold 14:09

Well, if you're looking in the dictionary for the word overcomplicated, you're going to see my picture, I am the king of overcomplicating everything, talk to my team, they'll say we love him to death, but oh my God, Why does everything have to be so hard? Right? I always do. It's all like diving into analysis, paralysis and all these different details. And that's, that's really one of my biggest struggles. And for me, it was I first had that struggle with all the big rocks. And I think that our journeys are so similar, whereas I might be a few few years behind, but on a very similar path, where when I found you, it was all about, well, how do I get the gravel out of the way and then sand out of the way and in my mind was if I just get all this little stuff done, then I'll have space to focus. And that would happen nine or 10pm Every day. Well, I have the time to focus but I don't have the energy. So you taught me how do I find what are the biggest Astrox what are the most essential things, and I've completely transformed my mindset. So now I focus on only the essential things. But then I realized, I'm going to need a bigger jar, like, there's nothing that I want to cut out of my life. I mean, I love the job that I have. And I bet you know, been promoted to the, to the point where they, they treat me with tremendous amount of respect, and I love every bit of it. And I'm also building, building this online business. I've also been training for American Ninja Warrior for almost four years now. And I prioritize my family, I have four huge rocks, and they take up all the space. And I actually wrote a piece just recently for my audience, where I talked about exhaustion versus burnout, and burnout is going to be a big topic that you and I are going to talk about. And I asked them, what's the difference between exhaustion and burnout? And a lot of people didn't really understand, and I love your take on it. But I said that for me, with all the big rocks that I have in my life, I don't have all this boundless energy. People say, Oh, my God, you must have all this energy. And you get all these things done. I'm like, Are you kidding? I'm exhausted every single day. But I'm so fulfilled, because everything that I'm working on is essential. Then when I wake up the next morning, I'm ready to do it all over again. But it's still I would assume that you don't just walk around and write these books and teach and travel and have family. Like, I always feel amazing, right? Like, it's exhausting. But I don't experience burnout anymore, because it's only the essential things and you know, I collapse in the bed at 10 o'clock at night, but I wake up at 630. All right, bring it, let's do it again. Right, and burnout, I feel and this is something I want you to go a lot more into. But burnout is more about just not being able to recover, not having the passion not having the interest. And I feel that you basically encapsulate the entire problem with the entertainment industry, and frankly, a lot of our culture at large in one quote, and that quote is one of my favorites of all time that I share. Absolutely shamelessly. Burnout is not a badge of honor. And what I love about this quote is that you made it so large, on your page that it made it more effortless to hit your page count, because you're like, well, if I'm gonna hit a page count, what if I just make all my words way bigger? And then I need less words on the page. That's an example of being effortless.

Greg McKeown 17:17

Yeah, well, listen, you've set up as well, because Because yes, you're acknowledging both sides of a problem. You know, if somebody is doing non essential stuff, okay, they can cut that out become an essentialist. But it's necessary but insufficient, or at least, I'll say it this way, that that the way people read the book, essentialism is necessary, but insufficient, because actually, I do cover the idea of effortless execution in the book. But it was a theme that somehow in all the work when I was teaching it, and when people would feed back what they'd heard, it was just like, they didn't absorb that second element of the message. So but but it's, it's not, to me, it's not just a nice add on, like, oh, by the way, when you get to execution, make it effortless. It's like hugely, hugely important. And as important as figuring out what the right things, the right way of doing it. And the reason that's so important is because if you do it the wrong way, you'll burn out and won't achieve the results you want to achieve you so so it doesn't matter how important it is or how motivated you are, if you don't have the resources, the energy, the system in place to get you over the finish line that then what else it doesn't matter. You've got to be able to endure to the end, you've got to find out a way of doing that. And I just think about the people watching this listening to this. Like, all of them want better results. All of them want let's call it like a tennis dilemma. All of them want tennis results are however they define that right in business, in their family and their relationships in their health. So they all want tax result, but no one can work 10 times harder. And in that problem in that dilemma is the justification for effortless thinking and effortless strategies. Because if you say, Well, I want these tax results, I guess I just have to work 10 times harder. And you try that then then you know that's the predictable pattern for the burnout that we're talking about.

Alternatively, what people do is they say, Okay, well I have to work 10 times harder. I can't I'll try and then they give up very early on in the process. It's like a boom and bust execution like they try hard for second and they just I just can't do this. It's not sustainable. And so then they give up before they're there. So So whether you give up or you just get burned out before you get there, it's still all like leads to this, you know, but Do you just give up to throw away? The big rocks just give up a lot of people do they give up on their families, they give up on their health, they give up on something that that, you know, is so. So what do you do about it? You you invert the mindset that most insecure overachievers have this idea that you can, instead of saying, How can I work harder to get better results? You say, How can I make it effortless, much easier to get the results I want. And in most instances, in my experience that leaders in general, and by in general, I meet a ratio of like at least 90 to 10, when they want better results will say and often it's higher than this. And then 99 to one will say, we've got to really get better results, you've got to really go harder. Well, that's the old way of thinking. The old way was work even harder to get better results than the new way of thinking says, How do we get better results by making it easier? Let's look for that instead of the pure is an idea that says distrust the easy. That says something like easy equals lazy. The new and the data supports this really solidly is that you say Well, no, of course, lazy, easy does not equal lazy. course that's not true. I mean, there's definitionally not true. You look up in a dictionary. Easy is something does not require effort. Lazy is you're not willing to put in effort, but everyone listening to this was already willing to put in test effort. So that's not really the issue. Now it's about, you know, how can you get a higher, you know, we know return on investment, but higher return on effort, a higher ROP. And that's really necessary for all of that essential work that will that will help you, you know, make a higher contribution. But I think the basic position is on effortless is that what got you here won't get you there. So you have to have a second mindset shift. And it's it's really powerful. What can happen as soon as somebody embraces that, that that inverted view. So here's something people can ask right now, they can say that something that's important to them some project that really matters, a goal that they would love to achieve, or overwhelmed by just ask yourself, How am I making this harder than I need to? That's it. That's a coaching question you can ask right away, and it will reveal some brilliant strategies along the way.

Zack Arnold 22:32

Well, this concept of doing things, the new way where it's effortless and easy, doesn't equal lazy, I'm pretty sure this memo has not gotten to any of the decision makers in the entertainment industry. So if you could just clear your calendar, and you could talk to all those that make the schedules and the budgets and manage the sets and manage the productions, that would be terrific. Because right now, the prevailing notion amongst all organized labor, even beyond enter the entertainment industry, is in order to meet these demands, we just have to work longer and harder.

Greg McKeown 23:03

Listen here. Hollywood's messed up here here in a serious way, and I've sort of lived it, you know, close now to the industry for the last few years. And I've worked in industries all over the world. And I don't really think there's any major industry I haven't worked in Hollywood is different than all of them. And and there's a few things. You know, I I haven't quite got wrestled it down to like, why I think it is so yeah so toxic. Yeah,

Zack Arnold 23:36

Toxic is saying it lightly. But yes, that's a good place to start.

Greg McKeown 23:40

Yeah, that's, that's right. I mean, I mean, like, among, among things I have observed as a rule, people do not read. It's not totally true, but it's pretty close to being true. So you have people who are creating content, but they aren't necessarily agents who aren't reading any content you've got, you've got producers who didn't read the original books that the ideas were based on, it's like there's that if you remove reading out of an industry, then then you're going to make them especially dependent on FOMO. Because you just start looking whatever else is doing it. Okay, well, I guess you have to do it their way. You know, there's no foundational understanding, you can go read and understand what how to be successful based on the best thinking and Western literature, let's say or, or just even just best practices or let's take management leadership. No, people aren't reading leadership books, they're not going to training. Most of the Hollywood companies that I've worked with, don't even do outside to bring in people from the outside framing and developing culture and so on. So it's this. It's a very strange process where you have this masses of people. There's a supply of, of people who want to be in the entertainment industry, and it's so vital. Supply compared to the actual space for them that people are willing to do anything to get in, they're willing to put up with any sorts of practices within the industry. And, and and, you know, anyway, we could go on what makes this perfect storm exist. But I also I think adds to this sense of like, well, if I've got 1000 people down the road, who are willing to do this job, under any circumstances, all night long, not being paid, hardly being paid, then you complain, fine, off you go, you know, you can leave, you can leave LA, you can leave this this monster of an industry, I'll just get the next person. And so there are these dynamics underneath that massive turnover, right, the turnover of talent, not just of actors and so on, but also of professionals within the industry that just can't can't make it. Now that I'm still riffing here, I mean, one more thing that I think is strange, but doesn't explain it all, but doesn't help is the idea that no one gets paid until anyone everyone gets paid means that people don't feel they have that, you know, they don't have the stability financially, to be able to say, Hey, listen, sure, I'll come and I'll work on this project. And I'll take my time to make sure that I'm doing it well. It's all just like, you know, just I'm only gonna do anything that I think will actually get the deal done. And so that's not the healthiest view. Anyway, there you go. I mean, there's riffing on this, I'm not sure I'm being very helpful.

Zack Arnold 26:31

But we're being immensely helpful, and really bringing some clarity to everything that is wrong, because you are on the outside, the vast majority of people that I talk to about our industry issues are on the inside. And sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees. And you're coming with a tremendous amount of perspective, understanding cultures, in other industries. And the problem is the culture. It's this site. It's basically this this toxic culture of exploitation. And if you were to ask just about anybody, I've spoken to hundreds of people about this. But if you ask any craftsperson, at any level, they all say the same thing I put up with it. Because I know that if I don't, I will be replaced tomorrow. Every single person is replaceable, from the PA, to the director to the producer, to the studio executives, even they go through a constant revolving door. And I think that one of the biggest issues that I've seen the you just hit on perfectly that I've been screaming from the rooftops for years, is there is no such thing as leadership training. Basically, you fail your way upwards. And as long as you survive more than everybody else, you get to the top, if you're willing to put up with more shit, then you get promoted, because the other people aren't willing to put up with it. And you think this is the way that it works. And that's how the new people are going to come up. So it's created this entire generation of thinking, if you don't pay your dues, and you don't give me 90 hours a week, and you're not willing to work for exposure box will too bad because that's how it was for me. And that's how it needs to be for you. And I think one of the biggest issues is all summarized in one quote, this is just the way that it is.

Greg McKeown 28:02

Yeah, I mean, that's how bad culture gets moved on. And it's true, you know, it's like, it's like the equivalent of bloodletting in medical industry that you have a paradigm. Well, this is how we've always done it, this was the way we think about it. And you know, we are literally for the longest time, you know, the paradigm is when you've got to the blood is the problem, and you need to remove the blood, because the diseases in the blood and so by, you know, we'll put leeches on your will suck out the blood. I mean, this is, other than being medieval, is also really clearly damaging patients, the vast majority of patients that experienced bloodletting were being damaged by it. But it still went on. And it took and a whole increase of knowledge, but a sustained increase of knowledge over a period of time to tip the scales that reached a tipping point. And then you said, Okay, well, actually, this germ theory is a different way of doing this. And, and so, I see myself somehow in that role of, of trying to be an amplifier for for the data that supports a that suggests a completely different paradigm is what actually works. So just because it's the norm, just because 50 million people could could could believe a thing and it would still be wrong, you can have 50 million people believing in bloodletting it doesn't make it so and same for this kind of this kind of exploitation. This kind of burnout norm that you just do just have to that's the only way to make a movie. You know, if you watch the movies that made us right, but the very entertaining watching some of these, I haven't watched all of them, but I've watched a few of them and, and it does give you another insight into how utterly chaotic even the most successful movies seem to be, but it's Is it true that it has to be? And why? Because I don't have anyone just explaining that. Well, why? What? Just because that's the way you've done it before? Oh, it's complex. Well, lots of things are complex. You know, I know someone have colleague, a friend whose job it was to build a city, King Abdullah economic city, and his job is to build a city. Well, that's pretty complex, too. Does it necessarily necessitate the complexity means you have to be chaotic constantly. You have to treat people as if they are not people. I mean, this is this is a, I mean, well, the thing is, it isn't sustainable. So eventually, it will give way and I wonder whether the new streaming services might not have a positive effect over time, we'll see. But the Hollywood's not had a competitor in the US a serious competitor ever. But the streaming service is suddenly having Netflix which of course I know is that has strong presence physically in Hollywood, but but also, you know, isn't headquartered in Hollywood, like that is in a when they're just swallowing up Hollywood now. And they're, generally speaking have given a lot of freedom to how creators can go about their work. Now, I'm not I don't know all the ins and outs, maybe people could point point two exceptions with this, but but my story for it is that is that this could be quite quite a healthy thing. Because, because, well, I mean, now it's, I can tell you the problems with Silicon Valley, too, I've worked in Silicon Valley for 15 years. I mean, I can say the problems there too, but they're not the same as Hollywood's that they're much more in very fast moving very intense, but that they recognize, among other things, the incredible value of the war for talent. So they aren't in the same idea of like, oh, just throw them away, we'll get another incredible engineer, and no problem. It isn't like that, in general, you recognize you're like, Listen, if we don't look after our, you know, our, you know, talent, then they'll go somewhere else. And so they bring those assumptions into the way they create organizations. So, you know, when I see Netflix coming along, and I think it's positive, potentially for the for the industry, to have these various streaming services, so that you don't just have a single location where all the talent feels they have to be in put up with it. And in fact, I think you are seeing this various hubs all over the US right in Atlanta and in in Texas, and deserve sort of, you know, Silicon Valley slopes in Utah, but there's also a growing films you're seeing there. And I think you are seeing more of this. And I think that could be good for the industry as a whole. So anyway, again, I'm extrapolating here, but you can tell me where I'm wrong.

Zack Arnold 32:57

No, I don't think you're wrong in any of those places. And I think that one of the things that that is happening are these huge growing pains as we change the paradigm of how entertainment is created, where it's created, and who's consuming it. And that has created a huge demand for needing more talent. And I say, talent, quote, unquote, because I think this is one of the biggest issues, where in Hollywood, I do think they recognize certain talent is not being replaceable. And they make sure that they get paid well, those are the showrunners. Those are the writers, those are the actors. But then there are the people that are quote, unquote, below the line. Those are the Expendables, those are the widgets, that we can find 100 of those that can do the job tomorrow, which is one of the reasons asking the question you do why, why are things this way, because at least below the line in their AI, in their view, the talent is limitless, which is why burnout is an absolute epidemic right now. And I love the way that you put this because this was so concise, and I think I'm probably going to steal this, I'm going to modify it. But you said, I believe that I'm here to amplify the data, to share this idea of the new way to do things, right. And what I do is I amplify the experiences. I like to give voice and amplify people that are going through what they're going through, be honest, be on the record, and say, here's what I've been dealing with something needs to change, and that potentially I can provide solutions for the individual. And I believe that we have reached a huge tipping point. And I know that you've talked about this as well. And I think what's changed not just in Hollywood, but in culture in general on why we're facing the great resignation and everything else is the pandemic, because all of a sudden, all these people that were running 170 miles an hour had hit the brakes and say, Wait, what these are all the things that I've been missing my whole life like I get to see my kids and put them to bed at night like and I'm willing to give all that away again for the paycheck that I was getting in the crappy pension and the the exploitation. So talk to me about what you've learned through your research and your experiences with what's happened with the pandemic and how that relates to there being more burnout than there's ever been.

Greg McKeown 34:59

I think that right now, and you could say it for Hollywood, but also everywhere else, I think there's sort of two kinds of people in the world right now. There are people who have burned out and then there are people No, they are burned out by that's like, that's it, that's the group better to be in the second group, because at least then you start to want to do something about it. In an act, you know, it's, it's represented in a variety of ways, right? There's, there's the the zoom, eat, sleep, repeat, lifestyle. I mean, that's part of what it is. It's a sense of no boundaries, the or the experience of looking at your Fitbit at the end of the day, and it says 300 steps, you know, and that's not even an exaggeration. You there's this sense that days running into each other. And then you've got to add to that the experience where people keep thinking, the end is we're going to get to the end of this. And then as we proceed down the path, there's this growing sense of fatigue, or pandemic fatigue, for sure. But also like, all actually, there isn't really an end. Now. It's different in different places, different places in the world, and certainly different states within the US. In California. It's the sense is, it's very much with us in on the coasts, you have that sense, partially because of the density of the population. So there is that change, partially, I think, because of the politics to some extent about this, about how these issues have been framed, and but nevertheless, it's with people, it is present with them. And it says the England is the same, I can cannot really have a conversation with people in those locations where it won't be in that conversation, you just can't have the conversation without like a conversation on any subject without it being part of the framing. Whereas there are some of the locations. I mean, I mean, Arizona today, in fact, in and here is not in the conversation. I'm not making a political point, other than to say it seems there seems to be political reasons for these things being emphasized. I'm not I'm not I'm not trying to, you know, to weigh in and say, Oh, well, this, this isn't really substantive concern, and just saying the psychology of it is wearing on certain groups and certain places more than in other places. And, and so that's all causing, you know, mental fatigue and emotional fatigue, the isolation is enormous is really real. And then slowly as people waking up, hybrids not going away. And that's partially because people don't really wanted to they like some of the advantages. But it also means that we're not, you know, the isolation isn't going to go away. It's not like everybody, there wasn't like a moment, like the end of the war. And these paint pictures we see at the end of the war, and everyone's just triumph. Finally, the Second World War is over, and it's done and get back to our lives. It's, it's like, okay, it's kind of over. It's kind of Willers is kind of over. It's kind of with this, and so and so it's not like the that's the big moment of us coming back together. And so that isolation, I think has a cost well, isn't I'm describing all the problems, I should describe solutions to these things. But

Zack Arnold 38:24

We will get there. Don't worry, I haven't lost track of the fact that we're going to talk about solutions. I didn't forget why we're here. But I definitely agree that one of the things that's just weighing on people, as we've never experienced this feeling of catharsis, right? Like, oh, man, well, the last year and a half was tough, but man, it's when we go back. We can't do that anymore. And what I found is that the sooner you just embrace, here's our new reality. And rather than trying to avoid the obstacle, how do I just get through the obstacle or embrace the obstacle as part of my life, and it'll help me learn and grow? That's going to take a lot of the the edge off. But if it's still trying to figure out how do we get back to quote unquote, normal, like, you're there, we're worried this is normal, where there is not going away anytime soon. And I think that just the that, that inability to release that expectation is one of the things that weighs on us and causes the burnout as opposed to, you know, this feels fulfilling, and I'm enjoying it. Yeah, it's exhausting. But I get to wake up and do it again. It's like, Is this ever going to be over? It's not, it's not about waiting for it to be over. It's about finding a different way to manage it.

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Kit Perkins 39:59

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Zack Arnold 40:18

When people think of protein powders they think, well, I don't want to get big and bulky. And that's not what this is about. To me this is about repair.

Kit Perkins 40:25

So big part of what we're talking about here is you are what you eat. Your body is constantly repairing and rebuilding and the only stuff it can use to repair and rebuild is what you've been eating. Unfortunately, as the years have gone by everyday getting out of bed, it's like you know, two or three creeks and pops in the first couple steps and that I thought you just sort of live with now. But yeah, when starting the collagen daily or near daily, it's just gone. So for us job 1A here was make sure it's high quality, and that's grass fed 100% pasture raised cows. And then the second thing if you're actually going to do it every day, it needs to be simple, it needs to taste good.

Zack Arnold 40:58

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Kit Perkins 41:16

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Zack Arnold 41:31

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Greg McKeown 41:55

Yes, I think I think that's right. I mean, I think it's to do with the cost of being in a semi denial. You know, I kind of a wait, well, we'll wait. And then when we get when these things are, then we'll take take action, then we'll move on with our lives then. And it's like, no, this is this is it, you're in it. So So I do agree with that. I remember when I was very first, when this all first hit, right. I mean, I had friends, it didn't happen to me. But I had friends and even if a family member who were there in the plane going to events that they're going to be speaking at, and the events like two or three events in a row. And in the air, everything's canceled by the time they land, the whole thing is just all over. And so, you know, there's various industries that were disproportionately impacted by this most industries impacted. But some really significantly. And, and I remember the decision I made I said, Okay, we'll just pretend or just accept that the entire industry you're in, right? Like, you know, I speak at conferences, and I teach workshops, and, you know, an educator and let's just assume that that's gone forever, like you will never do an in person event again in your life. And that seemed to me to be a better faster way to to adjust to the reality, then I mean, I know some people okay, well, this is going to be to get a few weeks, oh no, this will be a few months and and then they're holding on and holding on for something instead of using all that time to adapt and to learn and to figure out what you're going to do instead. And so I think that sort of that embracing a reality instead of the construction of a denial story is is is optimal in life and optimal in this pandemic to embrace what is because then you can innovate from that place, rather than always being out of step because you don't want to face you know, you don't want to face reality, you don't want to deal with it. And of course if you don't deal with reality you make a problem part of your future. As soon as you accept the reality you make that problem a part of your past and I do think that that is a better way to exert your your you know, limited energies so that we can get traction in today's reality. I mean I think the only other thing I'll maybe riff on here for a second is just that is what I have actually found happened I mean the things I things I didn't say is okay, well I have time to write the next book you know that's something I could do under the circumstances and I was already under contract to do it but this gave me the window and time to really get to it with effortless and and then created the podcast what to send your podcast you know which which started in the midst of the pandemic and now is like top we will be like top five in the self employed one category in Apple iTunes, and we're just trying to slowly improve it over time. We get I think it gets, it gets incrementally better constantly. And then one minute Wednesday, and I'm listing all of these one minute Wednesday's a newsletter that people can get that for free. We did an online academy@essentialism.com. I'm not listing these things, I suppose it will sound like I am to say, oh, go check these out. I'm listing them because, well, because I probably wouldn't have done those things. I don't know if I'd have done any of those things. If I'd had this one, well, just let's hold out, let's wait, we'll get through this. But because of that adaptation, what has happened, and I it's just my story for what's happened, I could be wrong. But it now, the demand for the kind of work I do is easily twice what it was before the pandemic. And it might be even more like three times for real, what it was before. It will get maybe more leads, we'll get more leads in a week than we used to in a month. And I don't fully know, because there were so many changes made. I can't I can't accurately extrapolate exactly why, you know, is it one thing or another as independent of those things? Is it just because the need is massive. And so you know, for the wellness, well being scores are so low right now, which they are, I don't know what all the factors are. But what I do know is that is that

embracing reality, in yourself and in other people seems to be an absolute key to innovation and breakthroughs. And, and so that means getting honest with yourself facing reality. But it also means facing reality within other people by listening to them and really understanding where they're coming from, so that we don't have false and fake stories about them running in our own heads.

Zack Arnold 46:59

Right. My suspicion would be I know nothing about your business model. I don't know your stats, I don't know your leads your web traffic. I know none of that. I have a suspicion about why exactly. I think you've seen the gross that you have. And it comes from the previous conversation that we had, where I believe the when the pandemic hits, that's when people were forced to ask the question, what is essential, the timing is perfect, because nobody even thought about what's essential, because I don't have enough time to think about that, because I'm too busy. And all of a sudden, they hit the stop button. They're like, holy crap, I need to start focusing on what's essential. And I think the people naturally gravitated towards the work that you're doing the work that others are doing in this space. Because before and I don't know, you experienced this, but I felt like for years, I was shouting from the rooftops and looking down and there was just nobody there. And nobody was listening. It's like, Guys, this is so important. And then all of a sudden, a year ago, people were like, Okay, I'm ready to listen, I'm ready to listen. And I have a feeling you're probably experiencing something very similar.

Greg McKeown 47:59

Yeah, you know, I mean, you're not wrong about that the word essential might have been the sort of global word of the moment because everyone's talking. And this is not how I would always think about this word. But everyone was talking about essential workers and non essential workers, right. Like, what so that word was being used constantly. But I guess more more emotionally, people were experiencing. Like involuntary essentialism, you know, where they, it was, like we were all sent to, you know, like a teenager, right? You just go to your room, and you have a good think about it come out when you're ready. And so a people did have to face sort of face some of the realities of their life. You know, like I've said before, that it's easy. Generally speaking, people find it easier to face their phones than face their life. Right? It is easier to be distracted by whatever app or whatever news or whatever, the last email or input than to really look and say, Okay, how is how is my health? And how is my family? And how is? Yeah. And suddenly you whatever your home was, it's like that idea of like, you've made your bed now you have to lie on it. It's like whatever home you would built, you had to be in it. Physically, literally, if you chose to be in a small apartment in the middle of LA. And that's what you chose. Well, that's where you are now every minute of every day. And so that's one of the reasons lots of people, people I know in the industry who, who will like I'm out, man, I'll stay in the industry fine, but I am going to live somewhere else. This is just crazy. I'm trapped in here with my two kids and my wife and you know, but you people also had to face it wasn't just your physical environment, right? It's like whatever your relationship is with your family, whatever your family dynamic is, you're with them all the time. And of course that caused some problems because people weren't used to being in those situations and afterward, avoiding conflict as we tend to do. And so suddenly, it was like, well, there's no avoiding you. This is it, you're together all the time that your children, whatever their behavior, you have to deal with it all the time. And, of course, that came at a great cost. And I wouldn't really wish any of that one anyone to just have to confront that much reality that fast. It can be discombobulating and disorienting. But it also, I think, provided this opportunity of like, you know, a collective pause a collective moment, and hopefully we won't have another like in our lifetimes. But it was certainly the most significant one like that I've ever seen. And and out of it, you know, you could you can, you can hope, and maybe that is why we've seen so much so much interest in these subjects. But but there is an awakening there too, of like, okay, what is it all about? What do I really want? What I want, what kind of lifestyle do I want to create? And and as people face that this isn't going away fully, I think there will be a sort of okay, well, fine, I'm not, I'm not waiting any longer with this, I'm ready to go. And people seem to think that's going to be January of next year seems to be the industry assumption, that that's when it's all going to really hit Get through Christmas to deal with the holidays. And then let's move on to the next thing. So

Zack Arnold 51:28

yeah, cuz the germs are looking at the calendar, right, they have a timetable. They know when it's all going to be over, and we can go back to normal. But what I can say and this, there's a you play a big part in this, whether you know it or not. But when the pandemic hit for me personally, like it did for everybody else that either amplifies what's working, or it amplifies what isn't working. And what I found is almost immediately, my family really came together, our relationships got richer. And I started asking the question, what are all the things that I would change now that I have to pause? And I'm like, how often, I mean, there were strategies that I had to change, I had to delete nine months off of my calendar, because I couldn't, you know, do the in person events that I was going to be planning. So as far as business plan, I had to start from scratch. But as far as what would I change, and what's essential, I'm like, I've already got all the rocks, I just need to reorganize them a little bit. But what I realized, and this is going to segue to some of the solutions, as I hit the same wall that you did, I don't have the bandwidth to carry or hold all these rocks, and I want a bigger jar. But if the jar is my calendar, there is no more time, I only get 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that's my jar, and I don't have room for the rock. So like like you said, it's not a matter of I have to work even harder, I've got to work smarter. How do I make this more effortless. And one of the things that I want to mention to people that I've said before, is that there's no better return on investment on anything on the planet than a book. Because you can get a book for I don't know, 1015 20 bucks, depending on if you Kindle or hardcover, whatever it is. And if you read all 200 Plus pages, and you get nothing out of it, but one sentence, it can be worth it. And I shared this with you via email. And I want to kind of give the spoiler to everybody that there's a ton of amazing stuff in effortless. But I boiled it down to one sentence. And it was the one sentence I needed here at exactly that moment in my life. And I've made all kinds of sweeping changes in the way I organize my time and my energy because of this one tense sentence. Do not do more today than you can fully recover from by tomorrow. Yeah. Oh, I'm mind blown. I was like, oh my god, this is everything I'm doing wrong. Because like you said the the word that you used earlier was insecure over achiever who would hurt that was twist in the night, my friend, because that's me. And probably most of the people listening insecure over achiever, whatever I achieve, it's not enough. And I got to do more.

Greg McKeown 53:48

Yes, well, I mean, even your description, which I'm not, I'm not knocking at least half of it. You're saying, Well, I'm exhausted every day, but not burned out. And I do agree that with the difference that you're putting on that if you're motivated in the morning, you're you know, you do want to be optimally invested, you want to put you want to have something you want to wake up for and to give yourself to and I really relate to that. But if we are actually exhausted every night,

Zack Arnold 54:17

I knew this was coming, by the way I knew this was coming.

Greg McKeown 54:20

Well, because because there's something about that, that I go well, is that is that optimal? And and I don't know, because there's a lot in the word exhausted, right? There's a range of meaning. But you've already identified the rule that I would be putting to you. But you've got to try and figure that out. Like, yes, have an exception every so on often to the rule. Don't do more today than you can fully recover from, you know, by tomorrow. All of us will have exceptions. But as soon as the exception becomes the rule, then there are hidden costs, you know, then you're going to pay a high price for that right. Things will go Now that you know, even things like our ability to see things clearly, so our relationships still work. And, you know, your health may be okay in certain ways. But we are foggy in our perception and our discernment, when we're running on the edge of exhaustion all the time, we're we're teetering right on the edge of it. And so I think that if we can figure out what that line is for us, and then we have to remove, like, we have to go a little away from it, so that there's some buffer for unexpected problems that always come up and, and then that becomes your optimal space. So I'm not saying go to zero, I'm certainly I'm never advocating for that that's not a meaningful life, there's no contribution and sitting in a rocking chair for the for 30 years and do nothing I mean, that that offers no no sense of satisfaction. But if we get if we push it to the point of diminishing returns, that of course, we're getting less back for every ounce of effort we put in, but we also risk, the higher level of exhaustion, which is negative returns, where every ounce of effort we put in then will make up everything in our lives worse, when I'm writing a new book, right? I'm writing effortless if I work, if I work two or three hours of concentrated work, but actually that's about optimal, I don't really do much more than that really concentrated work. And I actually don't think anyone can, if you push beyond it, if you say goodbye, I'll do four or five hours, is certainly not getting another, you know, an almost doubling of your productivity, no way, you're getting a few extra bits of productivity for all that extra investment. If you go to seven, eight hours, I mean, I'm talking on a consistent basis, that you will make the manuscript much worse than if you didn't even work on it today. And, you know, that's my one example in my life that I know of, you know, you know, personal experience, but it's true and other things, too. So it's, it's about seeing, how can I contribute in crescendo? Yes, I like with thinking about it. Stephen Covey used that language early on, well, with me 20 years ago, and he and his daughter who co authoring a book when he died, and she's just finished it, it hasn't isn't coming out yet. But that idea of living life in crescendo, you don't live life in crescendo, if you live it on the edge of exhaustion, you will plateau way, way before that, you know, us. And then and then what I want to do is I want to be able to contribute for the next 40 years, always going up. And so I've got to be very careful to make sure that I manage, you know, manage my mental, physical, emotional, spiritual health in such a way that you can contribute over that kind of length of time. So there's a different a different orientation.

Zack Arnold 58:01

Let's talk a little bit more about this idea of how do we find that line? How do we find the upper bound? Because I would say that if if there were there were one thing that could have the most profound impact on the way that I managed my life with all the different rocks and a lot of the other people that are listening, that are also the the insecure overachievers, if I knew what's what's that magic number for my upper bound, where I'm doing the maximum amount of effort where I'm actually getting results from it, but I can fully recover by tomorrow. And in the evening, I like, you know what, I'm tired out, but I don't feel like a bag of dirty laundry. How do you find that for yourself?

Greg McKeown 58:35

Let me think it's, I think it's personal to each person. Right. Like, I think it takes self awareness to be aware of that. But it also takes some honesty. I mean, a, you know, a metaphor that, well, it's a it's a story, it's a case study that's compelling. Is is the the race to the polls. And that's the name of biography about about the final two teams that the last two teams to try to get to the South Pole, before someone actually achieved it. Right. Like this is right at the edge. No one has ever ever done it before. Not Not, not not not the whole British navy, in all of its progress. Not that not all the Vikings for 1000 years, no one is ever made it ever and people are really excited about who's gonna do it. People keep trying to keep failing. And the two teams that go at the same time they approach it differently. One team is boom and bust. They're they're saying we're going to go to the absolute edge of exhaustion every day that you know that they can't. And so on the good weather days, they're going you know, 4050 Miles is to just taking everything out of them. But then the the unintended consequence of that was on the bad weather days there was hardly Anything left in the tank and certainly not sufficient to be able to be consistent on those days. So they ended up just being trapped in their tents. And that exhausted them and demoralize them. And they were so unlucky, you know, you could sense in their journals, their emotional state. And there's been moaning everything that's happening. No one could make progress in weather like this. They would, right. But one team could, and that was the Norwegian team. And over there, the expedition leader had a different rule. And his rule was 15 miles a day. That was the rule. Good, whether you do 15, that's your upper bound and bad weather, same thing. But because they didn't push to exhaustion on the good weather days, they had sufficient to be able to be consistent on bad weather days. Well, the plot thickens when they get within, like 45 miles of the South Pole. The weather is perfect. The sledding conditions at that point are also perfect and ideal, relatively flat. And they don't even know where the British team their competitive team is. So for all they know, the British team is ahead of them. They have no idea and they can push through one day and get there. What would you do? Yeah, what would you do? Seriously? Right, Zack, what would you do? What would I do? What Would everyone participating in this listening to this do?

Zack Arnold 1:01:21

Just do it just power through man make it happen? We're so close.

Greg McKeown 1:01:25

All of us would do that. And that's, that is the insecure overachiever speaking that is the no pain, no gain mantra. We an even though I know the end of the story. I'm honest, I sort of think Well, yeah, that's probably what I would do, or, you know, at least be tempted to do well, he doesn't. He says 50 miles a day takes three days to do the last 45 miles. He arrives there at the South Pole, he has beaten the British team by 30 plus days. And Nashville gets our attention because because the idea that pushing to exhaustion, it be like the I the reason we do that is because we believe that's the fastest way to make progress. That's the way to win. And it isn't. And that's the point is that actually it is much, much slower. And this example just captures it's not the whole data. Obviously, it's just one case study. But but but not only is it not what leads to winning, it's also in this case lead to tragic ends because the brushes team not lead by the time they got to the South Pole, they're burned out, they're exhausted, they're emotionally fatigue, none of them make it out alive, right? They all die on the journey home learning Norwegian team had sufficient resources to make the 16,000 mile trip back to Norway. Well, if you read the biography, right when I went back and read that, that that brilliantly written biography came across a phrase that I think should grab our attention, take a breath away, really. And this is the phrase he said the Norwegian team achieved progress and achieved their goal without particular effort. That's the quote, without particular effort. And that's, that's an absurd thing to write. It was the most arduous, physical, objective, almost conceivable to humanity at that time. And yet, he's saying that they made this progress, they without particular effort that says something about the false way we think about making progress, the bloodletting approach, and how we need to think differently about it and execute differently about it. And, and so you know, when when I'm talking about upper bounds and lower bounds in the book, it's just whatever tasks you take on whatever goal you set that you think is important, make sure it really is essential, but then have a minimum bound, so that you're doing a small amount consistently, but also an upper bound, so you're not so you reduce the chances of going big for a day or two, getting exhausted, and then you know, and then stopping for a while, and then you come back in that intermittency. That is so so the human viable, that we were intermittent in our behavior, because we don't have an upper bound, we go too big. We get sore physically or emotionally and we give up for too long. What we want is counterintuitive, but we want an upper bound on it. And I'll push one further point to you. I can't remember the name of it, but it's an ultimate fighting. The UFC trainer, who works with the most elite competitors in that sport in his whole premise is That is that no one training should ever be saw. I want you to think about that. Because, you know, I have to use the credibility of someone else that I'm no good a training for. Remind me the name of the

Zack Arnold 1:05:15

American Ninja Warrior. I was just gonna bring it up anyway, the perfect segue continue?

Greg McKeown 1:05:20

Well, it's, you know, it's so countered the message in messaging that we normally get about training and especially at elite level athletics or performance, and yet, and yet there is there is a data actually is growing. So it's not really, it's not really in question. But the culture is miles behind. So it's so this is tough, like medicine, what I'm describing some people to some groups, it's just like, now we just can't even hear that. You know, why? Why did I do it? The hard way is that's what they have to accept if they want to accept the new mind. Well, why did we put the leeches on our body, you know, back to bloodletting, like, you don't want to accept it? Because the grief what does that mean? I've done but, but to accept that we've been less than wise in the past is just an evidence of getting wiser, instead of faster weakened. The bit these things I think, I think the better. So anyway, they will give?

Zack Arnold 1:06:20

Well, I'm going to give a little bit of a microcosmic example to really help people understand how do I apply this theory, because the specifically what you said about the UFC fighters and not being sore, and that coupled with you have to only do today, what you can fully recover from. By tomorrow, I was like, this is the exact opposite of my training routine for American Ninja Warrior. Because I came into it. As somebody that had I competed, I would have been winning DadBod competitions, like just flat out, I would have walked in shirt off, oh, you're their grand prize, blue ribbon for that Dad Bod right there, right? Not an athlete at all. And I said, I want to make a significant change. And this show has inspired me for years. What I love about the sport is that it's something I literally can do, I can't do it now. But I can't do it. They have 70 year old people that are running the course I'm like, I have no excuse. So I'm going to go after. But I spent the first three years of my training, where I was doing 234 nights a week, Sundays, like just doing these all out, you know, one and a half hour, two hour, four hour sessions. And I was constantly sore, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And it was destroying my sleep in it was destroying my productivity. And it was destroying the energy that I needed to have with my family, which was counterproductive to the entire reason that I was training because I wanted to be more energetic and be more present. And I wanted to inspire people. So I read your book, and I'm like, Ha, how can I make this effortless. And one thing that I've been experimenting with for several months now is instead of doing these really intense workouts during the week, I have one intense workout that I do every Sunday, it's like a four hour ninja workout swinging ropes, all kinds of crazy stuff. I'm always sore after that. But the rest of the week, I've eliminated all of the long intense workouts and an example. microcosmic example, is that I'll just do two sets of pull ups and push ups. That's it, it takes me like five minutes, I'll do like after lunch. And I'll do it in the evening, like when my just focus is getting a little bit lower. And I said, What's the maximum amount of each that I can do. And I'll break that maximum amount in two sets. That's all that I do. Don't even break a sweat. But my performance on those Sunday workouts has skyrocketed. And I'm putting in way less effort during the week and I'm sleeping better. And I'm not nearly as sore. And that to me is the perfect example of how I can take something that was essential. But I made it not necessarily effortless, but as effortless as it can be. And I have way more hours on the calendar in the jar, so to speak, where I can start to move things around a little bit more, because I'm not spending hours and hours and hours at the gym.

Greg McKeown 1:08:47

Well, that's great story. I just love that story. And I love the you know, I love that you are able to apply it to especially to this subject that I think is one of the places that feels a bit too unbelievable to people. But I remember talking to one of the elite coaches in Canada who works with these Olympic athletes. And he said, well, for the last 20 years, we've we've already been adapting this mindset because because of the research, you know that they're driven by the results. They're not they're not. They're not trying to be ideological about it. And, and one of the phrases that he brought up which, which I like is is we have a big difference between run hard and run fast. And I like that difference. He said that he said, if you imagine right now like go run hard. What would that look like? What do you imagine that to be? Now imagine running fast? He's like it's a really different orientation. And so in so that's, again, another one of these problems where heart is implied always better. And it's like no, you want to be able to run fast. You want to be able to be smooth and So yeah, that's one more one more data point is a doctor in the field and in he absolutely completely rejects the no pain, no gain mantra just completely thinks that's just wrong this wrong. And it is I maintain this it's not balanced and it's not. I don't think it's necessary to think like thinking that way. Even though it's posted on all the gyms everywhere we post things that are wrong in in, in, in memes all over the place. It happens all the time. So, so yeah, we're trying to try to get I love this story. That's my summary.

Zack Arnold 1:10:37

Yeah. And that I have a fellow ninja friend of mine that I've met through this entire community. And he said to me, fastest, slow and slow is smooth. And I'm like, What the hell does that mean? And as I started to learn what it meant and internalize it, like I was just always like, Oh, I'm gonna get up this rope. And I'm going to get up to pegboard, right? And I expended so much energy. And as soon as they said, listen, just relax as much as you can, without letting go of the rope. Just breathe. Like when you get up there, breathe and relax. And you watch some of these professionals ninja, the ninjas go through these courses and these obstacles, it looks like they're asleep. Like they're as limp as possible. And they're just grabbing from one thing to the next. And it's effortless. And I said, That's what I want to do. I don't want to be the strongest one, I want to be the smoothest one. So that's really what I focus on more than anything is form. How can I make sure to use the least amount of effort possible to get from this room to that wrong or this rope to that rope? But then I applied it to how do I do that? As an editor? How do I do that as a father, right. And now if I were to show somebody the time blocks on my calendar, there are still a lot of them. And I'm working on eliminating some. But if you saw it for working on Cobra Kai, for example, if I were getting paid for the hours that I work, the 20th century industrialized model of clocking in clocking out, I'd be fired. They'd say you're not working enough hours during the day. But I always think to myself, and I even have told the people that I work with, I want to make sure that I have just as much in the tank, when we're in the trenches doing the season finale is I do on day one, and why would I burn myself out? On week two? When I have 24 weeks ahead of me? Right? And that's a hard sell in this industry right now.

Greg McKeown 1:12:15

Yeah, well, I mean, it is because because we do want people to you know that the other side of the equation is you want people to live, you know, an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, you know, when you're the one paying, you always want that to be, you know, to get to, but what you really want isn't even that that's like a minimum measurement, what you want is high value, you want a higher value than what you're investing, you know, so. So you do want to dislocate those two measurements, you want people that that adjust, that are just creating better and better value for you not, oh, I worked 100 hours, but I didn't do anything that mattered for you. So it's, it's absolutely right. And, and, and you don't know what's going to happen on week 20. Right, so you, you know, the whole thing can get blown up, there can be a whole massive, you know, suddenly change, oh, we can't use this, this actor, we can't get a some financial change, that could be all sorts of things that will make your life suddenly harder. And if you haven't allotted for that in your strategy, then you get, you know, then you have, then you pay a high the highest possible price for that adaptation then. So I mean, I love I love what you're describing, and you are working on a high profile and editorial job. And in doing it, you can tell in the way you're saying like that it is smooth, and relatively smooth anyway. And that's that's exactly the right way to do it.

Zack Arnold 1:13:50

So I want to be very respectful of your time. But I have one other quick area that I want to get into that I think is a really important one for people to understand, because they would never in a million years think that this is a quote unquote, productivity hack. But I think it's a really important one that I feel like I would have failed if we didn't talk about it. And that's gratitude. And I want you to tell the story about when you realize how important gratitude is no matter how bad or bleak things might look. I know this is a realization that you really had an apply it in your own life with a situation that you were going through with your daughter just a few years ago.

Greg McKeown 1:14:25

Yeah. Well, I mean, I mentioned it sort of at the beginning is framing. But we've moved into a lovely kind of picturesque area and the children were thriving a little Heaven on Earth really. And and one of my daughters was especially thriving even mentioned, and as that situation unfolded, we had what was at least potentially, I'm not just potentially I mean, just, you know, one of the most agonizing experiences of of a lot of our lives and I think of any life I mean, I think it's up there with those, you know, To watch a 14 year old in perfect health suddenly become sicker and sicker on the way to comatose and falling into a coma and then dying, and you can't do anything about it, you have no answers. And no neurologist knows that being in 35 years in the business, I remember one of them. So experienced just shrugging your shoulders, it's like, well, you know, it's all coming in the normal range. I just did this just don't know what to tell you. Let me think about it. So let me work on this. And I followed up with him so many times. We did and he never even got back to us. We just never even could figure anything out. So that's the circumstance. And I mean, we what became clear to us was that there were two ways of dealing with it. Right, there's, and I think I mentioned it before, but there's the harder, heavier, more complicated. Self victimize, you know, like, obsessing over the way of victims of the situation. And that the problem with that approach, although, I mean, of course, that's not optimal to fall into that endless anxiety or depression, victimhood. It's not just about the experience of our life, it's like materially limits your ability to help our daughter get better, you because first, it doesn't help, you know, puts you in the wrong state. And then it makes it harder to even discern which things to do. It may like everything that hard is now even harder. If you don't know how long it's going to go on. For you don't know if this is months or years or decades, you have no idea. And many people in these kinds of situations in these medical catastrophes have these unimaginable scenarios. That, you know, it ruins everything, it can destroy the rest of their family and the rest of that culture in the marriage. And, you know, any sense of professional success, I mean, it can really distort and disrupt everything. And so what we discovered in that extremity was this second path. I mean, this is the why behind effortless really, the personal way behind it is, is that we realize that is, and it's more than just gratitude, but but the gratitude is central as any other response, that if our say it this way, right? If you focus, if you focus on what you have, then you're going to gain what you lack. But when you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. And that's sort of the the access point, the central the location of the division of these two paths that says the plants divide. Granted, you doesn't make doesn't exactly make a hard thing easier. But it certainly makes what certainly keeps you from making it harder than it needs to be but but also maybe it does make it a little easier, because because it has a growing catalytic upward, naturally upward spiral attached to it what Barbara Fredrickson called the broaden and build theory, as you are grateful, as you're thankful for what is going right. Well, that our neurologist who will still meet with with us said, you know, we can be grateful for the family culture we have, we can be grateful that, that we're coming together and becoming unified we can we, it seemed to have this, this propelling force about it, that helped us to feel more energized, more more able to deal with the day. And, and so and then helped us because you're in a better state, you've got better discernment. So we started knowing Hey, maybe maybe we shouldn't even bother with these neurologist, the first one seems to be the one we should meet with, you sort of sense that and discern it. And, and this is what led to her eventual treatment. And, and she has,

you know, she has two years on full recovery I mentioned at the beginning of says, she is back and she is thriving, and she is well and and I really do not think that that would have been what would have happened if we taken the harder heavier path. And you know, as a simple rule, one simple rule about this is to simply say what, after I complain, I will say something I'm thankful for. I even if you stop there, you will notice it has an immediate positive effect on you, but also immediately on the people around you. Because because you get more of what you focus on. And that's it. That's a lesson that sounds I don't know it doesn't sound too good to be true or does it sound whatever but but it is I used to think of this as like a soft principle or, yeah, it's a nice to have, I think it's the most powerful. Like, you rugged, relentless principle, the person that can do what we're talking about right now can turn a negative into a positive and a person who can do that. And also circumstances can never be defeated. So it's it's, it's it is made for the for the for the agony and catastrophe of life, this principles made for that,

Zack Arnold 1:20:33

Yeah, I can't emphasize that enough that the productivity hacks are not the the Trello, power ups and the to do list apps and all these other things. It's all up here. It's all the limiting beliefs and reshaping your mindset and your perspective on the world. And that's where productivity really comes from really understanding why you're doing it, why you're driven, what's the impact you can have? And I think that your your work just exemplifies all that and helps to clarify all of it. I know we're running a little bit over. But I do have one final, very quick question for all of those that are out there that are thinking this is the worst that it's ever been. And, you know, the industry is just getting so much worse, or I'm dealing with depression or burnout, or I'm dealing with an issue with my family, whatever it is, they're in that place where they don't know what's going to be better. Right, they don't see the light at the end of the tunnel, there was a point at which 234 years ago, you didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel. And you didn't know that things were going to work out well. And you were going to be in this position today. So if you were to get into a time machine, and you were to travel back to what you would consider your darkest moment where you were wondering, Is my daughter even going to live knowing what you know, now, what advice would you give yourself?

Greg McKeown 1:21:40

Well, that's interesting, because, because the advice I would give is advice that was given to me, in a way. The advice the advice is simple. And and it's it's things work out and better than you think. And that's true with the situation with ease. But it's also I was once asked a similar question, what would you tell your 18 year old self? And that was the same answer that came to me. And it's like, wow, that sounds like you better start living like that. Because because you don't want to live now in a state that doesn't accept that, that optimistic reality, because then you just waste your life. Now, when you could have 20 3050 years more of just of just basically living? Well, living in joy, living in gratitude, living it like it's a bit more relaxed about it all, like it's all gonna work out, and am the way that that advice came to me as I felt sort of really inspired to read a particular talk. It was a, it's a chapter of a book by Gordon B. Hinckley is a church leader, fan. And it's used the former president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And it is incredibly optimistic. In his, like, one of his known qualities that he was on, you know, Barry King, and 60 minutes. And all of this like is a, you know, a DOM is sort of indomitable kind of leader. And there was this one chapter I read years ago by him. And it was about cultivating an attitude of Finglas, cultivating an attitude of optimism and happiness, something like that. And right as he is my daughter was getting ill. I felt like I should read that every day. And I did for for the next four months, when she was going through that first deterioration and had no idea what was going on. And that was really as much as any single thing, what opened up this second, the idea of this second path. And so that advice that I'm now would give back to myself then was being given to me in the form of this repetition. And it's the repetition this ism, is as important as the message because if we have a message once, compared to the hundreds of times, our mind is creating this, this, these false stories, but repeating them so often, they start to feel true, you know, that's insufficient. And so I think it's this repetition, you know, you know, again, and again and again until it forms a space in our minds to even believe it's possible that this could be true. But is it really possible that it all works out? Is it really possible that it works out much, much better than I'm currently thinking? You know, Will? That yes, the answer is yes. But it takes that repetition and even now, I'll sometimes go back and listen to it again. And I'm amazed how quickly it just read, you know, re orient my perspective. So if that's my answer your question,

Zack Arnold 1:24:46

well, I would say that that's a pretty amazing way to wrap it up. And I want to be as respectful of your time as I can. What is the simplest, most effortless way that somebody could find you and get started with your work if they're just being introduced to you today.

Greg McKeown 1:25:01

Yeah, I mean, they could just go to, if they go to gregmckeown.com and sign up for the weekly newsletter, it's a free resource. It's a one minute, call a one minute Wednesday, it's a one minute that we tried to make it the most essential minute you're going to spend online each week. And it's just a very short succinct, you know, taste of these subjects. And I think it's proved to be very useful for for all the, the masses of people that have signed up for it, just because it keeps us back every moment, just gently coming back to this to these questions and subjects.

Zack Arnold 1:25:39

I love that idea. So we'll make sure to put a link in the show notes to gregmckeown.com and I highly recommend everybody read both Essentialism and Effortless. I think that they're absolutely essential books in anybody's repertoire that wants to really improve themselves. And Greg, I cannot thank you enough for considering these last 90 minutes essential in your life and being with us today.

Greg McKeown 1:25:59

Thank you so much a bit of a pleasure to be with you. Thank you

Zack Arnold 1:26:04

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Optimize Yourself podcast. To access the show notes for this and all previous episodes as well as to subscribe so you don't miss future interviews just like this one, please visit optimizeyourself.me/podcast. And super quick before you leave today, don't forget that every Monday morning, I am sharing all of my favorite resources, strategies and practical tips to help you pursue more fulfilling work and design a more balanced life without sacrificing your health, your relationships or your sanity in the process. To subscribe 100% free simply visit optimizeyourself.me/newsletter. And once again a special thank you to our sponsor Ergodriven for making today's interview possible. To learn more about Ergodriven and my favorite product for standing workstations the Topomat, visit optimizeyourself.me/topo, that's t o p o and to learn more about Ergodriven and their brand new product that I'm super excited about New Standard Whole Protein, visit optimizeyourself.me/newstandard. Thank you for listening, stay safe, healthy and sane and be well.

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Guest Bio:


Greg McKeown

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Greg McKeown is a speaker, a bestselling author, and the host of the popular podcast What’s Essential. He has been covered by The New York Times, Fast Company, Fortune, Politico, and Inc., has been interviewed on NPR, NBC, Fox, and The Steve Harvey Show, and is among the most popular bloggers for LinkedIn. He is also a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum. McKeown’s New York Times bestselling book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less has sold more than a million copies worldwide. Originally from London, England, he now lives in California with his wife, Anna, and their four children.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared by Debby Germino and published by Glen McNiel.

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

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Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”