Greg McKeown — How to Create Spaciousness, Move from Essentialism to Effortless, and Quiet the Mind (#510)

Illustration via 99designs

“If you focus on what you have, you gain what you lack. And if you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have.”

— Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown (@GregoryMcKeown) is the author of the new book Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most and a previous book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which hit The New York Times bestseller list and has sold more than a million copies. He is also a speaker and the host of the popular podcast What’s Essential.

Greg has been covered by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Fast Company, Fortune, Politico, and Inc., has been interviewed by 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. Originally from London, England, he now resides in California with his wife, Anna, and their four children.

Please enjoy!

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear the last time Greg was on the show? Check out our conversation in which we discussed applying Essentialism to project hurdles, making allowances for poor planning, separating decisions from relationships, a third option when processing a “yes” or “no” response to someone’s request, what happens when we decide not to make a choice, and much more.


  • Connect with Greg McKeown:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Note from the editor: Timestamps will be added shortly.

  • We begin with some thoughts on Gandhi and four words he said that neatly sum up Essentialism.
  • On the power of symbols and a story about how they helped Greg’s family through a profoundly difficult time.
  • What prompted Greg to write his latest book, Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most?
  • How Effortless is like three books in one — covering effortless state, effortless action, and effortless results — and what we can learn from them.
  • Why holding grudges and dreaming up ways to even the score when we feel wronged by others is a huge waste of time and energy, and what we might accomplish instead by spending this time and energy more constructively.
  • Greg demonstrates how life experiences can unwittingly write scripts that hurt us more than they serve us, and I talk about what I’ve done to close the loops on my own grudges and overwhelming need to right perceived wrongs.
  • The three questions from Byron Katie’s The Work that I ask myself when I cross paths with — and need to cope with — one of my biggest peeves: entitlement.
  • An estimation of the wasted energy I’ve spent holding on to grudges and other useless hangups, and what Greg suggests to those of us seeking to lower our electric bill, so to speak.
  • The real lesson of observing gratitude, and the “habit recipe” BJ Fogg uses to make gratitude actionable.
  • The star chart game Greg and his family have used to get through pandemic lockdown together.
  • How Greg helped his son use effortless action to accomplish a not-so-effortless goal: to become an Eagle Scout by age 14.
  • To avoid unnecessary steps, sometimes you’ve just got to start from zero. Just ask Mike Evangelist how Steve Jobs taught him this valuable lesson.
  • The tragedy of the Vasa and what the King of Sweden learned about making a project impossible to finish by constantly redefining what “finished” should look like.
  • What’s the difference between effortless action and effortless results?
  • Sometimes the right question to ask is “Who?” not “How?”
  • A powerful example of effortless, residual results.
  • What does Greg’s editing process look like, and is there anything that got left on the cutting room floor that was particularly difficult to omit from the final book?
  • Greg shines a little more meaning on his previous answer to the billboard question.
  • Parting thoughts.


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 600 million downloads. It has been selected for “Best of Apple Podcasts” three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it’s been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.