2016: The Year of Essentialism

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

It’s not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials – Bruce Lee
Less is More – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

My life changed when I discovered productivity.
Before I had mountains and mountains of tasks. I’d procrastinate, and hated my to-do list. Once I became more productive I could slice through my tasks like a ninja.
The problem is, the tasks just keep piling on and on and piling.
My solution to everything has always been to work harder, and that comes with a cost. I don’t have much of a personal life anymore, and I’m always getting burned out.
It feels like I’m running on a hamster wheel. I’ve added in systems, I have a team, but it feels like it’s never enough.
What I’m starting to realize is I don’t sit back enough to ask myself, if I’m working on the right things.
Is what I’m spending time on each day fitting into the “master plan?”
That’s what 2016 is about for me. The past 31 years I’ve always wondered, how can I do more?
Instead, I’m realizing that I don’t have to do so much.
Think of it like having this energy inside you.

What is Essentialism?

You have limits.
You have 24 hours in a day, and you have limited energy and willpower.
No matter how “motivated” you are, you can’t do everything.
Essentialism is about figuring out what matters the most to you, and having the discipline to relentlessly pursue it. 
It sounds easy, right?
Yet we’re all spreading ourselves too thin. Instead of accomplishing our big goals, we half-ass 10 different ones. We’re letting other people prioritize our goals for us.
Success is like a boiling frog.

If a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

When you’re doing well, then other people will want your time and attention.

  • Can you meet up for a lunch?
  • Can I get some advice on this?
  • Lets do a business deal!

It’s easy to say yes in the beginning, but then you’re fighting to keep up with your obligations.
We’re not living by design, but living by default – and that’s a dangerous territory to be in.
I’ve spread myself out too thin the past few years. This year is about me taking back control of my life, and focusing on what I truly want.

Mental Barriers to Becoming an Essentialist

I’ve learned that 95% of the game is always psychological.
1. You’re Scared of Missing Out
Every year I deactivate my Facebook for a few months, mainly for productivity reasons. The first time I did it was scary…I was worried about events happening and I wouldn’t know.
When I turned my Facebook back on after a few months, I didn’t miss anything.
X is engaged. Y just checked into this restaurant. Z is uploading another motivational quote.
If something HUGE happened, it would naturally filter to me (You know, like how it was pre-internet)
In 2009, I went to 7+ different affiliate marketing events or conferences. I went to every single one because I was scared I’d miss out on something.
I rationalized it because each time I’d make that “one connection.” that’d make the trip worth it.
But that would come at the expense of me getting actual work done.
You don’t have to be everywhere.
2. You’re Too Much of a People Pleaser
Are you saying yes too many times to people?
A friend invites you to a party you don’t feel like going to, but you say yes. Someone asks you for a favor, but you’re too busy. You say yes.
Saying yes too many times creates this “loop.” Charles always helps me out with homework whenever I ask, I’m just going to have him help me with my homework every week!
You want to make others happy. It’s more comfortable to say yes and go with the flow than to say no.
I know it’s tough to tell people no.
I use to have a scarcity mentality when it came to friends. Whenever people asked me to hang out, I’d say yes. I felt if I said no too many times, then they would stop inviting me to events.
But that never happened.
You have to realize that saying no to others, means saying yes to yourself.
3. You Think You Can Do Everything
Alright, I’m guilty of this.
My default mode the past few years is “Kill.” New task? I’m going to destroy it.
Remember you don’t HAVE to do a task.
Ask Yourself
Can I give this task to someone else to do?
Do I even need to do this at all (eliminate)
Can I do this task in the future? Do I even need to do it now)?

How to Become an Essentialist

Figuring out what’s essential is the hardest part for most people. To be frank, most people don’t know what they want in life. People don’t want to commit.
They want to bet on every horse, hoping one of them wins.
You have to figure out what’s the “Grand vision” of what you want.
Sit back and think about your perfect life 10 years from now.
My goal in affiliate marketing was to become a millionaire and to move to Asia.
Well, I did that and got bored. It was something I wanted to do, but I didn’t think about the higher level purpose.
You can’t get to where you want if you don’t know where you’re going
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
One more tip is to write down your top 5 priorities this year, in order.

Got it?
Cross out #2, 3, 4, and 5.
There’s no such thing as “Priorities,” just priority. That one thing.
And finally
Question everything you’re doing.
That’s what it means to live by design.
WHY are you doing what you’re doing each day. Ask yourself how does this relate to your goals.

Practical Examples of How I’m Becoming an Essentialist

1. I produce a massive amount of content.
Blog posts, Videos, Periscopes, Facebook Posts, Emails, etc.
I haven’t made a blog post in the past two weeks. It’s easy for me to make excuses that it’s the Holidays, and I was busy traveling.
But I did do a few Periscopes that were roughly 3’ish hours long in total. Subconsciously, I chose to do a few Periscopes over writing a blog post.
There’s nothing wrong with the Periscopes, but I had to ask myself: “What’s the goal?”
The goal for me is to reach as many people as possible.
If that’s the goal then…
A blog post and email combination can reach 35,000+ people.
An average Periscope of mine reaches 100+ people.
Now I’ve decided to stop doing Periscopes and go back to basics.  
2. I get invited to speak at events all the time.
In 2016, I’m saying no to almost all of them.
Ironically, the deals are getting better. First class flights, 5-star hotels, and some are offering 5-figures+ for me to speak. It’s easy to say yes, but why?
I don’t need the money. it would cost me more money in opportunity costs to take 4-7 days out my schedule.
Is it to meet and connect with people? There can be a few hundred in the room…or I could do a video or webinar from home and reach thousands.
3. Essentialism is related to minimalism.
It’s all about, “focusing on what you need, and getting rid of the rest”
It’s a new year and I’ve decided to downsize my life. (It’s so hard when you have Amazon prime).
I’ve donated half my closet. Instead, of 5 pairs of Jeans I kinda wear, I have two really nice pairs that I love wearing.
When I’m going around my Condo and looking at my questions, I ask myself…
“Does this bring me joy?” 
Do I LOVE this blazer? If I don’t then get rid of it.
That’s the approach I have in 2016.
Is this task essential to my goals?
4. Turning Down Business Deals
You can drown in opportunity.
Everything thinks they need “a great idea” to success in business. The truth is there are great ideas EVERYWHERE.
You have to turn down a bunch of GOOD ideas, in order to finish a GREAT idea. 
Most of you with profitable campaigns are probably spread out too thin. You’d make more if you focus on your best one, and try to become the best at it.


It’s a new year.
2016 is about you and your higher level goals.

  • Figure out what’s Essential
  • Say no if it’s not
  • Cut the fat in your life
  • Stop living in the gray zone
  • Do more of what makes you happy

Lets crush it this year!

More Resources:

Essentialism by Greg McKeown
The One Thing by Gary W. Keller
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

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                The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

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