The One Thing: Essentialism by Greg McKeown

The One Thing: Essentialism by Greg McKeown

One of my favorite lines in “Hamilton” is right after Alexander Hamilton sings about the death of his son. When “It’s Quiet Uptown” mournfully finishes, the next voice says, “Uh, can we get back to politics?” and the next voice in great exasperation says, “Please.”

That’s a little how I’m feeling – one week post-election. But it’s not politics I want to get back to – I want my life back. I swear I’m going to stop reading my Facebook page and watching the news. Oh, who am I kidding? So here we go – for the next few hours I’m shifting my brain and thinking about generosity. Hooray!
In this space, I write a lot about the importance of mission. I do this because understanding your mission (congregational or organizational) is central to making a difference in your community and world.
Last week, I mentioned Greg McKeown’s, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I specifically wrote about the WIN principle – “What’s Important Now?” WIN is easy to remember and so very helpful when you are mired in the middle of stuff (if anything, I’m proud of my articulate words – “stuff” being one of them).
Here’s another gem I found in that book:

Your mission, McKeown writes, should be about essential intent, which is “…both inspirational and concrete, both meaningful and measureable.” He goes on to say that you should be able to ask the “essential question that will inform every future decision you will ever make: ‘If we could be truly excellent at one thing, what would it be?’”

Here are two examples.
A few years ago (when I was so much younger), I criticized the United Methodist Church’s mission statement: “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” I thought it was a little dull and overused. OK - write this down – I was wrong. I was wrong because this mission statement has held up over the years. I particularly like it because it’s a statement that can be wrestled with. What does it mean to “make disciples”? Is that right or wrong? What are “disciples” anyway? And, although I may want to unpack it a bit, you bet I want to be about the “transformation of the world.” That’s inspirational.
McKeown lifts up the example of Nelson Mandela. Mandela’s unjust 27 years in prison could have broken even the toughest person – making him bitter and hate-filled. Instead, “[Mandela] chose to use those twenty-seven years to focus on what was really essential and eliminate everything else – including his own resentment.” Mandela decided that once he was freed, eliminating apartheid was his “essential” task. All of us are in his debt for making that happen and serving as an enduring example.
- What’s your congregation or organization doing that’s essential?
- Are you trying to be all things to all people – and in the process diluting your impact?
- Is what you stand for concrete?
- Is it inspirational?
These things matter.
Some of you may have this all figured out – and it will be a breeze. Others may struggle with competing priorities that have pulled you in too many directions. If you’re in the latter group, order the Essentialism-lite booklet (with all the major points from the book) and read it with your Council or Board. Then start the conversation.
Never fear. Answering the question, “if you could be truly excellent at one thing, what would it be?” can be time-consuming and hard– and it can be invigorating and exciting.
So it’s time to sing a little “Hamilton,” get thee inspired by reading Essentialism, and go and transform the world. For heaven’s sake, it’s…what’s the right word? Oh yeah, it’s essential.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She is sad that Gwen Ifill, one of her favorite journalists and fellow “Hamilton” lover, passed away. She was the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.