What is essential? An objective view

Also readable on linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-essential-objective-view-abhinandan-chatterjee/

Essentials only! We have hard this over and over again in the last 1-2 months since social distancing and lockdown have begun. About a year ago I started reading about minimalism and that is where I came across this phrase ‘essentialism’ for the first time.

My attempt to become a minimalist never really took off given the very many curiosities from photography to art to carpentry that my heart races towards.

But it did teach me one thing – ‘Most of what we need is usually not much, it is almost always less than what we want and worry about not having!’

Essentialism is the bare minimum of what you need to live comfortably. For some it includes cheese and for some, it does not but its okay. It is the mindset that counts.

This lockdown has been an opportunity to explore this mindset and here is what I have learnt:

For an individual: Safety and survival starting from basic needs like food, water and shelter and going up to maybe wine and cheese. Essentialism allows room for thinking about others who do not have even this much.

For an organization: Staying liquid and keeping your people in the green. Adapting to the markets and coming up newer ways to generate demand. Reach your employees and customers to be the brand that stood by them in this crisis.

This is the ‘Less but better’ mindset. To put it in context I could say yes to everything that comes my way or focus on things that give me energy. Things that make me happy like helping those in need, solving problems that matter and poetry.

Airbnb recently had to layoff about 25% of their people and their very apologetic CEO talked continuously about going back to roots and focusing on their core.

“When we started Airbnb, it was about belonging and connection. This crisis has sharpened our focus to get back to our roots, back to the basics, back to what is truly special about Airbnb — everyday people who host their homes and offer experiences.”

You can read @Brian Chesky’s full message here https://news.airbnb.com/a-message-from-co-founder-and-ceo-brian-chesky/ .

This crisis is making many of us – Individuals and organizations, count our blessings and go back to our roots to think about what really matters. My purpose in life is to ‘better a billion lives before I am 50’. Perhaps you could use this time to reflect on yours as well.

The author of ‘Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less’ Greg McKeown talks about a similar approach. ‘By applying a more selective criteria for what is essential, the pursuit of less allows us to regain control of our own choices so we can channel our time, energy and effort into making the highest possible contribution toward the goals and activities that matter.’

Here is how you can bring all this into your life:

Question 1: Are you living with what is essential?

Reflection 1: Did you find yourself hoarding in the last few weeks due to fear, to reduce risk or just because you could?

Question 2: How much thought have you given beyond yourself and your immediate family?

Reflection 2: If you have the means to survive, have you done any charity before COVID? If not, can you do some now?

Question 3: Do you have any idea about what is your purpose in life? What makes you happy?

Reflection 3: How much time have you spent on things that are aligned with your purpose since we have been at home? (Supposing you have had some extra time on time on your hands)

Last week, liquor sales were allowed in the city I stay in and what I saw appalled me. Like many others, I would not have put booze under essentials. I would also not have left the safety of my home to stand in a well managed socially distanced queue like you see below to get it. But people did stood merely 6 inches apart, practically on top of each other and that too by choice !!!

A few weeks before this there was another gathering of people. The only difference was that they were there by compulsion as they were forced to move back to their home towns. The places where they worked as daily wage earners could not provide for them. Without them the buildings will remain incomplete, the roads will not be repaired and even the commercial transport trucks will not be loaded. Much like any life, this life was essential and needed to be supported. It was not.

So, I will leave you with this one question, what is essential?