I read a book a while back. From time to time, I’ve been known to engage in this activity. The book's title was Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It’s a fine piece of reading. As a natural-born maximalist, I found McKeown’s ideas foreign and uncomfortable — like my first kiss behind old man Glade’s ice cream shop.

I used to think the more hoppers you had in a fire, the more likely you were to burn down a forest. But if we take McKeowen’s word for it, the more honorable approach to life is to pursue and do less to make the highest possible contribution. It turns out I was wrong about hoppers. I’m wrong from time to time.

Be great at a couple of things, not mediocre at many things. Sounds easy enough. Just do less, bro. While that sounds easy, we’ve still got to choose where to spend our time and — maybe more important — where not to spend our time. The challenge lies in choices.

“The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away,” writes McKeowen. “It can only be forgotten.”

My word. Ain’t that the truth?

I’ve been thinking about essentialism as it relates to how and when we choose to use our voice in the public arena. There was a time when it was frowned upon to yab and dispute the lives of strangers, but the modern way encourages such conduct.

You’ll find followers, fame, and fortune in the speaking out game. You’ll also find unhappiness. While the moment may arise when a strongly worded tweet from you is just what the world needs, consider how absurd the situation and the events leading up to it would have to be for a couple of sentences from you on the day’s trending topic to matter. Outside of your ego, of course.

Not to mention the odds are high you’ll just be echoing the views or opinions of others. With precious few exceptions, your time would be better spent focusing on what you can control. Yourself, your family, your friends, your business, your life.

I recently recorded a podcast with Album VC partner Sid Krommenhoek. At some point in the conversation — I believe we were discussing artificial intelligence — Sid said something I couldn’t shake.

“I have to ask myself, ‘How much of what I believe is what I believe — or what I have processed and originally thought through?’” Sid said. “I’d say not as much as I’d like.”

That’s true for all of us. Great leadership requires approaching a problem intending to understand everything one can know from every angle to determine the best way to solve it. Preconceived assumptions, opinions, and inherent bias taint this process.

The ego is failure’s most common culprit. To avoid its traps, focus on what matters to you — and only what matters to you — while ignoring distractions from the irrelevant.

Then when it comes time to step into the arena: be a voice, not an echo.

Written by

's Profile Picture Clint Betts

CEO.com founder, CEO