#2 Eliminate Deliberately with Purpose

I could not possibly explain the importance of saying no–point #2–better than this.

“If success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the “undisciplined pursuit of more,” then one simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less. Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the non-essentials. Not just once a year as part of a planning meeting, but constantly reducing, focusing and simplifying. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters,but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well [my italics]. Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones.”

~Greg McKeown

And one more great question before the next yes: how hard would you work to be on this project if you weren’t on it?

bud ©VSpain

bud ©VSpain

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#1 Explore and Evaluate

I’d like to review Greg McKeown’s work for this and the next few posts. He distils his essentialism advice to 3 points:

  • Explore/Evaluate
  • Eliminate
  • Execute

In order to get to the essential and discard the unessential McKeown suggests constantly narrowing the field. To paraphrase, we live in a world where everything is noise and few things are truly valuable. So how to figure out what’s valuable? Continue applying tougher and tougher criteria.

I’ve been working on simplifying my life for several years, and now trying to take it from the personal realm into the work. But simplifying work commitments and tasks in an sector (grant-funded public health project) where the need is great, where worthy projects constantly pop up, and where I often succumb to requests to add “just” one more project to my list–all that was proving difficult. I go home, shut off the devices, hang with friends, with the cat, meditate, but bringing presence to work was confounding. Until I read McKeown. He took my thoughts about this subject, explained why people get into this mess, and boiled his ideas down to 3 steps. Of course following through is the work, but it’s work I’m already committed to.

boatThis came to a head several months ago at an event, where people were discussing all the great blogs, aggregated sites etc. to find information about food, everything from recipes to starting a food business and more. At that moment it was so clear how futile it is to chase the never-ending tsunami of information about food- or any subject. Just because information is available (on iPhone, iPad, computer ,whatever) doesn’t mean we have to do anything with it or about it!

I love my work and because it’s so compelling it’s hard to say no, but McKewon says that’s exactly what to do–but hold on. Saying no is point #2. We’ll get to that later- right now, if you could only accomplish one thing what would it be? You can ask that about the next day, week or hour- you can ask it about your life!

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Essentialism: Taking Time to Do what You Want

Many of us who love our work and find many things compelling, often find ourselves busy but don’t feel productive. We say yes to everything and advance a millimeter on all of them.

I recently heard about Greg McKeown, and his book The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. His basic premiss is people need more time, not less, to think about what they want to do; they need to turn off all devices and schedule time alone so they have the time to think, and then they need to practice saying no to all the people, projects and ideas that take time away from their essential work. He calls this process essentialism.

Two important questions: do I have time to do this? Is this the very best use of my time, creativity, resources? Is it? Say no to those things that sap your time and energy and say yes selectively- not just to avoid trouble, or please people.

From there you find space, and in that space is where you really find what you want to do. The embedded video gives steps for coming to clarity.



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Keeping Quiet

I feel lazy posting words other than my own, but first, the last weeks have been very full at work, second, I’m tired and third, I’m choosing words by people whose wisdom and eloquence inspires me. And I hope you. So today, Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda.

Now we will count to twelve

forest path ©VSpain

and we will all keep still

for once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for a second,

and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.


Fishermen in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.


What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about…


If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with


Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.

                            ~Pablo Neruda


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Take Kindness on the Road

“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.” — Jack Kerouac


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The Long View

It helps now and then, to step back and take the long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. That is what we are about.

We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces efforts far beyond our capabilities.


ladder ©VSpain

We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in that. This enables us to do something and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way–an opportunity for grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders. We are ministers not Messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

~Archbishop Oscar Romero

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Sleep on it…

I had been struggling with a lack of physical energy for the last month or so. One night last week, after an acupuncture treatment, I had a long, sound sleep. I woke up refreshed and alert- I was not tired. My tiredness was not only due to lack of sleep, there have been other work and personal stresses, and I’ve worked with this acupuncturist for almost a year, but this experience reminded me that every time I get a solid night’s sleep – enough hours and no waking – I wake deeply refreshed.

Sleep and rest were also a huge help when I was sick. Sometimes all the focus on medication ignores the incredible healing power of sleep and rest.

Body care basics:

Diet – eat food, not too much, mostly plants (Michael Pollen)

Exercise – some kind of movement every day

Sleep – however many hours you need to feel refreshed


And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion, and in the morning wake like a new opened flower then I have been dipped again in God, and new created.

D.H. Lawrence

Hint: If you need an alarm clock to get up in the morning you haven’t had enough sleep-experiment on the weekends with not using one and see how many hours your body needs to really rest, then try to apply that to your work week. Getting up in the morning without an alarm is blissful. I’m still working on it.

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Spring Poetry

after we parted

after we parted and got into separate cars
I meant to follow you to the highway
and turn left heading east
while you turned right
heading west and north

but when you pulled away
I got out of my car
went back to the hotel
and asked the bland blonde behind the front desk
a question I already knew the answer to
and went back outside

there was a lake in front of me
and a meager lawn on my right
where a mother chased a toddler
and a grandfather sat facing them
his arms wide open

I walked to the lake
overtaking a goose and her gander

stepping onto a dock
I imagined I walked on water
while beside me
first the gander then the goose
sank down at the water’s edge
as if kneeling
and slipped at once
into grace


oval crowned & glorified_MCC

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Jack of All Trades

Sometimes I think my blog should just be about diabetes–or about diabetes and food, or mindfulness and diabetes, or diabetes, mindfulness and food with some art thrown in–and maybe a poem or two every once in a while. In other words, I can’t focus on just one thing but fret that it should be about one thing, have one focus.

In high school, a music teacher, on learning that I wanted to change instruments, said, jack of all trades, master of none. I switched anyway (from tuba to cello) but that phrase rang in my mind for years, probably because I heard it all my life in one form or another, and in just about every sphere from work to the arts. Eventually I internalized it.

I now believe you can indeed do many things well if you are allowed to do them. Though often thwarted, I kept trying to do the things I loved, and without support, I did them out of sight, with whatever energy I had left after doing the thing(s) people told me I should do, but in my heart never wanted to–for years I felt diminished, powerless and unsuccessful…

mandala ©VSpain

mandala ©VSpain

Which brings me back to this blog’s content: diabetes, health, simplicity, food, spirit and creativity… everything that comprises a healthy life. Art is not separate from work, work is not separate from health, health is not separate from spirituality–none are separate from each other and all are connected, as we are connected to/related to every living thing.

For me, writing a regular blog is like drawing in a daily sketchbook. Over time, shapes, colors, symbols, and themes recur to create a unique visual language. Through blogging my interests, ideas, and concerns constellate around the subject of real health: food, spirituality and creativity.


We are stardust, we are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. ~Joni Mitchell.

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4 balls on the roof ©VSpain

4 balls on the roof ©VSpain

Don’t go outside to see the flowers.

My friend, don’t bother with that excursion.

Inside your body there are flowers.

One flower has a thousand petals.

That will do for a place to sit.

Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty

inside the body and out of it,

before and after gardens.

~ Kabir

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