The Individualist is an Essentialist

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Individualists often find themselves in a difficult position when it comes to time management. As people who are determined to know their values, understand what they want from life, and strive to manifest that in the world around them, they possess an impressive ability to achieve those things to which they set their minds. Think of the friend you know who, when you leave him to his own devices, complete his projects with a striking efficiency and mastery that can't be matched by somebody to whom it was simply assigned. This friend knows that he wants to complete this project or task because it is part of what he values in the world around him. It isn't simply a way to check something off a resume or earn an extra buck (if it happens to achieve that, great).

Over time, such an ability develops a reputation for the individual. "Oh, you should go to John with that project. He's just somebody who can get shit done." "Martha is super-competent. Did you see that last event she organized?" More people come to them with requests for projects, events, documents, tasks -- knowing full-well the individual's track-record and ability to get things done efficiently and effectively.

A thoroughgoing individualist knows when to say "no," and focus on the essentials.

The essentials are simply those tasks, projects, and undertakings that are implications of what the individual values and what they want to manifest in the world. The nonessentials are those tasks, projects, and undertakings that are the implications of what others want to manifest in the world.

The individualist may be tempted to take on the nonessentials, for friendship, interest, or fun, but he must keep in mind that time is limited and for every new project requested by somebody else, the door closes on an opportunity that he can assign himself.

It is, then, not only inefficient to take on those projects that are outside of his core values and goals, but actively destructive to his ability to manifest himself in the world. He must learn to say "no" to requests that conflict with his ability to achieve his ends. If he doesn't, he is saying "no" to his own abilities.

In brief:

  1. The individualist is self-willed. She is motivated and inspired by what she actively values in the world.
  2. Her values have implications for action. She feels the need to pursue these things.
  3. Time is scarce. She can only do so many things in one day, in one week, in one lifetime.
  4. There are more opportunities available to the efficient individualist than there is time in the day.
  5. Many (if not most) of these opportunities will not be implications of what she values.
  6. Taking these opportunities on in lieu of her own opportunities undermines her ability to manifest herself in the world.
  7. Therefore, she must learn to say "no" to many, if not most, opportunities that come her way.

I'm Zak. I'm a venture capital professional and writer focusing on how to build a great career. You can find my writings here or reach out to me at

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