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JFK’s Diary and the ‘Disciplined Pursuit of Less’

A diary kept by a young John F. Kennedy while he was a journalist after World War II has sold at auction for $718,750. The diary was mostly typed but includes twelve handwritten pages. In it, the twenty-eight-year-old Kennedy reflects on the devastation he saw in Berlin and questions the potential of the fledgling United Nations.

Few knew that fifteen years later he would be president of the United States.

Following his service in World War II, for which he received the Navy and Marine Corp Medal for leadership and courage, Kennedy considered becoming a writer or teacher. After his older brother’s tragic death, however, his father convinced him to run for Congress. His victory in 1946 led to two terms in the Senate and his election in 1960 as the youngest president in our nation’s history. His unwavering focus on his goal explains his political success and his enduring legacy.

Greg McKeown’s bestseller, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, notes: “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.” He notes, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

McKeown encourages us to refuse the frustration of doing everything that is popular now, choosing instead to do the right thing for the right reason at the right time. He notes that a Non-essentialist thinks almost everything is essential, while an Essentialist thinks almost everything is nonessential. To this end, he cites Socrates’ warning, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

Are you struggling with such barrenness today?

Your materialistic culture measures success by activity. The less we sleep and the more we work, the more applause we receive. But God measures our temporal activities by their eternal results. That’s why he calls us to fulfill his unique purpose for our lives at all costs:

“We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).

Missionary C. T. Studd prayed,

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Greg McKeown quotes Anna Pavlova, the Russian ballet dancer: “To follow, without halt, one aim: there is the secret to success.” Will you be a success today?


Publication date: April 27, 2017


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