1 Big Idea to Think About

  • Connection and community are essential to living a fulfilling life. 

2 Ways You Can Apply This

  • Notice who is in your path – List the places you frequent in your life. Jot down the names of people who are there that interest you.
  • Create your village – Begin having conversations with people in your community.

3 Questions to Ask

  • Who is in my village?
  • Where in my life could I “bother” someone?
  • Do I let others into the middle of my mess?

Key Moments from the Show 

  • The role community and connection plays in a fulfilling life (3:43)
  • The loneliness crisis (6:08)
  • How we create community by bothering each other (12:36)
  • The importance of having a village (14:53)
  • Finding your village (17:27)
  • Make it effortless to create your village (19:40)
  • Nobody is okay (25:40)
  • Letting others into the middle of our mess (26:49)
  • Rapid-fire questions (28:40)

Links You’ll Love From the Episode

Find Your People: Building Deep Community in a Lonely World by Jennie Allen
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

Connect with Jennie Allen

Twitter | Instagram | Website

Greg McKeown  0:06  

Come with me on an exploration of self-discovery. On this podcast, we decipher what really matters as we unravel the chaos of day-to-day work, to learn how to build an essential life.

Welcome essentialists to the Watson central podcast. I’m your host, Greg McEwen, thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing your run your walk, maybe you’re cleaning up, maybe you’re driving in the car, you’re here.

And well done for being here. Because so often the essential things in our lives don’t get the investment that they deserve.In fact, just think of how true this is with our relationships with our friends. You know, many of us under invest in those relationships. I don’t even mean just the essential, closest people in your life, but that other essential group, the community around us, and without that, we end up feeling isolated, and alone. I mean, who hasn’t? I know I have over the last couple of years, I felt more isolated. I mean, as an introvert, I have still felt like I didn’t get enough interpersonal connection, enough community in the people around me. And so what about the extroverts out there listening, you’re in an even worse position. What I have learned over the years, is that you can’t design a life that really matters without a community of people supporting each other.

Yet, we often try to do it, we try to go it alone. I felt it. I know my wife, Anna has felt it at times, I know that our children even have felt it at times, especially over this last couple of years. Well, at the end of this episode, you’re going to be able to start to build your community, a new and I’ve invited Jennie Allen on the show to talk about this today. Jennie is the author of many New York Times bestsellers, including get out of your head, but she’s also the author of a new book, find your people building deep community in a lonely world. It’s a timely book, I love the book. I love what Jennie is trying to do in the world. And I know you’re going to love her too, Jennie. Welcome to the What’s Essential podcast is such a pleasure.


Jennie Allen  3:04  

So yeah, I was going to tell you that my agent, my book agent gave me your book. And I think he gave it to me, because I was maybe struggling with being a little scattered. But it’s one of his favorite books. So I texted him right before I go on with you. And I was like, You’re not going to believe who I’m about to podcast with. And he said, he’s like, I’m sure he has a book agent but

you’re not allowed one. He’s he wants to stay with you. He’s got he knows a winner when he when he sees happy. I love that man. But anyway, it really was life changing for me. I cannot thank you enough for that book essentialism specifically. No, that is such a beautiful place to begin. 


Greg McKeown

And of course, I can say the same for the tremendous work that you’re doing. Find your people is so marvelous in so many ways. But one of the things that’s marvelous. So we were completely off off off our agenda here, but I suppose we’re on it is so timely.


Jennie Allen

Isn’t that amazing? The timing? Yes. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I thought of writing this five years ago, it was when I was in Uganda, and I was seeing women carrying buckets on their head to go get water, which you would think would be such a despairing, difficult thing. But they were having the time that time of their lives, like they were all laughing together. They were so happy. And I just remember thinking, that’s a different day than my very isolated life in the US. And it made me curious and I noticed it really everywhere we traveled, we would go to Rwanda, my sons from Rwanda, and everyone lived very communally. In fact, when my son went to her one at back to his country recently, all of the people there had him call them Auntie so on the Alice and, and Uncle so and so and they all had these names that because and then they acted like that in his life. And I just thought, okay, something we’re missing in the West about how we do life. And I know you were raised in a different country, and I’d be curious kind of your your take on this. But when we even when we went to Italy, we saw it and we walked into a little grocery store, in a little bitty town in Italy, where it wasn’t very touristy. And everybody stopped, like who are you? And we were visiting and they knew it and it was just that sense of everybody knows each other here and So I do believe the timeliness of it is amazing, because that was five years ago. But it, of course, haven’t traveled in a long, long time overseas, but, but what I do see and believe is that we are lonelier than ever, this is a huge problem, and there are ways to fix it.


Greg McKeown  5:15  

Well, I agree on so many fronts of what you just said, I had the same experience when I was doing some work out in a village in Uganda. And these people are seriously poor. I mean, like, there’s no question about that, but they did at least, appear to be happier than the average angry person in our lives. I mean, and when you would stop, I mean, it, it did make work, quite challenging. But if you saw someone where you would stop, and they would be very happy to stand there, talk, perhaps for half an hour or even an hour, just just, you know, this is the joy of life. And so, you know, it definitely leaves you with a question mark, about the trade offs between industrialization and so on, like, which things do we want to keep? Which things do we want to let go? You start off the book with a serious panic attack. Can you tell us about that?


Jennie Allen  6:15  

Yeah, always a great way to start a book first line. And what’s interesting is I actually, this chapter in the beginning of the book is, is added later, I’d finished the book, I was done editing the book. And I basically came back to my life. And while I was writing a book about finding people, I felt like I lost all of mine, when I came back to my life. And, and it was, it truly was panic, because I thought, Okay, I’ve written this book, I’ve already turned it in. I’m going to be talking about this book for the next few years. And what was the little lie that was going in my head is I have no people, like I lost them all. And there were a lot of reasons for that. Certainly, one of them was just the extensive, lonely process of writing a book, and then also just conflict that I had in my life at that season. And, and so I remember just, I mean, I truly I haven’t, I haven’t had many panic attacks in my life, in the true sense of that word. And, and this one was, was that I was on my closet floor, and I could not catch my breath. I literally couldn’t breathe. And I was I was saying, Help Help. And I, I didn’t, nobody was home. And I just, of course, when, when whenever we feel that anxious about anything, I think it’s good to pay attention to what is that? And what are you afraid of, and I think the lie that grew and grew in my head was you are alone. And and I think it’s a lie that has probably grown in all of our heads, especially with the isolation from the pandemic. But even if you go back prior to the pandemic, right, you’ve got three and five is what the research says, people admitted to feeling lonely. So I can only imagine now years into isolation as our way of life. How many people would say they feel disconnected and lonely? I mean, I would guess it would be five out of five almost. And so we’ve got a crisis in that. And so everybody, you know, what I love to say is this, that you are not alone in feeling alone. And I think that is so crucial to the beginning of a conversation like this, because if we are in the minority, or, or then there’s the assumption that everybody else is good at this that everybody else has their people already, therefore, we are imposing on them. But if you know going in, everyone’s lonely and everyone needs this in their life, even if they don’t think they do introverts talking to you, even if they don’t think they do, they do, then you can kind of go okay, I can take some risks, because you know what I might get rejected one time two times, even three times, but I bet you eventually I’m going to find someone that needs me and I need them. And they’re going to respond and in the positive.


Greg McKeown  8:50  

I think everyone over the last couple of years introvert or extrovert, has felt that isolation, I just think it’s like as universal sensation as I think exists. And so yes, introverts do need people, they know they need people, but perhaps they do need it less even they are feeling it. So for the extroverts, I think it’s even been more costly. And so there’s this sort of tsunami, you know, secondary pandemic, yes, you know, the, the the epidemic is the earthquake, but the tsunami is the loneliness and the isolation. And I remember I would go on walks with my wife, Anna, and we were surrounded with our children. And so at least from an outside perspective, would have looked less isolated. But I remember sort of almost breathtaking isolation. And we made really, like deliberate strategic changes to be around family and to live around family. Yeah. As a lot of people have.


Jennie Allen  9:49  

A lot of people moved in the last year or so. And I think, I think that is a big reason why I think we actually did that process prior to the pandemic just happened to you Right. And, and it was it really did change everything. And, and I mean, again, the research I did throughout history of the way people live is just it’s so radically different from how we live. Most people move near their family not move there near their families. They were born in one place, and they never traveled more than 20 Miles never traveled right. 20 miles. Wow. So almost everyone has, has lived in the history of the world, within walking steps to their family. And, and the family was defined as something larger than a nuclear family as we know it today that came about as a marketing ploy. Because the 1950s Yeah, I think that he’s because people want to sell toasters or something, right? Like they wanted, they wanted every household to be defined as only two adults so that every two adults would need all the things. And so it worked. You know, everybody, everybody bought more toasters. So, so that, I mean, that, to me, was some of the most fascinating things of how did we get here. And there were strategic things that happened to us that brought us here, because the rest of the world even today isn’t living like that. That’s why when I go over to Rwanda, yes, there’s Callie, they’re saying, call me auntie Alice. And then they’re parenting my son because he is theirs. And we belong to each other. That is a I’ve chosen my face from that I that is how they live, it’s not something they say it’s what they do. They they are in each other’s lives to the point of, of complete connection. And, and I remember Pastor Charles mugisha who runs an incredible he, I mean, so many things, but child sponsorship program is one of the biggest called African new life. And they are I mean, he’s fantastic. He’s Ugandan that moved to Rwanda after the genocide, to help restore the country. And and what he would say is, the more resources someone gets, the more isolated they become. And that’s even true in places like Rwanda. Hmm.


Greg McKeown  11:49  

I’ve had that too. That’s exactly what I’ve observed. I remember driving through a very wealthy area. And I noticed that there’s these grand houses in a sort of mini hotels, let’s say, but every one of them guard gated. And I thought, yeah, you’ve created a little prison. Now it’s a fancy looking prison but you sort of live separate and and almost aspirationally isolated life.


Jennie Allen  12:24  

But they have their own toaster, right? And that’s the thing it’s like weird. We can Amazon at all right? We can get our groceries delivered to us. We don’t even need a barn egg. Like I grew up. My mom, for whatever reason always needed one egg. That was what I remember running over to the neighbor’s house all the time. Can I borrow an egg? I don’t know why that was the thing she always ran out of I needed. But I did that all growing up. And that’s not the way we live. If we don’t have an egg, we go in, you know, around the corner, we get it. And we don’t bother anyone because Dare we ever bother each other. And yet, in the bothering of each other is the place and space for connection. Most of those villages I just talked about, they survived by bothering each other. They required. They required interdependence to just live. And so where could we and that’s one of the things I propose is where in your life could you bother someone? You know, because I do believe in those moments. I watched it with my husband, he ended up with our neighbors across the street, we were out from meeting them, they just moved in that day, middle of a Texas hot summer, and their air conditioner goes out and the day they move in, we had a window unit, my husband says oh my gosh, I can help. He’s so excited to help. He goes upstairs in our attic gets the window unit down, brings it into their house, they get all sleep in one room. They work together to set that thing up for an hour. Those guys became friends on the first day they moved in because those neighbors needed something from us. And, and they still go out to coffee. And they still you know that that was the start of a friendship. And so yeah, I think what you’re saying about the gates and the fences and the dogs and the guards and all of that just it sets us He sets us so far apart from each other.


Greg McKeown  14:02  

There’s a there’s a funny story. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but But Larry Ellison first met Steve Jobs from Apple, they were neighbors and Steve Jobs owned a peacock. And they make you know, a lot of sound. I didn’t know that actually. But but they’re they cause a problem for your nuisance for your neighbor. So Larry Ellison goes over, the guy said, Listen, man, you’ve got to do something about the peacock, and Steve Jobs, he like closes the door behind him and he goes, luck. My girlfriend owns the peacock helped me. Oh my god. That’s how they became, you know, from your best friends. And it’s this idea. Of course, we don’t really mean to be complete nuisances to each other. But this idea of bothering each other, and and real community again, if there’s a great graphic that you identify, and I thought it was so helpful, a sort of inverted pyramid. Yeah, at the top The pyramid, the largest section is acquaintances. You know, the other end of the pyramid, the smaller section is these two to three friends, this is what we want to say. And the middle piece, you say, this is what we’re skipping, what are we skipping?


Jennie Allen  15:15  

It’s, it’s a village. So when I did the work of looking throughout history, most villages were made up and defined by a school, a church, a certain number of synagogue, a certain number of people would be limited to the space, they couldn’t have it in that type of thing. So most villages would break off at about 150 would be the max and then a new village would start that’s, that’s just kind of throughout history, a common theme that you would see happen. Well, that 150 is exactly ironically, the number of acquaintances that we can exist in, it’s, we actually don’t have a lot of capacity for more. So the fact that the internet internet now is, is our acquaintance land, and we are connecting with, you know, 10s of 1000s of people as well as 10s of 1000s of problems every day, right? Really not capable of, of taking all that in which goes right with your passion and and book. And and so we’re very overwhelmed by that layer. So we want to skip to most of us would say we do want that that two to five best friends you know, that are similar to us that we have everything in common with to do life with most of us would say we would like that even introverts. But what we skip is that next section, which is the village and the village is actually about the 50 people we have the ability to take a casserole, if their mom is, is in the hospital, that we have the ability to check up on them, if they don’t show up at you know, our our place of worship for a while we whatever it is that that you could kind of take one step deeper than an acquaintance, not necessarily your best friends, not necessarily day in and day out lives. But 50 people that you kind of keep tabs on, that’s the way in the size that most villages, you know, existed, and that’s how they took care of each other. Right. And and if you think about all the different roles you have to have in a society that existed pre industrial revolution, you know, hunting and gathering, you know, you got agriculture, you got child tending and raising, you got all these things, well, it’s about 50 people out of that 150 that you’d be doing life with on a regular basis to to accomplish all of that. You go to most villages today in the world, very similar setup. And so what I propose is that we also in the West have village around us, we actually do, most of us have somebody that our kids play soccer with, and we’re standing next to him on the sidelines. Most of us have a place where you know, our kids teachers are or Sunday school teachers or someplace where there’s people that are investing in your kids lives, then you got you also have people you work with people that you’re neighbors with. So even if you live out in the country, probably there’s other people that live not far in the country with you. So what I propose is that village rd exists in your life that 50 people, you just haven’t seen him that way. Because we look at our phones while we’re sitting next to other parents at that soccer game. We we weren’t do our work in our cubicle, we don’t sit there and have lunch, a 30 minute discussion at lunch, we sit there and check on our messages and, and do our other stuff at lunch. And so what I propose is we start noticing who is already around us, and having conversations with those people. And then you’ll get to those two to five. Now those two to five best friends, they’ll change at different seasons in life. And that’s okay, they should, the friendships are going to ebb and flow at different times. And it’s okay. Those are not necessarily your lifelong friends. But if they’re part of your village, there’s going to be different roles that those friends play in your life, given different seasons of your life. And so I just think we’ve thought so small about friendship, but what the way it’s always been done is a collective group of people doing life together, and then we’ll surprise you is out of that village of 50, you’ll actually find two to three people that you didn’t expect. It’ll be people that are different ages than you, maybe they’re different ethnicities than you maybe they’re, they’re different in ways that you you don’t necessarily right away, think gosh, that would be my best friend, we have everything in common. But you’ll notice them and that that that you know, hot 50 and and you’ll have a connection with them that surprises you. And that’s better than you could have thought.


Greg McKeown  19:20  

Oh, I really love the idea that it will be surprising to you that it will be someone older or younger or different in some way. But you’ve got to invest in that little community, that little village in order for that to even be discovered. I was just well actually let me put to you a challenging question. I think it’s tough, which is of all this research and everything that you’ve written in the book, what is the one thing that you think people can do? You know, immediately to make it easier, effortless even to make friends. 


Jennie Allen  19:57  

That’s really I think what we’re talking about very most important thing and I actually lay all this out in the book, so you actually can write it out, is to start to notice who is in your circles. So what I encourage you to do is to write to plot out your life, where are you? Most people would say, Oh, I’m not around people, I’m not around people very much. Well, you probably are, even if you’re zooming with them right now, you probably have more people than you even think. And it’s funny, I’m in a little group, the book that came to a few people early, and we’re in a little group together discussing it, and I’m watching them plot and almost every one of them drew their graph. And then what I say to do is in each circle of, you know, the places that you visit and frequent in your life, and I’m talking coffee shops, you know, I’m talking school work. Wherever complex, wherever you find yourself, just jot down a few names of people that are there that that interests you. And maybe you don’t even know their names, but you can say girl who did it. Uh huh. And what’s happened is, it’s so cute to watch them do it, because they cannot believe how many people that interest them in their week, they don’t even notice. So the most important first thing you have to do is you have to notice who is already in your path.


Greg McKeown  21:08  

I remember hearing somebody recently give a speech. And in it, they shared this story where they were in the line at the grocery store. And they’re on their phone, of course, waiting. And then they felt this little being right, like little being like, not from the phone, but you know, like in their head or heart like, ask the person in front of you. I think it was the person in front of me that was at the checkout, you know, just ask them how they’re doing. You know, I think it was the person in front of them in line. And this man turned around. And he just said, It’s my birthday today. And nobody knows. Oh, and she couldn’t believe it. But that little being, in fact, this is based on a second talk ag can’t remember the name of the person who gave it but but the idea that he said is that we are always all of us receiving a flow of inspiration of insight, we’re already receiving it as what his point of view, as he says, and it looks like the being a being in the middle of something, just reach out notice. What then he said, there’s always almost always a second being that says, Now, no, don’t bother. You know, it’s very sort of logical and very, you know, and it’s a temptation to not trust the first inclination. I, that’s what you’re describing here.


Jennie Allen  22:30  

You got to understand right now we have everything stacked against this, everything, everything. I mean, not forget the pandemic, I’m talking about everybody that’s been hurt by each other, right? Like we are, we are more divided than you’ve ever been. We are more scared of people than we’ve ever been. You’ve got family members that have been close all their lives that all of a sudden aren’t speaking. I mean, we haven’t never been up against more when it comes to this. And yet, what you’re saying is exactly the answer. It is it starts with a conversation. It starts with a choice of you know what, they’re not perfect. I’m not perfect, either. I don’t need them to be perfect, I can actually go into this relationship with grace to say, You know what, I expect you to disappoint me, and I’m going to disappoint you. But what we can do together is so much bigger and better than what we can do apart. So what we do is we begin with a conversation. I mean, I was reading the audiobook of this, you know, towards the end, you know, as a writers, last thing you do right before it comes out and you’re just terrified every time because you’re like, am I gonna be proud of this? You haven’t looked at it in a while and, and you’re like, it’s about to go into the world. And so I’m reading it for the first time since editing. Yes. Being neck deep in it. Yes. And I’m reading it to, to, you know, the producers on few sound people and and I stopped in the middle and I start laughing because it’s so sub parts of it are so basic. They it literally is holding people’s hand 101 How to, I think I have in there something that says how to have a conversation, how to ask someone to be your friend how like, I literally put these little simple things. And the reason I did it was because I wasn’t sure I didn’t want anyone to have an excuse, right? I didn’t want anyone to think I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do. So I just, I thought, Well, I’m just gonna put all in there. But when I’m reading it out loud, I’m thinking this sounds ridiculous. And so I start giggling and I say out loud. I say I can’t believe this is so Elementary. I can’t believe it. But this in the book and in my producer who’s like 60 is on a college because Ginni I never learned this stuff like nobody ever taught me and, and I just think we miss that in first grade. Like nobody ever sat us down and said, This is how you make a friend. This is how you work out of conflict. This is how you do life together and not separately. And I think that’s what I hope happens is everybody feels equipped like okay, because I think to some degree, we just don’t even know we just don’t even know what to do. We’re all coming out of this paralyzed this muscle is weak, even if it was strong before the pandemic, this muscle is weak for us. And it’s just, it’s hard to choose it. Everything’s against us. And we don’t know what to do. And so I’m trying to take all those barriers down. But you know, it is a massive hit is a massive project right now. For sure.


Greg McKeown  25:16  

Well, and I had a strange sensation when I was younger, I remember if I was really hungry, and somebody said, Hey, you’re hungry, like you want something to eat? Somehow? Somehow, I would say no, because I felt a little, I don’t know, a little vulnerable. And yet, if I wasn’t too hungry, and someone asks you Oh, yeah, yeah, sure. Okay. Give me something. And there’s something about that with loneliness and isolation. I think that the more isolated and lonely you are, the less likely you are to say it.


Jennie Allen  25:46  

Oh, I mean, that is the problem is we genuinely think everybody else is okay. And nobody’s okay. Let me say that again. We think everybody’s okay. Nobody is okay. So whoever is listening and thinking, I’m the broken one. I’m the one that can’t do this. I’m the one that deserves to be alone, because I have hurt people, or they have hurt me for so long, there must be something wrong with me know, they’re all jacked up, hear me say it. All the people, all the people alive, we’re broken, we’re all broken. And so are you. And that’s okay, we can still do this. But we’ve got to change the rules of the game, we’ve got to start giving people space to be human. And in that humanity, is actually the greatest points of connection, it’s actually where connection is most found, right? Brene, brown sent 100 tons of research on this, the vulnerability is the thing that leads to connection, so we don’t have to be afraid of, of our weakness, and that we’re not okay, we can actually bring that into a friendship. So let me finish the story that I started with, which was the story about my panic attacks. So my friends call the next morning, one of them calls randomly early. And I had a choice at that moment, do I pick up the call? Do I not? I’m feeling completely alone, I’m feeling somewhat rejected by my close people. I don’t really want to answer the phone and say that to her, I don’t know what to do. And an old me would have turned over and like, left the phone and just, you know, let it go to voicemail. But I picked it up because of everything I was writing about and reading it, I pick it up. And I said, Hey, I’m not doing well, like I want us to go hang out so so she and another friend and I go out to dinner that night and and I say hey, here’s where I’ve been, I feel completely isolated. I’ve been in conflict with these people. Candidly, I feel left out of this. I feel like I don’t even know if we’re okay. And you’re all through this book as my people I’m not even sure and I just had a panic attack. And I just, I just said it all. And I mean, it was a mess. You know, nothing was scripted. I had not worked it out. It was still in the middle of it. And as I’m leaving that night, one of them looks at me and says I want you to know I’ve never felt closer to you. And something about letting her into the mess in the middle of the mess. was what brought about that connection. And it taught me again, it reminded me again, this is how we do life. It’s not when everything’s perfectly clean. We have a nice dinner party and everybody comes over all dressed up. No. The the way it’s supposed to go is you know my friend that drops by unannounced that brings pizza and paper plates like a My house is a mess. And I didn’t know she was coming like that actually feels more memorable and better it to our souls than the dinner party. Because we’re craving intimacy and what interests and how how you get intimacy is not fancy dinner parties. It’s broken, messy conversations about what’s really going on.


Greg McKeown  28:33  

Hmm, that is said so beautifully. We’re ready here for you. Are you ready for the most unusual rapid fire round you’ve likely had on one of these podcasts? Are you ready for this? 


Jennie Allen  28:44  

So fun, Greg? Yes. 


Greg McKeown  28:46  

Well, here’s the deal. So it’s a series of questions and not one of them ought to be done in a rapid-fire manner right? Every one of them’s like quite deep, but I just want instant like very short responses you can do it. Number one, what’s most essential to you in one word, go.


Jennie Allen  29:09  

My people


Greg McKeown  29:11  

Why is that so important to you in one sentence?


Jennie Allen  29:16  

Because I cannot live watching Netflix in my robe and find joy.


Greg McKeown  29:27  

Love that. What have you said yes to that you most regret? Hmm, first thought


Jennie Allen  29:37  

Not a big regreter. I mean because I’m on with you. I will say this I I regret trying to do too much. And I’ve gotten better at that.


Greg McKeown  29:49  

For what have you said no to that you’re most pleased about?


Jennie Allen  29:56  

Everything I’ve said no to I’m pleased My life is way simpler. And everything I’ve said no to that keeps me with my people and home and grounded.


Greg McKeown  30:06  

What’s something you have actually said no to? specific thing. One thing big, small, doesn’t matter.


Jennie Allen  30:11  

Pleased about I say no to 99% of my speaking requests,


Greg McKeown  30:15  

Do you? What is something essential? That used to be hard for you? That you’ve made effortless?


Jennie Allen  30:26  

Hmm. Being vulnerable? I can’t say that it’s effortless. But I’ve practiced it enough that it’s not as hard as it used to be.


Greg McKeown  30:38  

It’s a big part. It’s a big part of the reason you’ve been able to reach so many people. Yes. Yes.


Jennie Allen  30:44  

Yeah. I mean, I think without it, I would really sound like a punk.


Greg McKeown  30:50  

But that’s, I want to riff on all of this. But isn’t that the truth? I mean, the reality is that messy life is so messy.


Jennie Allen  30:56  

It’s so messy. And the people that act like it isn’t probably are the most messed up. In my experience.


Greg McKeown  31:04  

The pressure to not look messy, I think is intense, especially from some family of origin cultures. Yes. But there’s nothing happier than seeing mess in somebody else’s life open.


Jennie Allen  31:16  

It’s so true. It’s our favorite people. My grandmother used to say, you know, she would be having people over and she’d leave all her mess out on the counter. And she said, Don’t clean that up. And my mom would try to clean it up. And she don’t clean that up. People like you better if if you have some mess out, right? That line evergreen Mother, you know,


Greg McKeown  31:35  

Yeah, that’s none of my immediate family is allowed to listen to this episode. Because I love to, like get every, like stressed about it. To get it. Yeah, but to get it perfect. And it isn’t good. Like it doesn’t actually achieve what you’re really trying to achieve in life. What’s something nonessential to you that you are over-investing in? Right now? Go?


Jennie Allen  31:57  

Something nonessential. I know I’m travel with my children. And that’s limited because of COVID. But making memories with them in that way is a huge value. It’s probably the main thing we plan in advance months and months out.


Greg McKeown  32:15  

So hold on. This is something No, no, the question is, What’s something nonessential to you that you’re over investing in?


Jennie Allen  32:23  

You don’t think travel is not essential? Oh,


Greg McKeown  32:24  

I guess I thought it was I had maybe you didn’t mean what you said. So you’re saying too much travel?


Jennie Allen  32:32  

I’m saying I’m Oh, you want me to cancel something? I got you. Yeah. Oh, something I should eliminate. I’m with you now. Okay. Yes. Oh, oh, I for sure. It is technology. Right? It’s Netflix. It’s Instagram. For sure. needs to go I will take a sabbatical this summer for multiple months away from it.


Greg McKeown  32:56  

Well, you literally what will you do?


Jennie Allen  32:59  

I’m still building that out. I’ll be with my people in real life. And I’ll cultivate rhythms and, and patterns in my everyday life. I’ll do my workouts I’ll be with my people.


Greg McKeown  33:11  

And you’re going to freeze like you will not have the password to your Instagram account. Is that the kind of thing you’re trying to build out?


Jennie Allen  33:19  

Yeah, I did it last year for a month. And it was the best month and in fact, I didn’t want to get back on. So it’s interesting. We find it to be addictive until we’ve gone through the withdrawal and enjoyed our life again, and then it’s hard to get back to it. 


Greg McKeown  33:34  

You spent 30 days without the password literally like that.


Jennie Allen  33:37  

30 days I never got on not once


Greg McKeown  33:39  

What was the difference for you? What was the sensation change?


Jennie Allen  33:44  

I think my soul rested. I think I exhaled in a way that my mind rested in a way that I hadn’t in years.


Greg McKeown  33:52  

I want to exhale, just hearing the story where it’s so intense right now. You know, like the the inputs on our lives. I think it makes us all like a like a bit crazy. Sometimes, like on my worst days, I just feel a little crazy. At the speed of the inputs and and from so many different angles. It is not it is not a life. We want to live that’s what I hear you saying anyway.


Jennie Allen  34:24  

It’s not I I’ve never been more convicted about rest in my life. There’s a great book by John Mark comer that talks about this. It’s like the ruthless elimination of hurry. Right. And I I feel like that’s helped me view life differently. And I want to be slower.


Greg McKeown  34:45  

You want to be slower. Do you? Do you do you really want to be slower? Hmm, I didn’t know what you mean. It’s appealing.


Jennie Allen  34:55  

I do and here’s why. Because I actually have found as I’ve chosen that all the Things that I crave. So when you know that those things hide, see what I did last year, I took a month off a month sabbatical. I’m taking almost three months off this summer. Why? Because that was so good. Because that restored my soul in a way nothing else had. So I crave it now it’s not. So yeah, I actually do, I can say with integrity, I do want that. Now, in a given day, I don’t want everybody around me to be slow. I want them to get their credit done. But in my life, and knowing what I value and how I get to it, yes, slower is a better way. 


Greg McKeown  35:31  

You have a second person to recommend that book to me within the last week. Friend, a friend of mine, Andrew, he knows who I’m talking about. Now you’ll listen to this while you’re running somewhere. He just told me he’s taking I think a three month sabbatical at the beginning of this year, the first quarter is a sabbatical. So that’s very interesting, that you’re both taking such what would seem I think, for a lot of people sort of an extreme approach, both recommending this book, there’s something that you’ve seen that you’ve understood that you think that’s real life, and I’m going to miss it, right.


Jennie Allen  36:04  

And I would say in that month off, why I didn’t want to get back on was it turns on a station in your head, that that makes a noise that you can’t get out of, unless you’re fully away from it. And I believe longer than a week. So that station got turned off in my head, and I couldn’t even I didn’t even have the energy to turn it back on. I thought I don’t want it back in my head again. And I’m not a big people pleaser. It’s not like the typical thing that that people say about Instagram, like, Oh, I’m comparing myself I don’t, I don’t have anybody’s numbers on there. So I don’t even know how many likes people get or anything like that. I don’t have, it’s not that it’s just the it’s a very loud party. And it’s a very loud room that’s always there. And you feel like you should show up too. And you feel like you should be smart there and you feel like you should be helpful there. And it just, and when I didn’t have to be those things, and I had 30 days to stop. There was the sense of, Wow, I don’t care, I’m fine, I left the party, the party is going, right. But I’m, I’m away somewhere else with my people. And I’m really happy. And I think where I am now because I lead a big organization and I, I, I write books. And I feel like if I name too much else, you’re gonna kick me off your podcast, but I do all of it in the essential lane of doing, you know, helping people encounter God and get closer to each other. Well, in that lane. There’s a lot of pressure, and there’s a lot of noise. And there’s a lot of people, and I’m proud of the work that we do. And I love the work we do. And I love that it helps people. But all of that is costly. And it does. It isn’t real life. To me, that’s still just what I do. And, and who I am is who I am with my kids in my house and who I am, is my friendships that I cry on the back patio with all the time because we’re working through real life issues that have nothing to do with my work. And so the more but that work is so big and loud and overwhelming sometimes, and so full of people that I have to pull back into my backyard and into my living room again. 


Greg McKeown  38:18  

And again, sometimes we create a machine or a monster, even out of success in the professional realm. And it starts to then own you, you know. And so I think that’s I think it’s a it’s a real challenge. I think it’s I mean, obviously, we can only scratch the surface here, but it’s a real challenge to balance what you’re describing.


Jennie Allen  38:40  

And I’m going to add one thing to the challenge and what makes it so challenging is it’s costly to do so. And I think that’s why we don’t do it. Like if I’m if I’m real, it’s cross-training my I think my organization probably lost 10s of 1000s of dollars with me offline last year, for a month, I think my you know, I’m about to basically push a book a year, and that’s going to be costly to my publisher, that’s gonna be costly, the people I work with, right, you know, and I think we’ve just got to admit, like slowing things down has a real cost. I have gotten to where I value it so much I’ll pay it, huh. Organization is actually shutting down this year, for three for four a month, we’re going completely dark. And several people there that have been there many years are taking two months off.


Greg McKeown  39:24  

That just feels so right, it feels the idea of going dark, the idea of creating that, you know, there’s the we all know the idea of a Sabbath and every seven days, day off that used to exist and was supposed to exist and now it doesn’t exist for you know, in practical terms for many people, most of us most of the time. You know, back in the ancient world, every seven months could become a Sabbath and there certainly was every seventh year. And so there was this idea. This is where the sabbatical comes from that language of course a whole year that you go dark, so to speak. And we need we need more dark in our lives. Number seven Question, what’s something essential to you that you’re under-investing in? Essential you’re under-investing in. There’s one more after this.


Jennie Allen  40:08  

I feel so proud of what I spend my time doing right now. I feel like I’ve got balance again. And I would say, I would say, a long time of just quiet and meditation and prayer. I would say that’s probably the thing I keep wanting to grow my amount of time I spend.


Greg McKeown  40:32  

Final question, what could you do in 10 minutes or less to make it easier to make progress for more time for you?


Jennie Allen  40:40  

Oh, easy. Get offline. Yeah, I could get an hour back a day two hours.


Greg McKeown  40:48  

Jennie Allen it is such a pleasure. Such a good excuse to have you on here. Thank you for your message. Thank you for being on the What’s Essential podcast.


Jennie Allen  40:58  

Wow, this is awesome, Greg, and thank you for your work to Gosh, it’s blessed me and I’m grateful.


Greg McKeown  41:03  

We’ve come to that moment again the end of the show. If you found value in this episode, please rate and review on Apple podcasts the first five people to write a review of this episode, we’ll receive a copy of find your people by Jennie Allen. Just send a photo of your review to info at Greg mcewen.com. That’s inf o at gra G MC K eown.com. Remember this we didn’t cover it today conversation but but you quoted in the book from a friend of yours Kurt Thompson, a neuro relational expert who said every newborn comes into this world looking for someone looking for her. That stopped me in my tracks when I read it. I know that you wrote it in the previous book. But here you extrapolate it even further. For everyone listening relax today. Find your people this week and going forward and I’ll see you next week for another episode of The What’s Essential podcast


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


Greg McKeown


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