* Note: This post is part of an ongoing series in which I am sharing the entire contents of a currently unpublished book I wrote last year, entitled: unBelievable: How to Get Unbelievable Results By Giving Up Believable Ideas. Review my blog's archives or do a search for unbelievable to see all previous posts.
There's Genius In Simplicity
- The simplest things are often the truest. - Richard Bach
- People often seek out complex answers in order to keep themselves too busy to act on simple solutions. - Derek Franklin
- Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. - Confucius
- It is simple to be difficult, but difficult to be simple. - Unknown
- The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective. - Warren Buffett
- Complexity creates a maze between you and success. Simplicity ensures a clear line of sight. - Lee J. Colan
- Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs. - Henry Ford
- Order and simplification are the first steps towards the mastery of a subject. - Thomas Mann
- If it's simple, it can't be effective.
- That REALLY can't be all there is to it.
- If it was THAT simple, then everybody would be doing it.
- Life is complex, and there's no way around it.
- The fact that there are books upon books about _______ (losing weight, managing money, setting goals) must mean that doing it the right way is pretty involved and requires a lot of different parts to work together.
His study of the world around him led him to develop ideas that were way ahead of their time, and included the helicopter, tank, and parachute, just to name a few.
He intensely studied and made detailed drawings on everything from human anatomy, to the motion of water, as well as the mechanics behind gears, pulleys, cranks, momentum, and leverage.
Over the years of his life (he lived to be 67), he produced more than 4000 drawings, or at least one drawing a week, every week he was alive.
Do you think this man knew a thing or two about how the universe worked? Would you consider him an authority when speaking about it?
Well, after all his observations, and his decades of study and discovery, he made a statement that seemingly went contrary to everything you would imagine.
What did he conclude about all he had learned about the universe?
He said: 'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.'
Isn't that interesting? You'd think he would've said something like, 'Everything that works right is complex and full of a lot of moving parts', but he said just the opposite.
Now the most obvious question is, what did he mean? What did he discover that shaped his belief this way?
Well, we'll never know exactly what he meant by that statement without asking him, but if we put our thinking caps on, we can come pretty close to understanding his viewpoint.
In his studies of the natural world, Leonardo observed that nature uses the simplest means to get things done - nothing's ever included if it doesn't need to be there, and if something needs to be there, only the minimum number are used (if one will do the job just fine, then two aren't used).
For example, we each have just two ears, which allow us to hear a complete 3-dimensional space - we can hear above/below, left/right, top/bottom, or any combination of them.
Could we hear with just one ear? Yes, but we couldn't hear in a complete 3-dimentional space. Do we need three ears? No, because we hear everything in a complete 3-dimensional space just fine with two, so two it is!
Leonardo observed this phenomenon throughout nature.
In other words, he came to appreciate the genius behind efficiently running systems that could consistently produce fantastic results, all with the least amount of complexity.
He knew that the best solution to any challenge was going to be the most simple solution. Why?
Because, the more simple the solution, the fewer parts in the system that can break down, and the easier it is to understand, implement, maintain, and improve.
Are there any good examples of this concept in the modern world? Absolutely!
Not many people would argue that Google's phenomenal success is based on it's ability to take a complicated task (searching all the information in the world) and make it as simple as typing a word or two into a box. Even though they continue to provide additional services and features, their homepage at google.com is one of the easiest to use anywhere on the Web.
There are many other examples, but at this point, you're probably wondering what this means to you - how can you use this idea of finding the genius in simplicity in your own life?
Well, when you look around you, there's no denying that we live in a world that wants to complicate everything.
Tasks that used to be simple and natural for us to do, such as eating well, have become complicated by mountains of studies that claim this is good for you and that isn't, and opposing mountains of studies that claim just the opposite. Not only that, but a trip to the bookstore will overwhelm you with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books from authors with different ideas of how you should eat, when, and with what food, and how often.
And it's not just the simple task of eating that's become so complex, virtually everything from managing money to talking to your kids have been complicated to a ridiculous degree.
Now, I'm not saying that specific solutions to various challenges you'll run into in life aren't important, but there's a problem when you become so overwhelmed in tons of details (like most people are), that is almost paralyzes you from doing anything right.
What I'm suggesting you do is to realize that in virtually every area of life, there is simplicity to be found, used, and benefited from. You've got to learn to look past the complexity of what's being thrown at you constantly, and instead discover the core ideas and principles that matter the most, understand the reasons why they work the way they do, and then live your life by them.
In a nutshell: You want to discover, internalize, and act!
To help you grasp this idea, let's look at some areas in life, and pinpoint some of the core principles that can be found in that area, and then consider the mindset you should adopt to get the most from them.
Take a look at these core health principles:
- Give your body what's good for it
- Avoid putting into your body what's bad for it
- Avoid overindulgence
- Get moving
- Get plenty of fresh air, water, and sunshine
- Get plenty of quality sleep
- Be consistent in practicing these things
There's nothing really groundbreaking listed, is there? Despite that, do you realize that those several lines pretty much sum up most of the actionable advice you'll find in 1000's of books, magazines, and websites. While it may seem like most of the things they're telling you is new, when you stop to think about it, most of them are encouraging you to live by this handful of principles, they're just each telling you to do it in a slightly different way. Why complicate the simplicity of the solution?
Sure, there are important details to fill in, but identifying these core principles first makes filling in the details so much easier. For example, when it comes to moving, you might discover the importance of things such as stretching, monitoring your heart rate, as well as a few other important tips to help you move/exercise effectively. But again, once you've discovered the essentials, is there any need to complicate things further by learning 50 different ways to stretch, or all the different ways to monitor your heart? Find a way that works, understand the reason why it works or why it's important, and then do it! Anything more is just complicating what should be simple.
With these core health principles identified, the next step is simply to consider them whenever confronted with a decision where they can be applied.
Ask yourself: Do I need a bunch of books that tell me that too much chocolate cake is bad for me, or that eating fresh fruits and vegetables whenever I can is a good idea? Or do I really need to spend a whole lot of time and money figuring out what expensive supplements I 'need' to take when eating healthy, nutritious food regularly may be all I need (people lived just fine for 1000's of years without suppliments)?
Let's look at another example.
Here are some core business principles:
- Be unique
- Focus on quality
- Give people massive value, and do it regularly
- Treat people well
- Make it easy for people to do business with you
Once again, I would argue that if you had to distill the wisdom of the ton of business books available out there, you would end up with a simple list similar to this one. If you never read another business book, but instead focused on putting this handful of principles into action, you'd most likely have a successful business that would flourish for years!
Let's look at a scenario of where you could apply these simple principles when it comes to making a business decision.
Should you start a blog, and what should you blog about?
Do you need a bunch of books to answer these questions? No! Just consider the them in light of the core business principles that are listed above.
Should you start a blog? Well, would it make it easier for people to do business with you? If yes, then do it!
What should you blog about? Well, it should be something unique, and you should focus on giving readers massive value (tips, strategies, etc.) related to your field or topic. Also, you should give them this value regularly. Done!
With just a few core principles in mind, you were able to make an important decision easily and quickly. Simplicity at its finest!
As mentioned earlier, this idea of identifying and using simple solutions touches every area of your life. Here are a couple more quick examples:
- Money - Make more, keep more, grow it more, spend less, don't buy on credit, have a budget
- Relationships - Treat others how you want to be treated, show love, be honest, give more than you expect back
I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. For anything you do in life, identify 3-7 core principles that, if you apply, will be responsible for a majority of the positive results you'll experience.
Starting with just a core set of principles, there's a lot you can figure out on your own from there, without the need of investing a lot of time and money on a ton of books that do little more than teach those core principles to begin with.
That being said, there will definitely be details you can fill in along the way, and reading some books, magazines, and websites will help you do this. But as you read and learn, you'll have a central point of reference (core principles) that you can tie what you're learning to. This will help you not only solidify your appreciation and understanding of those core principles, but it will help you realize that you don't need to constantly look for and fill your brain with a bunch of complicated rules and guidelines in order to get great results.
Discover for yourself the genius in simplicity!
- After a lifetime of observing and studying the universe, one of history's greatest geniuses said: 'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication' - he came to appreciate the genius behind efficiently running systems that could consistently produce fantastic results, all with the least amount of complexity.
- Why is finding simplicity the best solution for any challenge? Because, the more simple the solution, the fewer parts in the system that can break down, and the easier it is to understand, implement, maintain, and improve.
- Unfortunately, we live in a world that wants to complicate everything. Tasks that used to be simple and natural for us to do, such as eating well, have become complicated by mountains of studies that claim this is good for you and that isn't, and opposing mountains of studies that claim just the opposite.
- In virtually every area of life, there is simplicity to be found, used, and benefited from. You've got to learn to look past the complexity of what's being thrown at you constantly (everyone and their uncle 'seems' to have a totally unique 10-Step solution), and instead discover the core ideas and principles that matter the most, understand the reasons why they work the way they do, and then live your life by them. Anything more is just complicating what should be simple.
- For anything you do in life, identify 3-7 core principles that, if you apply, will be responsible for a majority of the positive results you'll experience.
- Starting with just a core set of principles, there's a lot you can figure out on your own from there, without the need of investing a lot of time and money on a ton of books that do little more than teach those core principles to begin with.
Next: Take Fun Seriously