Posts Tagged ‘simplicity’

Legacy 3: Keeping It Simple

May 9, 2018

(Also originally written 9/16/14)

In “Legacy 1” my penultimate point (another mellifluous word stuck in there! I love it!) was this:

KISS—“Keep It Simple, SIMPLE!” Stick with what you know, are good at, do best. (Warren Buffett and Donald Trump—and probably many others—espouse this idea. Being too scattered dissipates energy, and results in no legacy of significance. Dan Ariely, in Predictably Irrational, points out an experiment that supports this line of thinking. Often the most successful are those who focus on one or two things, and do them superbly.)

Keeping it simple is hard. “It’s simple, but it’s not easy.”

Life is complex. It requires juggling lots of balls. Compartmentalizing. Categorizing. Shifting focus constantly.

Life takes on a life of its own. It won’t leave you alone to live it. Life erupts, interrupts, disrupts.

And then, to further complicate matters, we corrupt it with complexity, losing sight of the significant. How many people have gotten to the end of life wishing they’d done less and focused more?

I like the acronym KISS—I’ve used it as a PIN since my first marriage, taken from the letters of our first names and last (her name began with I), so it’s a treasure to me. But I don’t like the usual rendition of the last S—“Stupid.” Ignorant, maybe, but not Stupid.

Maybe “complexifying” things IS stupid, but calling ourselves that is, at the very least, counterproductive. So I choose to re-emphasize SIMPLE. It could be simply reiterating the concept with emphasis, or it can be seen as addressing ourselves as “SIMPLE.”  But keeping things SIMPLE is not nearly as easy as it sounds.

Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” His equation, E = MC2, is one of the most famous ever. Simple—but it had to have 2 C’s, an M, an E, and an = sign. No more, no less. Getting to that equation could take a lifetime, and extend into eternity.  It’s that simple—and that complex.

Did you ever notice that the hardest words to define are the simplest? Often one syllable. LOVE. LIFE. JOY. PEACE. FAITH. HEART. TRUTH. Philosophical timebombs, loaded with meaning. How do we capture them? How do we live them out? It’s simple, but it’s not easy.

Sometimes life changes drastically in a single moment or event, but most often it accumulates, an unnoticed series of small decisions and non-decisions that snowball into an unstoppable avalanche, a glacier moving mountains.

Simplifying helps. Stepping back and getting perspective helps. Finding focus helps.

“All generalizations are false, including this one.” Ultimately, it’s impossible to keep it all simple. But the effort to do so may be one of the most rewarding and life-giving choices we make. And it IS a choice. Free will is a gift of inestimable value. Choose well. Choose wisely. Choose simple.