“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs
If you like complex stuff which I doubt you do, but if you do, then you probably shouldn’t buy my upcoming book, The Salesperson Paradox: A Strikingly Simple Way to Provide Solutions Your Customers Can’t Say No To. Or read the rest of this article. Well, maybe you should. Then, you might want to buy it.
I believe simplicity is the secret. It’s the secret to reproducibility, engagement, performance, and potentially happiness. It’s the secret for the most “successful” companies in the world, people in the world, for you, and for me. That's why I will always strive for simplicity. I won’t always obtain it, but I’ll try.
Below are 18 examples of simplicity from people who also think it's pretty important.
First, I'd like to share three reasons people avoid simplicity. Sadly, I've painfully indulged in each at one point or another…
✔︎ Ego – People want to feel important so they complicate the heck out of whatever they do (or are doing) in an effort to make themselves feel better. After all, if they get it and you don’t, then their better or smarter, right? Simplicity is scary. It exposes you.
✔︎ Confusion – People assume simplicity is too easy to work. They’re deceived. I mean, “ANYBODY could think of that or do that.” Therefore, it’s easy to dismiss or even miss entirely. They’ve confused simplicity with ease. A big no, no.
✔︎ Laziness – People realize it’s hard, really hard. And, people avoid doing hard things. They’d rather search for shortcuts. Do I really need to convince you of this?
Okay, now here's 18 examples of simplicity. This segment was actually in the original manuscript of The Salesperson Paradox. It was one of those square peg, round hole situations. But, it's a great square peg. Enjoy...
1. Richard Branson has an entire chapter devoted to simple in The Virgin Way: If It’s Not Fun, It’s Not Worth Doing. To be exact, it’s chapter 4, which is titled “K-I-S-S and Tell: Simplicity Wins Every Time.”
2. The KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) was created by the U.S. Navy in 1960 to emphasize how most systems work best if kept simple as opposed to complicated. This is what Branson is referring to in his chapter title.
3. The military has been utilizing simple for years with their concept of commander’s intent (CI). Battle plans can be up a hundred and fifty PowerPoint slides long, and CI sums it up in one sentence. It’s a concise expression of the mission’s purpose or intended outcome to ensure there’s no confusion across units in the heat of battle.
4. Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder, venture capitalist, and board member of Facebook, says, “The same reason so many internet companies, including Facebook, are often underestimated—their very simplicity—is itself an argument for secrets.”
5. Elon Musk, Thiel’s PayPal co-founder and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, famously said, “Any product that needs a manual to work is broken.” This could basically be summed up as, if it’s not simple, then don’t even bother rolling it out to the consumer.
6. Richard Koch wrote an entire book on simple: Simplify: How the Best Businesses in the World Succeed. He discusses case studies of companies like Southwest, IKEA, and McDonald’s, which are all “price simplifiers.” He also looks at case studies of companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon, who are all “proposition simplifiers.” Simplicity enabled these companies to become the companies we know today.
7. Colin Powell, former secretary of state and four-star general, has been quoted as saying, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.”
8. Great investors of our time like Warren Buffett and Jack Bogle rely on the simplest, most tried and true investment strategies: buy and hold—no frills, long-term investing. They surely believe in simplicity.
9. John Wooden revealed his number one success secret during a sit down with former LSU men’s basketball coach Dale Brown: “Don’t try to be a coaching genius, always practice simplicity repetitively.” Wooden coached UCLA to a record ten national championships.
10. Ryan Flaherty, senior director of performance at Nike, emphasizes simplicity when he trains athletes: “Don’t buy complexity; the simpler you make your training, the better the results come.” He is considered one of the best trainers in the world for speed enhancement for professional athletes.
11. The legendary writer Kurt Vonnegut not only was known for his super simple writing style but also advocated “keep it simple” as one of the eight powers of the written word. He even suggest Shakespeare’s most profound work stems from his “almost childlike” writing. Vonnegut may have a point. Does it get simpler than “To be or not to be?”
12. Charles Poliquin, the self-proclaimed strength sensei who is regarded as one of the world’s best strength coaches, has claimed, “The rule is: The basics are the basics, and you can’t beat the basics.” Seems pretty simple.
13. Chet Holmes, a sales legend who built a massively successful career on the backbone of the principle of simplicity, says, “Mastery isn’t about doing 4,000 things, it’s about doing 12 things 4,000 times.” Driving home that “pig headed discipline and determination” wins out every time. Huge advocate of simplicity.
14. Holmes’s advice is eerily similar to martial arts legend Bruce Lee’s: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
15. Frank Drake, famed astronomer, created the Drake equation in 1961.9 He took something insanely complex like the galaxy and simplified it into one equation to find out how much life was really in the universe—proving anything can be simplified. Apparently even all life in the cosmos.
16. Daniel Kahneman, who one Nobel Prize in 2002 for his work in behavioral economics, concludes, “If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do.”
17. In his New York Times Best Seller Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown makes a strong case for simplicity. His is a systematic approach to discerning what “the vital few vs. the trivial many” is—perhaps better described as “what matters versus what doesn’t.” It’s simply about doing less but better.
18. Dan Heath and Chip Heath, in Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, cite simplicity as a top reason why an idea sticks. This emphasizes the importance of deducing an idea to its core. This enables better comprehension, reproducibility, and virality.
I know, I know…too much, right? Too lengthy? Well, now you know why I axed it from The Salesperson Paradox. My goal was to keep it simple.
Please comments, feedback, and questions are always welcome!