the simplify guy

Daily acts of simplification

Month: April, 2012

Complexity Sells!

I came across the following article, which I found very interesting.

http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/simplicity_is_highly.html

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Essentially the author is saying that consumers will always take a complicated product over a simple one because complexity is a sign of superiority, features and desirability. I can understand that. Until Apple came along with its one-button gadgets I can remember products acquiring knobs, dials and buttons all over the place with each new “upgrade”. Just look at the evolution of the TV remote control as an example. I have no idea what 75% of mine does! The author above says why have a toaster that just toasts when you can have one with motor-driven baskets and LCD displays? Hmm…I’ve never had one of those, but I have had a kettle with colour-changing LEDs and a “keep warm” setting, both of which stopped working and it eventually refused to boil. My new one has one button and it boils water – genius!

I think this is what Einstein meant when he spoke of courage in his quote in my opening post (“Any fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a lot of courage and a touch of genius to move in the opposite direction”). A business that offers a simpler looking product, even if it is cutting edge technology, is risking poor sales. A consumer who chooses the product that executes their needs with a minimum of fuss is never going to keep up with the Jones’s with their spaceship control panels and flashing lights. Courage indeed….it’s ok though, I’m feeling brave!

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A few rules

T-2 so time to think about a few ground rules. Not a complicated list of rules of course, that wouldn’t do at all!

I’ve had a think and I think these should cover it:

1. One act of simplification each day, no more, no less
This is an experiment as much as anything else, so I want to see if one act a day is sufficient to achieve material benefits. Equally, does one a day get too hard after a certain period of time? By sticking to this rule I will find out.

2. Keep it simple (you saw this one coming!)
Ok, so me being me I will want to get clever with this in due course, but in the early days I want to keep it simple. If this is going to be something that anyone can do, and is supposed to make life easier, then it can’t mean several hours a day of head scratching and an army of people to implement. Short, sharp,and snappy is the aim.

3. Keep blog posts regular and short
I want you to follow this journey with me, but I don’t want it to be a burden to do so. Regular, easy reads are the order of the day. Please feel free to give me feedback on this point in particular!

4. Action first, theory second
Whilst I will happily share all sorts of ideas, theories and inspiration along the way, I deliberately want to leave deriving theories from my results until a later stage. I believe it will be possible to categorise simplification types, and benefit types, and even create a process to do this, but I want real life results first. I am a theorist by nature so I am deliberately going out of my comfort zone here!

That’ll do for now I think, I can always add/amend as I go! Getting serious now, I’m actually going to do this!

Wanna be sophisticated?

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

~ Leonardo da Vinci

Not TOO simple though!

With “Day 1” fast approaching, I have been sharpening my simplification skills in preparation for my first action. I have been reminded of another Einstein quote (don’t worry, I will quote other people in due course as well!) that helps to explain the whole point of this. He said (or is paraphrased to have said):

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“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”

This may take a bit of digesting, but essentially what he is saying is that everything can be reduced to a state that is as simple as it can be, and to attempt to simplify it any further would cease to be an enhancement, in fact quite the opposite. Now, if you are anything like me then this may still be a brain-numbing concept, so a real-life example probably wouldn’t go amiss.

When asked about his creation of the Statue of David, and how such a perfect sculpture could be crafted from just one piece of marble, Michelangelo famously replied:

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“David was already in the marble, I simply chipped away the excess”

This is a profound statement which I will revisit in the future, but for now we just need to consider the statue. Most would agree that this is a stunning piece of art, perfect in every detail, and chipped out of one large block of stone. I can imagine Michelangelo chipping at that block for days removing only what wasn’t required to create David. One day it was finished, complete, perfect. Yet one more strike of the chisel would have rendered the statue damaged, broken, and incomplete. This is the essence of Einstein’s point. The finished statue is the simplest form that the block of marble can take whilst still being David. If any attempt is made to reduce the block any further then David is lost.

The daily acts of simplification are my equivalent of chipping away at the marble. My “David” is the simplest form my life can take whilst still being quintessentially “me”.

The aim is a life that is as simple as possible…but not simpler….

Welcome!

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Hi there and welcome to my blog! My name is Dan Byrne and I like to make things simple.

I am happily married, work for a blue chip company, and have a number of hobbies. I love to study self-help books and philosophise. My key strength is an ability to see patterns and synergies in seemingly disparate concepts. If you asked me what I considered to be my purpose in life, I would say that it is to use this ability to create a deep wisdom of life and to use that wisdom to help others.

This purpose leads to a passion for simplicity but, in practise, a life left unattended can easily become cluttered and complex. As Einstein said:

“Any fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a lot of courage, and a touch of genius, to move in the opposite direction.”

I contemplated this quote as I spent yet another chunk of my life with a slow 3G connection, trying to scroll through an inordinately long Facebook feed and deleting a list of unwanted emails. I felt compelled to remove this burden from my life but it seemed like a big job to execute. So I got to thinking: “I wonder if it is possible to commit to a daily act of simplification, doing one thing each day to remove an item of complexity from my life, and would the effects compound over time to create lasting benefits?” One email unsubscribed, one Facebook group unfollowed, one element of my daily routine improved…etc, etc… I could think of a number of quick wins such as these but also some bigger things that may require some more thought. EVERY day, make one thing simpler.

There is only one way to find out so I decided that from May 1st 2012 I would begin this journey. I have committed to do it, and to record the results here. Along the way I will share pieces of wisdom that have inspired me to date, and new things I discover along the way. By sharing this experience I hope to achieve my purpose by helping others to make their lives simpler too.

Thank you for finding your way here and, if this sounds like fun, stay tuned. I would love to hear your feedback, suggestions and stories of where you have made your lives simpler too.

Happy simplifying!

Best wishes,

Dan.