Minimalism: The valuable simplicity
Human nature is composed by different layers of intent. The intents are the desires to make what was crafted to be acknowledged by the highest value it is possible to have. That is totally understandable, we are animals sustained by the lust of external approval, meaning that we need and we look, sometimes unconsciously, for acceptance.
In this odyssey to magnify one’s fair value, one stacks superfluous coats of contrasts to make it stand out. An innate instinct to protect the ego against the frequent competition the outside world keeps to play a decisive role. A race many times started in oneself and spreading like a disease in its surrounding area, making people feel and need to share the dynamic established by the weak consciousness in the need of approval.
Although many would focus on the unhealthy behaviour, I, myself, would center my energy on what we are actually hiding. By spending such a big amount of time at making the same looks different throughout processing the basics into a new stylish format, the end product, most of the time, is an overwhelmed vision that nobody understands (or many fake to understand). What is simple then becomes wrapped into different shapes, changing the very initial reason to exist.
This new monster created in this ceaseless process of disfigurement is a very close friend of most of us called Complexity. Complexity is not the fact of being complicated. The laws of physics that rules our universe (or maybe multiverse) are complicated. The way we act to hide our origins are the factor complexity added to create obstacles for others to understand us. The more complex is the interactions of objects in a space, the less knowledge is capable of being applied to it. Therefore the more chaotic is the environment, the closer to zero is the predictability in the system.
In case you find yourself closer to the chaotic side than to the simplistic edge, believe me, you are not alone. I honestly believe that most of the people either live, or have moments they lived, in anarchy. It seems a harsh statement and I totally understand the feeling, but it’s not that crude. Think a bit about the society we live, there are people showing a side they do not have so they can get a better job, maybe a better dating partner or even fit in a group. Layers and layers of “wannabes” created on top of the essence of a different spectacular mind.
“Once you lose yourself, you have two choices: find the person you used to be, or lose that person completely.”
— H.G. Wells
The two sides have an extremely strong gravitational field that pull things towards their way. Everyday we try to find simple ways of doing what everyone is doing, yet we do not want to be so similar or unauthentic, so we complicated it to add our mark. Young entrepreneurs, being business owners or simply professionals, invest time and energy in fruitless differentiation, while forsaken their most important asset, the purity of their minimalist solution.
This insolvent conduct challenges great minds to an extent of exhausting their inner attributes. It’s a suffocating fighting of self-identification. Startups that are supposed to solve ONE problem, for ONE niche and in ONE way ends up drowning in a sea of pleonasm. Oppositely to the reason that made these entrepreneurs step up, they are pulled towards the disorder from where they first left.
“Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well. ”
— Steve Jobs.
I already shared the story of Steve Jobs returning back to Apple and in his very first act as the reinstated CEO was to get rid off all the unnecessary things that were hindering what Apple was about. He returned to the initial state where all was clear and simple. The reason for focusing on doing one thing well, doesn’t mean you will not or should not grow. It means that you need to understand what you do well and build on top of the core essence. If you sell cars, don’t go try to sell houses, instead why not try to sell better maintenance programs to what you sell the best?
In order to grow, companies and professionals should not need to trespass the boundaries of their core business. There is no problems in being simple, nor in have competitors. The fact you have competitors is the sign that you are in a booming business and that what you do matters. The question you need to answer is are you really efficient on the problem you are solving?
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Questioning oneself is an art of self-reflection. Sometimes you won’t like the answer you are going to find. A negative result is not necessarily a bad outcome, instead it is a sign that, if processed early and diligently enough, defines the life or death of a company. Knowing when to accept it and how to pivot allows business to restructure around the core WHY it exists in the first place. This will undress all the superficial adjunction hitched to the minimalist core.
Additionally, a business sole reason to exist is solve a problem and not to find a problem to a solution. Where the former focus on adding value, the latter is a placebo created blindly to self-affirmation. Despite of being indeed a radical opinion, the key point is to understand that bringing to life something that has no reason to exist will only pleasure the creator, just like Frankenstein.
William of Ockham, a 14th century philosopher, was the inspiration principle of parsimony that simply states that things are usually connected or behave in the simplest or most economical way, especially with reference to alternative evolutionary pathways. A strong, yet overlooked, fundamental that the evolution does not take the hardest and chaotic path, instead in a chaotic environment it takes the most simple and efficient path.
A decade or so ago I heard a nice story about two engineers and $10 million. That story has gain so many different variations that I don’t even know if the one I heard is or not the original. Notwithstanding the veracity, there is a really nice morale.
It is said that two engineers were hired to solve a problem: in a toothpaste assembling factory, some cartons were packed with empty toothpaste boxes. The two engineers with a lot of work created a very expensive high precision scale that would accurately measure the boxes’ weight and with a robotic arm would remove the empty ones.
They implemented the solution and it was perfect. After a couple of months, they saw the numbers of empty boxes in the cartons have dropped to incredible zero mark. So proud of their work, they went to see the machine and for their surprise it was offline. They then called the supervisor to know the reason, maybe it was broken? That was when the supervisor said after a day or two the machine started stopping a lot due to the high precision scale and the assembly line was getting interrupted quite often. What they did was collect $10 from everyone and bought a fan that they pointed to the place where the scale was. The fan would send away any empty toothpaste boxes and they never needed to use the $10 million scale.
“The simplest solution is almost always the best.”
— Occam’s Razor
As a closing thought, I ask you that for every step forward always try to answer:
- Why is this important?
- Is this so simple that feels like natural?
- Do I really need what is surround my idea? Or it’s my over attachment that is preventing me from growing?
When your why is genuine, your flow is organic and your solution is simple, you will find the core of minimalism.