Simple is Hard

Day 235 Week 34 Q3 Thursday, August 24, 2023

Sometimes, in order to achieve an extremely simple result, it can be far more difficult than doing something complex. For example, writing a short, terse expression of a complicated thought takes much longer than writing a long document. The same is also true in music. You’d be surprised at how much information could be packed into the first 60 seconds of a piece of music. Everything that you need to expand upon to create a 30-minute-long piece could be present. In communication, the smallest number of words is usually the best. In fact, sometimes, no words at all is even better.  

When people say too much, you generally stop listening to them. When musicians play too many notes, they also tend to lose a lot of their audience. Complexity and intellect are both overrated because there’s too much room to hide behind. When someone uses three sentences instead of one, you can be sure they’re not exactly clear in their own thinking.

Assuming the creative outliers are usually involved in some sort of creative process, this applies. The more succinctly you can express yourself, the better the work. Elegance is rarely complex. So why do most people use too many words? Because it is much more difficult to express oneself simply and authentically than complexly tinged with vagueness.  Try to avoid the desire to be completely comprehensive because you may be requiring of yourself a greater understanding than others or willing even to consider.

Legal contracts are an especially insidious form of complicated yet unclear communication. I wonder if a lawyer could even say I love you. The number of caveats and exclusions would overwhelm those three simple words.  Manipulation thrives on complexity. On the other hand, being exceedingly simple can be extremely limiting. Knowing when and how to be simple and when to be complex is a skill acquired by a great deal of time invested in communicating.

If the person with something to communicate takes responsibility for the communication getting across, there’s a higher likelihood of being understood. If you assume your audience knows what is happening, you have already made the first mistake by assuming that they are an audience instead of a conversational partner.

You do not ever have an audience. You always have a conversational partner. If you are not alert to feedback and response, you are locked into transmit mode and can never be sure if you’re communicating.  I am not sure how a fine artist can tell. But I am sure that if you were involved in the performance arts, you can absolutely tell.  Of course, sometimes there’s a mismatch between the performer and the audience, just as there is a mismatch between two people trying to converse.

This is where the simple always triumphs. A complex response can be very open to misinterpretation. And so can a complex expression.

Try keeping things simple and see if Life works out better for you.