The Virtue Of Simplicity


Simplicity is a core value of mine. I’ve written before about the difference between easy and simple, as well as the idea of a “good simple,” which exists on the “other side” of complexity. But for me, simplicity is quickly becoming more than an interesting notion to think about.

Small spoiler alert: “Simplicity” is one of The 4 Disciplines Of A Healthy Startup Culture, which I’ll be talking about at IdeaMensch LA next week.

Clearly, there’s a difference between saying something is an “individual value” and recommending others adopt it. What made me cross this line?

The more I interact with business leaders, the more I learn about the changes happening in the world of work, and the more I personally experience the increasing complexity of my own life, the more I become convinced that simplicity is more than something “nice to have.”

Mastering simplicity is quickly becoming a categorical imperative for greatness.

The reason why this is happening is fairly simple, and has to do with scarcity and demand. As complexity increases, simplicity decreases — we feel this happening all around us. This means the inherent value of simplicity is skyrocketing.

In this new chaotic marketplace, we are weary of more complexity. Most of us are already filled to the brim with everything we can handle. This means…

Unless your product or service makes my life more simple, I really don’t have space for it.

Of course, the problem with this is that real simplicity is almost impossibly difficult. (If it weren’t, there’d be more than one Apple, Inc.) It requires a culture of immense discipline.

Is this the kind of culture you’re creating at work?


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Fish Are Not Aware Of Water


There’s an interesting quote “floating” out there that goes like this:

Fish are not aware of water.

This describes our current situation pretty well.

As you know, I’m quite convinced that humanity is experiencing a tremendous shift in the way we understand and process the world around us. In this example we are the fish. We’ve been “swimming” in a steady cultural stream of ballooning information and increasingly complex institutions for so many decades that it’s very difficult to even see they’re there.

It’s even more difficult when these things we’re so used to change. It’s rightfully unnerving when generally accepted practices begin to evolve. But what’s interesting is that if the water temperature heats up slowly enough, we won’t even notice until it’s approaching a boil.

This is exactly what is happening right now. We can see it all around us in the daily headlines of the few newspapers left. The world is changing dramatically, and our “water” is approaching a boiling point.

Unlike a fish, however, our brains can understand abstract, invisible concepts like “the air we breathe.” Because what’s happening is a change in mindset more than anything else, it is happening “out there”—part of what we “breathe.”

Forgive me for mixing metaphors, but making ourselves aware that oxygen exists at all is the first step. When we start to see the chaos around us as an effect of a mindset shift, everything starts to make more sense. We can prepare for what’s happening, adjust the way we live — and thrive because of it.

P.S. I explain this phenomenon in much greater detail in my new book, which is coming out very, very soon. If you want to know exactly when it’s released, please sign up here!


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What If You Don’t Want To Start A Business?


I love entrepreneurs. I am an entrepreneur myself, and I find working with other entrepreneurs very enjoyable because their energy is so compelling. Also, if you haven’t heard, this particular moment in history is a great time to be an entrepreneur — many authors and futurists are lauding entrepreneurialism as the “savior of business.”

But I am troubled by something: What if you don’t want to start a business?

What if you don’t have the “crazy gene” that entrepreneurs seem to have?

There is a ton of information about how to succeed in today’s business climate by being entrepreneurial. And that’s great.

Unless you don’t want to be one.

An entrepreneurial lifestyle can’t, and probably shouldn’t be, for everyone. When I look around at my circles of influence, I find very few of my friends or family who have any “entrepreneurial desire.” Left to their wants, the vast majority of them would prefer to find a job working for someone else—and this ought to be OK.

It is true that the new economy is brilliantly organized for entrepreneurs. And that’s wonderful. But not everyone wants to start a business or lead an organization. In fact, judging by the numbers in the workforce, it seems there are many people who prefer to work for someone else.

And that should be wonderful, too.

The world needs both managers and makers.* One is not more important than the other, they are simply different pieces of the puzzle. The real problem is that each side often forgets something really important: nothing happens without both groups working together.

Every single person deserves to work in an environment that 1) provides them a sustainable living, 2) treats them like a human being, and 3) allows them to work towards some greater purpose.

As leaders and entrepreneurs, we should see it as our responsibility to design this kind of working environment.

If we don’t, who will?


*I confess I don’t know who used this terminology first, but I originally heard of it in a blog post by Seth Godin referencing Paul Graham.


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