All I want to feel is simplicity. I want it because it feels extraordinary.
When I reach simplicity, I feel calmer, happier and more focused. If you too have experienced simplicity in your life, then you know what I mean.
But. Simplicity is freaking elusive.
It’s much harder to achieve than we think. Because its rival, complexity, keeps creeping back into our lives.
We need the courage to pursue simplicity. It often requires saying no to opportunities, relationships, features, products, materials, tools. You get the point.
Simplicity, also makes you question whether what you have is enough. This is perhaps the biggest demon. But just having enough, while it might seem boring or risky, is practical. It’s when we desire excess that things start to get complicated.
To inspire you (and me) to continue to fight for simplicity, I’ve curated 7 of my favourite simplicity quotes, with some added commentary.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann
How many times do we have something where it needs to be, but we add, and add, and add to it because it feels safe? The process of simplification involves the skill of identifying what is necessary. Linking this to minimalism, I like to look at what is essential in my life, then protect it with everything I have.
“The expression of truth is simplicity” – Seneca the Younger
Some of the purest experiences we have are the most simple. Watching the waves on the beach, a child seeing a new insect for the first time. Birth, death, love. When you pursue simplicity, fundamentally you’re seeking the truth.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” – Confucious
Life itself is simple. So it’s fascinating to observe how quickly we make it complicated. We like to call the unconscious pursuit of complexity, “The More Virus”. It’s when propaganda and social influence trick you into thinking you need more things, more features, more love, more of everything. Because we’re told that more will make you feel better. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.” – Richard Branson
I love this quote because it belittles complexity. This is not to say the complexity is terrible all the time. But it enables us to be more cautious and aware of our desire for more. The real battle is in keeping things simple.
“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. 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
So many of us love our iPhone’s because they’re simple to use and “just work”. And it’s the simplicity of the product that creates an amazing experience. That’s why the iPhone has been one of the most iconic and influential physical products in history. But getting to that level of simplicity in product development meant ruthlessly fighting for what features were necessary, and finding the courage to say no to unnecessary features.
“Complexity is enemy of execution” – Anthony Robbins
I can’t tell you how many times complexity has gotten in the way of achieving my goals. Whether it was a unique training program for basketball, or a new fancy project management app to run my business, complexity does hinder progress at times.
“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers who can cut through the argument debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” – Colin Powell
We’ve all been in a situation where we’re in an argument, and someone from the outside offers up a simple solution that everyone seemed to miss. And we think, “oh, yeah, that’s so obvious!” That’s the effectiveness of being able to simplify.
The ability to simplify, to think simply, and to keep things simple are all skills that we can develop. But like any skill it requires practice. Keep challenging yourself to distinguish between necessary and unnecessary in all situations. Also, when you recognise simplicity, embrace it. Feel it. Appreciate it. This will keep it front of mind when complexity tries to creep back in.
Hopefully, these quotes have given you some motivation to reassess the value of simplicity versus complexity, so you can proactively apply it to your life. Also, we have a dedicated chapter in our book to simplicity, if you’re interested in learning more.
Do you have a favourite quote from the list above? If so, share your thoughts in the comments below.