Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. This quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of the marvelous book, The Little Prince, describes the paramount of simplicity. As the title of this post, attributed to the great Leonardo da Vinci.

In simplicity lies an inherent beauty. If you like beautiful objects or architecture, you will agree that simplicity is beautiful, but requires mastery. Look at a chair designed by Philippe Stark or the Guggenheim museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, you cannot but be surprised by the rightness of the design and its simplicity. However, take the Guggenheim. It took Wright 15 years, 700 sketches and 6 sets of drawings to create the museum. An enormous amount of work.

Most our lives are cluttered with unnecessary items, people or occupations. I may sound provocative saying this. We all live more and more busy lives, but are we living fulfilling lives? Look at what you are doing every day, and honestly decide what really fulfils you? What if you decided to get away what is superfluous to only keep bare necessities?

Pareto is the rule

You may know the Pareto principle, also known as the 80-20 rule. This principle states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. For instance, 80% of the sales come from 20% of the customers, or 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. This applies to everything in life. Not always in this ratio, but more often than not. And we can take this principle as the guiding principle to simplify our lives. Get rid of the 80% and focus on the 20%. Not only you’ll save times, you’ll increase quality!

Marrow is inside the bone

If you like marrow, you need to cut the bone in half. You need to go deep, stripping off the flesh. You cannot get marrow if you stay on the surface and are complacent. Think about your job, your relationships, your house, your family, your friends, your garden… Think about what you can take away to get to the marrow.

We tend to complicate things, because we are not clear in our minds. Clarity drives simplicity. When you simplify, you take off all the unnecessary layers, and once to the bone, you can get to the marrow, the treasure.

Simplicity makes life easier

A way to simplify is to get rid of things. For instance, if you buy a new shirt, get rid of an old one. Avoid accumulation. Simplicity is keeping things lean. Next time you have to deliver a speech, create a PowerPoint presentation or write a report, add an executive summary at the beginning, and for each information you add to the document/speech, ask you that question: if it this information is taken away, will my document still be understood? If you answer yes, take it away. Do not shy away from stripping things to the bone, you will get to the marrow.

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