I recently found myself thinking long and hard about the idea of simplicity. My period of introspection was instigated by a blog post published on the Seraphim Plastics website, a post that discussed simplicity as the key to business success. After thinking about it for a while, I found myself pining for simpler days.
The 1970s and early 80s were my era. I got my first ‘legal’ job when I was 16. Everything about it was easy. The single page application took me only a few minutes to complete. The interview took no longer than 20 minutes. Even the paperwork I had to fill out after being hired was simple and straightforward. Even as a 16-year-old, I didn’t struggle at all.
How things have changed. Getting a job today requires jumping through a lot of hoops. Even with digital technology and the internet, it is all so complicated now. But that’s the way it is across most areas of life. Simplicity seems to be a lost art. That’s too bad.
Simplicity in Business
Let us talk about some key areas of life where simplicity has been lost. We’ll start with business, given that this post was inspired by Seraphim Plastics‘ piece. Seraphim Plastics employs a deceptively simple process to recycle post-industrial plastics at a profit. There is nothing complicated about what they do. It is as simple as simple can be.
On the other hand, municipal recycling programs are more complicated than they need to be. They are also money losers. That’s why so many municipal recycling programs have failed over the years. They are not economically sustainable.
Steve Jobs, arguably one of the most brilliant business leaders of the modern era, loved simplicity. He once said this:
“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.”
You can see his belief in simplicity all over the Apple-Macintosh brand. Their devices are designed to be as simple as possible for users. Simplicity is what makes the brand so attractive.
Simplicity in Leisure and Entertainment
When I was a kid, I could go watch a movie like Star Wars without having to worry about things like culturally offensive messages and the like. Entertainment was just that: entertainment. People gladly consumed what they liked and avoided what they didn’t. It was easy. Today, navigating entertainment options is like walking on eggshells. It is getting hard to find options that haven’t been sterilized or don’t come with some kind of warning.
A similar situation exists in the leisure department. I used to ride my bike and climb trees without a care in the world. Today’s kids need to be protected from head to toe with so much gear they can hardly move. We say the gear makes them safer, but I suspect it really just makes us adults feel better about ourselves.
But even we grownups can’t just get on a bike and ride. We need to have special pants and shirts to make it more efficient. We need to have state-of-the-art helmets, gloves, and shoes as well.
I had planned on getting into other areas, but it turns out I’m out of space. No surprises there. Life has become so complicated that a single 600-word post cannot possibly explore the topic adequately. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Simplicity is a lost art that will likely never be recaptured.