Simple’s Complexity

After my rant and rave about simplicity, I have had a few sleepless nights on the matter as is my custom when something I have said comes back haunting in karma style. I have always had a great deal of respect for people who practice what they preach and as the God of Abraham is my witness, I do make a fair attempt of my own. But my attempt at keeping things simple all the time has not always yielded the expected results. Do people really want simple? I think the answer is a YES but must be preceded with a very long …errrrrm trailed by an endless scratch on the head. Think about it carefully. Have you ever told some one that you didn’t like them? You will think that will be considered honest, straight to the point and most of all; simple. Nop…you get absolutely no applause whatsoever for that kinds of comment.



No I have not made a turn around. First of all, it takes complex to (Make that the one thing you must walk away with from reading this article). What brought the iPad to its one-button simplicity is nowhere near simple. I mean think about the number of things that needed to happen for the product to be created. The years of R & D and the number of people and resources it took. Now although Steve Jobs himself is a champion of the Keep-it- simple idea, he himself was not among the simplest persons of his day. His methods from what I hear cannot be described as people-friendly. In fact an article in a recent offering of the Harvard Business review warned against replicating his methods. He was not that nice a guy and that’s the simple fact.


All the simple stuff you enjoy were made possible by very complex processes. Take a blink of an eye. You have no idea how many things have to happen for it to occur. When I learnt about the number of muscles it took to frown, I didn’t have a choice but to smile. A single step you take is made possible by very complex processes involving brains cells, bio-chemicals, muscles, bones and countless other entities you haven’t even heard about. Imagine your every single step is a project from the cells point of view. Yet you consider it is a simple matter—it is after all just a step. From all indications, this is the very character of nature itself. It is how God has created the world. It uses complexity to make things simple. An orange is a much more complex entity than the simple fruit you see.


So if the blink of an eye is such a complex event, imagine how complex a person is with his trillions of cells doing all kinds of things. With the many thoughts and emotions and the actions that result from the need to stay alive, complex doesn’t even begin to describe a human being. The more people you have in a setting the more complex things get. This is what makes socio-emotional competence possibly a harder subject in practice than rocket science.


I have tried the keep-things-simple in the social arena. Say when you don’t like something and tell the truth so you can be free. Go straight to the point and don’t waste time on useless preliminary. In my hometown, a conversation with elders must first begin with a five minute introduction and continue with an expedition into the lives of people who have no interest whatsoever in the conversation at hand. William James will make a terrible elder in Ada where going straight to the point is literally a taboo.

I cannot count the number of times I have sat there screaming in my head “why don’t you just say what it is you want” in a conversation as my counterpart continued with a well rehearse dance around the real issue. Of course these days I don’t let it out because it returns a lot of negatives and I already have too much of that. Now, I am more like give him time, he will get there eventually. Often, I have walked away from conversations without a clear picture of what had gone on– you are not allowed too many questions either. I have to allow myself some decrypting time as it were.


I have come to respect those police officers who directly ask you for a bribe, they are easy to understand so you can figure what to do with them. I have had more trouble with those who expect you to figure things out by yourself. I have come to learn also that people are very cautious with simple. They find the complexity of pretense more comfortable. You can’t tell a woman she looks ugly. You can’t tell her, her she needs to cover some things. You can’t tell women not to come to church in topless dresses (I don’t know what else to call them).You can’t judge a book by its cover. You can’t tell a person you are tired of their company and that in fact you never liked them in the first place. You can’t tell a friend you need some me time. In effect you are in a system where you are told every day that you must tell the truth all the time. Yet you are hated for it if you even try.

Ok so maybe I am overstretching the people side of things. Maintaining relationships is a complex matter of balancing subterfuge and uprightness. One of the above alone is not enough or you are bound to become a social misfit. Ironically the lesson here is simple; there are two sides to the matter, your side and the world’s side. If you present simple to the world, it will love you for it and you will make some progress. But for this to happen you need a lot of complex work done on your side of things. You cannot present simple unless you have done complex. Simple is only possible because of complex.  In business, it is important to make things easy and simple for the customer. Those who have succeeded at this can be said to have gone the extra mile. Extra mile might sound simple in concept but perhaps you now understand why many organizations and individuals find it an impossibility.


I would like to give you a simple to-do-list that will make you the best in your field. And believe me I have tried that like many motivational speakers do. The fact is that this does not really work or we will all be supermen and women by now. People who function at a high capacity have a mentality that you can’t just tell people about. They have to develop this thinking through a series of complex processes. A person’s life is made up of so many departments and unless each one functions at appreciable level, the ultimate output will not be the best. Those who are willing to tackle the complex are able to give simple and will always be ahead of those who avoid complex. So hopefully you get it; make things simple by doing the complex work.

About Markus Kennedy Katey

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