“KISS, an acronym for keep it simple, stupid, is a design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960. The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design, and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.” - Wikipedia
I’ve realized this about myself—the more complicated something is, the less I’ll do it; the less complicated something is, the more I’ll do it. Even though this is a personal realization, I’ve found this to be a universal truth.
It’s why people abandon hobbies and habits. It’s why people are unable to sustain operating at a high level. It’s why people find themselves unable to show up to the task they know they should be doing. When things become (or at least feel) complicated, people gravitate toward making their lives simple, and this sometimes means leaving something behind.
We like things that are easy to understand. Do this and that happens. It isn’t because of our intellect—we just enjoy simplicity. We enjoy it when something just makes sense.
A good example of this is why some people are more effective at communicating than others. The best speakers, writers, and thinkers make complicated subjects simple. They know how to funnel initially complex topics into understandable ideas. They avoid their listeners and readers having to run to a dictionary. It’s why if I use the word selcouth instead of strange, you’ll stop reading this. I’ve made something complex, and we don’t like complexity.
Simplicity doesn’t mean that you can’t have something that appears complex on the surface. It just means that you choose to see the single components that comprise the system. You choose to see a book as a bunch of sentences. You choose to see a business as a solution to a problem and people working to solve that problem. You choose to see a movie as a series of video clips following a storyline. The result of those three can appear complex, but their components are simple.
When it comes to our work, the question we should regularly be asking ourselves is this: How can I make this as simple as possible?
Writing a book, starting a podcast, learning web development, losing weight—when we create our goals, this is usually how we write them down.
At first glance, our goals can seem daunting. Writing a book can take us years. Starting a podcast requires high-end equipment and renowned guests. Learning web development takes a lot of studying. Losing weight means suffering through a diet plan and hard workouts.
Thinking like this can cause us to postpone our goals. It’s Monday. We have a job, a spouse, and kids. We don’t have time. Better that we keep things simple and avoid them.
But perhaps we can take a different approach. We can KISS our goal and break it down to its most logical component.
Let’s take writing a book. A non-fiction book consists of a title that explains what it is about. Then we have chapters. In those chapters are paragraphs, in those paragraphs are sentences, and in those sentences are words. Therefore, a book is a bunch of words discussing whatever the title and chapters are about. If we were to keep things simple, then our focus when writing a book would be to type a certain amount of coherent words per day.
No writer’s block. No waiting for inspiration. No overcomplicating. Just type 450 words per day and you’ll pop out a 50,000-word book in 4 months.
Most things can be broken down like this.
Starting a podcast is buying a mic and talking. Learning a skill is watching courses and giving yourself projects to work on. Losing weight is eating fewer calories and working out.
With time, we can add layers of work to enhance our results. We can write scripts for our podcasts and do more research on our guests (maybe we can even take public speaking classes). We can enroll in a web development boot camp instead of watching YouTube videos. We can buy a Fitbit to track our runs and hire a nutritionist. However, as newbies, these should not be our starting point.
Remember that with every layer of work added, we increase the chances of procrastination seeping in. We’re starting to make our process complex. There’s nothing wrong with this since the only way to evolve is by adding in these layers. But we must build a habit before we start making things complicated.
In other words, walk before you run. Consistently dabble with the thing before investing more money and time into the thing. Make 100 YouTube videos before you start worrying about expensive courses and the complex advice given from them.
When we keep things simple, we make the process enjoyable. We keep ourselves sane. We avoid procrastination by getting things done.
I’ve met plenty of people that have big ideas. They have something they really want to do, but they never get around to doing it. When I ask them why they start listing off a long list of things they need to do first. By the end of their sentence, they’ve created such a mountain to climb that they nearly convince me that their reasons for procrastinating are legitimate.
Until I think of KISS. Then I realize they’ve created a knot for themselves that can be untied with a single pull. Then I realize their issues can be handled by keeping things simple and simply taking action.
Motivation is a myth.