We are happy to be back, after a bit of a hiatus. I hope you are happy to see us too. If not, feel free to escape.
You’re still here. Good. We hope to make this newsletter a monthly affair. In this age of incessant news, and even more incessant tweeting, the frequent onslaught can dull the mind and overwhelm the spirit. We doubt you need one more of those pills.
Our plan is to write a few words that will make you think, occasionally challenge you, and perhaps even inspire you to take another look at your life, what you do, both personally and professionally.
Don't worry. I am no psychologist or guru, and I’m definitely not taking you to Mars. We will stay earthbound and take our cue from these two propositions - Thoughtful and Simplicity - which are embedded in our name.
Let’s start with Simplicity. It does not mean dumbing things down. Rather it is a call to focus on the essence, and not let the cacophony overwhelm us.
Einstein captured this pithily (what else?) noting that the five ascending levels of intellect were:
“Smart, Intelligent, Brilliant, Genius, Simple.”
He further added:
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."
We can all agree that life has NOT become simpler. Technology has opened gates that even the Jetsons did not foresee. Has it made us happier, liberated, with time to contemplate? I know, silly question. There is a deluge of data. But data is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom. Excrete begets excrete. Can you relate to any of these examples...
I recently had a doctor’s appointment. At their insistence, I filled out, days in advance, all the paperwork, health history with all its scary imagery, insurance information... (You know the drill). On the appointed day, the receptionist almost gave me a cookie for having done my homework thoroughly and on time, but then handed me another two-page form to fill out just for the doctor. I could swear they were almost the same questions. The icing on the cake? When I finally saw the doctor, a competent and friendly fellow, it turned out he had yet to review the paperwork. Anything wrong with this picture?
Recently we refinanced a home. The process was excruciating - a ton of data, a total absence of common sense, and several weeks of futile back and forth. And then it was DONE. Only one task remained: review and sign the closing document. No problem
, and then I saw it was a 146 page treatise! Any useful information? About 3 pages worth. Now my first mortgage might have been in the last century, but as I recall it was only about 10 pages long.For reference:
Lincoln’s Four Score and Seven Years
speech - one that gave life to a nation was 272
words. About half a page. A nation can be rallied in half a page, but a mortgage refinancing document clocks in at the length of the New Testament. Money may well be at the root of all evil. Amen!
How many times have you blindly signed the legal papers that invariably pop up when an app is updated, or you unintentionally give away your firstborn to the Apple or Google gods? I doubt any legislator in the land could explain even one of these documents in plain, (or garbled) english. We sign because we have no choice, willfully oblivious to what we are signing, hoping merely to get on with our lives.
If you are running a business or an organization, perhaps the first commandment should be (per Mel Brooks):
Treat the Customer right!!
Sure you need information, but do you actually need everything you ask for? Here’s a simple method to find out. Spend an hour, (yes an hour,) and go through your entire website, click every link, and fill out every form that is designed for your customers. You’re bound to see what’s truly necessary and even more importantly, what is fluff and fodder.
And once you’ve cut out the non-essentials, review it again, and hone it some more. Then take the axe to your company policies. Can you state what they are? If the answer is “no”, or even “kind of”, then your employees probably can’t either. It’s liberating to chuck out the dusty manuals, and simplify what’s important, by thinking through what’s absolutely essential.
Needless to say this exercise can be applied to our personal lives too.
Cut out the Superfluous. Focus on the Customer. Simplify!
We will build on these themes in the months to come in the areas of business, entrepreneurship, and leadership - leading others, and leading oneself. Please do join us.
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Your feedback is always welcome.
One minor caveat: keep it civil. 🙂