I’ve written before about these two concepts but I wan’t to have a dedicated note to start thinking about both of these in relation to each other. So here it’s.
Easy: achieved without great effort; presenting few difficulties.
Simple: consisting of only a few parts; not complicated in structure.
These are the definitions that I go by for these two words. I’ve made the mistake of confusing the two because it’s seems so intuitive that they’re the same thing but they are not. Something that’s simple is not necessarily easy.
When things get interesting is when you consider the implications of pursuing things that are easy vs. simple. For example, becoming a black belt is relatively straightforward. It’s simple. You just practice several times a week for 10 years as you learn a set of moves, face opponents and improve your technique. There’s nothing uncertain about this journey. The steps are laid out (with colors!) and you know with a high degree of confidence that if you take all these steps and remain consistent you will become a black belt. It doesn’t mean that the journey is easy. It’s not. Nevertheless, it’s simple. The steps are clear and you get constant feedback on your progress.
Now what sort of goals should we pursue? Easy or Simple?
Come on now. You know this is obviously a leading question. I personally feel that we should pursue a set of few (if not singular) goal(s) that provide us with a deep sense of fulfillment. Doing so will lead you to be much happier than just living a life that’s easy and not particularly challenging. This is obviously a personal choice and the right choice(:
How can we make this actionable?
I think that there are two steps that we can take to make our lives more simple rather than easy.
- Understand our goal: I want to think more about this but for know here I am referring to the act of figuring out if what you want is something worth spending a lot of time on. At the end of the day, you will be taking this reductionist approach to your life and that’s great (if it helps you achieve your mission) but I think it’s key to understand that this is exactly what you want to be spending your time and focus on.
- Reduce friction points: eliminate unnecessary variables that might make your environment more complicated and unpredictable. This might include other competing goals, poor relationships, unnecessary distractions, etc.
Now more broadly how else should we think about this distinction between easiness and simplicity?
I am not saying anything new here. Most people would agree that you want a life that’s simple rather than just easy. So how could we go one level deeper? Perhaps we should intentionally seek life that’s exclusively focus on pursuing one hard thing. It’s would be a pretty straightforward yet incredibly difficult life.
While writing this I decided to research what other people have written on this subject and this really interesting. Here’s an interesting post I found:
“Rich Hickey (creator of clojure) argued in a recent talk that simplicity is objective but easiness is subjective. Something is simple if it is singular: it does one thing, it is made of one thing, etc. Something is easy if it is close at hand, i.e. familiar.”
The author of the post then argues that simplicity is also relative and requires context. He uses mnemonics as an example because mnemonics are a complex representation of something intended to make that something easier to understand.
Now taking a step back I think this what we should explore next. We should re-evaluate what’s simple and what’s easy? How can we make anything simple? How can we make anything worthwhile easy?
I will keep thinking about this.
That’s it. Now back to work.