Stop Hiding Behind Complexity—It Can Be a Soul Sucking Barrier to Progress


Complexity is a way to avoid facing the reality that what really matters for most things in life is simply showing up and doing the work.

Not thinking about it. Not talking about it. Not dreaming about it. But doing it.

The more complex you make something the easier it is to get excited about; talk about; and maybe even get started. But the harder it is to stick to over the long-haul.

Complexity gives you excuses, ways out, and endless options for switching things up all the time. Complexity is procrastination’s best friend.

Simplicity, on the other hand, is different. You can’t hide behind simplicity. You have to show up—day in, day out—and pound the stone. Do the work. Rest. Progressively make it harder. Tweak as needed. Repeat. Nothing complex about it. It is as simple and as hard as that.

This general theme—that we hide behind complexity—is perhaps most apparent in areas like nutrition, fitness, productivity, and so on, where there are endless products, services, and programs, all of which offer the magic solution, and all of which come with 10-page user manuals. But this theme is pervasive more broadly too.

Consider so much of the so-called activism that happens on social media. No doubt, some of it is real and good, but so much of it is just shallow yelling back and forth at one another. I am becoming increasingly convinced the driving force behind this is that social media alienates you from the person you are yelling at. Instead of trying to have a face-to-face conversation—very simple—you can hide behind anonymity, a screen, a keyboard, and the ability to unload on someone and never deal with them again. In other words, there are layers of complexity involved in social media communication, which we can hide behind instead of doing the hard work of actually having a meaningful conversation.

Another common example is e-mail. What a wonderful way to avoid actually doing the work. Email about it. Copy a million people so everyone has to weigh in. Email about it some more. Then decide you need to talk about it in person, so email to schedule that. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Not only does this complexity prevent you from actually doing the work, it also sucks your soul. (For more on this particular example, join our book club where we’ll be discussing A World Without Email by Cal Newport, and check out our podcast on the topic.)

Again: complexity isn’t always bad. Sometimes it is needed. But generally speaking, the closer you can get to the thing you actually want to do, the less stuff that stands between you and doing it, the better.


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    As usall, very insightful and spot on.

  • Alejandro Cantalapiedra

    You are absolutely right, if people just get up and do what they have to life will be easier, sometimes you can prepare your day, the night before you think carefully your next day, enjoy your life will make you happy, happiness is in you. Be your master and avoid suffer and victimize yourself

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