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September 17, 2022
Complexity is attractive because it feels like progress.
That’s why people love to invent these little lists of conditions they need to meet before they can do something.
There are physical requirements like perfect lighting, adequate seating, expensive equipment and warm weather. Then there are psychological requirements like positive mood, burning passion, creative inspiration and sufficient preparation.
And not there’s anything wrong with rituals, preferences and other elements for optimizing your experience. Take it from someone who eats the same breakfast every morning, listen to the same album each day, only has one outfit, and has been wearing a nametag for twenty plus consecutive years.
Routines are important, helpful and delude me into feeling in control of my inner and utter environment.
But one of the lessons life eventually teaches you is, if you have an antagonistic relationship with the process, treating it as this enemy to defeat with your clever trick plays and perfect conditions, then no system is going to save you.
Yoga is a perfect example. It’s an activity that’s been around for over five thousand years.
Meanwhile, yoga mats have only been around for fifty. And in that short period of time, we have managed to build a multibillion dollar global yoga mat market predicated on people’s desire to buy themselves a lower score.
Funny thing is, no yoga mat going to do the poses for you. All achievement comes from within.
My instructor used to joke with us, you think this mat is the spell that’s going to save you, but it’s just an expensive piece of rubber.
It’s a principle that applies to almost any kind of practice, be it creative, physical, spiritual or otherwise.
Once we accept that we already have everything we need to do just about anything, then there are no more necessary conditions we need to realize our desires. We can turn the dial towards simplicity in our mind, and simply take action without overthinking the whole thing.
That’s usually enough to propel us forward towards our dreams.
Seinfeld tells this hilarious and insightful story about giving a speech to his friend’s improv class back in the eighties. Here’s what he told the young comedy hopefuls:
The fact that you have even signed up for this class is a very bad sign for what you’re trying to do. The fact that you think anyone can help you, or that there’s anything you need to learn, you have gone off on a bad track. Because nobody really knows anything about any of this. If you want to do comedy, you should have a giant flag behind you with two words that says, just work.
How’s that for simplicity? And the punchline is, the whole “just work” concept is actually much harder than it sounds.
Maybe because simplicity is more of a binary than complexity, so it has less room for excuses and crutches. It requires more courage than overcomplicating something with your list of conditions.
It’s such a pain in the ass, isn’t it?
But as an exercise, think about which of your current challenges would feel far less threatening if you trusted that everything you wanted to create was already inside of you.
Imagine what you might attempt to do.
Remember, complexity is attractive because it feels like progress, but simplicity is satisfying because it feels like honesty.
The choice is yours.
What are you overthinking?