KISS For Health, Wealth, and Happiness
Cats, Coca-Cola, And Documentary Movies That Show “Simple” Is A Force Of Good
Image by L.E. Wilson from RedBubble based on work by Ebweb, OpenClipart, and Katzenspielzeug on Pixabay
No less a prominent figure than physicist Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that the best answer to a problem is likely the simplest one:
God always takes the simplest way.
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Out of clutter, find simplicity.
As evidence, look at the equation he came up with to explain a fundamental principle of the universe: E = mc^2
It’s quite elegant. If you’ve ever wondered, “what is beauty?” “what is happiness?” this is it: graceful, powerful, enlightening simplicity.
And the idea that the best answer to a question, a puzzle, a mystery, is the most straightforward, simplest one doesn’t just apply to the laws of physics, but to any problem, personal or global, small or grand. This problem-solving principle is known as the “law of parsimony” or Occam’s razor: the simplest explanation is usually the best one because it is likely more testable and therefore more verifiable.
Imagine, for example, the absurdity of conjuring up a second character that’s very similar to an established character in a story you are reading—a copycat, if you will—created from whole cloth, out of the blue, ex nihilo. So you toss in this totally new character that magically arrives at the last minute and replaces the original character simply because you don’t like the ending of the story. Why would you do this?
In any piece of work you could always impishly ask if it was really the character you’ve known all along who was in the final scene and not a very similar character, a lookalike, a clone, who came in its place, thus changing the story completely. Not only unnecessarily changing the story, but complicating it in a crazed way. Again, why would you do this?
Perhaps it’s just a matter of too much time on your hands, but it could also be that the skill to pare down a problem to its simplest form and see its component parts, the fundamentals, is actually very difficult. Without this ability, everything becomes unnecessarily and absurdly complicated since everything is unhinged from a known reality, so all kinds of random thoughts are equally as good as any other. Hopefully, if you reach this point, you have at least left some room for doubt so as to be able to say, as mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace put it: “I have no need of that hypothesis.”
Luckily, there is a way out of this vortex of self-created confusion, and that is to remember this adage developed by the U.S. Navy in 1960, KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Avoid unnecessary complexity. There is no second cat in the story.
Here are a few documentary movies that demonstrate the KISS principle:
SlingShot (2014) is a documentary directed by Paul Lazarus about the life and work of Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway Personal Transporter, and the developer of Slingshot, a portable water purification system.
“Bureaucracy is the art of making the possible impossible.”
— Javier Pascual Salcedo
Dean Kamen invented a machine that could help save people’s lives by making clean potable water easily accessible to them. He went to healthcare organizations, governments, NGOs, the United Nations, but none of them could do what the Coca-Cola company could: efficient distribution that reached small villages. All these large bureaucratic bodies couldn’t do the work of a single soda company with a simple product, sugar water, and a simple distribution system that uses trucks to allow them to bring clean water and medicine to some of the poorest, sickest people in the world through the Coca-Cola Foundation.
Warren Buffett: Bloomberg Game Changers (2012) is a documentary about Warren Buffet, a billionaire investor who became the world’s wealthiest person by buying stocks from companies, and later companies, that were: easy to understand, well managed, competitive, enduring, and profitable businesses.
One path to obtaining wealth is investing long term in the stock market, which has an S&P 500’s historical average return of 10% per year.
Is investing confusing and scary, or are you making it so? There is one simple maxim that encapsulates what you need to decide whether to invest in a company or not:
Know what you buy, and buy what you know.
Before you commit your hard-earned money in any venture, make sure that you understand how the business is supposed to work. Learn the fundamentals of the business. If you don’t understand what a company does or how it does it, that’s not a good company to put your money into because you are untethered from reality. If you do understand a company and how it does business, what its products are, and how it makes them, then you can compare that company against other businesses to see if it is well managed, profitable, and enduring. When you find a stable company like this, it is probably a good investment. Simplicity turns out to be just a bit of common sense in many cases.
You will be healthier if your diet consists mostly of fresh fruits and vegetables. The foods highest in nutrients per calorie are: 1) green vegetables, 2) raw vegetables, 3) beans/legumes, 4) eggplant, mushrooms, 5) tomatoes, peppers, 6) fresh fruit. The most nutrient rich foods are: kale, collards, spinach and bok choy.
When you’re trying to decide what a healthy diet is, doesn’t it seem logical that the further away you go from simple, whole foods, the unhealthier you would become? Eating food as close to its natural form as possible means eating whole ingredients, whole vegetables, whole grains, fruits with skins. When food is processed it means you lose nutrients and replace them with empty calories. So, “Keep It Simple, Stupid”: eat your vegetables, especially green leafy ones, beans/legumes, mushrooms, and fruits. Minimize highly processed food, which is food that is already prepared in an unknown way, has chemical names listed as the ingredients, and comes wrapped in plastic. A healthy diet is a simple diet.
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story (2009) is a documentary directed by Gregory V. and Jeffrey C. Sherman about their respective fathers, Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, the songwriting team behind the popular music in many iconic Disney movies.
“Team work can make a dream work, if you have got the will to win.”
—Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Teamwork
The Sherman brothers created some of the best, happiest music for Disney movies, and they did it without liking each other very much. How? They had a simple rule: work as a team. Being part of a team means reaching the point where the team doing well is by itself rewarding, without needing to spend time and energy trying to get acknowledgement or recognition for individual contributions from each other. It is more efficient to become an integral part of a team, rather than a member of a team who needs constant affirmation. Simplify the unit, and a lot of things become easier.
That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.
There are many ways to solve problems, but using large bureaucracies, convoluted schemes, overcooked ideas, and tortuous trivialities tend to not work very well. Developing the skill of looking for the simplest, clearest, most straightforward solution that is grounded in a reality you understand, on the other hand, can be very helpful, and will quite simply make you happier.
Going hog wild inventing scenarios built upon ever more elaborate notions will likely lead you down the wrong path and all the frustrations that come with it. Ask yourself if there could be a simpler answer, a more reasonable, easier explanation, than what you are currently thinking is the solution. And remember one last word of advice if you have convinced yourself that the more elaborate answer is correct:
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
—Carl Sagan (renowned astronomer)
So, what’s your evidence?