“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.”
– Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs’ passing represents a huge loss, but he leaves behind a tremendous legacy. One could go on for hours about that legacy, but today I just want to address Job’s quote above, because it has a lot to do with effective organizing.
Getting organized is always about taking the less important stuff out of the way so that you can get to the most important stuff. This is what I have been most successful at helping people with. The really challenging part, however, is setting up systems that depend on “focus and simplicity.”
We can establish organizing systems that start with focus and simplicity, but they fall victim to the old habit of adding extra stuff that just interferes.
This phenomenon can be illustrated by another cultural icon, Frasier. In Episode 13, Season 7 Frasier has to come up with a new jingle for his radio show. His father comes up with a perfect simple little jingle while brushing his teeth, but Frasier rejects it. He ends up renting a recording studio and a full orchestra for his little jingle. His brother Niles questions him saying, “I thought you said less is more.” To which Frasier responds, “I did, but then just think how much more MORE would be?”
Yes, I know Frasier is only a fictional character, but I believe more of us think like him than like Steve Jobs. One of the reasons finding true focus and simplicity is so difficult for us is that it runs contrary to our culture of abundance and overwhelming information.
It feels unnatural to get rid of old things and old ideas that aren’t serving us well. It may even feel scary, but it’s important because it brings focus to the innovative ideas that WILL serve us well. Getting to those innovative ideas can be hard work, but they don’t get any easier by bringing back the excess stuff.
People pay a lot of lip services to the benefits of minimalism these days (I suppose I’m one of them), but Steve Jobs walked the talk. His mantra of focus and simplicity really did move mountains.