“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity!” –Albert Einstein
Is Uncle Albert really suggesting that time is that fickle? Can I really have more time in my day? Or is it just our perception of time that is malleable? What about the “over night success” stories where the person has been in the business for 5, 10, even 20 years? Is that success fast or slow? Or the young pianist who spends an hour a day drilling their basics. Are they going slowly since they are not yet playing sonatas or songs off the radio? Or the linguist who learns a new language in a week. Are they a fast learner or does one count the years of learning syntax and semantics that allow this newest language to be readily absorbed?
You already have some of my views on “easy” from previous posts, so you know that I’m not a fan of easy. In fact I often say “we can’t do it that way, that would be too easy!” While the comment is typically facetious there is some part of me that really believes that easy is less than useful. Visiting the dictionary again I hit upon the crux of the matter: “requiring little labor or effort.” There is a distinct difference between making a task look effortless and it truly being effortless. Masters of their art have the appearance of effortlessness built upon their mastery of the basics. “Easy” makes me uneasy with the implication that we can bypass the basics and get results that are still valuable. This is like building your house with no foundation because the ground looks solid enough. It may pay off in the short run but it won’t be long before you find everything collapsing around your ears.
“To be simple is to be great.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
Simple, on the other hand, can be very useful. Wouldn’t you like a six step process that you can apply every time you are experiencing an unwanted emotion? Better yet, a 3 step process for changing your feelings about a situation without changing the situation. Sound simple enough yet?
Best of all would be a simple system. W. Edwards Deming determined statistically that 85 percent (or more) of a worker’s effectiveness is determined by the systems they work within while only 15 percent is the individual worker’s skills. So let’s find someone who is really good at what we want to learn and borrow their system by eliciting their strategies. Or design a system for ourselves that we can test and improve over time.
This is where the legendary 80/20 rule comes into play. Whether you change the numbers (I’ve seen 85/15, 90/10, 94/6) or attribute it to Paredo, Jurin, or Deming the core of the idea stands. A small portion of your efforts determine the bulk of your results. Part of that “first 15%” includes establishing your systems and developing basic skills so that you can have mastery over the other 85% and have your “overnight success” after your unseen hard work.
Just because it is simple does not mean there isn’t effort involved, in fact it typically seems to be the opposite. Often the simpler the idea, the more labor it may take (otherwise everyone would already be doing it). Labor is a great word in this case because most of these simple systems are not only a labor of love but are like delivering a baby. That spark of inspiration, the long wait as it develops, the overnight success of birthing, and now all you have to do is nurture, encourage, and guide your baby’s development.
What could you love enough to develop into maturity?