Keep It Simple – Then Make It Easy

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

Mom always used to say I have diarrhea of the mouth. Don’t read that again – you got it right the first time. Seems there would be kinder ways to tell somebody their breath isn’t minty fresh. And no amount of Listerine made it any better. Believe me, I tried. All that did was give me medicine breath. Turns out Mom was just saying I talk a lot. Well, duh!

If you’ve been following these posts any time at all, you’ve probably figured that out all on your own. I’ve never been at a loss for words. Even at work, when somebody else writes a 12-page functional requirements document, mine is 50 pages. If I’d been paid by the word all these years, I’d be rich.

There’s something to be said for getting the point across clearly. Nobody has ever accused me of producing work that lacks detail. The problem is getting people to actually read it. Even the developers who need the information toss it aside and say, “Just give me the Cliff Notes version.”

Years ago, I was a lead writer on a program writing Air Force maintenance manuals. Some of my writers would agonize over which word to use, or whether to use a comma. I always told them, think of how the technician will use this book when it’s finished. They’ll take it out of the box, stack it on the floor, and climb on top of the stack to reach the paper cups on the top shelf.

Not a really comforting thought, especially if you live directly under an Air Force base landing approach. But it does put things in perspective. Keep it simple. Nobody cares about punctuation when they’ve got a wrench in one hand and grease is dripping out of the landing gear motor all over their freshly starched uniform. They just want to get the job done.

You see, the job is simple – it’s just not easy. We talked about that last week, but what does it really mean? Simply stated (like how I threw that in there?), it means it’s not rocket science. I can explain it so anybody can understand. But beyond the explanation, it still takes a little skill to make it happen. And that skill comes from experience.

In fact, our procedural manuals were written on that very premise. We would bold key words in each instruction so the more experienced technician could just focus on those words. “Tighten the attaching bolts in an alternating pattern to 16 ft. lbs.”  A pretty neat concept, if you ask me. But do you think anybody even noticed the spelling in the middle?

Okay, you can stop reading the sentence – I didn’t misspell anything. I’m just making a point. Sometimes, we get so bogged down in the details that we overlook the simplicity of what we’re trying to do. And let me tell you, I’m the king of that domain. I can overthink anything. It keeps me from making any huge mistakes.

The problem is it keeps me from not making mistakes as well. You see, there’s a point where we need to stop thinking and start doing. Are there things I’ll need to consider along the way? You bet. And fate has a way of putting those things in front of you at just the right time. Does it matter what you’ll do if a traffic light twelve miles away turns red? No. Not until you get there.

But if you don’t start the engine and put your foot on the gas now, you’ll never get far enough to find out. Planning isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but too much planning stands in the way of action. At some point, we need to actually do the work. And that’s when we begin to find ways to make it easy.

My business is built on a very simple concept. Anybody can do it. The same is true of just about everything I do, from my day job to writing these posts and changing the oil in my car. But none of them are particularly easy. They take practice. And after a while, you get really good.

Learn the concepts, and then put them into practice. Handle obstacles as they arise, based on what you’ve learned along the way. Taking something that’s simple and making it easy is just a matter of doing it until it becomes second nature. You’ll encounter new challenges as you grow. But with each success, you’re that much better equipped to overcome whatever may come your way.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved