Simplicity – A Disciplined Approach To Less

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First, a heartfelt thank you to all who came by to celebrate MarchFifteen’s Four Year Anniversary. I just adore the sense of community we are building together, the energy, the buzz…

Truly grateful for your generosity and conversations. Humbly, here is the speech you were asking for – I hope it continues to provide nods of your heads, approval and maybe, just maybe, an adjustment in your practice.


I believe Simplicity is becoming the next big thing in business. But acknowledging the need for simplicity is one thing, simplification of our life is something else.

Steve Jobs said it well – “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.”

Deloitte has recently released global research in which they claim that more than 60% of their employees feel “overwhelmed” by the volume of activity, complexity of processes and messages they get.

Some organizations are actually trying to do something about it.

GE recently launched a major new strategy to simplify its business. The company is teaching managers how to focus, showing people how to spend more time with customers and simplifying its back office processes.

SAP did the same thing and saw employee engagement rise by almost 30%.

So, simplicity and focus have major impacts on the way people experience their work-life, on the atmosphere at work and on the organizational culture.

Great corporate cultures have always thrived on simplicity.  Remember the motto of IBM: “Think!”? Or Nordstrom’s rule: “Use good judgment”? Or Nike’s “Just Do It”? These are simple statements that help people in organizations focus. And when the rules and values are simple, people remember them, people relate to them well, people have less trouble internalizing them.  People follow them.

It makes me think then, that more is not always better. More is actually almost never better. It’s just…more…

As I was researching Simplicity, I came across a beautiful Japanese concept – Shibumi.  Shibumi means “effortless perfection”.  Not unlike Chopin’s Impromptus or Mondrian’s Composition C.

Sushi Master Ono exudes the very essence of Shibumi.  In this context, Shibumi suggests complete harmony, tranquility and balance.

When asked how Master Ono practices his art, he described his approach as focusing every day on the following three things:

  1. Discipline: the ability to say no when something doesn’t fit into his plan
  2. Patience: that allows for the true quality of his devotion and experience
  3. Strength: to stay focused on his singular purpose

I ran the story of Master Ono by my karate Master, Kyoshi Michael Walsh, who gave me his interpretation of Shibumi – “I am reducing the noise in my life so that I can continue my practice more efficiently. It matters not the practice, but it is the practice – ‘the doing of a practice’ – that is vital.”

To me his answer represented a lovely alignment with Master Ono’s three principles.

And as I try to wrap my head around the concept of Simplicity, I find that it has one big enemy – fear. Particularly if we suffer from the Impostor Syndrome (read our guest blog by Janet Morrison) – fear of being found out that we are inadequate, incompetent or flawed. Fear demands a place to hide. Simplicity does not offer a place to hide. Simplicity exposes. I can now acknowledge that over the past years I have been helping people discover their fears, learning how to master them, harness them, manage them, ignore them, overcome them.

As for me…between trying to be the mother, wife and friend, between trying to lead, manage and create value for my customers, I paused and asked myself how does the Quest for Simplicity affect my practice and my life. How do I manage to bring the noise down in my life? I would like to share with you five tips on how to bring more simplicity into your life.

  1. Stay focused or get focused – Forget 23 “number-one” priorities. Try to focus on one issue, one task or one challenge. Don’t multitask; give ample time to do the job you are doing well. Remember to go slower to get wherever you are going faster.
  2. Prioritize. Most of us have our daily “to-do” lists. But you should also be ruthless and disciplined in creating conscious neglect and use the “not-to-do” list.
  3. Learn to let it go. Remember that, in work and in life, nothing has meaning until you assign meaning to it. So, rather than allowing your ego or fear to bring interpretation to other people’s actions, just ask, clarify and move on. Hanging on to, particularly negative, emotions takes you off balance and distracts you from your effortless perfection.
  4. Trust people around you and delegate. People are wonderful in stepping up to a new challenge. Trusting their capabilities allows greater space for you to focus on what is essential to you.
  5. Learn to assert and say “no”. It is difficult; being asked feeds our sense of self-importance, but without your ability to set boundaries there will be no space for simplicity in your life. As I was climbing Mr. Kilimanjaro, it would have been easy to be seduced and go off the path to see more of the magnificent surroundings. Since the altitude sickness was rough for me, I learnt to ask myself a simple question – “Will it help me climb the Mountain?” If the answer was “no”, I just would not do it. I carry this question with me. Remember your purpose and use it as a compass when making decisions.

There’s a great old line from Mark Twain – I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one.”

We can all do better with shorter letters – however you want your “letter” to be defined.

So here is to you – in gratitude of the last year that provoked the learnings and in anticipation of the learnings to come in 2015 and beyond!

6 Responses to “Simplicity – A Disciplined Approach To Less”

  1. Alinser Hoyos

    It was much better when we heard it from you. What’s a great speech that was. Congratulations once again and keep up the great work!

  2. Ann Herten

    Deat Edyta and team,
    A poignant reminder of what is or should be, a priority in our lives. De cluttering life’s “noise” (simplifying) leaves more room for joy. Thanks for sharing these words and including me in your community. Congratulations on your anniversary!


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