Striving for Profound Simplicity.

December 1, 2020

Striving for Profound Simplicity.

May 29, 2023

Our lives are buckling with the stress of undue complexity. So are our organizations. For that matter, so is society. Truth be told, we face all kinds of gnarly problems that don’t seem simple to solve. It’s during these complex times when we need to get back to “first principles,” otherwise known as a basic proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.

And if that’s too complex a concept, we can also ask, “What are we trying to solve for?”

James Clear (love the last name), author of “Atomic Habits,” suggests that life tends to have this progression:


Beginner = ignorant simplicity
Intermediate = functional complexity
Advanced = profound simplicity


Our youth may be defined by the “beginner” idea that “ignorance is bliss.” As we get older and evolve into the “accumulating knowledge” phase of our lives, we become an “Intermediate.” Eventually, we enter the “Advanced” stage (often when we’re a Modern Elder, but not necessarily so), at which point wisdom distills down what’s essentially important—which fortunately helps us find our way out of the thick, dark woods of functional complexity.

I believe I was a Beginner until age 15, an Intermediate until age 50, and now I’m in the Advanced stage of my life. I’m involved with a few organizations that have entered the Intermediate stage of their life cycle which isn’t just functionally complex but can be frustratingly complex (and there are whole industries, like healthcare, that need to find their way to their Advanced stage). We might also look at this model as the three-stage caterpillar-cocoon-butterfly journey.

In any case, I hope illuminating this model can serve as a flashlight for you when you’re feeling like both an Intermediate and an idiot at the same time. Good luck!

P.S. It is not lost on me that in my “Striving for Profound Simplicity,” I may have complicated things a bit. LOL. Good luck anyways!

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