If you are like me (dangerous statement, I know), I love simple. Especially in our current information age where all you have to do is go to a search engine and you can find endless amounts of information on almost any subject imaginable. There is so much information coming our way every single day that it can easily be overwhelming. And when it gets overwhelming our internal “warning light” begins to flash and we soon “shut down.” I agree with Dan Sullivan when he says the biggest obstacle for (entrepreneurial) success is hitting the “Ceiling of Complexity.” When life gets too complicated, we slow down or break down. This is true in any field of interest and that includes success steps.
Every author, speaker, teacher has their own particular system, laws, blueprint, roadmap, principles, or guidelines to success. Each of them has similarities as well as a unique spin or twist based on their experience, personality, and tribe. I’m good with that and have developed my own steps or systems as well; because if used as a flexible outline; it really does help people. It helps people hack through the jungle of information and find a clear path. What gets me is when experts say, “These are THE (as in only) 7 steps or 8 laws or 35 principles on the subject.” Come on, the principles or laws or steps can be broken down into smaller steps for ever. For instance, the Bible is the best-seller of all time and Jesus broke it down into two main commandments: Love God with all you are and love your neighbor as yourself. He said that everything taught throughout the rest of the Bible is based on those two commandments/principles. Those two statements are easy to remember and provide the best foundation possible for living a positive, great life. Yet, even God takes thousands of other pages to help us understand how it works, things to avoid, give us case-studies, as well as sub-principles to be learned and practiced. If God himself can’t putt ALL the principles and steps in a 3-20 all inclusive “this is it package”; how can anyone else? There is a lot to learn in life, it is not and cannot always be simple. However, the foundational statements have to be simple and easy to remember.
The main principles for anything we do need to be concise and easy to remember. Ken Blanchard recommends any organization have only 3-5 value statements that guide work goals and behavior. I agree. A couple of phrases I use are “3-5 keep it alive” and “No more than 7 this side of heaven.” Three or less is ideal because of the way our brains work. In his book Tipping Point Malcome Gladwell cites research that shows that most of our brains work on about an 8 second loop. People with languages that can pack more into that 8 second loop than others, typically learn more on subjects like math. (Many Asian languages for example). In English 3-5 brief points are all we can easily retain.
If you can’t remember it, you can’t use it. Too many individuals and organizations try to make their basic, foundational statements too complicated. Again, if you cannot remember it, you cannot use it. So I would encourage you, especially if you are a leader/teacher to work hard at thinking through and then building on as few and simple statements as possible. Go ahead and make sub-points; we need those valuable sub-points, but don’t make the sub-points the foundations.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be writing about the foundational principles I’ve discovered for successful leadership and achievement and how to decide on the ones that are right for you.
Have you gotten clarity on the most important principles for your life or organization?