Keep It Simple

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I love inherent simplicity. I love inherent simplicity partly because there is such a lack of it in our lives. I love inherent simplicity because it helps me have a more successful life. That does not mean I am simple, or that I cannot figure out the complex. My love of inherent simplicity is a product of a life spent dealing with the craziness that accompanies unnecessary complexity. Sanity is a product of inherent simplicity.

A New Normal = Galactic Stupidity

As the economy heated up from 2005 to 2007, I found that it was getting too easy to make money in the stock market. At first, I thought it was my superior investing skills, but then I would look at other people’s gains and realize that I was not doing as well. That made me stop, look at what was happening, and think about what could happen. Then I started selling.

As the financial markets tumbled, a new mantra appeared in our lexicon: “A New Normal.” First coined by a titan of bond trading, the line quickly becoming an excuse for change, and it was given as the reason why past practices needed to change. A New Normal became the excuse, the reason, for many thoughtless actions by managers and business leaders. A New Normal is the product of many galactically stupid decisions and the justification for even more.

A fundamental part of the problem is that we do not think about what is really important, what we must do to run a successful business or to live a successful life. Too many people check out of the thinking process. They stop thinking about what they need and what they want, and start to look for what they should do.

Looking and thinking are two separate activities. Thinking is something that an individual engages in. Looking is an activity that involves others. It is important to look outside your yard to see what others are doing, but the successful focus is on what you can do, not what you should do. Looking requires thinking; you must evaluate the options. Being told what you should do is not looking, it is getting someone else’s opinion.

Feel free to dismiss what I am sharing here as nothing more than my opinion. It is an opinion, but I am not telling you that you should do as I suggest. I am inviting you to think about it and then decide whether what I am saying makes sense. It is your choice to make. I do think, however, that if you entertain my suggestions you will find inherent simplicity. Simple is good.

Keep It Simple

I have a desk plaque above my office white board that says, “Keep It Simple.” It is a constant reminder that reduction to the elements is a goal.

Complexity fills our lives. Even while we complain about how hard it is to get anything done, at the same time we add to the complexity. Do you have a new smart phone? How about a new computer? A new car? Do those new things help you? Do they hurt you? Do you know?

Every day there is someone promoting a new way of thinking, a better way. I look and listen. Then I ask, “Is it really new? Is it really better?”

Usually the answer is, "No."

Perhaps we should look at old things, at what did work and why it worked. Perhaps we should look at old practices and find what did not work and why.

Simple Measures, Please

Business is an intellectual sport. Business is a human game. Animals do not practice business. Pigs do not operate restaurants (although we will call a BBQ shack "Porky’s"). Tigers do not operate airlines (but there was one called "Flying Tigers"). Games are entertaining. People start businesses as a way to make money and as a form of entertainment.

Don’t believe that last line? Go ask any entrepreneur the top three reasons why they started their business and they will always give, “It is fun/challenging/fulfilling” as one of the top three reasons.

All sports have measures. Out of all these measures, the MOST important is the score. A single metric determines success, the score.

If business is an intellectual sport, then a single metric determines success. That metric is operating cash flow.

It is that simple.

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