“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ― Leonardo da Vinci
Sometimes you can recall a moment in your life that you remember learning a life’s lesson. I have a handful of such memories, some are bad and some are good. Some have been quite profound. But, invariably they all are a lesson learned that are a product from some form of failure.
About a dozen or so years ago I was in college learning my trade. I had to make presentations of the various projects that I would work on. This usually involved demonstrating the software, identifying what requirements I satisfied with the work and then taking questions from the teacher and classmates. There was this one teacher in particular that was known to be quite hard on our projects and presentations. At the time it seemed rather unfair, but in retrospect she was just setting the stage for what we may encounter in the real world. We always dreaded her assessments and were always dreading what wart she would find in our work. She always kept us honest.
Well, there was one particular project that I could not get to work properly. It was the one project that we had free creative reign on as we were open to design and develop any piece of software that we dreamed up. Of course it had to adhere to a set of functional requirements. With an open canvas, I took on something that was probably way too big for my weight class at the time. I worked hard on it until our presentation date, but alas, my work was crap. I couldn’t even get it to run!
Here we were, presentation day. I was in front of the classroom, open and raw to ridicule and embarrassment. I was like a kid on his first date. I had absolutely no confidence in the body of work that I had created. In the heat of the moment I thought to myself “let’s be honest, I have nothing to lose!”. Figuring that BS’ing my way through this will only make things worse. I started by describing my original intent of the project and then quickly I fessed up. “My program doesn’t work and here is why” at which point I let it all hang out. I opened up to everyone the various deficiencies of my project. I was fried, I was defeated and worse of all I was ashamed of myself! I then opened the floor up to comments and questions. “Oh great, here we go. I can see she is ready to rip me a new one.” I thought to myself as my teacher was ready to speak.
“Do you know what KISS is?” she asked. I was perplexed. “No”, I shakily replied. “Keep It Simple Stupid.” she fired back. “You should have kept it simple and not have tried to bite off more than you could chew.” she continued. I didn’t have anything to say to that, but I certainly heard her words. That was all she had to say, my presentation was over. In that very moment, I learned very quickly and effectively the lesson that I would carry from that day forward. It is often in that moment of failure, when you are most open, you tend to learn the biggest of life’s lessons.
Ever since that day, every project I take on I remind myself the lesson about “KISS”. I always scale things back, simplify the task at hand and the result that I want to achieve. I have always appreciated the power of minimalistic design and simple solutions to complex issues. Up to that point in my life, I was always be someone who would overdo anything that I had worked on. It always became a tiring and inefficient exercise. I am very fortunate that early in my life, I had learned to stop being so stupid, and started being simple!
Updated resolution numbers:
259 of 1000 KMs walked
16 of 50 blog entries posted
9 of 10 books read