Simpler Is Better

Aug 3, 2022

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

In the early 1300s, a boy named William grew up in a small village in the county of Surrey, nestled deep in southeastern England. From a young age, William was curious about life and the Catholic Church. He entered the Franciscan order early on, which is one of the four major orders of the Catholic Church, founded by Saint Francis of Assisi in the 1200s. Within time he became a friar. As such, William lived in service to his community rather than cloistered away like a monk. He was at heart a theologian and logician, a thinker and a theorist. Mostly, William thought about people, the role of the Church and the life that surrounded them. Being of independent mind, though, was no path to Catholic glory, he was ex-communicated in 1328.

Undeterred, his thinking went on and he is perhaps best known for a principle that bears his name, Ockham’s (sometimes spelled Occam’s) Razor…“Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate”, or “entities need not be multiplied beyond necessity.” In plainer English, when you have two courses of action or competing theories that achieve the same prediction, objective or outcome, you should prioritize your research and energies first on the simpler of the two. I have reduced the Razor a bit more:  Simpler is better.

We are born pre-wired with natural curiosity and cleverness, and then trained from an early age to think and innovate. Too many of us have come to equate thought and innovation with depth and complexity. How about better and simpler, instead?  Our built-in competitive spirit spurs us on to progressively complex strategies designed to eke out just a little bit more, a slight edge over the competition. We want to prove to someone else, perhaps to ourselves, just how damn smart we are. But so often, our innovativeness gets us in trouble. There is always the unintended consequence, the unexpected event, the blindside, someone with a different agenda roiling your design and spoiling your fun.

Just about everything in life has become complex. Taxes. Health care. Financial instruments. Airline fares. Insurance policies. You name it. It really should be and can be much, much simpler.

When designing a strategy for your life, keep it simple.  Cut out the chafe, ignore the collateral and silence the noise. Identify and understand your priorities, really dig down and get to your core and keep things simple. For the most part, if we can avoid doing dumb, and dumb usually comes from trying to be too clever, we will be fine. Practice choosing the simpler first. Practice Ockham’s razor, and witness your life improve.

Simpler is better.

Have questions? Check with me or any fee-only Certified Financial Planner™, we’ve got answers.