“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Albert Einstein

Ah, Albert Einstein. The man with the most famous hair in science—one can only hope he never met a bad hair day or a persnickety hairdresser. He once said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” And when he said that, I bet he was trying to figure out how to set up his new smart home system or maybe he was just browsing through IKEA instructions. The point is, simplicity is a deceptively complex concept.

My mother is originally from Santiago, Chile. And if you’ve ever been to Santiago, you know they can make giving directions sound like a poetic tango. “Turn left at the statue of the man with the empanada, then stroll past the café where Señora Isabella brews her aromatic café con leche, then…” By the time they finish, you’ve aged a year, grown a beard, and still don’t know which way to turn.

Now, take this scene to my fair burg—Dallas. “Drive straight for two miles, then left.” That’s it. But imagine if they oversimplified: “Go that way.” You’d be wandering the city, lost, reminiscing about Señora Isabella and her café.

Like when you’re at a family dinner, and your cousin, who’s navigating the wild world of dating, gets asked about his love life. The simple answer he could give? “It’s going okay.” Not simpler, like showing Uncle Tony his latest Tinder exchanges.

This quote, in its cheeky elegance, reminds us that while simplicity can clear away the fog of life’s complexities, oversimplification can lead us into pitfalls, misunderstandings, or at worst, your cousin winding up on a date with someone who thinks pineapple belongs on every type of pizza.

Life is full of complexities. Taxes, love, and the conundrum of not immediately petting your overly-excited dog when you arrive home lest he expresses his joy in a, let’s say, more liquid form. But in many instances, the best approach is to cut through the noise, find the core truth, and present it without the unnecessary frills, like a cake without too much frosting… or in my case, no frosting at all. Unless, of course, you’re talking about flan. Because with flan, the answer is always “Yes, please,” with an extra dollop of caramel sauce on top.

In the end, our tousled-haired genius wasn’t just about E=mc^2. He wanted us to see the beauty in simplicity, the clarity it brings, but to always be cautious about stripping things down too far. So, in honor of Einstein, next time you’re faced with a conundrum, go simple, but remember, just like with avocado toast and binge-watching reality TV, there can be too much of a good thing.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand and Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2023 Stephen Boudreau.