“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 browsing through a set of 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 might 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.

Funny as it sounds, though, imagine if they oversimplified:

“Go that way.”

You’d be wandering the city, lost, reminiscing about Señora Isabella and her café.

Again, simplicity is a deceptively complex concept.

Let’s say you’re at a family dinner. 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.”

The not simpler response involves him walking Uncle Tony through his latest Tinder exchanges.

This quote from Einstein 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 barbeque sauce belongs on pizza.

So here’s my take…

Life is full of complexities. Taxes, love, our dog—Harper—peeing if we pet him too soon when we get home.

But in most 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, a flan with too much caramel sauce.

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

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing 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 ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.