The Simplest Solution
Sometimes the best solution is the most simple
Ever heard of Occam’s Razor? William of Ockham was a 14th-century monk who labored in Latin on matters of logic. His key observation, translated and traveled through the centuries, is called Occam’s Razor (the spelling mutated over time):
“All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.”
What does this mean for your life?
When you have a problem with someone else, what’s the simplest solution? Would it be, for example, telling Karen, who talks to Alex, who mentions something to Tom, who plays golf with the husband of the person you have a problem with? Will that approach solve your problem or potentially make it worse? Using Occam’s Razor to cut away the extraneous steps, we find the simplest solution: Talking directly with the person in order to address the problem.
How do you know when you’re not using the simplest solution? When you find yourself saying, “I can’t,” as in “I can’t find a new job at my age because I’d have to go back to school, and pass that exam, get certified, and probably move to some new city, which would be really hard on John and the kids.” Rather complicated scenario, huh? It’s a solution that – surprise, surprise – successfully keeps you from doing anything at all. Can we discover the simplest solution? Could it be to find a great job that provides training right in your own hometown?
Sometimes it seems we love having the problem so very much that we envision only completely unworkable, complicated solutions – just so we can hang on to the problem we say we hate (but actually love). It’s like: “I need a job but don’t want a job, because I am used to reveling in what a screw-up I am because I’m not getting a job.” How can we love and hate a problem at the same time? It’s called story fondling, and it’s a habit that reinforces the negative and keeps us totally and completely stuck in the past.
Identifying the simplest solution forces you to cut through all the debris in your life so that you can get back in touch with what matters most to you. The simplest solution is always authentic. The simplest solution, ultimately, is easy. The simplest solution is the way to go.
So, when you find yourself caught up in a complicated solution to whatever you face, think of good old William of Ockham and ask yourself: “All other things being equal, what’s the simplest solution?”