The mind, when focused on a single thought, inevitably gravitates towards the essence of that thought.
In whatever you're trying to say or trying to do, stop trying and get to the point.
Thoroughness does not require complexity or volume or heft. It does not require that you undertake a lengthy, prolonged, and arduous journey, like this one.
Clarity never increases by adding things.
When in doubt leave it out, and be doubtful frequently.
If you have a lot to say, you're already saying too much. If you have a lot to do, you're already doing too much.
Start with a single idea, one clearly defined action or one point that you want to get across and express that as simply as possible.
If somebody is about to get hit by a car and you want to convey the danger to them, what do you say?
"Excuse me, sir. There's a ten-thousand pound vehicle coming down that street and if you do not stop walking it will surely hit you and cause bodily harm. May I kindly suggest that you do not cross the street until the vehicle has passed?"
Absurdity! They'd be dead and you'd look like a fool for taking so long.
All writing should be as clear as that. All action and communication should strive to express with such clarity the purpose for its existence, or it should not exist at all.
Get to the point.
In all areas of our life, we should be seeking ways to simplify. Simplicity, as Leonardo Da Vinci said, is the ultimate sophistication. When we simplify, we recognize what is non-essential and remove it, leaving behind only what is essential.
The act of simplifying is not easy, but it yields incredible power. When things are simple, we are not distracted by the non-essential. There is nothing getting in the way of what we're trying to achieve. This distraction-free environment empowers us to think and grow toward our goals more quickly, to feel clarity and ease where before there was always a subtle, seemingly unidentifiable resistance.
When we experience something powerfully simple, it's usually not obvious what makes it so powerful. Simple things exude a quiet confidence that seems to ooze from some distant magical world, giving it unexpected strength.
Think about the various famous quotes you've heard repeated over and over: "Be the change you wish to see in the world", "Love conquers all" "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." All of these exemplify simplicity because the non-essential has been removed. The statements have been reduced to clear, universal truths that we can all identify with.
Simplifying requires clear understanding of purpose. If the purpose is clear, the non-essential becomes obvious and can be removed. If the purpose is ambiguous or unclear, the non-essential mixes with the essential and a pool of chaotic confusion is created.
If I wanted to express that health is very important, more important than say money or treasures or fame or status, I could achieve that by saying, "there are lots of things in the world that are valuable but in the end it's health that is the most valuable."
However, if I identify the purpose of what I'm trying to say — that is to express that health is the most valuable thing — I can remove all the non-essential and arrive at the statement, "health is wealth". So simple, yet so powerful! All of the non-essential has been removed and what remains is a vehicle for fulfilling the purpose of the statement.
In all simple things you will discover this removal of the non-essential, this cutting to the core of what is intended. In powerful writing and communication you will see less ambiguity and more certainty. 'I think there's something powerful about simplicity' becomes 'simplicity is powerful'. 'I think you're very pretty' becomes 'you're beautiful'.
I arrived at my current website layout after thousands of iterations over the past ten years. I'm constantly seeking to remove the non-essential by clarifying the purpose of the website, which is to present my writing online and allow others to share the writing and leave comments.
I'll never be 'done' simplifying because the quest for simplicity evolves alongside the one universal constant in the universe: change.
In the emails that my subscribers receive, I'm constantly searching for ways to simplify. If you compare this Journal email to that of a previous one, you'll find that the footer and signature content have been greatly simplified. When I recognized that the singular purpose of these emails was to share newly published writing, it became obvious that providing lots of links to send people to various social media platforms was non-essential.
Again, removing the non-essential by identifying the ultimate purpose of a thing.
When I decided to make a lifestyle transition in 2010, I began by identifying my long-term lifestyle goal and revising it until it was crystal clear: to travel the world with all my possessions on my back. That clarity instantly identified the non-essential things in my life: my own apartment, a pickup truck, a snowboard, a mountain bike, extra clothes, extra shoes, extra bags, a big digital camera… the list goes on.
With all that non-essential removed, my life feels far more simple than it did before, but it also feels more sophisticated and full of potential. A simple lifestyle does not need to be primitive.
Remember, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication and identifying and removing the non-essential from your life will increase your ability to achieve your goals and free you to experience more of life.
What is your ultimate purpose? If that's too big a question, then what's your primary goal right now? What exactly are you working toward? Meditate on that for a few moments. Zero in on it. When you feel clarity, ask yourself what non-essential things surround that goal. What's getting in the way? What's not necessary?
Seek ways to simplify by clarifying purpose and identifying and removing the non-essential.
If you think of your art. What is the ultimate purpose? Once you have reached your goal, nothing really happens except if you were changed in the process. Your art is you not what you do. But for that you have to reach the zone at some point.
It's even difficult to put into words. Because how can I define that I'm the art when I write? The text seems to be the art but actually it is just me and a laptop in a special moment in a special place where everything is aligned so I can deliver this. That is what matters.
Now how could we extend this state of clarity? Is there a way to let go and be detached that life becomes the artless art? Can we live entirely in this mental state.
Two days ago I read this article about what people regret just before they die. This article mentions the "phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives". Probably because there is no goal anymore, no need to act and everything gets detached. The art of life becomes literally artless.
Written by Manuel Loigeret in When your art becomes artless
In an article featured in Your Money, Your Life, Adam King writes about how after failing several times to make a living online, he discovered his real problem: he wasn't owning anything of himself.
The concept he shares towards the end, that of uncovering layers of false identity through testing our assumptions, ideas, and beliefs, is incredibly powerful and it's something I intend to actively practice.
I met a successful entrepreneur for brunch in Chicago and she proceeded to fillet the problem wide open for me. "You're not owning anything of yourself," she said. "Own your words, own your vision, own your life."
It didn't take long after that talk for me to uncover the root of all the exhaustion, overwork, stress, and physical breakdown over the past ten years. Simply put, I was pursuing pre-conceived visions of an ideal lifestyle.
Each of my offline businesses was aimed at producing particular experiences tied to a lifestyle vision that I had adopted from other people or from the expectation of the crowd associated with that type of business. The same thing happened when I moved things online. I was pursuing what I was told was the ideal internet lifestyle but, again, it was someone else's ideal rather than my own.
Chasing lifestyles is exhausting because it drains your knowledge, abilities, emotions, and time into bottomless pits. There's no way to achieve the ideal lifestyle of someone else without massive sacrifice of your own truth and happiness.
It's taken time to remove the layers of what I thought I was supposed to pursue so that I can tap into the raw and powerful realizations of what I've actually wanted all along.
One of those layers is identity. In the past, everything I pursued in business and in life was all tied to what is assumed I should obtain due to that identity. If I eliminate the idea of being a writer, artist, designer, or whatever I might call myself, and just focus on mastering that craft, then I grant myself the freedom to achieve the lifestyle I desire outside of the realms of identity and in spite of the social expectations that come from that particular genre or crowd.
It's difficult, being honest with myself about my desired lifestyle. Guilt was a huge factor in holding myself hostage to the work and life I thought I was supposed to have. But the reality was, adhering to that guilt was keeping me from bigger and better things.
In reconstructing my own vision for my ideal lifestyle, I've been learning about the path of people like Derek Sivers, Richard Branson, and even Abraham Lincoln. Doing this has revealed their paths have piles and piles of failed businesses, elections, pursuits, ideas, and dreams behind them.
But in the end, it's those failures that were necessary for success. Each one was another layer of false identity being stripped away to reveal their core truth.
And that's really the key to stopping the pursuit of other people's lifestyles. Be willing to test each idea and inspiration as far as it needs to go in order to learn what you need to learn. Then repeat, often and always. This will quickly peel away the superficial that's hiding the truth about where you want to go and what you want to do.
When you say less, you emphasize more.
You may not be able to say more, but what you do say will be heard.
Half attention becomes full attention.
Scanned writing becomes writing that is read.
Discarded opinions become opinions that are taken into consideration.
Saying less increases the emphasis on what is said. Saying more increases the time, effort, and expense required to listen.
Loud communication is repulsive. Succinct communication is inviting.
You are statistically guaranteed to reach more ears by talking more; it's easy to get attention by publishing every day. But talking and publishing every day are not the only ways to practice and improve communication.
You can write and ruminate every day without talking and publishing every day. What you do makes up the difference between receiving attention and holding attention.
Would you rather have people hearing you or listening to you?
Evolution doesn't happen when you want it to. Instead, it arrives unexpectedly, blindsiding you at the most challenging points in your life, or during halftime, when you're relaxed and life seems in perfect order, it creeps up from behind and whispers in your ear, "it's time."
Time to evolve. Time to drop what you know and reconsider everything. Time to grow. Time to become a wiser person than that of a few moments ago.
Don't look, but be ready. Don't cling when it arrives, but hop on and enjoy the ride. Learn from the new perspective. Embrace the moment of clarity. Swim in the stream of awareness. Capture and appreciate the opportunity to evolve.