Simple + Complex = Smart

We’ve all shat our pants.

You’re sitting there minding your own business, maybe you’re reading a book or watching the TV, and a small black fleck catches your eye.

“Get the fuck away!”

Your survival instinct screams… at an itsy bitsy spider that is harmlessly crawling up the wall.

Simple is my spider

The whole notion of simple just feels wrong to me. The closer I am to it, the more I fear for my life.

And it’s a boring word too… simple.

Say it out loud.

Go on, say it.


It sounds like a sigh of defeat.

I feel threatened by simplicity because it feels too much like giving up.

Simple is too easy and I never trust anything that is easy.

But what do I actually mean by simplicity?


I mean the simple life. The one where you live your life exactly the way everyone else does.

The supposedly easy way of living a fulfilling life…

A simple life, the clichéd one, the one where you go to college, get good grades, settle in a well-paid job, get married to ‘the one,’ take on a mortgage, have some kids, raise the kids to be just like you, watch them go off to college, retire into hobbies and then die.

Just writing all of that felt like I was like tearing off my toenails!

Here’s what I wanted to write instead…

A simple life (not the one where you live in a little wooden hut in the middle of nowhere), the clichéd one (the most unoriginal one since homo sapiens learned to walk), go to college (because everyone tells you it’s a good idea… even if it will leave you with a lifetime of debt), get good grades (get a good social life with passable grades), settle into a well-paid career (settle into a supposedly safe job – unless there’s an economic crash – that pays you an addictive salary in return for owning your life until you retire), get married to ‘the one’ (spend more money on the most expensive day of your life… and later get divorced when you realise they are not the one, divorce rates go up each year, the odds are against you), take on a mortgage (good luck getting one and, even if you do, good luck paying it off), have some kids (because that’s what everyone else does, even if raising children actually proves to be the mostly costly and demanding aspects of your personal and professional lives. Getting a pet is cheaper and better for the planet), raise the kids to be just like you (Are you just like your own parents? Your answer will determine how you raise your children), watch them go off to college (big dilemma here, do you let them go into debt like you or do you take on further financial burden to assist them?), retire into hobbies (Well, if and when you do actually retire, hope and pray you looked after your body and mind throughout your adult working life), and then die (yeah, this one happens too, sorry).

That’s quite a chunk of text, a copywriter would love to go to work on that paragraph!

It is hard work reading that chunk of text, because it is a lot of information to take on without any real opportunity for a mental break.

It’s too complex.

“It’s not scannable,” is what a copywriter would more precisely say; meaning it is a large body of text that a reader can not easily scan their eyes through while taking note of key words/phrases/signposts that indicate the basic overall meaning of the text.

Our approach to life is very much the same.

We don’t like to be bombarded with too much information and we don’t like overthinking things too much.

While our brains are capable of handling complex information, we can’t do it indefinitely because it uses up too much of our energy. The more you think, the more of your body’s energy and nutrients your brain uses.

This is why we opt for more simple approaches in pretty much all aspects our lives… it gives us a survival advantage.

How can you go to work, when you have been up all-night overthinking how you are going to earn enough money to cover all your upcoming payments?

Simple is reassuring. Simple gives us the ignorance necessary for getting on with the demands of our everyday lives.

Simple is why we are here today. At some point in our evolutionary past, our ancestors learned how to simplify our perceptions of the world to make the complex and uncertain nature of reality more manageable and less mentally demanding.

How can you go hunting for food to sustain your pack when you spend all day staring up a tree wondering why it has leaves all over it?

How many times have you heard someone say, “It just does!”

Simplifying the world is also why our ancestors learned to be instinctually fearful of poisonous spiders and it is an instinctual memory we retain as part of our basic operating system today.

To your brain, a spider is a spider, regardless whether it is non-poisonous or a black widow, this is why you shit your pants whenever you see a harmless house spider crawling up your wall.

Simple keeps us on the straight and narrow path of survivability, but it is not always perfect.

Complex is my instinct

My first explanation of a simple life was not perfect and was over simplistic, it did not consider all the variations a simple life can take.

Furthermore, I have already acknowledged that my second explanation of a simple life was too complex.

But outlining a simple life was not really my goal, the point I am trying to make is how dangerous it can be to follow a simple life unquestionably.

From a copywriter’s point of view, if I was trying to convey the basic meaning of a simple life and why it is problematic in an easily digestible form, what I could have written is…

A simple life, the clichéd one, the one where you…

  • go to college
  • get good grades
  • settle in a well-paid job
  • get married to ‘the one’
  • take on a mortgage
  • have some kids
  • raise the kids to be just like you
  • watch them go off to college
  • retire into hobbies
  • and then die.

Apart from the dying part, it’s all bullshit.

Now that’s scannable!

With that concise explanation, you may not get all the information, but you get enough that you start to question the preconceptions of a simple life.

I am not negatively judging anyone who pursues a simple life, but I do take issue with anyone who never questions anything.

My preconceptions about living a simple life were questioned from a very young age and I grew up being exposed to a harsh reality that was very complex and uncertain.

As a result, I question everything. ALWAYS.

I can not help but be critical towards an easy and simple approach, because you when you get in the habit of peeling back the simple explanations you always see a vastly more intricate and interconnected reality hidden beneath.

If you don’t ask, you won’t learn.

It’s the difference between saying…

You’re going to have kids because it feels like the right thing to do.


You’re not going to have kids because it is too financially unfeasible and would be too environmentally damaging.

Which one is the simple justification?

Simple is the king of doing something just because it feels right.

And this is the problem I have with simplicity.

Smart is my Copywriter

Doing something just because it feels right is not always the best and right thing to do.

My personal view is that I probably never will have children, not because the idea does not feel right to me, but rather because any financial advisor who can do their job properly will tell you that raising a child (and an eventual young adult) is the single biggest financial investment you can make.

It is also one of the worse financial investments you can make if you are a millennial who is completely financially fucked in a precarious global economy that has an increasingly diminishing middle class.

And with the environment, the basic modern demands of a human being are why we have a damaged environment that is only promising to be more damaged for the next generation to live in.

Therefore, why would I bring another human being into the world who is only going to cause further damage and then must spend the rest of their lives suffering with the consequences.

My instinct has always been to go with complexity and to seek out as much information as I can.

When you can see the big picture implications of a life choice, you are better informed to make a constructive and deeply informed decision that will not only benefit you, but others besides.

Feelings don’t always give you that.

Sometimes a feeling is too simple.

Forget simple.

Simple is careless.

You could even say that simple is selfish.


Because a simple approach rarely ever considers the larger ramifications.

Yeah, having a child might make you feel better… but it could fuck up the natural environment for everyone else.

For some this would be an insulting statement and a hard truth to swallow.

For me, it’s just the way I see the complex world.

Instinctually, I just question things.

Questioning everything is how you get to the complex nature of anything.

The issue – and it is one I am grappling with now, hence this blog post – is when you become too complex for other people to understand you.

A problem that is made all the worse if, like me, you are instinctually repelled from adopting a more simplistic approach.

Lately, I have been doing a lot of teeth grinding to get me into the habit of adopting more simplicity in how I communicate complex subjects.

Both in my verbal communications, but also in my writing.

It’s about connecting with people.

If I can not connect with people interpersonally and via my writing, then my long-term goals are screwed.

I have to think and act like a copywriter.

Hopefully, it shows in what I have written here.

I have already used the example of my three ways of defining what I see as a simple life. I had a simple explanation, a complex one and then the smart one.

And that’s my approach moving forwards.

I can’t be simple.

I can’t be complex.

I have to be smart.

It’s about being a clever hybrid who combines the simple and complex together into a smart form that leaves gives the reader a concise explanation, but leaves them ultimately asking for more of the complex.

Smart people know how to have their cake and eat it.

I feel like I am starting to get the hang of it now and, like a house spider, I am starting to see that maybe I feel threated by something that can’t do me much harm… in moderation.


This post doesn't have any comment. Be the first one!

hide comments

This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!