When the Obvious Isn’t So Obvious

I am suspicious of anything that is overly complicated. Whether it is a book, a theory, a religion or just about anything else, I prefer the simple over the complex and the obvious over the esoteric. This is not because I am lazy. It’s because, more often than not, the complicated things in life aren’t complicated because they’re important; they’re complicated to make us think they’re important.

When I look back over my life the ideas that have made the most difference weren’t those that took years to comprehend. They were ideas that took years to appreciate. Big difference. Ideas like: pick your battles, save for a rainy day, you can’t please everyone and don’t zip up your pants in the dark.

Accepting the obvious requires us to accept responsibility as well. Entertaining the complex invites us to shirk responsibility. And shirk it we do.

Of course, we can all appreciate the importance of these “simple ideas” in retrospect. The trouble is we often appreciate them only in retrospect. More often than not we have to pay a terrible price before we appreciate such “obvious” wisdom. Then, we wonder why it took us so long to do so.

How can we be so stupid? Here’s my guess…

We dismiss the obvious and worship the complex because doing so relieves us of any responsibility for our own shortcomings in life. Think about it…
[sociallocker id=”1846″] If there is some “wisdom” or “process” that is necessary to be successful and we haven’t learned it yet, how can anyone hold us responsible for our own failures in life? They can’t and we know it. On the other hand, if our lives are in shambles because we’re overlooking the most simple rules of life, (e.g. hard work, integrity, perseverance, etc), we would only have ourselves to blame.

I think this is why we’re so often willing to forgo the obvious in favor of the complex. It has nothing to do with the value of the information itself. It has everything to do with its ability to relieve us from the responsibility for the shortcomings in our lives. Accepting the obvious requires us to accept responsibility as well. Entertaining the complex invites us to shirk responsibility. And shirk it we do.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not against all complexity. Some complexity is apparently unavoidable such as in the fields of medicine, engineering, law and bed-making (I still haven’t figured that one out). But when it comes to the basic ideas that will guide us through our lives, it ain’t that hard. Really.

Ultimately, the ideas that are going to have the biggest impact in our lives aren’t complicated ideas we don’t know yet; they’re simple ideas we don’t appreciate yet. Of course, this is easy to see when we’re thinking about our lives. It’s a little harder to see when we’re living them.

Originally published November 16, 2004
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