Sunday, July 18, 2010

Simple? Minimal?

I normally don't share blog content on Sunday (I'm actually writing this on Friday, with an update on Saturday), but I thought I'd make an exception in this case. You see, three bloggers have recently written about simplicity and minimalism, and this sounds like a good weekend topic (even, dare I say, a good Sunday topic).

Peter Osborne (whom I encountered via Jason Alba's blog) wrote a piece on simplicity on July 13. The post incorporates a 4-minute (simple!) talk by Alan Siegel on simplicity.

I particularly liked this Ted talk from branding pioneer Alan Siegel, whose corporate tagline is Simple is Smart. In this speech, Siegel describes simplicity as “a means to achieving clarity, transparency, and empathy, building humanity into communications.”

Go here to view the talk. In Osborne's and Siegel's case, they're focusing on corporate communication, and how simple (without complications from "the lawyers and the politicians") is better.

Three days later, David Risley touched on a similar topic - minimalism. But he's not initially thinking of the corporation - he's thinking of the self, whatever that is.

I personally believe that we are all a composite of spirit, mind and body. Our body is not us, but just a physical manifestation. A vehicle so people can, you know, recognize us and stuff. :) Convenient in many ways. Our mind is a computational tool, consisting mostly of pictures and concepts. And then there is us – actual spiritual energy. We are, in actuality, separate from mind and body. This is my view.

I have a different view, but let's see where Risley goes with this concept. In his case, he looks at matter and energy, and reaches the conclusion that

...there might be a correlation between how much stuff we have around and how free flowing we can be.

And for an example of free-flowing, Risley looked at John Reese. Now Reese has no spouse and no kids (Risley, and I, have both), so Reese has more freedom to do what he did. Risley links to Reese's story:

For the first time in over 20 YEARS:

* I don’t own a car.
* I don’t own any furniture.
* I don’t own a TV.
* I don’t own any books.
* I don’t own a huge closet full of clothes.


* I don’t have a HOME. Not a house, or apartment, or anything.

Reese then gives his definition of minimalism:

Minimalism is essentially focusing only on the 3-4 most important things in your life (or business) and ELIMINATING THE REST.

And in his case, he MEANT it.

Although it should be noted that Reese has an advantage that was not available to, for example, Thomas Jefferson. This year's cool term is "the cloud," and Reese is certainly out there. And one of his few possessions is a computer that lets him get out there.

And David Risley also takes advantage of the cloud. For example, his less extreme set of minimalism tips includes the following:

#3 – Brain Dump

This isn’t so much about tending toward minimalism as much as it is about mental clarity. Because the thoughts we keep in our heads, held there, become a bit like matter. When you try to keep a thought in your head and remember, you’re holding that energy stationary. And remember, we want flow.

So, get it out of your head. If you’ve been hanging onto some ideas or to-do items, get them out of your head. Put them on paper, into Evernote – whatever works for you. And as time goes on, get into the habit of moving these things out of your head and into another form. I’m personally a big fan of Evernote for this kind of thing.

Now I will argue that while this clears your brain (a beneficial task), it is not necessarily minimalism, since you're just transferring stuff from one place to another.

My cloud is pretty complex. I presently have four blogs and several dozen online accounts. In my work environment, I use hundreds of tags to categorize thousands of Outlook e-mail messages.

Perhaps our efforts at simplicity and minimalism should not be restricted to tangible items, but also to virtual ones.

P.S. (This is the Saturday update part) Chris Brogan has also written about simplicity - in this case, a simple call to action. So go read his post.
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