Easy or Simple


“It’s almost always easy to know the right thing to do.  It can be a real bi*** doing it, though.”

–  Dick Heston (1933 – 2002), my dad, a farmer and factory worker and still the smartest dude I’ve ever known

Easy and simple are not synonyms.  They just aren’t.  They might be related, but if that’s true, they’re second cousins, once removed or something like that.

In the grander scheme, easy means “with little or no effort.”  Simple, on the other hand, means “straightforward, clear, without static.”  (Definitions courtesy of The Dictionary of Heston)

Want some examples?

At Work…

…it’s easy to cut costs.  It’s simple to stop doing costly things.  Option #1 is really easy.  It’s why public companies do 5% across-the-board reductions in force when they miss earnings.  Had they done the simple thing, dropping a line that was expensive to produce and ship but that the market wouldn’t buy, 5% of their folks would probably still have jobs.  It’s easy to raise prices, increase quotas, or freeze wages.  It’s simple to seek and understand value, base forecasts on the voice of the market, or pay more for better talent, even if it means carrying fewer headcount.

As Leaders…

…it’s easy to make unilateral decisions behind closed doors, without a lot of input.  I mean, after all, we’re the boss, right?  On the other hand, it’s simple to invite more voices into the conversation and listen to what they have to say.  It’s simple to get their input, even if we don’t let them have a vote in what we decide.  It’s easy to work through time that should be spent with friends or family.  It’s simple to know when to get up and walk away from the desk.

In our Faith…

…it’s easy to say we believe.  It’s simple to base what we do and say on what we Believe.

Need a ribbon to put around this?

Easy is easy because it’s the path of least resistance.  Easy often means we’re avoiding the obvious in the misguided belief that if we take the easy path, the obvious stuff will somehow go away.  It won’t.

Simple is usually obvious.  It’s also often really, really difficult to execute upon.  Simple, to Dad’s point, can be a real….well, you know.  (I don’t wanna be gratuitous…)

How do I start pursuing “simple?”

Grab a sheet of paper, and draw a line down the middle, all Ben Franklin-like.  On the left, put the heading “Easy” at the top, and then don’t write anything down under it.  On the right, under the heading “Simple,” make a list of three simple things, and under each of them the first two steps toward doing them.

Things like:  Asking lost customers why they left.  Asking new customers why they came on board.  Firing the employee who has become a cancer in the team.  Stopping participation in gossip.  Calling a supplier and requesting a creative way to save some cash.  Asking the big Client to work with you to adjust their rates because they haven’t seen an increase since you founded the company 23 years ago.  Asking for help from someone who is clearly much better at a thing than we are.  Admitting we’re wrong on Strategy A.  Doubling down on Strategy B.

*Warning:  When we devote time to executing on simple, we’ll learn a lot.  And sometimes we’ll learn that it’s not as simple as it seemed.  The easy thing is to throw our hands up and revert to what we’ve always done.  The simple thing is to step away.  Take a breath.  Take a walk.  Ask for input.  Look at it from a different angle, and then move forward.   




  1. Dan Thome says

    Right on. Farm “knowledge” lost is more than we have now. Sad but true.

  2. You know I have a soft spot for a Dick Heston quote! Glad to see him back in the DD!

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