Why Simple Is Hard and Why Easy Sucks


Why Simple Is Hard

Lots of things are incredibly hard, but relatively simple to accomplish.

  • Running a marathon is hard, but it’s simple. Just don’t stop until you’ve moved 26.2 miles from the starting point.
  • Losing weight is simple. Cut out processed foods and move frequently.
  • Starting a business is simple. Sell a product or service that people will give you money for.

It’s all very simple.

But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

There are a ton of other factors that you have to deal with: motivation, discipline, starting, persevering, not stopping all while continually hurdling constant new barriers that threaten to keep you still.

Just because something is simple, doesn’t mean it will be easy. Just because something is easy, doesn’t mean it will be worth it.

The intersection of simple and hard

The best things tend to be at the intersection of simple and hard: the problems themselves are hard, but the solutions are elegantly simple.

Why Easy Sucks

Stay away from the easy things – they tend to give you a false sense of production and satisfaction without actually accomplishing much. Focus on doing the hard things instead.

At the same time, don’t do hard stuff just because it’s hard and complicated. Complicated things are usually complicated by those that don’t understand it. The entire theory of relativity could be summed up by an equation a 5 year old could repeat back to you: E=MC2.

Focus on simple. Stay away from easy.

Simple might be hard, but easy sucks.
photo credit: Storm Crypt

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  1. says

    Hi Joel,

    This post really resonated with me as I often make things harder on myself than they need to be. But at the same time I really do appreciate all the cool stuff in my life because the coolest is perhaps the most simple.

    I am working hard on decluttering, and simplifying my life as well as attending to my impossible list in a way that lays out things really simply. Like you said running a marathon (mechanically wise) is simple but hard to do. I am doing the 100 pushup challenge atm, which in itslef is simple but hard to accomplish lol

    As a entrepreneur I have been suckered by the ‘easy win’ too many times, finding the truth the exact opposite.

    Kudos to you and your mission



    • says

      I agree with this guy. Serious tagline.

      I know it’s not too relevant, but a lot of people call me lucky for running my own business blah-de-blah. But I almost find it an insult – I create the luck.

      Every action I, you, and everyone takes, opens the opportunity to a reaction – that’s what I believe!

      Lastly, good post, I’ve never looked at it that way before…

  2. says

    I’m not sure I understand your physics analogy or how that explains that ” Complicated things are usually complicated by those that don’t understand it”. In order to obtain the entirety of all of relativity from that equation you have to spend years understanding modern physics — something that is neither easy nor simple. The simplicity of the equation does not remove the complexity behind it, it merely cleans it up and puts it out of the way. You will have to deal with that hidden complexity if you want to truly understand it.

  3. says

    For me the best advice about easy/hard has been:

    “Find your edge and lean just beyond it.”

    That’s where the most growth happens I think, where you’re not slacking back in the easy or getting frustrated/traumatized by the crazy hard. Probably that comes from David Deida who has a lot of interesting things to say on this and similar topics.

  4. says

    Most things in life are easy but an easy life is a boring life. At least that is my attitude.

    The flipside is that most people take an overly complex approach to everything they do and make life that much harder for themselves.

    Simple + effort = reward.

    Good article!

  5. says

    I agree that most solutions, when you really think about them, are very simple. Implementing those solutions are often not easy, but usually pretty simple. I like your example of the marathon: just don’t stop until you’ve gone 26.2 miles from the start.

    It is interesting that most people I know, when presented with a simple solution, spend all of their time thinking of reasons why they can’t do it. That reminds me of a saying I heard a long time ago (can’t remember it exactly) that talks about the people saying that something can’t be done are often getting in the way of those who are doing it.

    By the time most people sit around and discuss what should or should not be done, the problem could (and often is) solved by someone else.

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