One of the things that frustrates me to no end, well ok, maybe just a lot, is when someone uses trick words in a sentence to limit complexity. As an example, when one says, “Hey a car is just a set of seats on wheels.” That doesn’t actually make a car just a set of seats on wheels.
When someone opines, “A movie is simply a set of still photos in motion,” ask them if they would give you $15 to thumb through your iPhone pictures.
When some reasonably intelligent person says, “It’s easy. We’ll just hop on a boat in California and end-up in Hawaii.” Don’t let them fool you. Just because they used the word easy doesn’t make it easy.
Complexity is everywhere. Sure some systems, tools, practices do a great job of hiding complexity from us, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Luckily, I get to type this article in a fairly robust little editor, hit a button and whoosh, off to the Internet it goes. And I happily get to ignore the hundreds and thousands of systems and components along the journey that make that bit of magic happen.
My experience is that often the people who make these statements are nowhere near any level of expertise on the topic. A mariner wouldn’t just hop in a boat and sail thousands of miles. BMW doesn’t just throw some seats on a set of wheels and I didn’t pay $40 for my family to see our last movie because it was a great slide show.
Simplifying is a great way to begin to understand something, not gain expertise in it. Mastery comes from understanding the deep complexities and nuances of a topic and then dealing with them, not ignoring them or pretending they don’t exist.
So the next time you’re tempted to use the words just, easy, simply, only, recognize that you’re simplifying to gain an understanding not actually removing the complexity from reality.