Simple doesn’t mean easy.


I’m coming to the conclusion that whatever it is you’re trying to do, the way to be successful can usually be reduced to a set of simple steps.

This should come as no surprise. Throw a metaphorical rock at the Internet and you will hit dozens of articles telling you how to do stuff. Want to lose weight? Follow these steps. Want to play the guitar? Watch this video. Want to write a book? Buy this book.

The problems come when people actually try to do these things, because simple is not the same as easy. Losing weight is a simple biological process, take in fewer calories than you use, and then do it the next day, and the next,  but for some people that is a very difficult thing to do. If it wasn’t then Weight Watchers and all the other companies who make money out of people wanting to be thinner would be out of business.

Playing the guitar is a simple process, you hold the strings down with one hand and twang them with the other. Whether it sounds good is another matter, to sound good you have to practise, for a long time, like several years.

Writing a book is simple. Put one word after another about 50,000 times. Hoorah! You’ve got a book. Anybody want to read it?

Part of the problem is that these simple steps are usually written down or demonstrated by people who are actually very good at what they do. They’ve been through the process, they’ve sweated and toiled, they’ve put in their 10,000 hours.

(Not totally sure about the whole 10,000 hours theory btw. In Outliers, Malcom Gladwell suggests that this is how long you need to practise in order to become expert in a particular field. This is based on evidence from what experts have done. The bit that’s missing here is that I’m not sure how hard he looked for people who had put in their 10,000 hours and were still crap.)

Either way, you go to an expert and ask them “How do you do that?” and they will then try to summarise what they do, usually in a set of simple steps. And to them, it makes complete sense, that is what they do as they see it. But then give someone else those steps and it doesn’t work.

You see there is no magic ingredient, no magic button, no golden ticket. You’ve got to put the time in, do the work, make the mistakes, feel like giving up and then keep going anyway.

At this point you could just watch Kung Fu Panda rather than reading this post, it’s longer but will make you laugh more.

The point is this. If you keep going long enough you will get to the point where you can outline your success in a series of simple steps. Steps that will seem deceptively easy but that you know are simply the signposts on a long and difficult journey.

The Path Of The Sword by Martin Swinford will be published in May. For a limited time you can download a free review copy here







12 thoughts on “Simple doesn’t mean easy.”

  1. Reblogged this on Ashcraft Framing's Blog and commented:
    This is a very thought provoking article by
    a writer I know well. He writes about the inescapable
    fact that to be good at something, you have to put
    the work in, there are few if any shortcuts. This applies
    to so many things including art and picture framing to name but two.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Randomly, the idea behind this post is the similar to how I feel about organized religion. As a spiritual person, I distrust the structures built up around the basic spiritual foundations of most major religions – especially the kinds where a priest or pastor or similar authority figure is there to interpret/explain things to people. Religion is, at least in theory, what you get when someone has a spiritual experience and then attempts to explain it to others. They wrap it in stories and anecdotes to make it more relatable and easier for the listener to get in the right mindset to reach a similar spiritual experience. And then that structure builds up and builds up over time, layers of interpretation on top of interpretation, and sometimes you get crap like the Inquisition… or people who put their 10,000 hours in and still don’t get what they wanted or were “supposed to” get out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a fantastic comment and a really thought provoking one. I could reply to that with a whole new post (or even a book!) just based on my own experiences. Certainly there is a similar phenomenon in some aspects of religion to the get rich/famous/successful culture that exists in the popular media.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right? It’s a hard one to test. It’s like when people give up, they’re either very sensible people who can accurately assess their own abilities or people who lack the necessary drive to push on through. Tricky to say which it is.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thought provoking post Martin. I think one of the issues about the industries, books and writers you mention is they are all reflective pieces from people who have had success with something they have done in their lives. They then give credibility to their journey using academic research based on limited and narrow sample sizes. It all boils down to the fact that we are all different, what works for one person may give us some guidance but may not be right for a particular circumstance. The 10,00o hour rule is a good example and this is now being shown to be less accurate than first thought. A similar thing is happening with the neuroscience behind creativity. The left side / right side brain theory is being disproved as it is now shown creativity can use up to 200 different areas and connections within the brain. Whatever route we choose to take you will never get past the fact that any success requires hard work and focus. Thanks for posting this Martin and hope you had a good break 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having a great time thanks.
      You are absolutely right about the research methods. The whole left brain right brain thing started with a series of experiments on only 9 subjects, who had suffered from extreme epilepsy and then had an operation that actually severed the connections between the two hemispheres of the brain. These patients all showed dramatic differences of function between the two sides, but to generalise from this sample is extremely unreliable.
      Thanks for such a great comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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