The Genius Of Simplicity



Michael Palazzo

During the years of 1892-1924, there were more than twenty million people who immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island. In their quest for the dream of a better life, people were willing to journey thousands of miles, and many who had little or no money were forced to travel in steerage conditions. Most Americans born from 1940 to 1990 have no concept of the challenges faced by those entering the United States.


The reasons these new immigrants made the journey to America was similar to those of their predecessors. They were escaping religious, racial, and political persecution, or seeking relief from a lack of economic opportunity. Many were pulled here by contract labor agreements offered by recruiting agents, known as padrones, to Italian and Greek laborers. Hungarians, Poles, Slovaks, Bohemians, and Italians flocked to the coal mines or steel mills. Greeks preferred the textile mills; Russian and Polish Jews worked the needle trades or pushcart markets of New York. Railroad companies advertised the availability of free or cheap farmland overseas in pamphlets distributed in many languages, bringing a handful of agricultural workers to western farmlands. But the vast majority of immigrants crowded into the growing cities, searching for their chance to make a better life for themselves. Our ancestors understood the genius of simplicity. While many built rich and successful lives, their core values guided them. Family was first, the importance of quality relationships and the long held bonds of tradition made up the fabric that held people together. ‘I would not give a fig for simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for simplicity on the far side of complexity.’ – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (March 8, 1841 – March 6, 1935) Life is the 21st Century, better known as the post-modern society with all its technological advancements has transformed the way people live, think and what we value. The industrial revolution has forever changed life in America. The demands of cognitive thinking have altered the way we learn and how we process information. Baby-Boomers can no longer bask in the mindset of asking a child how to use a computer. Regardless of the challenges we face, simplicity is always on the far side complexity. When Albert Einstein was asked; ‘Why is it that when the mind of man has stretched so far as to discover the structure of the atom we have been unable to devise the political means to keep the atom from destroying us?’ he responded ‘That is simple, my friend. It is because politics is more difficult than physics’. When we think of simplicity, who better to look to than Comedian George Carlin, who said it best. ‘The American language is loaded with euphemisms because Americans have trouble facing the truth, so we invent the kind of a soft language, and it gets worse with every generation. I’ll give you an example of that. There is a condition in combat that is a result of a fighting person’s nervous system being stressed to its absolute peak and maximum. In the First World War, that condition was called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables. Shell shock. Almost sounds like the guns themselves. That was seventy years ago. A whole generation went by and the Second World War came along and very same combat condition was called battle fatigue. Four syllables now, it takes a little longer to say and doesn’t seem to hurt as much. Fatigue is a nicer word than shock. Shell shock! Battle fatigue. Then we had the war in Korea its 1950, and the very same combat condition was called operational exhaustion. Hey, we are up to eight syllables now! And the humanity has been squeezed completely out of the phrase. It’s totally sterile now. Operational exhaustion. Sounds like something that might happen to your car. Then of course, came the war in Viet Nam, which has been over for thirty seven years, and the very same condition was called post-traumatic stress disorder. Still eight syllables, but we’ve added a hyphen! And the pain is completely buried under jargon that we still use for today’s soldiers. Post-traumatic stress disorder. Genuine simplicity is evidenced in the biblical definition of love. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Cor. 13:4-8 NIV Regardless of your religious or political affiliation, we see no better example of simplicity. The challenge for each of us is to follow the principles taught by my 7th grade math teacher. When solving an algebraic problem, in the end, reduce it to the lowest possible denominator. That’s simplicity.

Michael Palazzo is the Founder of Coach Masters International. CMI works with individuals and organizations to create personal and organizational effectiveness. Coaching Entrepreneurs, Executives and Business Leaders that inspire people and organizations for greatness has become the driving force for CMI. For more information or to schedule a coaching workshop visit

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