As I sketched out a concept, the page I was writing on got busier and busier. At some point John stopped me with a simple observation. “Less is more.” I stopped for a moment and looked at what the observation applied to. This was clearly more, not less. The checkpoint has haunted me ever since.
Knowing that less is more does not mean that it is easier to do less. Life reminds me that doing more is often easier than doing less! Less means that I am focused and concise. Less implies that I have thought through what I am saying instead of sharing ideas that are still in the formulation stage. Less means that I have considered my audience.
Doing less often opens one’s awareness to the possibility that one’s audience may not get the point(s). I find that there is a natural presumption in writing, drawing, and describing more that my audience will get at least one point. I know they will likely miss the larger picture. I forget the rule that one only comprehends in small bites. Even as I presume the benefits of more, experience documents that my excess trivia leads my audience towards anything but understanding.
Two mantras I find helpful in taking me back to less include the following.
Start with your listener. Who are you speaking to? What do you share with them? Unless you start from a share point of understanding, the person you are sharing with is always at a disadvantage.
Frequently check in to see if you are still on the same page. It may seem obvious to you when it is not for them. Recaps, echoes, and reviews are investments that bring immediate dividends. Each opens up the possibility of sharing more.
John’s words echoed wisdom comments from across the centuries. A wisdom father’s words followed the same line. “Keep it simple —in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on.” (1 Corinthians 7.30) Keep it simple, less is more; mantras for living in today’s world.