Thursday, April 8, 2010

Simple Ain't So Simple

When it comes to gaining inspiration, the words of others can be of great help...
Live simply that others might simply live.
The quote above is from Elizabeth Seaton, we have no idea who she is. We do not need to know because we are keeping things simple. In giving a talk keeping things simple sounds ... well simple, but it turns out it can be complicated.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
Confucius said that, so we are told. We don't really know, but we take some random person's word for it. We don't want to complicate things. What he is getting at is that making a simple message is simple, but it requires work and thinking. And when you do not want to do that work, you say it is complicated.

So why is it that things seem complicated?

You open a presentation and look over the myriad prasangs and you say to yourself, "How am I going to present this?" Our suggestion - simply. That does not mean boring, nor does it mean pedantic

(QUICK - How many times do you point when giving a talk to Bal/Balika mandal? BEWARE, being pedantic is not simple, it's silly so stop doing it).

Simple turns out to be hard because you really have to think about what it is you want to say. Every syllabus is full of really good matter and ideas, the really hard part is distilling it down to one or two lines that gives the simple message you want everyone to walk away from.

As the Heath Brothers put it from Made to Stick
How do we find the essential core of our ideas? A successful defense lawyer says, "If you argue ten points, even if each is a good point, when they get back to the jury room they won't remember any." To strip an idea down to its core, we must be masters of exclusion. We must relentlessly prioritize. Saying something short is not the mission — sound bites are not the ideal. Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. The Golden Rule is the ultimate model of simplicity: a one-sentence statement so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.
This is why the Yogi Gita sticks with us. This is why we can memorize two hundred Swami ni Vato. The core idea is presented not in a sound bite way, but in a sticky way. The unexpected videos or analogies wakes people up, but if we do not follow that up with a simple core idea it is all for naught.

In the upcoming Kishori/Kishore syllabus there is a talk on Nirlobh - lack of greed. The matter is excellent, there is a great unexpected creativity tip on playing out a scenario and discussing it. Great outside examples, and a few very good prasangs of Swamishri exemplifying the quality of being nirlobhi.

So where do we start? We need to start with the simple message - this is where most of the work is done - so we can then pick and choose from the matter to create our talk.

What is the simple message? SECRET: There is no one absolute answer to that question. It depends on your audience and what you the presenter want to say. For instance, examples include,

  • Becoming nirlobhi (freeing ourselves from greed) makes us truly happy.
  • Bapa is the perfect example of being nirlobhi.
  • We become nirlobhi by understanding Bapa to be perfectly nirlobhi.

There can be many more, but if we do not decide what message we want everyone to leave with, then things get complicated. This works not only with presentations but with essays as well. If you are writing an essay to get into college or get a scholarship or even get into a volunteer program - you need to start with the simple message (your thesis statement for everyone that took expository writing) that everyone will leave with.

What if you are compiling a report, for work or Mandir? The first thing you need to start with is your simple message that you want the report to convey. The rest of the report provides concrete and credible examples to support your simple message. And to really get people to pay attention you have to throw in something unexpected to wake them up, grab their emotion to cause them to change, and do it with stories so that do not get bored.

In short, try writing down your simple message or proverb or golden rule before making a presentation or writing a report or writing an essay. You will be amazed by the results.

I found the simple life oh so simple. - David Lee Roth

Oops! One of the three quotes is not right - let us know which on and you get major simple cred.

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