Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication

A slight diversion from what I normally talk about, but in this article I want to talk about my #1 favourite quote, and explore three ways we can use it to make life easier and achieve more.

I used to think it was Leonardo Da Vinci who said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, but apparently that’s not true. No one seems to know the exact source of where that quote came from.

That was a tad disappointing—I’m a massive Leonardo fan—but it’s still one of my favourite quotes because it directly addresses three of my biggest failings, and I know I’m not on my own with these…

  1. Perfectionism
  2. Overthinking
  3. Procrastination

All three habits are closely interlinked. Seeking perfection leads to overthinking and overcomplicating things.

And when things get too complicated and challenging, we’re far more likely to procrastinate.

On the flip side, some of the best things I’ve ever done have been the most straightforward.

When I’ve had the most clarity on what it is I want to achieve, and I’ve just taken simple consistent steps towards my goals — well those are the times my life has changed considerably.

Simplicity is Key

If making things simple is one of the keys to our own personal success, then it obviously helps to have a system or ‘framework’ for making that happen.

One of the best frameworks I’ve seen to make life simpler is an acronym coined by self-help guru Tim Ferris

D. E. A. L.

Those four letters stand for…





Now I’m not sure you need to have Liberate in there. As I’m about to explain, if you do the first three things – define, eliminate and automate – then Liberation should pretty much happen automatically.

With this in mind, I tweaked the acronym, because I also think there’s something missing which I think makes a huge difference.

Here’s my version…

D. E. A. D.

Yes I know that seems a tad morbid!

But it actually works, for a very good reason which I’ll explain in a moment.

The first three letters have the same meaning –

Define, Eliminate, Automate

But I swapped Liberation for Delegation.

So here’s the full definition of each letter…


Define means to clearly state exactly what it is you want to achieve.

This is the crucial first step because if you’re fuzzy about what you want to achieve, you’ll get fuzzy results. Clarity of purpose is an essential component of success.

The second letter ‘E’ stands for…


This means cutting out all of the activities that don’t get you closer to what you want to achieve.

As a simple example, if you’re getting fat, then lowering your daily calorie intake should help you lose weight. (I lost 2 stone in lockdown by simply limiting my diet to 1,500 calories a day.)

Or, if you’re not making enough money in your small business, chances are you’re spending way too much time on time-wasting activities that don’t make money.

Eliminating those activities will of course give you more time to spend on money-making tasks. Again, it seems so simple, and yet it works.

The next letter ‘A’ stands for…


And this is a biggy.

There are now SO many ways that a lot of tasks can be automated—things that only a few years ago we wouldn’t believe possible.

For example we’re probably only a few years off driverless cars. That’s extreme automation.

If you spend a lot of time in a car each day that could be a game changer for you. Instead of staring mindlessly at the back of the car in front, you could instead be working on a new marketing initiative to take your business to the next level, or planning your next amazing family holiday, or whatever you defined as your next big goal.

In the world of Internet Marketing, you can use online services like IFTTT or Zapier to automate a wide range of tedious, repetitive admin tasks, that you would have to spend hours on each day.

Of course when I say ‘you’, it doesn’t have to be you that does the repetitive admin tasks in your business each day.

A lot of business owners have employees or virtual assistants they delegate mundane admin tasks to.

But if there’s any way to automate those mundane tasks then not doing so is a waste of both time and money.

The time and money you save by automating mundane repetitive admin tasks can instead be used to delegate more beneficial creative or complex tasks that generate more profit.

Which brings us onto the final letter ‘D’ of our acronym…


Okay so you’ve defined your goals, eliminated the unnecessary stuff, and automated all the mundane tasks.

You’re now left with the handful of super important complex and creative tasks that only a real human being can perform.

Now of course, you won’t and no doubt can’t delegate absolutely everything on your plate.

But you can and should delegate anything that is outside your area of core competence.

As Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach says, you need to be spending most of your time doing what you love doing, and do best—using what he calls your ‘Unique Ability’.

If you do that, and habitually Define, Eliminate, Automate and Delegate everything else then you should significantly simplify your life — which will result in huge compounding benefits over time.

Simplicity really is the ultimate sophistication.

Okay, so one final comment about my slightly morbid acronym….

D. E. A. D.

If there’s one simple unfortunate truth about life, it’s that one day we will all be dead.

There’s no avoiding that fact.

In fact some Roman philosophers did all they could to remember that fact — which is why we have the phrase ‘Memento Mori’—that’s Latin for ‘Remember you die.’

Some Roman Philosophers even had visible reminders that one day would be dead, and that time was not to be squandered.

And that’s why my four letter acronym is D.E.A.D.

It’s a powerful reminder that our precious time must not be spent, but rather invested—wisely.

The best way to do that is to simplify things.

We need to clearly define what we want, eliminate what’s not helping us get it, and then automate and delegate whatever makes sense to do so—so we’re just left to do the things we love doing and do best.


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Ed Rivis