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Keeping it simple is the key to success

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Scientists and philosophers have been saying for centuries, that the more complicated a plan is, the more likely it is to fail.

If you want to succeed, get rid of the fluff, cut to the chase, and go after it. The more bells and whistles you add, the more likely it is that you will crash and burn.

But some people haven’t gotten the message.

The rumor mill in Brockport is working overtime this week on the story that new Mayor Margay Blackman wants to create a Village Court and then locate the court on the campus of SUNY Brockport.

Talk about mixing apples and oranges; creating a Village Court is one thing, putting a Village Court on campus is like mixing apples and orangutans.

No wonder the word on the street is that the campus administration is less than enthusiastic about the idea.

Forming a Village Court from scratch is complicated enough. Why would you make it more complicated by dragging the SUNY Brockport campus into the picture?

  • You have to find two village residents who are willing to be a judge.
  • Those two people must be able meet New York State’s qualifications for being a judge.
  • Then those same two people have to win an election.
  • You have to find and hire a court clerk.
  • You need a courtroom.
  • You need to have a place for the judge’s chambers, a place where a judge can go to work in private.
  • You need to have an office (or at least a desk) for the court clerk.
  • You need storage space for the court records.
  • You need to find the money to pay for the start-up costs.
  • You need to deal with the landlords, who hate the idea of a Village Court and who will throw up roadblocks at every opportunity.

The idea of keeping things simple in order to succeed dates back to 14th century philosopher William of Ockham (1288 – 1348), who wrote that, "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily."

That principle is known as Ockham's Razor, and it boils down to this; “If you don’t need it, get rid of it.”

In 1854 Henry David Thoreau used Ockham's Razor when he wrote, “Simplify, simplify.”

Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.
Henry David Thoreau
Walden, 1854

But despite Thoreau’s genius, some people still missed the point.

In 1934, Albert Einstein, the greatest scientific mind of the 20th Century, restated the principle in different words, “the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible.”

"It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience."

Einstein hit the nail on the head, and you would think that would do it; but it didn’t. Einstein had used too many words, so people ignored Einstein’s advice just as they’d ignored Henry David Thoreau and William of Ockham.

It took football to plant the concept firmly in people’s minds. Allie Sherman, who coached the New York Giants from 1961 to 1968, put Ockham's Razor into words that even football players can understand.

Allie Sherman used the KISS system, short for “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”

And it’s Allie Sherman’s KISS system that coaches teach today.

Few people read medieval philosophy, Walden isn’t fashionable reading anymore, and most people think that Einstein’s theories are overwhelming.

So it comes down to the lowest common denominator, football, to drill a brilliant idea into our heads.

Perhaps Brockport’s elected officials should make a New Year’s Resolution to use the KISS system as they move forward with the formation of a Village Court.

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