Why “Keep It Simple, Stupid” Is The Best Advice I Ever Received

One of the best pieces of advice in life I was ever given and didn’t realize until much later, was when one of my mentors told me, “keep it simple, stupid.”  At the time, I actually took offense to it because I thought he was calling me stupid, so I paid it no mind. It wasn’t until much later that I found the profound value in that statement.

Denzel Washington also shared a similar phrase in one of his movies (the title of which escapes me at the moment). I remember he was asking someone to explain something to him and the person was being overly verbose. Denzel stopped him and said, (and this is not verbatim but you’ll get the point) “I want you start over and this time when you explain this to me, treat me like a two-year old.”

This is another phrase I use quite often when working on a branding strategy or if Gary & I are working on a product development project or campaign with a new client.

Assume makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”

Many of us make the huge mistake to ‘assume’ that our audience will know what we are saying, including the terminology we use. What people forget is that in most cases, our audience is listening to us to gain knowledge on the topic we are discussing, which is the reason why they are listening to us in the first place! I know that’s what I do. I don’t go to a conference or read material I already know, as I find it simply a waste of time. I specifically try to find information I don’t know in order to expand my knowledge on that particular subject. That’s how our knowledge base grows right?

We listen to information that is “new” to us, or at least offers a new perspective or angle on a subject we are interested in pursuing or are already a part of. We certainly don’t seek information we already know or have already been taught! Think about it, do you think you’d ever become an advanced swimmer if you took beginners swimming lessons your whole life? Of course not. That’s why there are different levels of learning in every market.

We have to always take into account that our audience does NOT know what we are talking about because we simply don’t know what they know and what they don’t know, so the best advice is to act as if they don’t. If not, you may lose your entire audience without even knowing it.

We Weren’t All Born On The Web!

Gary and I spent the first seventeen years of business building brands that had nothing to do with the Internet. It wasn’t until we saw everything moving more and more towards the Internet that we made our decision to enter this space. When we began, we were overwhelmed pretty much from the start because it was like everyone expected that we knew all the basics. Truth is, we knew exactly what everyone else knows when they first enter a new market. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

I remember one of the first seminars we attended, the speaker moved heavily into the discussion on the power of  “Web 2.0.” While he spoke very eloquently and sounded like he certainly knew his sh?t, the problem was that WE DIDN’T! We hadn’t a single clue what  he was talking about as he never explained what Web 2.0 was. I remember thinking, what a tremendous waste of an afternoon. If the speaker just for a moment told us what Web 2.0 was before he went on to talk about it for hours on end, it wouldn’t have fallen on deaf ears.

Gary and I attended many of these seminars and time after time, once the seminar was finished, we would look at one another dumbfounded, as we couldn’t attach any relevance to the topic that was discussed. All I can remember was thinking, Treat me like a two year old, damn it!

Bottom line, what you may think is obvious to you, can very well be oblivious to your audience!

Nobody likes a Rambler

Another key point to keep in mind is, no matter what you are conveying online or off, even if you are discussing a very technical matter, the importance of simplifying and clarifying what you are saying is paramount to keeping the attention of your audience as well as keeping them interested, engaged, and waiting on every word.

Nobody likes a rambler. Ramblers confuse, bore and frustrate their audience and when it comes to the Internet, the moment you lose the attention of your audience, they’re off your page as quick as you can say verbal regurgitation. Personally, when I come across a post written by a “rambler” I’m off it in a heartbeat. I simply don’t have the time. No one does. And what’s more, I specifically will not be reading, signing up for, or coming back to that site in the future.

Gordon Gekko was Wrong!

Many people try to use big words and fancy language to impress their readers. Truth is you will impress people only in your ability to talk, teach and/or cover a subject in a way that makes it very understandable in as short amount of time as humanly possible. Because of this, I firmly believe Gordon Gekko was wrong when he said that information was the most value commodity in the world. To me and to most of my peers, TIME is the greatest commodity, hands down. Furthermore, information without putting it to use is, well, “use-less” but I’ll save that one for another post because that’s a whole other issue altogether.

Take Tony Robbins for example. He is one of the greatest business, branding, and life coaches in the world. He advises those who are starting out, all the way up to the top businesses and politicians in the world and everyone in between. Why is he so successful? Well to me, in large part because everything he says makes sense! He actually uses that line throughout his teachings. He’ll pause and say, “Am I making myself clear?” or,  “Does that make sense?” Bottom line, you never get lost in any of his information. He certainly gets the relevance of “keep it simple, stupid.”

If You Want To Be The Best, Learn From The Best

If you want to be the best you have to learn from the best. The greatest advisors in the world aren’t necessarily the smartest people in the world, but they sure are the best communicators! And that is what people are looking for on the Internet as well as off of it. They want things to make sense.

I believe the smartest people in the world are probably the scientists who work their whole lives behind the scenes whether its researching cures for illnesses or figuring out what the next best thing is to make our world a greener place, but that’s not what you’re here for.

You are here to figure out a way to develop your brand online or off and expose it to the largest amount of people possible in the shortest amount of time so that you can actually help people and make a living at the same time.  At least that’s my philosophy. Yes I have a passion for helping others but I also enjoy living my life without the hassle of having to look at the check…  So keep it simple!

Have a great day!



“MJ takes a new and exciting approach on how to teach entrepreneurs.”

Daymond John
Co-host of ABC's, 'Shark Tank'

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