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Radical Simplification: Letting go to Let-in

Updated: Jun 9, 2021

<This article is inspired from David Whtye's life and his reflections called, "Beginning.">


"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." — Confucius.

Simplification starts with a deeper wish for a new beginning. Whether it's a journey of personal change, or organizational transformation, we want to let go of old because it has expired its time and not serving us anymore. The problem, however, is, we never go far enough.


Radical Simplification | MQ Learning

Probably, the inconvenient truth is better hidden behind the curtains of essential and necessary, and we protect ourselves from the pain of the unknown. The poet, David Whyte wrote, "Perhaps, because taking a new step always leads to a kind of radical internal simplification, where, suddenly, very large parts of us, parts of us we have kept gainfully employed for years, parts of us still rehearsing the old complicated story, are suddenly out of a job."


Once while attending a meeting of an NGO, David Whyte asked his colleagues, "Have you seen David?" The team was stunned as there were not expecting any other David. David was unconsciously searching for himself. This episode made him realize that he is overwhelmed with many essentials tasks while underserving the food of his core. He needed radical simplification.


Radical Simplification requires asking three simple questions:

a) What is the core task?

b) How can we release?

c) Where to find the courage?

What is the core task?

Somewhere hidden deep in the trenches of daily life, adjustments, and compromises, the core hides behind the curtains of "urgencies" we keep on putting. It stands there, though not still. Shouting for our attention, we find it in moments of solitude or unacceptable crisis. The first step of radical simplification is to make space for that core to come out to the front.


It reflects our inner values and shapes the world we want to thrive in at an individual level. On a business level, it takes the shape of core-competency-based strategy work. The purpose is the same, to take a step back and look at the bigger inner picture. What do we want? Where would we like to head? The answers ironically could be radically simple.

For David Whyte, the journey was about doing what he loves the most, poetry. He dedicated himself to being a poet, which he calls a verbal art form to create silence.

How can we release?

The release is to identify the parts that do not serve the core. "There occurs in effect, a form of internal corporate downsizing, where the parts of us too afraid to participate or having nothing now to offer, are let go, with all of the accompanying death-like trauma, and where the very last fight occurs," wrote David.


As humans, our existential fear of death makes letting go difficult. Deeply embedded in our psyches, the termination of projects or structures built on our hard work evokes a known feeling of losing a loved one. William Faulkner equates the proactive termination of a loved piece of writing to fit in a bigger storyline as "killing your darlings," highlighting the need for a sacrifice for the greater good.


The deeper self-reflection of questions like "what is prev