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The Military Rule ‘K.I.S.S.’ Should Be Common Sense

“Keep It Simple, Stupid!” or just K.I.S.S. — kiss. It’s a pretty simple rule to remember… and that’s the whole point.

Simplicity is good.

We inhabit a really super complicated world chock full of multiple incomprehensible forms, poorly written instruction manuals, long winded so-called experts expounding on all types of social media, to say nothing of long, adjective laden, wordy sentences like this one.

And this doesn’t even count the politicians with their word semantics on all things both public and private.

The complexity of modern life is overwhelming, and one may wonder if there is any relief.

Yes, there is.

Today, July 12, is National Simplicity Day, and it is an opportunity to reflect on the simple and small things that unclutter and give enduring value to life.

19th century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow spoke for many when he wrote, “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”


The power of K.I.S.S.

Harry Gray understood Longfellow.

In 1979 Gray was the no-nonsense leader of United Technologies when he decided to let the business world know more about the company.

He and his staff discussed either launching a traditional series of ads that explained their company’s complex structure and products … or  designing a series of untraditional ads discussing life in simple terms.

For the next several years, 75 of these straightforward newspaper ads appeared in the Wall Street Journal.


The First Ad

United Technologies’ first ad was entitled “Keep It Simple”. It said this:

Strike three. 

Get your hand off my knee. 

You’re overdrawn. 

Your horse won. 

Yes. No. 

You have the account. 

Walk. Don’t walk. 

Mother’s dead. 

Basic events require simple language.

Idiosyncratically euphuistic eccentricities are the promulgators of triturable obfuscation. 

What did you do last night? Enter into a meaningful romantic involvement, or fall in love? 

What did you have for breakfast this morning? The upper part of a hog’s hind leg with two oval bodies encased in a shell laid by a female bird, or ham and eggs? 

David Belasco, the great American theatrical producer, once said: “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea.”


The Success of K.I.S.S.

These ads – that followed the K.I.S.S. rule – struck a chord with the American people; United Technologies received requests for more than 4,225,000 reprints and over 850,000 letters.

“Military leaders have told me our ads are used by the services as motivational messages,” Gray wrote in the preface of his 1986 book, Gray Matter, and “how we perform as individuals will determine how we perform as a nation.”

This concept is not new; other individuals throughout time have offered their thoughts on simplicity.


Some Sayings on Simplicity

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”  Confucius

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci

“Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.”  Martin H. Fischer

“Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”  William Morris

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.  But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Steve Jobs

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.” Leo Tolstoy

“Keep it simple stupid!”  Countless Drill Instructors. K.I.S.S.!

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say let your affairs be as one, two, three and to a hundred or a thousand.  We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.” Henry David Thoreau

“Simplicity is the essence of happiness.”  Cedric Bledsoe

Enjoy today. Simply.

For more on military lifestyle, read about why this Navy SEAL thinks that everyone should wake up early.


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