We desperately seem to want things to be complicated.

How do I lose weight? Is it by eating at the right time or the right macronutrient combination, exercising right before a meal, and doing some pushups while drinking at least two liters of water each day and supplementing with some pills and detox smoothies? Or is it by eating fewer calories than I use each day?

The path to the most common goals such as health, wealth, and loving relationships is fairly clear and reflected in the consistency of fundamental advice in each of those areas. For example in finance: spend less than you earn. What about business? Create something enough people value at a price that sustains it and then some. People agree widely on the fundamental things one has to do to reach these common goals. But people don’t agree on the details, the hacks, and shortcuts they believe bring you there faster.

The details are important, yes, but the fundamentals are more so. We tend to fixate too quickly on the 80% of things we could do that provide us only with 20% of the benefits. We optimize before we lock the fundamentals in.

I suspect a deep-seated psychological reason behind this behavior. We desperately want things to be complicated because why else are we not reaching our goals? Why are we not lean and fit? Why are we not rich? Is it because we don’t put in the work and dedication to get there or is it because we just haven’t found the right tactic or hack yet? I believe we cling to the second explanation to avoid facing our own failure. Maybe we don’t want this thing so much after all, because if we would, why are we not doing what’s required if it’s actually quite simple?

Businesses thrive on this insecurity and offer us lots of these optimized solutions and hacks. It’s hard to sell a simple workout with three compound barbell exercises two to three times a week. It’s much easier to show us how complicated the human body is and that scientists have figured out the exact balance of micro and macronutrients that help you lose weight and we got it all in this drink here for you for 5.99€.

Catch yourself if you start implementing the newest hack, fad, supplement, or whatever and ask: Have I locked in the fundamentals? Have I practiced the basic principles and advice consistently and still not gotten the results? If not stop and go back to the basics. Don’t make things more complicated than they have to be.