Occam’s Razor

“The simplest answer is usually the correct one.”

A favorite rule of thumb of mine is Occam’s Razor, which was developed by William of Ockham in the 13th century. To summarize, it means when trying to understand why something occurs, don’t make the answer more complex than necessary. The simplest or most obvious solution is more often the best choice.

This principle is not bulletproof and does not apply to everything. But I think it serves as a reminder not to complicate things for ourselves beyond necessity. You can read examples of Occam’s Razor applied to real life situations here. A favorite story of mine, the Russian/American space pen myth also demonstrates applying it to problem-solving, although it is not true:

When NASA started sending astronauts into space, they quickly discovered that ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat this problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside-down, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300 C. The Russians used a pencil.

Seeing and understanding the world clearly leads to better decisions and better living. Remembering Occam’s Razor can help us cut away complexity whenever life confuses us.

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