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  • Paul Cumbo

Simple vs. Easy

Simple and easy are two different things.

A group of students and I were once tasked with digging very deep holes for sanitarios in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. They needed to be square, five feet on a side, and fourteen feet deep. The earth was dense with clay. It was very simple work. But it was not at all easy. Each one took five guys a whole day.

My career has involved teaching, coaching, and mentoring a hell of a lot of kids over the past twenty years. I'm no counselor, but I've had a whole bunch of kinda serious talks with them. The kind of talks kids have with their teachers, coaches, and mentors. About the stuff of life. The struggles, mostly. And I've realized that sometimes the struggles are both complex and difficult. But in many cases, a kid is struggling with something--usually a decision--that may be very difficult, and yet is actually quite simple at its core.

I've often found myself inviting a kid to consider that, no, it's probably not this, that, the other thing, and also that other thing you just mentioned. That, instead, maybe it's really just this one thing, mainly.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure this whole simple-but-tough thing applies widely. As I reflect on my own struggles in life, I find that more often they are not due to complex things. They are usually grounded in very simple things. This has no direct correlation to the degree of difficulty. Maybe the most valuable realization here is that just because something is very difficult, doesn't mean it's very complicated. And I wonder how often we complicate problems that are actually quite simple, because we want to attribute complexity that seems proportionate to the difficulty. And in so doing, we only make the whole situation worse.

What do you think? What's your simple but difficult story?


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