Are you paying attention?

by T Taylor

Tom Peters once said, “If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.”

Now I’m really confused. A business I own decided to help an employee become an owner last week. Maybe in the middle ages that would be like touching the person on the shoulder with a sword—or 20 years ago, we could draw up a contract and sign it. But not today. After enlisting an attorney, we found a business that specialized in just this thing, and we put together a deal over a month or two that used life insurance as a way to fund the ownership.

That was actually pretty cool and somewhat ingenious. The weird part was what came next… I got three documents that I had to sign. They were so big that they came through a secured site. “How big were they?” you say. How about 1322 pages.

That’s right, thirteen hundred and twenty two pages of legal jargon and the worst written body of information I have ever tried to read in my life! Think of your most complex Physics textbook. Now put it in Greek. That’s what I’m talking about here.

Who's Paying Attention? I called the specialist and asked him if I really needed to read all of this. You know, “pay attention” to all those words. He said, “Well, yes you should, legally, because you need to sign your name agreeing to it all.” I said, ”You’ve got to be kidding me. Even if I read it all, I could never understand what I read without paying an attorney to interpret it.”

Hmmm. You getting this? We’ve come full-circle, back to the attorney. I need to pay the people who authored this five-pound monster just to tell me what it says!

The sheer complexity and complications of doing business is getting out of hand. This is just one example. How big is our U.S. tax code? Today it stands at 72,536 pages! Here are some other dooseys: The Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) is 1,990 pages. Sounds pretty good after the Tax Code, but keep in mind, the book “War and Peace” is only 1,440 pages—and it was written by Leo Tolstoy, not 76 lawyers.

Now, let’s be honest. Have you ever read the small, fine print on a credit card application? The tiny block of text on a commercial that goes by in 2 or 3 seconds? How about a mortgage refi? The mortgage refi people I spoke to told me that they knew of one person that actually did read it. You reading all those Terms and Conditions on a website? Of course not.

I guess that’s one of the reasons why I love this job of creativity. In some ways, our entire job is to make the complicated and complex simpler. When you do, people get it, want it and appreciate it. Granted, attention spans aren’t what they used to be. But even so, the mark of success in any endeavor is making the complex, simple.

There it is, in 494 words.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
― E.F. Schumacher