KISS (aka The Simple Art of KISSing)

The Simple Art of KISSing

Usually I’m really good at KISSing.

I’m going to give you a brief example where I haven’t been recently and why that stands out for me so much, particularly given some of the things I’ve written here, then I’ll tell you why KISSing is so awesome – at least to me it is.

I’m very much into KISSing.

So what’s all of this about KISSing? Obviously you guessed already from the way I write it that I’m not just talking about that lovely romantic gesture you impart upon your loved ones, I’m talking about KISS as an acronym for keeping things simple.

Specifically: Keep It Simple, Stupid

KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid

A lot of people seem to attribute this to Warren Buffett as he often cites it when giving investment advice, but the principle was originally a design principle used by the US navy in 1960.

What Exactly is KISS?

The principle was introduced to encourage engineers to keep design simple so that maintenance of US navy systems would be easier. In addition to that, the principle states that most systems, if kept simple, will work better in the first place.

“Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler.” ~ Einstein

Using this principle, a lead engineer, Kelly Johnson, handing tools to a team of design engineers, challenged them to design a jet aircraft as simply as possible such that it could be repaired by an average mechanic under field combat conditions.

I carry it around with me almost everywhere I go…

2 Reminders of Where Simple Is Better & Where I Failed to KISS Recently

A few weeks ago I wrote about my experience with a scary accident where my beautifully simple little car was bullied by a big old nasty truck (3 Lessons That A Scary Motorway Accident Taught Me…).

I still haven’t heard back from the assessors though I’m pretty sure that my car will be a write-off.

The Courtesy Car

I have been provided a courtesy car whilst my accident & car is being assessed, but having this brand new car is actually stressing me out!!

Because it was a no-fault accident, I have been provided a courtesy car – a brand new Polo. The problem I have, driving around this brand new Polo, is it actually feels like a liability to me. I’m more careful with it and more worried about it getting damaged, scratched, bumped etc than I ever was with my little old car.

I was in Derby working on a house we’re renovating and parked the car on the street in front of the house. I turned in the wing-mirrors to protect them just in case. When I returned to the car later that afternoon, opening up the drivers side wing-mirror revealed a chip out of the corner of the glass and the mirror was very loose. This could only have been malicious damage – somebody would have to have opened up the wing-mirror and deliberately done that. It looks as if someone has tried to prise the mirror out of the unit with a coin or something.

So now I’m worried about being charged for that – for a car that I never asked for (the insurance insisted I take it, told me I was entitled to it anyway and I was covered – it’s the small print that I’m worried about now).

I keep on trying to think of my friend Cicero’s advice, namely: Don’t worry about things you can’t influence/might never happen, but still, I worry.

I Bought Another (Slightly Different) Car

So what I really want is my old car.

They’re going to tell me that’s not possible. They have already advised me this is likely and I saw the state of the car after the accident.


So I have been looking for a new one. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a 1.3 VW Polo Coupe for sale these days? Let alone one that is in good condition and has low mileage (mine had only 61,000 miles which is really good for a car of that age).

There are only 2 VW Polo coupes for sale in the whole of the UK via Autotrader at the moment, neither of which is a 1.3L engine.

So regardless of what happens and despite not hearing back yet, I went ahead and bought a car. It’s a car I’ll either get used to or use until I find another suitable VW Polo (which could take a very long time).

My new car is a Peugeot 306 (by comparison with the Polo coupe search, there are 205 for sale via Autotrader at the moment). It’s great value for money if you’re looking to get a lot for your money, but here is the point – along the lines of the KISS principle, the car has a lot of ‘features’ which cause me to be conflicted. Nice on the face of it, but overly complex and expensive to maintain.

The car is in great condition, unbelievable really, has been well looked after and has low mileage.

I bought it from a thoroughly nice chap, George.

As I was looking round the car George said to me: “It’s got everything you want, Power Assisted Steering, Electric Heated Wing Mirrors…” (that one hurt particularly) “…, Electric Mirrors, Remote Central Locking, Steering Controls for the stereo)…”

What I was hearing: “It’s got lots of complicated components you don’t really need but that can easily go wrong and cost you lots of money to fix because you can’t fix them yourself.”

10 years ago I would have been really happy with all of this stuff – wow, so many ‘extras’ for that price. The car is really fully-loaded.

Peugeot 306 Meridian

Here’s what the car I bought looks like

10 years ago I liked fully-loaded cars.

Now I am a fan of simple.

Do we really need so many electrics in a car?

Electric windows – I’m happy with a good old winder.

Electric mirrors – a liability in my view.

It’s a really nice car though, so I bought it anyway.

So I’m going to be constantly worried about the bloody wing mirrors. What if the same thing happens that happened to the new Polo courtesy car? Nobody would ever think of trying to nick a wing mirror from my old Polo, and even if they did, I could just get a new one myself (in fact I already have some spares) and fit it myself with nothing more than a screwdriver.

The car has a 1.8L engine vs my old Polo’s 1.3L: I just discovered when filling her up that this means ยฃ65-70 per tank vs around ยฃ40 per tank that I used to pay for the Polo.

The insurance on the car is obviously more expensive than the Polo – about 30% or ยฃ100 more.

The road tax is more expensive: ยฃ220 instead of ยฃ140.

It’s a nice little car, but it’s glaringly obvious to me that I failed to KISS in this instance.

The good news is that it is a closer comparison to a modern car in terms of standard features and obviously compared to a modern car, it’s still an absolute bargain, plus it fits our needs well in other areas I haven’t explained (size, structure etc).

But the point is it has lots of features (which I’m either paying for or will have to pay more for if ever they fail) that I just don’t really need.

So my advice when buying a new car is still to keep things as simple as you possibly can – if you know anything about cars and know what you’re looking for, then, in my case, buying a basic, old, mechanical car still appeals to me very much – and yes, I know I have strayed from that path just a little here but that may only be temporary – let’s just see how things go with this car.

Why You Should KISS More

So the KISS principle doesn’t apply to just engineering design or buying cars.

It doesn’t just apply to physical things.

It applies to everything.

Do you over-complicate problems? Worry about things too much, over-think? KISS.

Do you have 100 pairs of shoes and can’t decide which ones to wear today? KISS (I have 3 pairs of shoes).

Is the problem too big and scary to deal with? Simplify it by breaking it down into smaller pieces so you can decide – what can you do now (make tiny decisions)?.

Keeping things simple is great advice on all kinds of levels and if in doubt, or struggling with anything, you should definitely call upon the KISS principle. It has served me well too many times to mention so many of our articles have references to simplicity for obvious reasons. Here are some examples:

I’ll leave you with the wise words of Leonardo Da Vinci:

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Da Vinci


KISS (aka The Simple Art of KISSing) — 8 Comments

  1. Alan, I love what you’re saying here. I agree with keeping things simple. And your car example really struck a chord with me. I’ve always tried to get the most basic car I can get – although I do like electric windows, but that is as far as I need with perks. I’ve known some people who get fancy cars with all these additional features that you really don’t need, and those are the things that usually break. I’d rather just not deal with things like that.

    Overall, I think we should all be keeping things simple. Why unnecessarily complicate things if you don’t have to? More features or options doesn’t mean better.

    • Yeah I nearly called it The Simple Art of KISSing A$$, but that’s a different article entirely.

      I reckon there’s a gap in the market both in the US and the UK for a modern, mechanical, uber-simple car – one which you don’t need to plug a computer into for diagnostics but which can be fixed in most cases with a screwdriver and a spanner ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Someone’s gonna spot that at some point…

  2. Great Post, Alan ๐Ÿ™‚

    My principle is to not worry at all. I mean, when has worrying solved any problems? Instead care. Replace worry with caring – it allows us to remain calm and solve the problem.

    When I read about your car buying experience, I was thinking about a book I read recently – How we choose. In the book, the author suggests that complicated choices – such as choosing a car – should be given to our emotional brain and simple decisions should be given to the rational brain. I do believe his suggestions since he does support it with a lot of studies and examples, and when I think about it, it makes sense. I mean, choices like buying a car overwhelms our rational brain – too many things to think about! And we end up making a bad decision.

    I haven’t consciously tried his methods – got to try it and see how it goes ๐Ÿ˜€

    I do love keeping things simple. It makes life so much easier (and the easier it is, the more enjoyable it will be).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing your experience, Alan ๐Ÿ™‚ Appreciate it!

    • Worry is indeed a terrible thing Jeevan.

      Sometimes we just can’t escape it, but at least we can remind ourselves how little it helps – especially when we’re worrying about things that might not happen or that we can’t change.

      I like your point but somehow I think it could be the other way round for me – it’s definitely my rational brain that’s telling me it makes more sense to have the most basic car. My emotional brain might be impressed and tempted by the bells and whistles…

      Do you know the name of that book (or the author)?

        • OK I’ll check it out, but isn’t that the guy whose last book was discredited for using fake quotes/information?

          I’m not sure if that’s true or not or why anyone would want to do that given how much readily available ‘real’ data we have at our fingertips these days but maybe worth knowing if you’re going to read other books by the same author and act upon that information…

          Just a thought.

          • Oh, wow, I didn’t know that.

            Yeah, I am reading a lot of personal development books (I am interested in learning the psychology behind behavior), and a lot of these books do contradict each other. It’s hard to believe anything about psychology, since we still have a lot to learn about our own brains).

            Guess I have to do a little more research for getting any books (I just pick my books from Goodreads, based on recommendations).

            Thanks for letting me know, Alan ๐Ÿ™‚

            • No worries, and again, given the way the media is these days these accusations could well be exaggerated – just search on his name and check out the reviews on Amazon.

              I personally think we have come a long way in the field of psychology and a lot of the discoveries are fascinating, but you’re right – we still have a lot to learn – which is one of the greatest lessons of all!

              Plus I also think we should be learning every day but also prepared to change our views as we take in new information – at the end of the day, what we think we ‘know’ is only our own unique view of the world anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰

              (as you may have heard me say a few times)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *