When I was sixteen I had a motorbike, at seventeen I had a car.

They were old wrecks, very basic, I could fix them myself.

That’s where I learned basic, simple logic.

Don’t waste time worrying about the wrong things.

Keep reducing the problem down to something simple and solvable.

Keep eliminating possibilities.

This is basically the philosophical tool that kick-started the Reformation and the Enlightenment.

It’s known as Occam’s razor.

“Don’t multiply possibilities beyond necessity.”

Put simply it works like this.

If a car won’t start there are three basic possibilities.

Electrics. Fuel. Mechanics.

We don’t want to waste a lot of time worrying about the wrong thing.

We can usually eliminate two of those before we start.

First we turn it on.

If we turn the key and nothing happens, we know it’s not the fuel, because the car isn’t even turning over.

So the problem is either electrics or mechanics.

If we’re getting a spark, we know it’s not electrics.

Put it into gear and see if we can push it.

If we can, the engine’s not seized up – that just leaves the starter motor.

We identified the problem by simple logic.

But supposing instead, we turn the key and the engine turns over but doesn’t start.

Then we know it’s not electrics or mechanics.

So it must be the fuel.

So we check the carburettor.

Is there a blockage in the jet, or the fuel line between the pump and the carburettor?

Either way, now we know where to look.

But supposing the car is actually running and there’s a knocking noise.

We know it’s not electrics or fuel.

So first we look to see if the exhaust is smoking.

If it is, the problem’s in the cylinders.

Could be the timing, could be the valves, could be a piston, but at least we know where to look.

If the exhaust isn’t smoking, we know the problem isn’t those things.

The knocking is coming from somewhere else.

So we can check the fan, the gearbox, the engine mounts, everything mechanical.

The point is, by eliminating possibilities; we don’t spend lots of time looking in the wrong place.

We don’t take the carburettor apart to fix an electrical fault.

We don’t buy a new battery to fix a fuel blockage.

We work our way very simply and logically toward the problem.

Then we solve the problem we’ve identified.

And we stick to solving the problem we’ve identified.

We don’t jump all over the place, solving imaginary problems.

That sort of simple, basic logic is how life works, if we let it.

First identify the problem, then work on the solution.

It’s also how our business works, if we let it.

Don’t jump straight to guessing solutions.

Everyone sitting round a table shouting out an opinion:

“Maybe it’s a puncture?”

“Maybe it’s out of petrol?”

“Maybe a bird made a nest in the engine?”

“What about spraying it a new colour?”

“Maybe it needs a carwash?”

We don’t guess at the solution from the infinite possibilities available.

We work towards a defined problem by eliminating possibilities.

Then, when we’ve identified the problem, we stick to solving that problem.

It doesn’t have to be difficult.



  • john woods

    Funnily enough I was having a conversation the other day on a similar nature in so much it was about driving. A degree educated neighbour of mine is struggling to pass her test. I suspect she is over thinking scenarios. I told her the traffic dictates what you can or can’t do. Once you’ve mastered the controls, which she has, there is only a limited number of options on offer and that the answer will reveal itself if only you let it.

    • Dave Trott

      Too much function follows form, not enough form follows function

  • Bob Hoffman

    Dave — I find there are 2 types of people who work in advertising — simplifiers and complicators. The simplifiers understand the basics of logic as you have described them. The complicators do not. Unfortunately, one highly-placed complicator can quickly undo the work of a dozen simplifiers.

    • Dave Trott

      Definitely Bob.
      A lot of people think they get paid the big bucks by making their job seem more complicated.
      They’re frightened if it was too easy anyone could do it.

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