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As Simple as Possible
Simplicity: Subtle, and not Easy
by Ron Jeffries
August 4, 2003
Summary
The more I practice taiji, the more I notice three seemingly contradictory things. First, I keep discovering subtle details that I hadn't previously seen. Second, it keeps getting simpler. Third, it never gets easier: our teacher, who has been doing it for twenty-five years, sweats just as much as the old fat guy who wears my outfit.

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Subtle Detail

The other day I noticed, for the first time, that in "White Bird Spreads its Wings", Richard's right hand was extended much further off to his left side than I was doing, half-way through the move. I have watched him do this move a few hundred times and had never seen that before.

Getting Simpler

I tried for a while to add this to my version of the move. To make it feel even close to right seemed impossible, so I asked for help. He observed me, and told me two things: first, in the early part of the move, reach further straight forward, under my left elbow, palm up. Second, instead of twisting or reaching left to get my hand positioned as his is, don't worry about the hand. Take the next step, leading with right shoulder and hip. Leave the hand where it is and let the natural waist twist and step take the body into a position where the hand winds up where it belongs. The move wasn't about doing more to replicate his result: it was about doing less.

But Not Easier

Doing "White Bird" in this new way isn't easier now. I put just as much effort into the move now, and I always will. It goes more smoothly now, with less wasted effort, and with a better result. The more subtlety I'm aware of, the more simply I do the moves, the more my effort pays off. The final outcome is still the result of effort.

Could there be, just possibly, a parallel in software development?

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About the Blogger

Ron Jeffries has been developing software since 1962, when Bill Rogers at Strategic Air Command handed him a Fortran manual. In that time, Ron has worked on operating systems, language compilers, database management systems, and a host of applications. As far as he knows, he has only put one company entirely out of business, and he is almost certain that he has helped some others. Ron has been involved in—some would say implicated in—the Extreme Programming movement since its beginning, and is the senior author, with Chet Hendrickson and Ann Anderson, of Extreme Programming Installed. Cribbing from Einstein, Ron believes that the best software, and the best processes, should be as simple as possible ... and no simpler.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2003 Ron Jeffries. All rights reserved.

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