How to Live an Elegantly Simple Life

October 9, 2011

In light of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ death, I thought it was appropriate to repost this, which was originally published on June 22, 2011.

"Apple CEO Steve Jobs"

Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is a pretty smart guy. Most of us would agree that he knows a thing or two about product design and has built a pretty successful life by challenging traditional assumptions.

I heard a story a while back about Jobs that holds some lessons for those of us who are interested in lifestyle redesign. When Jobs was giving a private presentation about the iTunes Music Store to some independent record label people a while back, people kept raising their hands asking, “But does it do [x]?,” and “Do you plan to add [y]?”

Finally an exasperated Jobs said, “Wait wait — put your hands down. Listen: I know you have a thousand ideas for all the cool features iTunes could have. So do we. But we don’t want a thousand features. That would be ugly.”

“Innovation is not about saying YES to everything. It’s about saying NO to all but the most crucial features.”

If you want to renovate your life, you have to do the same thing.

  • Identify the essentials that contribute to your happiness and find ways to make them more present in your daily life.
  • Eliminate the clutter that takes up unnecessary space in your mind, home and office
  • Ignore well-meaning advice when you know it doesn’t make sense for you
  • Cultivate beginner’s mind (an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions) when thinking about and making changes
  • Trust your gut because it’s gotten you this far on your journey

These things may seem obvious, but they aren’t easy. If they were, bookstores and the blogasphere would not be jam-packed with information about “creating the life of your dreams.”

Your time on earth is limited.

Don’t live an ugly life by wasting time on the nonessential. Instead, build a functional but elegantly simple one.

If you’d like some additional inspiration click here to see the commencement speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University in June of 2005.

Photo courtesy of:  acaben


  • Sharyn Dimmick

    Thanks for posting Steve Jobs’ commencement speech — how wonderful it was, and how full of timely reminders.

    • http:/ Cheryl Craigie

      Thanks, Sharyn. Glad you found it as useful as I did.

  • Hansa

    This is an excellent piece of advice, although it is everywhere in different language and format, that cannot be heard and ingested enough. We read it and think ah! what a lovely idea but we rarely take the conscious leap to actually practice an elegant life, simple, focused, uncluttered, however one may describe it. I am going to try Cheryl, thanks for words. Best, Hansa.

    • http:/ Cheryl Craigie

      Hi Hansa–

      It all starts with one step, so go for it and see what happens.

      Take care,


  • Cheryl Craigie

    Hi Kate–

    Glad you found this post worthwhile. I absolutely believe that “elegantly simple” is the way to go. Good luck on your journey.

    Take care,


  • Kate

    Thank you so much for this incredibly well-timed and gentle reminder. It is so easy to get buried in the quest for more more more. This is a great reminder to stop, breathe, and figure out what to say No to, and not just focus on the Yeses.
    Thanks so much,

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