Versatility is your enemy

Versatility is your enemy

The larger set of options I get, the less work I can actually do.


I was talking about musical gear with Guy, a true friend of mine. We know each other for years, and we’re playing together ever since I started to play: he’s a bass player and I’m a guitar player. We both share the same interest of having a great “ballsy” sound and we both love to talk about it.

Last year, we traveled to the US together. Our last place to stop was New York City. We’ve been there for a week, Airbnb’d a tiny place in Manhattan, and toured all around New York like good tourists. Even when the pope visited NYC. It was a delight.

Guy and I talked for some time about the Fender Jaguar he bought while being in New York. I remember the moment he tried it. He was so excited, this bass guitar sounded great. I always had my affection towards Fender Precision basses, but the Jaguar was cool as well. “Listen, it can get from Jazz Bass to Precision Bass, and in between!”

Well, yeah... HOWEVER...

Less is more

Do you know Product Hunt and/or Dribbble? Look at these sites. There’s probably not even one page of products that doesn’t mention “simple”. You probably won’t find any design with the title “fully featured”, “advanced” or “complex”. Why is that?

People love simple things.

You can think of the Jazz Bass and the Precision Bass as “the signature dish”. While the Fender Precision Bass has 2 knobs, the Jaguar Bass has 2 knobs and 6 (on-off) switches. That means that if you can actually get a Precision Bass sound out of the Jaguar Bass, then Precision Bass is one out of the 64 possible switch combinations. The Jazz Bass is another one of the combinations. We get 62 more configurable combinations that aren’t that famous.

For me it is way too much. Even though I am very technical in every aspect of my life, I’d rather just take a guitar and start blasting distorted power chords from the amplifier.

It works the same for software development: making constraints is a serious phase in engineering. Deciding on the right constraints can make your software work better and make you the ability to leverage concepts in your application. Dan Abramov talked about it in his talk: by forcing the users to have an immutable data structure in their application state, Redux can just test references equality instead of deep equality.

Having less options make you think about the stuff that matter

Most of the time, I use my Schecter Tempest Custom guitar which is like a modern Gibson Les Paul to my ears. I love how it sounds and how it feels playing it. There are some songs I should have used another guitar, like a Fender Tele. These two guitars are really different both in their sound and in their vibe.

If I decide on bringing the Tele and the Schecter to a rehearsal, I will probably waste time on carrying them, tuning them and switching back and forth between them. I’ll put so much effort in something that I don’t HAVE to do.

Einstein, Steve Jobs and Obama were all wearing the same set of clothes every day. These guys thinking time were/is so expensive and important, so they couldn’t afford wasting it on meaningless things like cloth selection.

It’s okay, you don’t have to be radical; You can, and probably should, wear more than one set of clothes. But you should always look out for things you waste your precious time on them without noticing.

Options are great for learning and researching, but only commitments make actual work done. Can you cut out meaningless decisions in your life?