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Picasso’s Bull

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“It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions.”

Steve Jobs

In 1945 Picasso created The Bull, a series of 11 lithographs showing The Bull in various levels of abstraction.

Picasso’s goal was to simplify The Bull down to its essence, to find, in his words, “the spirit of the beast”.

After working tirelessly through the iterations, Picasso ended up with just 12 lines.

12 lines which are still undoubtedly a bull. The Bull.

The Bull has become the unofficial mascot of Apple. Through their meteoric rise during Steve Jobs’ second coming, The Bull was used as a constant reminder to help them deliver beautiful simplicity.

It is so ingrained in Apple’s culture that The Bull features in their onboarding training.

Their relentless commitment to simplicity is perfectly shown in a contrast between their remote and one from Samsung:

Simplicity wins. 

Simplicity is timeless. 

Simplicity is not, however, easy.

Our human mind craves complex solutions for complex problems. It yearns to add bells and whistles at every opportunity. 

If a painting isn’t a masterpiece, we add a few more brush strokes.  

If a piece of music is lacking, we layer more instruments.

In my past life, when I produced music, I would always struggle with the urge to add more. If a song was dull and uninspiring, I’d want to sprinkle some extra percussion here or add some vocal shouts over there. 

Safe to say, these songs ended up sounding messy and rather unpleasant. 

What did work, although it hurt every ounce of my soul, was to remove parts without mercy. Stripping the music back to its core elements and working to get those right. Sculpting them until they worked together in harmony. 

The same holds true for most things in your life, especially with your finances. Trying to be clever and adding layers of complexity will inevitably cause you a headache. 

So that leaves us with a couple of questions…

If we strip down personal finance to its core essence, “the spirit of the beast”, what are we left with? 

The need for financial security now and in the future. 

How do we provide that for ourselves? 

With a cash reserve, insurance and tax-efficient investing that outpaces inflation. 

For a UK individual, a simple set up to see you through life will probably look like this:

Next time you find yourself trying to create, make a financial decision, problem solve, build a new workflow, or whatever it may be – remember The Bull.

Find the “spirit of the beast”.

Simplicity wins.

Thanks for reading,

Tom Redmayne

Financial Planner-in-waiting/Young Picasso

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