The Other Side of Complexity – An Interview with Mike Burns

Today we’re lucky to be continuing our run of fantastic interview guests on Frictionless with Mike Burns from The Other Side of Complexity.  Let’s get to it!



  1. Hi Mike, thanks for joining us here at the Frictionless HQ.  Why don’t we start with you telling us a little about who Mike Burns is and where in the world is home for you?

Sure. Well, my name is Mike. I make stuff to help people live well and focus on what’s most important. I live in Nashville, TN with my favourite people in the world—Jen, and our 6 kids.



  1. Your blog ( has a great name and indeed some great content to back it up.  Can you share a little of the premise and inspiration behind the site and what then led you to taking the brave step of sharing your message via writing?

The name of the site was inspired by a famous quote that has been attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.  Perhaps you’ve heard it. He said, “For the simplicity on this side of complexity, I wouldn’t give you a fig. But for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that I would give you anything I have.”  These words inspire me.


An idea of simplicity that doesn’t acknowledge the fact that life is complex is naïve. However, there is a different kind of simplicity that is found when we don’t surrender and keep working toward it.


“An idea of simplicity that doesn’t acknowledge the fact that life is complex is naïve”


I write with the assumption that we can work THROUGH life’s complexities to find meaning and focus. This pursuit has proven very useful to me, personally, and I’ve found it helpful to others as we interact on the blog.

  1. Simplicity, living simpler and questioning conventional wisdom are themes through your writing (as indeed they are here at Frictionless Living).  What have been some of the main challenges you have faced since trying to live simpler and also questioning convention?  Have you felt resistance from others around you?

One of the main challenges, for me, has been to keep simplicity in its place. It’s only a tool. It’s not the destination, it’s the vehicle that gets us there. We typically start simplifying because we realize that clutter is keeping us from doing what we love. So, we start getting rid of unnecessary stuff. Then, if we’re not careful, we start worshipping the blank spaces. We get too focused on simplifying and lose sight of why we wanted to do it in the first place.

“One of the main challenges, for me, has been to keep simplicity in its place. It’s only a tool. It’s not the destination, it’s the vehicle that gets us there”

When you consistently write articles and books about simplicity, it makes it even harder…because you’re talking about it all the time. It’s easy to feel pressure from others to “be simple” the way they are being simple.


That’s been the challenge on occasion, but it’s not really a problem most of the time. I make it very clear in my writings that I’m not necessarily a minimalist. I value focus and simplicity helps me find it.


  1. Is there anything that you miss from your previous (less simple and more complex) life? 

It’s tough for me to answer this because there wasn’t a hard line separating my “old, less simple life” and my “new, simplified life.” It’s more like a priorities-based mindset that has consistently proven itself to be more and more valuable. Do I value clutter and complication? No. However, I couldn’t be content to sit in empty rooms and do nothing. :)



  1. What have been some of the major benefits of the changes you have made over the past few years?

Less stress.

Because we’re choosing a ‘simpler life’, our minds aren’t NEARLY as cluttered with the concerns and worries that come from over-scheduling, unrealistic deadlines and busy-ness. Our brains are free to think about the future and be creative.


Closer relationships.

My wife and I have six kids, ranging in age from 9 to 17. Because we say “no” to a lot of the hectic activity that is typical in our culture, we are able to spend quality time with each of them. We work together, play together, and have serious, life-changing talks.


Increased creativity.

Eliminating lots of unnecessary stuff has left space for us to be creative and pursue passions. We’re able to bring new things into existence. We manage blogs & YouTube channels, write ebooks, draw and play instruments. It’s a lot of fun! We are all able to come up with ideas and see them through to completion. We couldn’t do this if we let things get too complicated.


  1. Are there two or three things you can suggest readers take away and implement today to improve the quality of their lives in some way?

Be yourself.

As much as you can, stop comparing yourself to everyone else. You don’t have to be like them. If you waste your time imitating the other person, you struggle to find joy. You should constantly be growing and changing, but always be the “growing, changing” version of you.


Find what you love.

What makes you come alive? What relationships do you value most? It’s important that you have a pretty clear picture of what you want out of life.


Say no to things that hinder you.

Once you know what you love, clear the path to get there. If you value spending time with family or painting or writing or volunteering to help others… you have to say no to other things that you could be doing. Practice saying “no” in the mirror if you have to. :)



  1. I know you have written a few books sharing your message, can you tell us a little about each of them?  Also, any new projects planned for 2014?

Sure. I wrote Simpler to help people declutter each area of their lives. Living Clutter-Free with Kids in the House followed shortly thereafter to deal with those issues unique to families. Then, my wife Jen wrote Room to Play, a children’s book about decluttering. Most recently, I created a book called Time Well Spent, and a video course called Declutter Any Space at Work or Home. You can read the details on all of the projects at


Currently, I’m working with Jen on a project for kids with allergies. After we get that launched, I’ll be starting another book. And, of course, I’ll be blogging and creating free content for my email subscribers each week.


Great, thanks for your time and for sharing with us and all the very best for a simple and friction-free future!




Don’t forget to check out Mike’s fantastic blog at and also his books at


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