“I believe that our very survival depends upon us becoming better systems thinkers.” ~Margaret J. Wheatley

Goal SettingEveryone is looking for the shortest path from where they are to where they want to be. A proven method for success is to model those who have already achieved the very thing you would like to achieve. After all, they know the way, they know the pitfalls, and they know the sweet, sweet taste of success.

It seems so simple:

  • Do you want to sell more? Do what effective salespeople do.
  • Do you want to raise happy, responsible children? Do what successful parents do.
  • Do you want to be healthy? Do what healthy people do.

Here’s One That Works

It’s not hard to find people succeeding in most any aspect of life. They are everywhere. Many of them are happy to share exactly how they got where they are today, some for a price that is likely well worth it and some just plain for free. So what do many would-be success seekers do? They start accumulating teachers for themselves.

This is where it gets confusing. Sometimes these teachers have complicated or at least multi-faceted systems. Their system takes real commitment to learn and to master. The teacher may well insist that certain aspects of their system are critical and we have to suck it up and learn those parts no matter what. But then…

We encounter another teacher. They don’t mention the other guy’s “must have” skills at all. In fact, they seem to have a far simpler system. But this system requires some foundation that we just don’t have, maybe an established email list, or a supportive extended family, or lots of money for expensive (if healthy) food ingredients.

So we move on to someone else. They seem to have a more affordable solution. Sure, it requires some work but you feel you can commit to that. It’s just it is going to take a long time to implement…

And so it goes. Every one of these systems will ask for the same things: commitment, resources, money, time. It’s just the mix will be different for each. Then we get this brilliant idea: Why don’t I just cherrypick the best ideas from these systems and make my own cheap, easy, fast system and skip all the hard parts?

I Like My System Better

That is where we fall flat on our faces. Why didn’t it work? I used all kinds of good stuff from people who clearly know what they’re talking about. Sure, I didn’t do everything they said. But hey, I’m not trying to be a billionaire like them, or have all my kids become brain surgeons at world class hospitals, or have my own celebrity fitness show on cable.

Here is the problem: an effective system is irreducible. Once you leave something out, you are no longer following the system. Your collection of “best ideas” is not a proven system. In fact it may be no system at all. For many of us, we create what becomes a proven failure system rather than a success system. Who needs that?

Many of these successful system creators have worked very hard to reduce their system to its most fundamental components. They will often tell you about this reduction campaign and how hard it was for them to work out, and how they made mistakes along the way. And this is coming from the creator of the system. Are you really qualified to usurp this simplification effort for someone else’s system?

Gramma Knows What To Do

Systems are just like recipes. If Gramma’s doughnut recipe calls for lard, you can’t expect to get the same results by substituting shortening. You certainly can’t expect the same results if you leave out the lard altogether. No, I’m not advocating lard here. The point is we choose a recipe precisely because we don’t already know how to get the results without it. If you want a doughnut just like Gramma’s you have to do just like Gramma does.

“When you cherrypick systems you don’t end up with cherries.” click to tweet

You don’t have to fry artery-hardening, diabetes-creating doughnuts if you don’t want to. Don’t go to Gramma for advice if you don’t want to it. But if you desire to recapture that wonderful doughnut experience of your youth, show some humility and do as you are told.

The shortest path from A to B is a straight line. A good system is that straight line. There is no shortcut that is shorter than a straight line. So if you really want to model success, find a system you can commit to following. Then follow it in its entirety. This is the surest path to wealth, happy children, healthy bodies, and succulent doughnuts.

Where have you sucked it up and implemented an established system successfully? Tell us about it by commenting below.

Photo credit: Angie Torres

If Systems Are So Great Why Don’t They Work For Me?
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2 thoughts on “If Systems Are So Great Why Don’t They Work For Me?

  • Permalink

    Ouch. You caught me. I pick apart systems all the time. But it just seems like so many systems have parts that I don’t need.

    • Permalink

      This is a simple thing to test. Are you getting good results? No? Then who are you to decide what is necessary or unnecessary? 😉 We go to experts for systems where we are not experts after all.


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