Chapter 15

Major in Majors

Carpenter_Systems_Comps_R6.inddMy life is full of road blocks. I can’t seem to break free…

Perhaps you’re “majoring in Minors,” not paying attention to the important mechanical apparatus of life. Could it be that you’re expending time and effort in areas that seem worthwhile but have no relevance to the systems of your life that would produce freedom and life satisfaction? The “Majors” of life are too often obscured by the banality of surface reality.

I use the word Majors here to describe each of the primary responsibilities and interests of a life. And in a typical life, there are three or four, or maybe up to a half dozen.

To some degree or another, most people employ what I call “quiet courage” to get through the day. Without fanfare or complaint, they wake up, do what must be done, go to bed, and then do it over again the next day, and the next day, and on and on. In their efforts, some parts of their lives such as work, finances, family and friend relationships, health, or special interests are not optimal. You’ve seen this: People tend to achieve success in one or two or even three of these areas but fail miserably in the others. Don’t we all know the physically fit individual who struggles financially, or the successful businessperson who has health complications?

And, there’s this: Many think that if they maintain the right attitude, they’ll earn the reward of freedom. Others presume one of their positive attributes will pave the way. And there are those who go for the quick fix, the big score—their  particular idea is a winner, and the task is to convince others of that. And of course there is the “hard worker” who is convinced that a little more extra time on the job will do the trick.

These people are wrapped up in surface endeavors—Minors—that distract them from optimizing the machinery that would produce great results in their Majors.

Did I just describe you? If so, in this very moment, end the distractions and instead begin to major in all of your Majors. Start to coddle the systems that will produce what is most important to you. Expend your energy in quietly building and adjusting the particular machinery that will lead to freedom and life success.

So, what are some examples of Majors?

Defining your Majors in the context of the Systems Mindset takes some internal examination and common sense. Right now you can quickly identify what they are. Then, your next Systems Mindset effort will be to, one by one, enhance the systems that drive them, while at the same time modify or discard the systems that are dragging them down. Here are some common Majors: physical health, mental health, children, parents, love interest, career, spiritual pursuit, a personally important avocation (pilot, fisherman, athletic endeavor, etc.), nonprofit organization, hobby, politics, or the garden. There are many other possibilities, of course, but whatever your Majors might be, you want them to turn out well, and so, via the Systems Mindset, and guided by a few simple rules of the road, you’ll pay special attention to the machines that propel (or retard) each of them.

Here are two examples of Majoring in Majors. (Note: They are from my personal life and are for illustration purposes only. I’m not trying to persuade you to adopt them or to see these things my way.)

First example, the Major of childrearing: What are the primary goals for the parent? In my opinion, they are to help the child to:

  • grow into an adult with backbone; be someone who can forge his or her own way without outside assistance and who does not fall into the victim trap; become an adult who will not be a finger-pointer or the worst-of-the-worst: someone who absorbs the value others have created while creating nothing in return;
  • have respect for others as well as his or her own self (e.g. not contaminating the body and the mind with foreign substances, or to become preoccupied with useless time-wasters, etc.); and
  • be driven to add value to others.

The three criteria comprise a whole. Each one supports the other two. What is the practical application of the parental Majors? The parent is in charge and also the role model. Every action and decision, large and small, should contribute to the above goals. And, actions and decisions that are contrary to the goal criteria are, of course, to be avoided. (For the parent, this is called integrity.)

Second example, the Major of being a business leader: In my view, there are three primary goals of leadership, all of which must be achieved and each of which crosses over and supports the other two. They are:

  • to add value to the world via the creation of a product or service that people desire;
  • to produce a profit for shareholders (or, in a nonprofit, to break even); and
  • to accomplish the above in a sound, honorable, and nondestructive way.*

What is the practical application for the business leader? To make sure every decision up and down the management chain meets the three criteria.

To repeat: Once a Major is established, every action and decision that’s made, large or small, should contribute to the betterment of that Major, while contrary actions and decisions are to be avoided.

On paper, take a moment to list your own Majors and then, briefly but precisely, define each.

*And no, despite politicians’ strident, feel-good rants, and no matter the media’s wishful-thinking suppositions, the purpose of a free enterprise business is not to produce jobs. The purpose is to garner an honest profit for shareholders through the sale of a product or service that people want. In accomplishing this, jobs are created as a by-product. (And what are “shareholders”? Real people who risk their money to enable the creation of a service or product and jobs.) And I might as well add this: A governmental effort that proclaims an intention to create jobs and add value will rarely succeed at both. This is because of simple human nature. Although the primary Major of government is to serve its citizens, there is another, embedded Major that is problematic: It’s to spend other people’s money. In any configuration, particularly government—federal, state, or local— that endeavor is fraught with inefficiency. (At this point you may ask, am I antigovernment? No, I’m not! Government is unavoidable. But I see it as a necessary evil, so I’m strongly in favor of keeping the size of it to a minimum.)