Chapter 13

The Ubiquitous Misconception

Carpenter_Systems_Comps_R6.indd It’s time again for a bit of a review. Here you’ll find the fundamentals of the previous chapters combined and consolidated. If you are starting to get a feel for the Systems Mindset, this meditative chapter should enhance that feeling to something more substantial, something closer to “getting it.”


Is there a single primary reason most people struggle financially and in their personal relationships?

Yes. The reason so many people struggle is because they are not paying attention to the fundamental mechanics of how things work. They think life is a complex, seething mass of sights, sounds, and events and that day-to-day survival is an epic quest; that life is unpredictable and one must be constantly on guard, waiting for the next surprise.

Considering the brass tacks of things here on planet earth, this perspective is massively inefficient. People who go through the day expecting life to execute one way, when in reality it executes another way, have concocted the perfect recipe for a life of problems. They don’t know that existence is a collection of separate systems, each of which produces its own result, and because they don’t see these systems of their lives, they don’t manage them. And because of that, they get random bad results, not the targeted great results that are necessary for making their existences what they want them to be. That’s it!


I understand what you’re saying. You keep hammering on it. But still, it seems to me this might be just an intellectual exercise. Help me visualize how I’ll be handling things once the Systems Mindset strikes.

I can see from your question that you understand the Systems Mindset but haven’t yet internalized it. Sometimes, even if it makes sense intellectually, the concept can take a while to bury itself deep inside.

How will you use this new insight? Especially at work, you’ll approach your tasks with this overriding filter: Can I “delegate, automate, or discard?” Because you’ll know that your whole world is a collection of systems, one by one you’ll analyze and then tweak each one of them to make them more efficient and to lighten the load on yourself and your coworkers. You’ll first fix the most urgent dysfunctional machine and then move on to the next most dysfunctional one. You’ll build new machines, too, and sometimes you’ll discard ones that aren’t serving you.

So many times, especially in the beginning of a Systems Mindset realignment, it really is a matter of discarding whole primary systems. But, be careful. For instance, in your romantic relationships, often it’s only a matter of removing some small bad habit subsystem to please your partner. Of course, the toilet seat struggle within a relationship—whether it should be left up or down—is the classic illustration of how a small disagreement can escalate into a huge power struggle, when the mechanical truth is, it’s just a tiny difference that is easily remedied by an unemotional systematic approach. (C’mon guys, it’s not a big deal. When you’re through, just put the damn seat down!)

And what about personal health? Visualize yourself as a robust primary system and then fix or remove any subsystems that are working against that, perhaps dropping the subsystem of obsessive overeating, or maybe modifying the informal subsystem of watching three hours of TV every night (maybe one hour is plenty). Or perhaps it’s about altogether eliminating an addiction subsystem.

You’ll see your separate systems and then isolate, analyze, and take action on the particular ones that must be modified or discarded. Or maybe a brand-new process will be added such as establishing a fixed methodology for staying organized at work or at home, or for getting exercise. Whatever the new addition is, you’ll make sure it’s a doable recurring system that will continually contribute to making things better.

You’ll negotiate your world perceiving—with no doubts and most of the time with no conscious thought—the separateness and near perfection of things. No longer will you misconstrue your world as an uncontrolled flurry of happenings. Walking down the street without any overt intellectual analysis, you’ll see the tree, the car, the fire hydrant, the airplane overhead, the dog, another pedestrian, your own body, each as separate machines, each part of the huge collection of individual systems that make up your world.

When you experience the joy of effortlessly carving your way through the day in this way, then you’ll need no more explanation from me.

Should I give you examples of the types of decisions you can make with the Systems Mindset? No, because once you pin down your most fundamental belief and then really get a grasp of the fact that your life is a collection of independent linear systems, you’ll confidently act from this new place in every instance. As you deal with your life from your new external vantage point, you’ll make the correct decisions naturally.

This is not an intellectual exercise, and the learning curve is brief. This is about a better perception of the hard reality that is your existence. When, moment-to-moment, you’re seeing the visible and invisible machinery of your world accurately, you will continually adjust that machinery so it produces the results you want. And once you start producing what you want, powerful self-confidence will arrive spontaneously. There will be no more misconception of reality—that life is a mish-mash—and that outcomes are unpredictable. Instead, without any doubts, you’ll see that life, as it is, makes perfect sense.

Here’s another wonderful nuance: As you move through the day with your new vision of things, you will sometimes pull back to consciously think about your world, reflecting on the separateness of things, absorbing the sheer beauty of it all. You’ll assume the third-party stance, pointedly observing your own self “down there,” as if you were another person, moving through time. When you occasionally take these moments to reflect, you’ll remember how magical day-to-day life really is.


I’ve always thought I was randomly inserted into this confusing world, and I’ve learned to live with that. Will this new way of seeing things be disorienting?

Maybe your “insertion” is random, but what does that matter? You’re here, and that’s your good fortune. Yes, the “getting it” part can be disorienting at first, but in an exciting new way. Years ago my friend Chris came to me and said, “Sam, I just ‘got it,’ and it’s making me crazy!” It took Chris several weeks to loosen up and to settle into this better way of seeing things, and so it will be for you.

As you begin seeing things differently, you’ll find your life becomes fascinating. Your misconception of a world of confusion will be gone forever. Instead, you’ll be as a child, intrigued with your surroundings.

Yes, it really is an enlightenment.

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