Make Point of Sale an Obsession
The POS term was coined in the retail industry and it encapsulates the goal of getting the wheels rolling now, in the right direction, and at high speed. And the term insinuates the converse: the elimination of wheels that are rolling in the wrong direction. But there’s more to the posture than promoting efficiency; it’s not just about getting things done. We’ll get to that.
In chapter 16 I explained the importance of packing around a systems analogy, and I gave an example of one I created. Again, the purpose of a Systems Mindset analogy is to keep yourself on track. Here’s an “analogy game” that I have developed over the past couple of years, one that I use in presentations. Note the hyper-specific details, added so the visual impression settles firmly in the back of the mind.
I play an imaginary game in which I’m standing in the middle of a large open, flat grassy field. It’s a beautiful early morning in June, the sun is rising, and I’ve just arrived. I’ve located myself at the center of a circle (yes, my circle of influence). From where I stand, it’s exactly half a mile to the outer perimeter. I’m relaxed, thinking and watching, looking outward and taking it all in, scanning 360 degrees around. In one direction, in an outward expanding pie shape with me standing at the pointy end, are the requirements of my various businesses. At another angle, the expanding cone contains my health and body maintenance, and in another direction are my friend/family relationship responsibilities. I stand there, looking out and all around, energized, thinking about the tasks I must accomplish. Then, those tasks materialize in front of me in the form of a half dozen large, wooden wheels. I call them “task wheels.” These wheels represent the undertakings I want to accomplish, or at least begin to accomplish, today.
The wheels are five feet in diameter and they surround me, each one standing up on edge with the twelve-inch-wide rim facing me, which means the rim on the opposite side is facing out. I can see over their tops, looking outward toward the edge of the circle. (If someone were to look downward from directly above it would look like the blossom of a flower, with me standing at the center.) Each wheel is light-framed and well-constructed, with wide wooden spokes holding it all together. (Imagine a water wheel.) These task wheels are just standing there, surrounding me, immobile and balanced on their rims, each a mere arm’s length away, and it’s my job to firmly push those task wheels, one at a time, to get them rolling away, out of my immediate proximity, each moving outward through the middle of their respective cones and toward the edge of my circle where, once crossed, the tasks will be complete.
I’m passionate about the automate-delegate-delete methodology so, one by one, I firmly shove the task wheels off, and they trundle away. I pause for a moment to watch the last one of this early morning batch move away but then promptly summon up more wheels. As they materialize next to me, one by one, I quickly push them off, too. Soon, there are dozens of wheels rolling outward, each within their respective “cone” and each moving away at a different speed. Some will reach the perimeter within five minutes; others will take days, or even weeks or months.
It’s a moving, active game, and I like being at the center of it.
This analogy is about massive accomplishment, and the wheels represent the tasks that must be done in order to make that accomplishment happen. Whether I’m paying attention or not, when a rolling wheel reaches the outside perimeter of my circle, that task is complete.
This is a fun game because I feel control and satisfaction. At any time I could walk away, but I choose to stay.
If I didn’t push the wheels away toward the perimeter, they would accumulate until I was hemmed in behind dozens of adjacent wheel rims. But that never happens because I stay ahead of things, dispatching the wheels as soon as they materialize next to me. I’m good at this game, so it’s always open and clear around me as I eagerly await the next wheel’s appearance, ready to instantly push it away, too.
I push, push, push, and the wheels lumber away in their prescribed trajectories. There’s constant movement out there as the wheels bobble away, but my involvement with that ongoing movement is minimal. Most often, other people guide the wheels to completion, out there in the various cones. I’m the instigator, not the doer.
As the leader of my businesses, and in my personal life, my job is to envision tasks and then, whenever I can pull it off, quickly give those tasks to other people to complete.
And if I just stand there, indifferent, without conjuring up new undertakings? Then no wheels appear, and it’s just me, standing idle in the middle of a field.
So back here in my tangible world, my job is to decide what tasks are to be done and then, one by one, to immediately get them in motion so they can be completed ASAP. I conceptualize those task wheels, either from my own imagination or, often, from the suggestions of others. My job is to decide what must be done, not to do the work. Whether it’s an early morning four-hour writing session (like this one), or, later, a quick meeting with my accountant at 8:30 (there are some statistics that I need her to compile), coffee with one of my business partners (at 10:00), my weekly two-hour massage (this afternoon at 1:00), taking my daughter Jenny and my two grandchildren to dinner (tonight at 6:00), or a call later this evening to my friend Sue up in British Columbia who is recovering from major surgery, I keep pushing those wheels outward.
Push. Push. Push.
In the game analogy, are there ever any wheels that spontaneously materialize, unsolicited by me? Not often, because a long-term consequence of the game is that there is little fire-killing in my life. I carefully manage the processes of my existence so they produce only the results I want.
This wheel-turning analogy is my contrivance. It feels right to me. Use it for yourself or devise one that suits you better, then embed it in the backroom of your consciousness. Perform POS all day long.
Yesterday, snow fell steadily and it blocked the long driveway to my house here in Bend, Oregon. So last evening, because snow is never lighter than when it first falls, my wheel-pushing consisted of two hours of snow shoveling in the dark. I love this work, and always do it myself. There were sixteen inches of fluffy, light powder, and I worked steadily. The process turned into a physical, meditative prayer to my recently deceased father, and as I plugged along I thought back to long ago, to another dark, cold nighttime driveway choked with snow. Last night I was my eleven-year old self, way back there in the tiny village of Port Leyden in remote upstate New York. It was 1962, and I was bundled up in the darkness there, next to Dad, in the still, quiet cold. The snow was still falling. We each had our shovels and as we quietly worked alongside each other in the faint glow of a single streetlight, there was only our heavy breathing and the muted scrape, scrape, scrape of our shovels as we incrementally moved the deep white blanket of fluff off the driveway and up over the towering snowbanks. There, in my childhood driveway, in the heart of the Tug Hill–Black River snow belt, the depth of a new snowfall was often more than four feet.
There was a mechanical job to be done right now, before the weather warmed up and the snow got heavy. Dad envisioned these snow-removal projects and always recruited me. We’d bundle up, exit the house into the storm, and then we’d hit it hard. The two of us were steady and relentless, and we churned ahead silently and thoughtfully. Sometimes it was a three-hour epic. Those raw, wheel-turning quests were enormously satisfying, and at the end of a job, exhausted, we would quietly stand together on the porch for a moment and take pride in what we had accomplished: We had carved a perfect path through the onslaught of the storm. Then we turned around, stomped the snow off our boots, and withdrew back inside the house where it was always warm and cozy.
Dad wasn’t physically with me last night—he passed away one year ago—but the “right now” wheel-turning was no different, and in my prayers I thank him for teaching me about getting a job done immediately and precisely, to “get on with it,” and for showing me that true satisfaction is found in just that.
These days, in my work, the major wheel-pushing is done by me, with the legwork handled by my staff (automate-delegate-discard). But within their own various realms, my managers are wheel-pushers, too, and with their firm nudges their business task wheels also continuously roll outward. For each of us there are numerous wheels rolling away, some in sequence and some simultaneously, and each at a different speed, but every one of them was launched quickly via POS protocol.
And for me, beyond the satisfaction of watching it all unfold, the payoff includes the personal luxury of having lots of time: to write, to read, to be with my friends and my family, to travel, to create more machines, and to do whatever I feel like doing.
I said it earlier: Your attitude, IQ, personal history, energy level, or how hard you work aren’t that critical. In creating freedom in your life, the moving wheels of the machines are what matter. It’s important that those wheels are conjured up in the first place and then quickly pushed forward. This is the vision I carry every minute of every day. Is it tedious? No. It’s a creative delight.
I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter that there’s more to POS than efficiency. It’s deeper than that because it affects everything in a life, right down to root beliefs. POS is how I handle all my tasks, spending time in the center of that field, nudging those wheels outward. It’s an ongoing self-declaration of life control.
If your goal is freedom, it’s your job to create task wheels and then push them outward now. For starters, perform this POS thought process within the context of your current work and personal life, and don’t turn the big things of your world upside down (not yet, anyway). Get a feel for how the approach works, be patient but deliberate, do the right things in the right sequence, and do them now. Get good at it, and then watch with calm satisfaction as your life comes under control and your circle expands.