There’s Not That Much to Fix
So, this is a numbers game?
This Systems Mindset fundamental deserves its own chapter.
Briefly, let’s cover this important point again: My proposition that the world is operating almost flawlessly is in the statistics, that by tallying the numbers you can see that we live in a remarkable world. Yes, as we discussed, there are situations that we wish were different, but here’s the thing: No matter the problems, 99.9% of the subsystems of the world, including your world, are executing perfectly. And so, that means that if your life is problematic, there isn’t that much repair work to perform.
Once you can see the separate systems of your life, three things happen. First, you realize that you have more power than you previously thought you had. Second, you begin to work within your circle. And third, you find yourself eagerly discarding those few dysfunctional primary systems that have been dragging you down.
Is there more to repair in a business, or in personal life?
At the risk of braggadocio, I’ll tout my answering service business, Centratel, which I’ve owned and operated for more than thirty years. It’s an entity with thousands of wheels spinning simultaneously, 24/7, and because my staff and I incessantly focus on perfecting the machines of it, little goes wrong. We relentlessly tend to the machines that produce the results.
It’s what we do all day long. And when a problem occasionally arises, we don’t just repair the immediate damage. More importantly, we go into the relevant system to make an adjustment so the problem never occurs again. This is why we don’t have many problems!
Dysfunction at Centratel? Not so much.
But that’s a business. Private life can be simpler than business life, but problems can sometimes be more difficult to repair—family relationships in particular. Within a business there are formal and informal codes of communication and responsibility, and there’s a chain of command in which an ongoing problem in a relationship can be solved by the departure of one of the individuals in the relationship. Removal of one party or the other is not so easy in a family! So, my condolences if you are faced with a family member who refuses to take a businesslike, systematic, “outside and slightly above” approach to solving a bad situation, and who is not going to be leaving. At least, know that you’re not alone: There’s a lot of family dysfunction out there.
So if I started to repair things now, how much time and work would that entail?
Your beginning efforts will require a bit of extra attention. In fact, for our business coaching and consulting clients we call these first days and weeks (and sometimes, months) the “heavy lifting” phase of the transformation. It really is heavy lifting for a business because of the documentation that must be produced. But for you, the extra time required will be minimal because there will be little documentation. If you choose, simply a personal Strategic Objective and a set of General Operating Principles, and perhaps a few Working Procedures. (I’ll talk more about this documentation in chapter 26.)
In the beginning, the extra work is mostly about watching your life from the systems perspective and monitoring yourself so you’re keeping your head in the right place. Having said that, it’s probable that many of your systems have been neglected to some degree or another, so you will have to examine them and make tweaks where necessary. Also, there will be systems you want to create from scratch, which takes some thought. And, additional head-work will be required in deleting some systems, because the deletions can affect the operation of other systems you are going to keep.
But after a short time the mental workload will drop as you embed the Method, and without any second-guessing, continually tweak your systems.
The bonus is, of course, that the amount of fire-killing in your life will continuously decline until it almost never occurs. Here’s what happens: Your net amount of time spent killing fires will decrease, while your net free time will increase, and one way or another, this incredible efficiency will positively impact your personal financial bottom line. And this wonderful snowballing scenario doesn’t end at some point. It continues on and on: As time goes by, everything gets better.
In discovering the perfection of the systems of your world, you may ask, “How could this be?” and “Who made this happen?” You’ll answer that question for yourself, of course. As for me, there’s no question that there’s something mysterious and powerful behind all these wonderful mechanics. The word “God” works for me.
I’m not convinced this isn’t just feel-good theory. Where exactly should I start? How can I begin to actually apply the Systems Mindset?
I get that. We’ve been discussing the mechanical viewpoint, getting outside and slightly elevated, that “repair is minimal,” and so on, and I see the question for you is, what exactly do I recommend you do with this information? You want an example of how you can use this in your actual life, right? Before I tell you a great way to put the Systems Mindset to work for the first time, I’ll remind you that the positioning will have a positive effect on every aspect of your life. Trust that when the Systems Mindset epiphany happens, you will look at every decision, large and small, from a different perspective. For this reason, I won’t attempt to list all the things you can do differently. Instead, I’m just going to give you a practical, real-world exercise that will make everything about the Systems Mindset Method crystal clear. It’s a “practical workshop for the acquisition of the Systems Mindset.” If you have not experienced the epiphany yet, this is a perfect fake-it-until-you-make-it project. The added bonus of this exercise is that, even before it’s finished, your personal life will have become considerably more organized and efficient. And note that a number of the principles that I will present in later chapters will reveal themselves to you within this project.
Are you ready to begin?
First, here’s a qualifier: You will perform the following exercise in the dwelling where you live: your house, apartment, condo, etc., and in order to keep the instructions simple, I’ll refer to where you live, whatever it is, as a “house.”
And second, until this exercise is completed, commit to spending a minimum of one hour per day working on it (OK, if it becomes an extensive project, take the weekends off…)
Third, you can start this project now or you can start it later, even after you’ve finished this book. Either way is OK. (Why is it all right to wait? Because, for now, I want to convince you that the Systems Mindset is not theoretical, that it’s of practical use, that you can apply it to your day-to-day life right this moment if you choose to do so. But, if you do decide to wait until later, be sure to read through these instructions to the end of the chapter before moving on to chapter 8.)
Fourth, get a pad of paper and a pen ready.
OK, let’s start. You are in your house. Stand or sit in your central living area, take a deep breath, slow down, and look around. What do you see? Is it cluttered? Do you know where everything is at a moment’s notice? Do you have too much “stuff?” Are there repairs you’ve been meaning to do but have been putting off? Are there routine upkeep tasks that should have been done by now? Is there something you want to add, an item or a wholesystem of one kind or another? Are there systems or items to be removed?
For this project—and to begin to practice applying the Systems Mindset— we’ve just, temporarily, reframed your perception of your house.
Now to further reframe: Mentally divide your house into the separate systems that compose it: the TV, heating and AC system, electrical system, water system, alarm system, walls, floor, ceiling, roof, microwave, blender, coffee maker, lights and lamps, bathroom(s), books, and other static items.
Consider each of these separate systems and ask yourself, which ones are not perfect? Which ones can be improved, repaired, or should be discarded? Use your pen and paper to carefully, stream of thought, make a list.
Now select the system that you most want to modify or fix (or eliminate), and identify it as number one on your list. Then, in order of importance, list numbers two, three, four, etc. You’ve just created, in order of importance, a list of the separate system improvements you are going to make, the separate system improvements you will execute in order to make your house perfect.
Go to work on the number one system on your list and do what you need to do to enhance it, fix it, or discard it. Complete that system improvement mini-project, then move on to the next most problematic system on your list and do the same. Finish that mini-project.
Then work on the next system improvement, and the next, and the next, until you are finished and your house is perfect.
Investing one hour per day, it may take days or weeks or even months to complete this project. Do you see that in executing this quest you will have assumed an “outside and slightly elevated” positioning from your world in order to consider the separate systems that are within it?
If you complete this exercise in the way I describe here, it’s certain that somewhere along the way you will acquire the Systems Mindset.
(And in the process of acquiring it, you will have produced something of significance: a clean, efficient, and beautiful house!)
Now go about doing this same exercise at work, in your relationships, and with your health. That’s it! You’re now living the Systems Mindset! Your energy is being channeled to System Improvement all day long.
Do you think that once you get a grip on this incredibly potent way of living your life, you’ll slip backward?
I’d say, “Not a chance.”
In chapter 23 you will encounter some other practical applications of the Mindset, but for now, what I want you to “get” is that the Systems Mindset isn’t just theory. It’s a real-life, potent life approach that you will use all day long.
So whether you’ve begun the above “workshop” or not, let’s move on to chapter 8.