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Rearranging Chairs on the Titanic

Rearranging Chairs on the Titanic

While the Titanic was sinking, it was said that the band continued to play and workers were still rearranging chairs on the decks.  Hindsight gives us the knowledge to understand how fruitless those efforts were as the ship sunk due to a gapping hole.  We would all agree that those efforts should have been spent elsewhere, assuming ignorance was the main factor in their actions.  

There are two things to take away from this situation.  First, controlling what we have control over is usually not enough.  We might be a brilliant business mind but if we are in an over-saturated industry with little resources we will likely not be able to compete on the same level as the large corporation with many resources.  

This also means that many people will be in the right place at the right time with the right product.  It doesn’t mean that they are better business people or smarter, it means that a combination of factors lead to their success.  Many times, I have seen someone’s career take off by being associated with a successful product or initiative, yet they were not the major factor for that product’s success.  

The second thing to take away from this situation is the fact that we tend to focus on the manifestations of systems rather than address the systems themselves.  Instead of adjusting the systems for government spending we simply vote in another politician.  But, the principle of bounded rationality tells us that we can change out the people running the system, but if the system stays in tact we will get the same results.  This is why we can change our diet over and over and not make any significant and lasting change in our health and weight.  We didn’t really address the underlying systems that control our healthy or unhealthy habits and lifestyle.  

This message is both empowering and immobilizing.  It is empowering because we can shift our focus to the system to achieve results, rather than staying focused on the manifestations of the system.  But it also makes us feel powerless because we don’t have any access to the larger system and can only tackle a small portion of the system.  If you have ever worked for a company that was struggling and downsizing you probably understand how infuriating it can be when your future is determined by someone else’s decisions.  

The beauty is that this is life.  There will always be areas outside of our control but the areas we can control have to be focused on the underlying system to have any lasting impact.  Focus on the system to make the change not the effects of the system.   Beneath everything there is a system and understanding that system will help you to understand how to make positive, lasting change in your life.