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Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

It matters less than you think

Scott Miker

Most people look at events for most of their information.  In systems thinking this means that they miss most of the important aspects of the systems and hone in on the most obvious manifestation of the system without even seeing the real system.

Peter Senge uses the concept of an iceberg.  The tip of the iceberg is the event portion.  That is the visible part of the system.  The majority of the iceberg lives under the water.  In systems thinking this includes the patterns, structures and mental models.

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Stop knowing to learn

Scott Miker

If your cup is full, you can’t add more.  No matter how much you want to can’t add to something that is already full, you can’t.

The same idea can be found with knowledge.  If we feel we know it all, then we aren’t open to new concepts and we don’t challenge our beliefs.   This stops us from learning.

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Nobody is forced to be overweight and poor

Scott Miker

When I graduated from college I entered the real world.  I was hesitant as I spent my college days having fun, rather than preparing for the years after.

When I graduated I was looking for a way to avoid the normal path of finding a job related to my degree to start building my career.  So I kept working my retail job and looked into graduate school.

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It is usually not that simple to clarify your understanding

Scott Miker

When most people evaluate some aspect of their life or business, they usually clarify their opinion about that area.  They work through it in their head and start to judge what is right and what is wrong.

They start to turn the situation into a series of black and white aspects.  They start to split it apart in their mind to see what is good and what is bad.

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Continuous improvement and patience

Scott Miker

When you set out on an improvement journey and you take the approach of applying continuous improvement, you have to realize that it will take time to see significant improvement.  It won’t happen overnight. 

Continuous improvement is the strategy where we make very small improvements that builds up over time to become something significant.  They don’t start out with massive overhauls that suddenly bring accomplishments.  They start small and are usually not noticeable for a while. 

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Career Success Using Systems and Habits

Scott Miker

My whole career I have witnessed employees who are striving for more responsibility at work.  They want promotions and career success and are working hard to achieve those.

This has given me a front-row seat to the strategies people use to get ahead.  Some come in early and work late, hoping the extra hours they put in get the attention of leadership.  Some take complete ownership of their area of responsibility.  If they are a project manager they won’t let anyone else near their area – they own it and if you want access then you have to go through them.

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Do as I say not as I do

Scott Miker

I hate the phrase do what I say not what I do.  The idea behind this common phrase is that we know the right thing to do but we don’t do it. 

But this isn’t that helpful.  There is a reason why the person isn’t following his or her own insight.  If they know what they should do but can’t get around to doing it, then they don’t really know what to do.

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What path are you on?

Scott Miker

When you look at your life and where you want to go, ask yourself what path you are on.  Are you confidently moving forward, progressing towards your idea of success?

Or are you spending your time moving further and further from your goals all the while unsure of why you keep moving further away?

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What processes go undetected?

Scott Miker

We all follow routines and process in life.  We all follow similar patterns.  This could be how we go to sleep at night, how we wake up, the drive we take to work, the way we drive our car, the way we respond to criticism, the way we strive to succeed, the way we respond to obstacles etc. etc.

But most people never pay attention to these.  They just take them all for granted and don’t realize how powerful these are.

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Take the good with the bad

Scott Miker

There is a saying that we need to take the good with the bad.  Sometimes that is reversed and we say to take the bad with the good.  The idea is that we have to understand that there is good and bad in everything and we can’t always separate out the good from the bad.

This aligns perfectly with systems thinking.  In systems thinking we break away from seeing simple linear relationships to see the full, complex system.  We see the various elements and how they all interconnect and interrelate. 

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Follow your passion but don’t quit

Scott Miker

From time to time I stumble upon an article on online that talks about passion.  The narrative seems to be the same as other articles on the topic. 

It starts by assuming the reading is unhappy in their current pursuits.  The author argues that what is missing is passion and that the only way to find their passion is to quit their day job immediately to find this passion.

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If you define success as an individual achievement you miss something really important

Scott Miker

Everyone has a similar but different definition of success.  Some people feel it is to achieve something great.  Some people feel it is to create something.  Some people feel it is about how much money or awards you obtain.

But however you personally choose to define success, learn to see the larger system around that success.  Is that person causing those around them to suffer just so they can go after their dream?  Are they making those around them better or worse?

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The original lead developer for WordPress used the set the minimum technique

Scott Miker

If you have read many of my articles you know that I promote a technique I call set the minimum.  The idea is that you set a ridiculously easy goal but commit to doing it daily.

This gets you started on the path of building a new habit.  It is so small and easy that you actually stick to it.  After doing it over and over it starts to become an ingrained habit and then you can add more to it once it is automatic and you aren’t using willpower any longer.

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Everything is a system

Scott Miker

When we start to explore systems thinking we start to see the world differently.  We don’t see events on the news in the same way.  We don’t see relationships in the same light.  We don’t see life with the same perspective.

The biggest change is to start to see the underlying systems for everything.  We start to focus more on patterns than anomalies.  We observe a recurring pattern where others see a brand new thing. 

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Whack-a-mole

Scott Miker

Have you ever been in an older arcade and seen the Whack-a-mole game?  You have a big rubber hammer and the goal is to hit (whack) these little moles that pop out of holes.  The more you can hit the more points you gain.

It is a fun game but it is amazing how many times I have heard managers talk about whack-a-mole in the work environment.

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Attaining contentment and avoiding complacency

Scott Miker

When I was younger I found myself ebbing and flowing through being happy, being complacent, and being unhappy.

It seemed like I would work hard and it would make me happy and I would accomplish things that were important.  Then I would gain an entitlement mindset and feel that I shouldn’t have to work so hard to be successful.

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Setting the minimum as a strategy

Scott Miker

The concept of setting the minimum is a systems thinking strategy for doing something over and over to form a habit.  It involves setting a very small daily amount to do and then doing it over and over again.

The idea is that if we max out all the time and do something uncomfortable, we won’t continue to do it long enough to form a habit.  So we find a very small piece of that max-out amount and do that over and over again.

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What is important to you?

Scott Miker

What do you feel is important in your life to be successful?  If you immediately jump to cliché thoughts of billions of dollars and traveling the world, I would caution you to dig deeper, a lot deeper.

For the most part, people that I have heard use these extreme levels of success as their goals tend to be so far away from pursing any of it that it almost feels like a lie.

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Communication habits

Scott Miker

The ability to communicate is a very important skill that too many of us ignore.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the ability to give a formal speech without any grammar errors. 

It means being able to take a thought in our head and convey that message to others.  It could be in a negotiation, during a sales pitch, or even pouring out your heart for the one you love.

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