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Systematic Escalation

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.  

Systematic Escalation

Scott Miker

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs when two opposing forces try to stay ahead of the other.  It is a sort-of systematic escalation that takes place.

Understanding systems we can start to see situations differently.  This is one where looking at things systematically, we gain a new perspective on what is happening. 

We have seen this throughout history.  We see one world power provoke another.  Then the other responds until the first responds back.  They continue to respond until they are in an all-out war.  We can trace the first glimpse at what led to war as some small factor compounded by other factors but looking at it systematically we see a lot of factors all working together to escalate the situation.

We see this in relationships as well.   If we aren’t good at recognizing the early signs of escalation we may get caught up in trying to “right the wrong” but really are just adding another step to the ladder and hurting the other person in the process of trying to be “right”.  Then they feel “wronged” and fight back.  This goes back and forth getting more intense with each step. 

I even see this occasionally playing poker.  Neither side wants to cave so each round they keep upping the ante until the stakes become huge. 

The key is to recognize when this happening before it is too late.  If we can realize it is happening and put in place steps to curb the retaliation, the world power can reach out to negotiate a treaty, the spouse can work to see their significant other’s point of view, and the poker player can realize they don’t have a winning hand.  But we have to be able to understand what is happening systematically and take control of our emotions. 

But systematic escalation can also be used for good.   Investing in assets that provide a revenue stream is a good example.  If we take the revenue we make and purchase additional assets that provide a revenue stream we can grow our wealth systematically.

In this example maybe we buy a rental property that earns a slight profit.  We take that profit and save it up until we have enough to buy another rental property.  Now we have twice the revenue so we can save it up until we have enough to buy another and another property.  Eventually we trade a few rental properties into a larger apartment complex.  This is the foundation for the board game monopoly but also is the core message of many financial gurus like Robert Kiyosaki.  Keep investing in revenue-generating assets instead of buying doodads that don’t make money. 

This can also be a good way to build traffic through search engines.  We can continue to add more and more content to our website, which will slowly start to build traffic.  As traffic increases it helps our search engine rating that results in an increase in traffic sent to the site.  Over time the increase in traffic results in higher ranking on search engines, which result in more traffic, which results in higher rankings etc. 

But we can use systematic escalation in non-traditional ways also.  By exercising and working out we increase the ability to exercise for longer periods and lift heavier weights.  As we do this we get healthier and healthier and it becomes easier and easier to exercise more.  We start to build on the success we had and parlay that into working harder and harder. 

From a career standpoint we can do the same thing.  If we work on growing our skillsets and abilities we can get better positions, which will give us more and better experience.  With better experience we can get better positions.  If we just do the minimum to not get fired we miss this systematic escalation of our career. 

The systems and habits approach relies on this systematic escalation and uses it to help us improve.  It solves problems systematically so we can then move on to other problems.  This provides a gradual increase and over time results in great improvement.