I’m currently reading the book Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. It is a great book that dives into the thinking, perspectives, motivation, tools, etc. of very successful individuals.
My favorite one so far is the one on Scott Adams. Adams is the author of the Dilbert cartoon.
He is always promoting the systems and habits approach to improvement and using systems to get better and better over time, instead of just setting goals and expecting willpower to push us to success.
In the section on Adams, Ferriss says, “Scott helped me refocus, to use his language, on ‘systems’ instead of ‘goals.’ This involves choosing projects and habits that, even if they result in ‘failures’ in the eyes of the outside world, give you transferable skills or relationships. In other words, you choose options that allow you to inevitably ‘succeed’ over time, as you build assets that carry over to subsequent projects.”
This is a great explanation of how to use systems to help you succeed. You work on building transferable skills, experiences, habits, relationships, knowledge etc. that helps you slowly move towards success.
Most people know what a downward spiral is. We have seen plenty of people make a bad decision, follow it up with another bad decision, some bad luck hits, they make more bad decisions and they keep going further and further down.
Many times this develops because we choose something that will be worse in the future. It could be to delay a difficult decision with a problem employee, putting off dieting until some future time, deciding to spend money on an expensive vacation instead of paying off your credit card debt etc.
These decisions could be looked at as simply one bad decision but they tend to turn into additional bad decisions down the road when the consequences of each decision come full circle.
But using the systems and habits approach to improvement we do the exact opposite. We start to build assets by making decisions that will grow better over time instead of worse over time. We don’t sacrifice the future for some indulgent desire now we sacrifice a little enjoyment now for a better future outcome. As we do this over and over we start to build up assets by leveraging time.
Ferriss then goes on to say, “Fundamentally, ‘systems’ could be thought of as asking yourself, ‘what persistent skills or relationships can I develop?’ versus ‘What short-term goal can I achieve?’ The former has a potent snowball effect, while the latter is a binary pass/fail with no consolation prize.”