Got a great email from a reader about the value of systems for consistency and enabling you to do more. My reply -
Awesome email B, 100% agree.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I think you could define three stages towards becoming very very successful -
1. Basic learning/understanding: Figuring out what's worth training in/learning, what's legit, what isn't, starting to read the right books, figure out what to work, confront unpleasant reality when necessary, etc.
2. Start spending your time on what matters: Fitness, building, sales, connecting with people, interpersonal skills, etc, etc.
I think a lot of people do the first two and become successful far above average, but I think it maxes out. Just spending time on what you've realized is important is good, but it won't get you to the highest levels.
System design comes next -
3. Systems: Organize things so they happen consistently and near automatically. Systematically eliminate low level tasks - everything from cleaning to grocery shopping to details. Then eliminate mid-level tasks by hiring accountants, bookkeepers, managers, assistants, etc. Focus on the highest level stuff - development, creative work, enterprising, connecting with people, inventing, etc, etc.
That's actually one of my biggest pushes. Over the past few years, I figured out a lot of what's important, studied a mix of fields that are eye-opening and give options, started systematically working on that stuff, but now... well, I'm up against the 24-hour-per-day wall. System design comes next.
'The E-Myth Revisited' talks about this, with McDonalds as a primary example. Excellent read if you're interested in the topic.
I think you can sum this up as: find the bottleneck in your life and improve it. That's the only thing that will show visible progress. I think it relates to another post you made, something about "even a little bit of annihilation annihilates completely". If you have a zero anywhere, nothing else will matter.
I first came across this idea many years ago in high school when reading about the strategies behind the success of McDonalds. It was simply summarized as "The system runs the business, the people run the system". It means that the day to day operational side of the business can be managed by less skilled staff, and the higher level staff have more time to focus on the big picture.
Hey, great post. Seems like exactly what I've been mulling over in my head over the past month or so, this three step process.
I feel like I've got step one sorted out, for the most part. Step two is essentially a matter of action, motivation and dedication - something to be cultivated every day.
Step three is where I get really interested - I'm in the process of building a system for a business model I've been running for the past month, and it's the most fascinating aspect of the business I've run into yet. This is no million dollar business model, but it can definitely provide a very stable income base. Building the system to remove myself from the minutiae of the business has been really exhilarating.
Thanks for the post!
Jason Shen has achieved tremendous success in athletics, technology entrepreneurship, writing, and living an outstanding life. To promote his recent GiveGetWin deal on The Science of Willpower, he sat down to tell us how he started learning about willpower, the state of what's known scientifically about how willpower and the brain work, and how you can start improving your life right away by implementing a tiny habit, thinking and systems, and using some powerful thinking tools. Enjoy:
Developing Willpower by Jason Shen, as told to Sebastian Marshall
Willpower has been an undercurrent in my entire life. In gymnastics, you have to use your willpower to overcome your fear of an activity and go for the skill you want, to get over the fear, to push yourself to finish your conditioning and strength training a part of you doesn't want to…
It didn't come automatically to me. When I was a student, I wasn't automatically self-disciplined. There were actions I knew were useful, like doing my homework in one session without getting distracted, or not throwing clothing on my apartment floor. But I wouldn't always do them, and I didn't know why.
I started to learn those answers during a student initiative course at Stanford called The Psychology of Personal Change. That's when I first started reading academic papers on the topic. In academia, willpower and self-discipline is often called "self-regulation," and in 2009 I started to get really serious about it from an academic perspective -- and saw gains from it in my personal life.
I've been very successful in my quest to eliminate hardcore competitive video games from my life. By using Stickk, a friend, a monetary incentive, and accountability, I've hard-quit League of Legends and repurposed the hours a week that I was spending playing games.
This next year is going to be very exciting for me, but is also going to require a lot out of me as a person. It is going to require me to become a different person if I want to have what I will consider a "successful year."
There are no financial, travel, or social goals planned for 2013 at all.
Instead, I will call 2013 the Habitual Year. The only true "goal" that I have for the year is that I commit to implementing or quitting one habit per month using the framework that has worked so well for me this past month. The way I see it, if I implement or remove a total of 12 major habits (think nutrition, exercise, meditation, socializing, etc) then 365 days from now there really is no way I can have a bad year.
I need to focus on habits that other people can easily see if I have accomplished or not. For LoL, it was easy because there are 3rd party websites that track gameplay, allowing Jon to see if I'd played or not regardless of if I wanted to tell him the truth. This needs to be the case in any future habit challenge.