How to fail at everything
Off Topic

Systems That Seem To Work

One of the most intelligent and insightful things I have read is the concept of “Systems versus Goals” as outlined by Scott Adams in his book “How to fail at everything and still win big.” There are many explanations of the concept, but the basic idea is that goals are for losers because they do absolutely nothing to help you actually succeed. Instead, people who get ahead do so by learning how to think in terms of designing and applying systems that increase their odds of success over time. This is a truly profound concept and one of the few ideas that I use (in a quite literal sense, like opening up my mental tool box and reaching for the hammer) to structure my daily life. 

For me, I think about what systems I am going to use on a daily basis. I am always on the lookout for new systems to collect and try from a variety of sources. If a given system doesn’t seem to be working, I throw it into the garbage and replace it with a better one (a process which requires extensive testing). You can think of systems as very carefully and strategically designed habits that pays compounding interest over time. 

In my experience, locating a new system that works is one of the rarest and most valuable personal discoveries. A really great system is free to use, helps you every single day of your life and can profoundly impact your quality of life. One of the more interesting attributes about really good systems – They come from a VERY small group of people. Don’t get me wrong, I read a large amount of books…but the number of people who seem to be smart enough to regularly articulate valid systems that other people can use is VERY limited. 

Here are some of the most effective (or interesting) systems I have discovered that seem to work

Don’t eat breakfast – I find that my energy level is around 50%+ higher on average when I simply don’t eat breakfast and it reduces my craving for food throughout the rest of the day. Not eating breakfast also saves me SIGNIFICANT time in the morning which I can use to do something else. I have also found that the more I skip breakfast, the stronger my initial morning energy becomes. I don’t understand it, but it works.

Source: The Obesity Code, by Jason Fung

Clean my house immediately when I wake up – I have two children and my house tends to get destroyed during the course of a regular day. I find it very hard to concentrate when my house is a mess so I try to take care of it first thing. I wake up early now before anyone so I have time when they are all asleep (thanks to skipping breakfast, forever). 

Source: 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson

If you say something negative, say something positive to balance it out- This is another Scott Adams system from his book “Loserthink.” This is one of the single simplest and best ideas I have ever encountered, though it isn’t always easy to practice. I love this idea, definitely do not practice it religiously. 

Source: Loserthink, by Scott Adams

Organize group meetings with people instead of individual meetings with people In my personal experience, it is the same amount of effort to schedule an in-person meeting with 12 people as it is to meet a single person. In fact, it is EASIER to meet with 12 people than 1 person because if you invite 20 people to have lunch, 50% of them are nearly guaranteed to not be able to make it for various scheduling reasons. It is TOO MUCH WORK chasing a SINGLE PERSON around, trying to find time…and people seem to greatly prefer groups anyways! 

Source: Personal Experience

Put whiteboards in places where you can see them and write your ideas on them. The single biggest reason I think most people don’t accomplish anything is that they have ideas and then forget them. Maybe they write their idea into a text message, notebook, email and place it gently somewhere with the idea they will come back to it – then forget it. I realized that I was doing this constantly, so I began hanging whiteboards in places that I look at regularly. 

Source: Personal Experience

If you look at the idea for two weeks and it is still a good idea, keep it  – I also have a problem where I have an idea and get really excited about it. In most cases, 95% of ideas should be thrown away for a wide variety of reasons. But it can take a significant amount of time to process WHY a certain idea should be thrown away or kept. Certain ideas may SEEM good but fall apart after extensive cross-examination. For this reason, it helps to curate ideas over time to see if they remain worthwhile. 

I will let an idea sit on a whiteboard where I can look at it for weeks before deciding if I am going to actually do anything about it. 

Source: Personal Experience

If your back hurts, you can generally fix it by exercising – I used to get back problems on a regular basis. Half of my problems went away after losing weight. The other half went away when I began to do more deliberate core and back exercises to strengthen the muscles. My theory is that the muscles around your core keep all of your bones in their proper position. If you become too unconditioned, the bones can slide around and begin exerting pressure on one another resulting in back issues. 

Source: I read about a bodybuilder who experienced crippling back problems in a car accident and who doctors could not “cure.” He found that exercising his back fixed the problems. 

Greasing The Groove | Strength Is A Skill – I have spent a lot of time studying the work of Pavel Tsatsouline who is credited with bringing Kettlebells to the United States from Russia. Pavel has a famous system which he calls “Greasing The Groove” which involves doing small amounts of exercise dispersed throughout the day. He believes that “Training Until Failure” is damaging to the body because strength is actually primarily neurological in nature. Very skinny people are able to deadlift very massive weight – Because strength has nothing to do with the size of the muscle, it is to do with the recruitment of the muscle, not muscle size. My personal experience very strongly aligns with Pavel’s theories of exercise. I cannot type all of this out here because it is a lot more involved.

Source: Pavel Tsatsouline 

Referrals are worth more than any other form of marketing, by a significant amount – This is something that gets said often but it can’t be said often enough. Referrals are the only thing that I have seen consistently work to get business. I have also seen for myself that “Community” type marketing is significantly more engaging and effective than almost anything else. The difference in effectiveness between referrals and nearly anything else is so high, it seems to me that 95% of marketing can be accomplished primarily by strategies emphasizing referrals or the increase of referrals. 

Source: Everyone, Personal Experience

Not eating is a significantly easier diet to maintain than eating only a little – This is another system from The Obesity Code. Basically: Your body has a secret “Fasting” subsystem which most people rarely engage. Instead, when it comes to dieting and losing weight, most people attempt to achieve their objective by eating less food. It turns out that “Eating Less” is massively more difficult than not eating at all. People who reduce their calories soon find themselves having constant cravings and temptations. Meanwhile, people who simply avoid eating experience none of this. It is all backed up by scientific studies: Eating nothing is drastically easier than eating small amounts of food. 

Source: The Obesity Code, by Jason Fung

Frame Your Interactions IMMEDIATELY – There is nothing weirder or more off-putting than people who sort of hide what they want and try to talk around it only to bring it up later. It leads to massive communications problems, especially when it comes to sales. In my experience, without an immediately articulated frame: People will automatically stuff you down some time wasting chute or another. 

In other words: People are hard-wired to DISMISS you out of hand unless you make it clear from the start that you mean business. 

One of my favorite sales calls was sitting with a team from a startup in Boston.  The Chief Business Development Officer opened the meeting with: “Listen, my boss is a demanding guy and he expects me to bring home the bacon. Don’t get me wrong, I like you guys but for us to have a conversation there is going to need to be some money and it needs to happen soon.”

This was THE BEST business maneuver I have ever seen. It instantly made it clear: We are not having a meeting to make friends with each other. This is a business meeting. Personal experience: If you do not get into this habit, you aren’t selling anything. 

Source: Personal Experience

If there isn’t a check almost immediately, there isn’t going to be a check – This is one that I heard from a consultant in the area who does a lot of business with local companies. I asked him what he had learned after doing this work for 15 years of writing proposals and he told me the following: “If they aren’t going to write you a check almost immediately, there isn’t going to be a check.” I have thought about this idea for a long time and have tested it out on my own experience and for the most part it seems to be true. 

Source: Overheard from people who seem to know things

If you stop providing your product or service and no one asks that you start again – You do not have permission, you are just being tolerated – This is a system that Seth Godin advanced in his books about permission marketing. Seth makes a point that if you stop your marketing and no one asks you to start again, you probably doing it wrong. I have seen this myself with mailing lists and blogs that I have run in the past and stopped maintaining: If people liked what you are doing, they will complain when you take it away. 

Derek Sivers, founder of CDBaby has a similar kind of statement which I also like a lot: “You should never start a company unless someone asks you to do it.” I don’t know what to do with that one, but I have seen that it is true in many cases. 

Source: Seth Godin

Stop doing things that make you weak –  This one almost requires no further explanation. Another Jordan Peterson statement. 

And finally, a personal favorite:

If you can’t think of five or more good reasons to do something, don’t do it –  In other words, “If you are not leaping out of your chair to go after an opportunity, don’t do it.” The reason is that the energy expenditure and risk involved in making a big shift are high so you should not do this lightly. I suppose this one can also be stated as: “If it isn’t a hell yes, it is a no.” I can’t remember who said it that way, probably some VC.