Systems over goals

— 2 minute read

One of the best books I read last year is Scott Adams' How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. A key insight I got from the book is that systems are more important than goals.

Here is how Adams defines systems v goals:

For our purposes, let’s say a goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run.

So if you do something everyday, it's a system but if you are waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it's a goal. This is a useful model to keep in mind, as it applies to so many things:

The system-versus-goals model can be applied to most human endeavors. In the world of dieting, losing twenty pounds is a goal, but eating right is a system. In the exercise realm, running a marathon in under four hours is a goal, but exercising daily is a system. In business, making a million dollars is a goal, but being a serial entrepreneur is a system.

He adds:

Systems have no deadlines, and on any given day you probably can't tell if they're moving you in the right direction.

The benefits of having a systems mindset are clear: a consistent system will bias one to luck, increases the mathematical probability of success and it allows you to track. Systems lead to consistency, which leads to competency through compounding.

What is important is to start, trust the process and not stop even when no results are apparent. As written in the Tao Te Ching:

A tree as great as a man's embrace springs from a small shoot;
A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles starts under one's feet.

I like to remind myself of this when I do not see immediate results and begin doubting myself. All I need to do is check if I am consistently following a good system.