“Organize around business functions, not people. Build systems within each business function. Let systems run the business and people run the systems. People come and go, but systems remain constant.”
- Michael E. Gerber, author, The E-Myth Revisited
When I first began my entrepreneurial journey, almost 24 years ago, one of the most impactful books I read was, The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. In it, he talked not only about the value, but the necessity of utilizing systems in order to make businesses work.
Like most entrepreneurs just staring out, I engaged in every facet of running my martial arts business; I taught all of the classes, I answered the phone and set appointments, I did the introductory lessons and enrolled new students, I even emptied the garbage and mopped the floors. This worked well in the early stages of my business’s growth, but soon I became overwhelmed with all of my responsibilities. I began to realize experientially what Gerber said was indeed true, “If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business - you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!”
Accepting the lunacy of my ways, I finally pried the many work functions I was sure no one could do better than me from my “kung-fu” grip and delegated them to qualified people I had hired and trained. From that point, I could finally breathe again. My dream career once again became fun and the growth of my business accelerated to levels I never imagined. Interestingly enough, this way of business system leadership was so transformational for me that years later I would regularly speak at conventions and train other martial arts school owners across the nation on this topic.
While the idea of systems is essential in creating and growing a profitable business, I believe it is also critical in designing a happy and fulfilling life. Each one of us has goals and dreams, either, general or specific, for the key areas of our life. We have goals for our health – lose 20 pounds, our finances – earn $1,000,000 dollars, our exercise realm – run a half-marathon, and our personal lives – spend quality time with our loved ones.
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However, as Scott Adams points out (he of the cartoon Dilbert fame), in his book, How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big, just creating goals without the systems to support them and carry them out, is an exercise in futility.
“Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous pre-success failure, at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems-people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goal (oriented)-people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at every turn. The systems-people are feeling good every time they apply their systems. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction.”
In my area of expertise, martial arts, a student does not attain the rank of Black Belt just because they have a goal of doing so. They must follow a very specific system of attending several classes each week over the course of years, learn and show proficiency in colored belt curriculum and then then demonstrate their proficiency in quarterly rank tests. While having the overall goal is important, it is taking consistent action in following the prescribed system that creates Black Belts in martial arts and in life.
In regular life, this translates too. For example, in the world of dieting, losing 20-pounds is the goal, but eating a clean and healthy diet is the system. In the exercise realm, running a half-marathon in under 4.5 hours is the goal, but following a daily running regimen over months as you prepare is a system. In business, earning $1,000,000 in revenue is the goal, but carrying out specific and disciplined business practices is the system. And finally, having a wonderful relationship with your spouse and children is a goal, taking part in consistent, fun and connective family outings each week is a system.
Inspired by www.BeMen.org ‘s Pillars of Wellness , here are 5 key areas in our lives we can focus on to improve our health, happiness and prosperity by following specific systems for success. (Please note that I am working on many of these, too. Some I do quite well, others are a work in progress.)
The key to our overall physical health and wellness is determined by creating and following practical and easy-to-follow systems in three key areas; Rest, Nutrition and Movement (Exercise). Probably overlooked most in our “on-the-go” society is adequate rest. Sleep is something we get to once everything else is done. However, researchers are finding time and again that adequate rest is one of the most vital aspects of our overall health. We almost certainly have a specific time that we wake up (morning alarm), what about a specific time to that you go to bed and a routine (system) that you enact the hour before you retire each night that prepares you for the best night’s sleep, such as turning off all media and allowing your brain to settle down?
In regards to nutrition, do you have a system to plan and prepare meals in advance so they you are not grabbing unhealthy alternatives on “the go”? Do you also have a system for the types of food you buy and have in the house (unhealthy foods will most certainly be avoided if they are not in the fridge or pantry)? Finally, do you have exercise regimen that is anchored in your calendar (mine is first thing in the morning) so it is a priority in your life rather than something you “get to” if and when you complete the other tasks of the day?
If you are a business owner or sales professional here are a few things to think about:
We are social beings that are meant to connect with others. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, there is a human need to emotionally connect with others. It starts with understanding ourselves and where we are inside of ourselves and then it expands to how we connect with those closest to us. Do you have a system for regularly connecting with those you love and enjoy being around (significant other, kids, family and friends)? Do you have regular “date nights” with your partner that serve as a fantastic system of connecting? How about your kids, do you have regular events and practices (systems) that you do as a family and also individually (if you have multiple children) where you can connect with them on a one-on-one basis? I find that connecting deeply with those we love is a practice (system). You don’t get good at a sport by taking part in it periodically, it takes consistent practice. The same goes with our relationships and our emotional connection with others. I find what gets scheduled, gets done. Where do you have an opportunity to schedule regular connection time with those you love?
It is often said, “leaders are readers”. This is because impactful leaders are consistently stretching themselves to grow, expand and learn new things so they can most effectively lead themselves, and as a result, be a positive example for those they are honored to serve through their leadership. It has been my experience that we happiest (even when obstacles occur) when we are in a state of learning and growth. With that being said, what basic systems do you currently have in place to grow and expand on a daily basis? Do you have time set aside for daily reading (even 5 to 10 minutes can be life-enhancing)? What podcasts are you listening to while you are in your car? What programs are you currently taking to expand your professional and personal growth? Any muscle, when we stop exercising it, it begins to atrophy from lack of use. Our brains are no different. What practice (systems) can you begin today to ensure the growth and expansion of our most prized asset as human beings, our intellect, focus and mental acuity?
While the previously mentioned basic systems are all vitally important, it is my belief that we cannot truly experience their benefits if we have not established our own personal practice of spiritual connection. This is done as a means to not only connect with ourselves but, most importantly, something bigger than us. Whether you call it God, Spirit, the Universe, Nature, this is a time to reconnect to the Source within. For me, this means doing a daily practice of prayer and meditation. For someone else, it may be a quiet walk in nature, reading and reflecting upon spiritual text or even doing the dishes (doing something with complete intention and focused attention is really meditation). Whatever that is for you, take the time to honor it and practice it. It becomes a system that you follow by scheduling it in your daily calendar so it is an activity that you are not inclined to miss (like exercise, I schedule my quiet time first thing in the morning to insure just this). It is from this place of spiritual connection and anchoring that we can then move into our day to best connect with others, making this a definitive practice in maintaining and nurturing our most important relationships.
So, what systems can you create and follow in your life? If this seems like a lot, just pick one or two areas to create a system for and consistently practice and then add on, when you are ready. I can guarantee you that when you get consistent with implementing the systems that are important to you, the goals that you have set in these areas will come into being faster and more abundantly than you could have imagined.
Get these systems in place, practice them consistently and passionately so you can start living and stop working for a lunatic 😊.
Black Belt Leadership Speaking & Coaching
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