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Systems over goals

I mentioned in the initial welcome post that I'm a "systems guy," but it may not be clear to everyone what I meant by that.

Essentially it's a way of living such that one favors a "system" over a "goal." Others, like Scott Adams, have written of this in detail, so I'll link you over to his blog for an explanation.

The biggest takeaway for me is that with a systems approach success is very achievable, indeed, pretty much guaranteed as long as you consistently apply the system.

In contrast, goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous pre-success failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out (which is very often the case).

Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems.

So here is an example from my own life involving my ongoing quest for fluency in Spanish.

A goal-oriented approach would go right to that:
Goal — Achieve fluency in Spanish.

But that's pretty much doomed, right? I mean learning a second language, or even improving in your own native language, is a never-ending quest. It's definitely a case of "the more you know, the more you realize what you don't know." So talk about existing in a state of continuous pre-success failure, there it is.

Instead of that doomed approach, I've come up with several systems I apply on a daily or weekly basis.

  1. Speak with a native speaker at least 30 minutes a week via Skype video conference.
  2. Watch 1 episode a day (typically 40-45mins w/o commercials) of a Spanish language TV drama in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. I'm currently watching La Reina del Sur on Netflix streaming. (It's the 3rd series I've started, having completed previously 2 series of 70 episodes each, since I started to apply this system last year.)
  3. Listen intently to CNN Español on the car radio during the daily commute to and from work.1
  4. Input 5 new words (or phrases or difficult constructions) a day into custom flashcards in the Brainscape app and use Brainscape to study and master each new 5 word set added every day. (Note: I don't add new sets during the weekend, but a sub-system I have is to use Brainscape every day to study something.)

So rather than focusing on trying to get to some mythical point of fluency, I just apply the system.

Have I spoken with a native speaker this week of Skype? Yes, 40 minutes yesterday. Success!

Did I learn 5 new words yesterday? Yes. Success!

Have I added a new 5 word set to Brainscape? No, not yet, but I surely will find those 5 words when I watch La Reina over lunch. As an aside, see how the systems feed and complement each other? The more episodes I watch the more new words I add to Brainscape and then learn and then I end up using those new words/phrases/expressions in my weekly Skype video call.

And, of course, another system is to write something, anything, here on Poemaholix every weekday Monday - Friday. Yesterday was a wash but today? Success!

Do any of you have systems you currently apply? Or is there some goal you have that could be turned into a system instead?

1 I should point out that some of my current systems require a competency that needed to be build up previously over time using other systems. Listening to CNN Español means that you have to be at a point where your listening comprehension is such that you catch enough that it actually becomes a source of news and something you look forward to listening to rather than it just being incomprehensible background noise in another language. I started out by listening to specific, beginner, learning-oriented podcasts long before I moved to the CNN level. The same is true of watching TV in Spanish, though it's easier to jump into TV sooner because you have more context from body language, tone of voice, and the general story arc itself to help out.

Hart Brachen

Hart Brachen

I'm a writer, hobbyist mathematician, and an E-Learning innovator living in Dallas, TX.

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Systems over goals
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