At first I thought I was the problem. When I encountered clients who didn’t do weekly reviews, at first I was like, “Okay, well, I guess as long as everything’s getting handled, I suppose it doesn’t matter.”
But when we start working together, I get to know people’s businesses almost better than they do, because I have a perspective that they don’t have. And I started noticing that it wasn’t the lack of a weekly review that bothered me— it was the lack of an oversight process. It was lack of reflection. It was the lack of any kind of systematic method or process to run a business.
It severely hampered my ability to help them.
It was like trying to put new parts into a classic Mustang only to discover that the chassis was rusted out.
It’ll look better. It might even run better for a while. But it doesn’t cover the fact that whole thing is held together by a coat of paint.
And that’s a problem.
I might go so far as to say it’s the problem.
Look, I know it is deeply unsexy work to sit down and figure out your intake process. If you sit down and create a dozen customer service templates and put them in your ‘canned messages’ gmail folder that doesn’t feel like a big win at the end of the day. I’m aware that it feels much better to spend that time ‘networking’ on Twitter.
But here’s the thing:
Do you think 6 hours on the putting green, practicing practicing his short game, felt like ‘a job well done’ to Tiger Woods?
I know it’s not as satisfying. It’s definitely not ‘fun’. And unfortunately, people are deeply resistant to doing it.
But there’s no reason why you should be.
People Aren’t ‘Just Lazy’
I don’t think it’s because “people are lazy.” That’s too simplistic an answer.
In the first place, I think it’s because discipline is invisible. When we look at the people we admire, we often don’t see it, or if we see it, we ascribe it to something else.
But mostly, we just see the sexy stuff. We see the TED talks, but not the rigorous oration practice. We see the awesome launches, but not the prep-work. We see the big deals, and never the failures.
So because we don’t see it, we conclude it’s not very important.
People Don’t Realize Discipline Is a Habit
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle
The second part of the equation is that this sort of discipline quickly becomes invisible even to the people who do it. And that, I’m convinced, is because it’s just like any other habit. Habits don’t require much willpower, so we don’t pay much attention to them.
That’s the same reason why in my free course Be The Boss, I tell people that because of all the habitual tasks that have become second nature to them, they’re probably doing between 60-100% more work than they think they’re doing. Track your time sometime. You’ll be amazed.
People Think Systems are for Sell-Outs
Finally, the biggest reason that people resist the discipline of systematization is because of a profound misunderstanding about what it means to be great. Whether you want to be a hero, an A-Lister, an expert or a guru, people tend to feel that greatness is somehow bestowed.
It’s not that they don’t think great people worked hard. It’s that they believe that the seed of greatness was already within them, and was revealed by a combination of perseverance and luck.
Contrast that with the way we look down upon the merely mediocre who managed, through sheer brass balls, and yes, hard work, to achieve success on their own terms. We call them ‘hacks’. Or ‘popularizers’. Or ‘sharks’.
Somehow, these people managed to violate the story paradigm we tell ourselves about greatness, and we refuse to forgive them for it.
And that’s the problem with the discipline of systematization and procedures– we figure that the systems are cheats. That a truly great person wouldn’t need ’em. Great people are great without props.
Or so the story goes.
And that’s the biggest, deepest source of resistance.
The idea that implementing systems makes us a hack.
Greatness, we think, should be, if not effortless, at least pure. It should be without artifice. It should come straight from the heart, like art.
What a Bunch of Bullshit
That’s the fairy tale version of “greatness”.
Real greatness is about living up to your potential and using every tool at your disposal to do so.
Who’s the better superhero, Superman or Batman?
Everybody agrees, Batman, of course.
Because Superman is perfect. Too perfect. He’s bulletproof, practically invincible, and he’s a farmboy from a sweet, tightknit family. Fuck Superman.
Unlike the Man of Steel, Batman does not have superpowers. What he does have is money (and a thirst for vengeance) and a desire to use those assets to the greatest effect. Hence, the Batmobile, the Batcave, the Batsuit– and Albert.
All the other superheroes have superpowers: Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. The list goes on for miles, but I’m not that geeky. Batman, however, is the best superhero of them all because he wasn’t born with some imaginary gift or bitten by a radio-active spider. He does it all with human ingenuity, willpower, and dedication to the outcome: keeping Gotham City safe.
So what does this have to do with you?
Be Batman. Fuck Superman.
To hell with the expectation that you can just keep ‘working hard’ and one day things will break for you– your greatness will be acknowledged by all.
Be disciplined. Be methodical. Be dedicated to reaching the limits of your potential.
“When I die, I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live” ~ George Bernard Shaw