Sort Your Systems - Lessons from Ramit Sethi
Every entrepreneur gets into a rut; a place where they can’t work out whether the slog is worth what appears to be minimal rewards. You begin to ask yourself if you’re really cracking it or just breezing by.
As a continuous learner, I have a strong belief that when you can no longer get answers from your own paradigm, it’s time to pull out that tablecloth and let the dishes smash, just to see what patterns they make on the floor. After all, every Grandfather clock needs to shift its pendulum every now and again to keep the tick tocking.
So, for me, I have had always had a residual dream of owning a regenerative business incubator that walks outside the regular lines of what we expect from business incubators - based on the Permaculture school of thought. While none of us can argue that there are a menagerie of innovative technologies being developed within the embrace of Silicon Valley, I can’t help but feel it still follows this linear pattern of consumption.
For me, I feel that for our generation to truly become disruptive, we need to shake off the dust and recreate our economic models and reconsider our whole mode of working. However, the very gravity that holds my idea of creating a regenerative business school based on a tangible model of economically-sound business seems as plausible as it is impossible to do.
However, rather than bow down to the pressure of failure, I’ve decided to turn my ears toward some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business thinkers to try and learn some lessons from the horses’ mouthes.
One of those very horses is a dude called Ramit Sethi. I’ll be frank, when I first came across his blog ‘I Will Make Your Rich’, I couldn’t help but turn my nose up at his arrogance. However, instead, I listened and the guy’s got a lot to say for himself and many a lesson we could all learn.
So from my many earfuls, I thought I’d impart some of his wisdoms - or at least what I’d taken from them.
Losers Have Goals, Winners Have Systems
We all set goals. I will weigh 15 pounds less in 10 days. I will get three clients in the next three months. I will save $1500 by April. The problem with these goals is that while we set them, we give ourselves completely unrealistic steps to get there. Well, if I just do a 5 mile walk every day, apply for 15 gigs a day, and skip my $4 morning coffee from Starbucks then I’ll get there.
However, these unobtainable actions are just crying out for failure. The moment that we skip it once, we skip it all. We know this from doing diets. One cheat day makes us feel like a failure so we just give up. Our New Year’s resolutions fall foul the one day we mess up. Oh, I’ve bailed today so I might as well give up.
What Ramit is saying is that instead of leaving these ‘goals’ to our human fallibility, let’s set systems up where they happen (more) automatically so we can’t fail. Put a direct debit in place so the money is gone before you can spend it. Meet your kids’ nanny at the gym at the morning before work, so you won’t miss a session and you’ll always be there in time for a work out. Add an automatic referral template and request to every gig you do so they feel obliged to pass it on.
Set up systems that work for you, so you don’t have to. As a permaculturalist, this is literally the biggest thing we promote. I don’t water the plants every day because I have rainwater catchment systems that divert water to my drought-hardy plants, which in turn, store the water in dry season. That way, I don’t have to have it on my never-ending list of things to do each day; it does it itself.
Eat. Sleep. Workout. Repeat.
This, I can’t stress enough. I remember when I used to be one of those ‘I can’t even run a bath’ girls. We’re in an era where commenting on someone’s weight makes us feel guilty about working out. Where the word ‘busy’ makes us stay up until 1am just to feel productive. Where being a ‘fried food foodie’ with a killer Instagram page is classed as being more of a successful human than sourcing good, organic, local produce.Don’t believe the hype.
Believe this. Your emotional brain is there to pump chemicals into your system to make you respond to your environment. For example, cortisol is given to your body as a stress response. While this was good when we were living in a survive or die lifestyle, now we’re inundated with the stuff. It’s a killer. The prefrontal cortex is designed to help rebalance those chemicals as well as making logical decisions.
If your prefrontal cortex is overloaded by having to remedy to chemical imbalance caused by crappy food, over-stress from sleep deprivation, and a lack of oxygen from slumping in front of a computer - guess what, it’s not able to be it’s best logical, creative self.
Eat properly. The nutrients help to keep the immune system in check which stops you getting sick. Instead of hunger pangs that distract you and cause stress to the brain, you’re energised enough to be your best creative self.
Sleep properly. Sleep deprivation kills. It causes stress, it induces Alzheimer’s, and most apparently, it makes you feel pissed off. And no-one works well pissed off.
Work out. Aside from saying that your body is the temple that carries all the potential of what you can do in your life, working out allows oxygen to flow the brain. Oxygen helps you think.
Know How to Define Your Work
People always used to ask me to define permaculture in one sentence. It used rile me so bad. If you can’t be bothered to understand, you don’t deserve to know.
If you want people to understand, know how to explain it. Know how to categorise it, tune it up, and repackage it for people to get it - or at least be hooked to ask more.
Permaculture is a set of design tools that allow you to turn linear, wasteful systems that degrade our time and resources into regenerative productive systems that bring comprehensive value, whether that be food growing systems or energy systems or communication systems.
It’s not conclusive in its definition. It’s not even comprehensive. But it gives a definitive insight that invites further questions of ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘show me where this has happened’.
The biggest and most foolish assumption is to presume people care or need what you think is important. To make them know that it important, you have to define what it is and why it’s important.
Keep a Calendar
If you don’t manage your time, life will. When you don’t schedule what's going to happen to you, life will come and invite itself for dinner and talk late into the night.
Waking up each morning knowing what you have to do and what’s on your plate will help you better digest what is to come. If you wake up disorganised, your day will be disorganised. You won’t be able to keep track of tasks in the long and short term and it leads you to forgetting what needs to be done.
Prioritising your life is one of the most effective ways of ensuring everything gets taken care of. If you don’t have a calendar laid out, you can’t prioritise. Things you were meant to remember fall to the wayside.
More importantly, small steps toward your long term goals, like writing a paragraph of your business plan or a chapter of your novel get pushed back and back until they never get done.
Get a calendar. Schedule time for all the urgent things you need to do, like your job and your family requirements. Then schedule in your long term goals as every day tasks and start taking actions each day toward them - penned in so you don’t end up skipping over them in your mind.
Ramit has some valid stuff to say. As a thinker and an achiever, he’s designed systems that have got him to the top of his game.
I’m not saying I’ve interpreted everything the way he meant it. I'm not saying his words are gospel. But what I am saying is that the lessons I have perceived from him are starting to set me on a track of reorganizing my life from distant drums to actionable steps toward my goals - using systems and logistical time management to get there.
If you’re interested in hearing more of what he has to say, I highly recommend this podcast: Chase Jarvis LIVE with Ramit Sethi