Sort Your Systems – Lessons From Ramit Sethi

As I mentioned previously, I’m starting my entrepreneurial journey. This is a post from my professional website: http://www.yarnnarratives.com, where I offer corporate storytelling services to help companies design action steps to success from their vision. I thought I’d share it with you guys, as it has some pretty interesting insights.

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 shift 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 of the dust and recreate our economic models and reconsider our whole mode of working. In this sense, 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’ mouth.

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 make 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. Pick a gym that’s on your way home from work so that you can’t skip it out when it’s right next to your path home. 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 sourcing good food makes you a ‘fried food foodie’ rather than a successful human.

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 passed 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.

Wrong.

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.

In short…

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

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Bangkok’s Green Pockets – The Wild Wee Woods in the Giant Metal Jungle

Now, it’s no secret that the pollution in Bangkok is unreal. Some days it’s so hazy that you can’t see the horizon and it makes you sit back and wonder if you’re experiencing the end of the world. Some days, when it rains it drowns the pavement and you end up with an oil slick ice rink that makes you slip and slide all over the show, as the rain brings the pollution to floor level. Some days it’s so bad that working out is more of a hazard than a health boost.

Despite this though, nestled in the new city of glitzy robot tower blocks and buzzing automobiles and flying trains, you’ll find that Bangkok is dotted with mini jungles.

IMG_0459.JPGWhen I look out my apartment window, yes I do see skyscaping metal boxes and thick tar rivers of screaming traffic, but I also see these nuggets of nature, blissfully working as their own spheres of serenity and productiveness. Luckily, there are certain rules in Thailand that mean you can’t build too close to temples, which helps to maintain these little pockets of paradise. Unlike the manmade falseness of picture-perfect parks – man’s ironic attempting at recreating what he tore down – these bundles of bushes are cacophonies of natural occurrences.

IMG_0465.JPGIn these parts you’ll see the natural patterns of the jungle springing up, with the multiple forest layers pushing through to beat that race with concrete. Often positioned, not strangely, next to poorer neighbourhoods, you’ll find that these gashes of green are abundant with edible plants and forest foods. These small jungles are teeming with life and in that, provide life. From the butterfly peas to the morning glory vines, from the banana and mango trees to the wild basil and turmeric and ginger, from the tamarinds to the yucca, you will find these miniature microcosms mimic the larger forest of which they were once part. And you will find their inhabitants live very similarly too, despite the urban sprawl and prevailing poverty that is being thrust upon them.

IMG_0462.JPGFor the likes of me and the other dusty computer kids of this choking city, we probably owe our lives to these little islands of oxygen. They drink in the smog and spit out a treat for us to guzzle, barely noticing of its giver. While the pollution is bad here, hell it will get worse when they start cutting back those clusters to create curls of creeping windows that reach the sky for more commuters to rest their anxious heads after a long, hard days typing on the box inside a box. When will we learn?

I guess right now, all we can do is thank that the sacredness of these places helps to keep the demolition team at bay. For now.

 

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Emancipation Economics – Social Permaculture & Cryptocurrency

I’ve been knees deep in the permaculture world (officially) for just over a year and I want ya’ll to realise where a year of permaculture can lead you. I went from digging out drains to speaking on stages so quick my head’s spinning like a yo-yo in the early 90s.

Social permaculture is still new and no disrespect to the fore-people that lead the way (honour and love to Starhawk, Looby McNamara, and Adam Brock in particular), but we’re still working on the vague, missing out some of the finer and somehow monumental concepts. Let’s take the economics.

I know, right, thrilling. You’re probably gripping your seat, thinking, I can’t wait to learn more. Please unwrap this candy of delight she is about to discuss. Give me that sweet sugar of maths and logic rolled into one like a statistical ball of all-consuming fun.

Oi. Don’t knock it, right. I want to take you on a journey of whole systems thinking in a direction none of us conceived. Standing in the awe of my PDC teacher talking about tree types, I never thought I’d be about to indulge you with the transition economics and real world whole systems thinking of incredible cryptocurrencies.

BURN THE WITCH, I hear you cry. Don’t be scared. I promise I’ll be gentle. But I really think it’s time we talked about this.

We can pretend that a market garden is going to give us a self-sustaining future where we can survive on selling our products at the market. We talk about cottage industry like selling tinctures is gonna send our kids to college. It isn’t, and here’s why, you bunch of self-indulging capitalists. While the system that leads to making those products may be regenerative, the economics you employ to market them are not. Oh you think they are, I thought they were. Don’t worry, this ain’t no high horse situation. I’m not buying a ladder to get on my trusty steed.

It’s this simple. I recently took a job in analyzing cryptocurrencies. As a hardened anti-technologist, this was my version of reading the Bible to use educated arguments to slam homophobic Christians. I partly took this job to prove the idiocy of cryptocurrency.

But I was wrong. 180 flip on my view. You wanna see real anarchist economics in action with whole systems design? This is where you should be looking.

Rather than talk to you about the ins and outs of cryptocurrency, I’d rather give you an example. We all know that’s far easier to swallow.

The cryptocurrency I will be explaining is called Tutellus. It works with a whole systems design that brings in students, teachers, and businesses to benefit each of them. So first, I want to outline the problem.

HERE’S WHAT SUCKS

Students: As students we get ourselves in debt by having to pay through the nose for education. What’s worse is that most degrees are a vague attempt at teaching us subjects that are pretty much irrelevant to today’s world. Now I’m not shitting on philosophers, but how much have you used that degree. As a graduate of criminology, I can tell you out right that I’m not Inspector Gadgeting much in my life.

Teachers: You can teach the hell out of your students or not at all and you’re getting the same wage. Nobody cares about whether a student is really learning real world stuff anymore, they care whether your data is up to date and whether your data is datery enough for them. I see this very dichotomy in my sister who talks wonders about what her children have learned each week, while sacrificing her own social life to stay up all night punching numbers into spreadsheets.
Businesses: Oh there’s a bunch of people applying, but none of them have real world skills or even the specifics to handle the job you’re looking for.

WHATEVER CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS?

Here’s what we can do. We can pull our problems and assets together and stop acting like we’re all individuals wandering around the chicken coop looking for the handful of grain we hope our masters will give us.

Just as a sidenote, this is hard to explain. As with all full cycle solutions, it’s hard to work out where to jump on the circle.

So we’ll start by chasing the money.

So you’re a business and you want to employ a candidate that’s going to fulfil your role completely, be qualified to jump on the job imminently and be up to date with all the advances in the field. Problem is that many degrees are still working with texts from the 1980s and lecturers who are so up their own egos that they don’t want to talk about Anonymous because they’re busy telling you the worthiness of Freud’s handful of generalized experiments.
But you’re willing to pay for recruitment so you hand your money to an ‘expert’ recruiter hoping they’ll find you a gem in a desert of sand. Let’s bypass that pony show shall we?

So as a business you put your money into the pool. This gives you access to the best students, performing the highest in the general field you’re looking. Yes, you’re going to pay more depending on the market rate of the job you’re looking for but if you want the best, you gotta pay for the best. So you plunge a sum of money in and you get a portfolio of students who fit the bill. Thing is they’re not at the end of their learning. They could be at the beginning. What brings them to your attention is this score that they’ve earned. They earn that score not only through being a smart arse, but also being a hardcore participator in their own learning. You know that those students are going to bring that hardworking attitude to your doorstep. This allows you to communicate with them, encourage them to angle their learning in a certain way. In fact, you can offer them scholarships so that they start to tailor their learning to exactly what you need.

It’s an investment, right? By the end you get a student that is so adept in what you need, that you don’t need to waste thousands of dollars training them with half-arsed corporate training, because they’re ALREADY THERE.

So then we have the students. You’re working working working, unsure if it’s leading to anything. On top of that you’re spending spending spending with blind faith that it’s going to come out with something. If we were in a casino, we’d call that gambling, my friend. Laying down money in the blind hope of return. I mean tell me I’m wrong but if I were, we wouldn’t have the student debt crisis we have, right?

So imagine you knew that your hard work was being rewarded. You pay for a course but you can make ALL that money back if you work your darndest. Not only do you do well in your exams, but you participate to improve the community, because only with an improved community will you get improved services. So you review your teachers, you participate in debate, you answer other students’ question right and so on and so forth. You engage.

This builds the score that employers see while also getting you financial rewards from the system. But where do these rewards come from? Well when businesses put their money in, that money gets distributed out to those students who are killing it. Then you get noticed. Then you get more rewards and you get sponsorship, then before you know it, your education is not only free, but you’re getting real world enterprise mentorship that guides you into working out what you need to learn to get a real world job. Hint. It isn’t an age-old degree based on yesteryears’ philosophy.

So that leaves your teachers. The people who educate the next generation, stuck on wage fit for a weekend server at a local restaurant. This is disgusting and disrespectful to our whole culture and development as a human species. Bound by curriculums that are defined by data and endorsed by governments who have, of course, no other agenda but the kids’ best interests at heart, teachers are confined to providing one-size-fits all education that neither benefits each individuals’ creativity and flair, or the teacher’s own capacity to demonstrate innovation.

In this sense, with this new system, teachers are rewarded. The money paid into the pool by businesses rewards teachers who get students to the top spots. How do those students get there? By tailored education. Teachers producing the most dynamic and relevant courses with the greatest conversions of learning are being rewarded by the businesses. Not only that, they’re rewarded when kids sign on to their courses, not just when they do well. So if you’re providing courses that are poignant and intriguing, you’re getting what you deserve.

So to sum up, kids learn a relevant and useful education for free while becoming hard-working, self-driven individuals. Teachers are motivated to be the best educators they can be, receiving the accreditation they deserve for that. And businesses get the best and most relevant candidates for the job, that need little training and are self-driven, without paying more than they’d pay to a recruiter. Damn that makes sense, don’t it?

But why blockchain?

Here’s why. Humans are arseholes. All of our resumes show better humans than we are. All teachers give less than 100% because they don’t need to. All businesses promise things they can’t deliver. No we don’t, you plead in defiance. You do. Why? Because you can.

Blockchain is a trustless immutable ledger that can’t be ignored, can’t be changed, and can’t be denied. When you have that, you can really see who truly shines. Without doubt, without reservation. And that kind of guarantee, makes people work harder, better, smarter, and with more guile.
We create the currency so the money stays in the system. With that currency, we can then spend it inside the participating businesses so eventually they make their money back. It’s basically barter, except there’s an immutable trail of accountability.

You can choose to walk away from this kind of oncoming technology, hoping patterning plants will save you. Or you can realise it’s all important. Top to bottom, inside and out, fractals in hand, this is how our economics should work. As permaculturalists, it’s our responsibility to be at the pinnacle. We’ve been pushing local currencies and transition economics for years. Now you have it. You going to embrace it, are you just sit there gawping with your head in flowers?

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When 2 Worlds Meet – The Ecotones of Bringing Together Local and Global Knowledge

As I said in previous posts, I spent a little time on Ometepe in Nicaragua. This post is about my time spent with the local gardeners.

The hostel I was working at, Little Morgan’s Hostel is run by a guy called Morgan (the father of Little Morgan). Morgan is the kind of man that continuously makes you raise your eyebrows in heartfelt surprise at the many tricks of knowledge he has up his sleeve. On the face of it, his hostel appears as a drinking haunt for half-arsed backpackers trawling the same trail as all the other fish in the sea. But when you look slightly closer at the inner sense of community within his circles, you see a glorious mix of locals and internationals intermingling to get all the jobs done and Morgan flitting between them all with equal understanding, appreciation, and eagerness for each.

When I first suggested to him that I come down and build a garden for his restaurant, I was aware that his whole site was a menagerie of tropical trees and flowers planted himself. However, when I first visited a year ago, I wasn’t looking through permaculture lenses so in reality the true depth of the intricacies of his plantings had never occurred to me. No doubt it doesn’t occur at all to the backpackers who travel through there, distracted by the excitement of their short breaks from regular life, juiced up on alcohol and adrenaline from all the wonderful places they’ve swooped through. It’s not fair to say people don’t notice the beauty, but they don’t necessarily notice the multifunctionality of the beautiful site; me included.

DSC04030.JPGHowever, this time around I was entering with a new perspective and a different purpose. This enabled me to pop on my observation googles to notice what was hiding among the jungle chaos of the place. I was headed to build a garden on a spot which had previously been used for growing, but had become overgrown. Before I even got to the garden, I noticed that the bar itself is surrounded by a plethora of fruit trees and various other edibles. Mangoes, pineapples, squashes, coconuts, bananas, and plantains are casually hanging around dripping with goodies, and that’s just from a quick glance. And you can’t miss the animals mingling in and churning that soil while grabbing belly rubs from the patrons.

DSC04642.JPGThe thing is that the intricate density of all the green that splurges across this climate and landscape is difficult to comprehend. You need to have a helping hand. Often in permaculture we can be a little…let’s say…know-it-all. The principles set out by Bill Mollison and David Holgrem have served as a fantastic manual for working; the issue is that often we butt heads with local people when we come in with our white people club of new age farmers and tell them how they should be doing it. I’m not doubting the validity and excellence of permaculture and regenerative agricultural methods, but nobody knows the land better than the people who have had their hands in it every day of their lives.

I’ll be honest, when Morgan introduced me to the garden guys, I was intimidated. These guys have done this every day in the blistering heat, wearing jeans and knocking back whisky while they get the job done. Not only that, they built the myriad of phenomenal structures from the very garden they grew.

mirador.png
Source:volanthevistI couldn’t see them really taking my ideas, physical self, or vision seriously. While we want to think that our brand of feminism is the way forward, there’s no escaping the fact that traditionally, women do not work in the fields here. I was prepared for them to reject my capabilities. I was wrong.

They welcomed me into their team with open arms and spent a great deal of their precious time working with me to teach me some of the intricacies of the land and some of their knacks. But it didn’t stop there.

To begin with, it was a very macho experience; them trying to take the hard labour out of my hands, somehow humouring me with my little gardening fancies. But before long and as my Spanish developed, it became an exchange of friends and it ignited an interest in all of us.

It first started with the oldest guy in the crew, Chefan. Chefan tried to put an insect repellant on the soil and I nearly exploded with desperation. I didn’t want to insult him but I wanted to grow organically and I wanted to test the methods I’d be taught. I politely and in the most restrained way I could, asked him not to. I will never forget the look he gave me. The pause of a man who had lived many lives while never having left that island. The pause of a man who’d seen a million faces shit all over his culture and suddenly see one who wanted more than cheap plastic and throwaway touism. He cracked this smile so wide that I could have fit a boat in his mouth. He gestured for me to come with him and pointed to a neem tree, handing me the longest machete I’d ever seen and signalling that he’d give me a boost. When an indigenous Ometepian pulls you into their fold and tells you to climb that tree, guess what you’re doing. Up the tree I went and retrieved some neem. He put the neem, some garlic, and some of the local brain-blowing chilies in a bucket and we left it over night. We sprayed this all over the ground and plants and I had no bugs (for a while, this is the tropics, not Never Never Land!). He later laughed about how his Grandfather taught him this but he’d never used it and was amazed it had worked.

It only escalated from there. Chefan came to one night with the head builder, Luiz, and they said to me: ‘I see the fire in your eyes’. And we talked. Over whisky and tears we spilled our hearts. Luiz explained to me about how Chefan and himself bring young boys to come and work at the hostel to teach them about empowerment. No doubt you have seen the raucous of politics happening in Nicaragua right now; this was at the backbone of everything they were teaching. They taught these young boys to plant the seeds, grow the trees, design the building, choose the right branch, and build from it. They taught them to utilise what nature gives them, not to control it or break it or bend it to one’s will, but to work with it and create from it. They taught them to be empowered by the land, not to try and take power over it. They taught them that they didn’t need an oppressive regime if they could take care of everything themselves and until they could, they had no business fighting that regime (that’s a story for another time).

From here on in, these two older men had the younger men work with me. They explained that of they taught me the hands on sneaky tricks, I would teach them the science. I taught them to rebuild the terraces along contour to preserve water.

DSC04608 (1).JPGThey taught me to grow yard beans along the fences to keep weeds out, I taught them to stake yucca as the fence. They taught me to pierce pigs noses to stop them rooting, I taught them to use the pigs to root the pesky bindweed first. They cut down the overgrowth while I made them hot sauce from the local chilies. They taught me to plant my nursery in a bed of ashes, I taught them to create guilds to protect the tomatoes from fungus. They taught me the native plants and I taught them the names in English.

DSC04615.JPGOne day, when I was suffering from conjunctivitis and everyone was throwing back antibiotic drops, they made me an eye wash from witchhazel.

I taught them to look for the signs of pests and adjust the carbon to nitrogen. They taught me that the jungle will do what it will, and to eat what grew and enjoy it.

I spent many a night discussing philosophy and corporations with them. I will never forget the tears in Larry’s eyes when he was sure he was crazy, trying desperately to explain his own personal observations of how pesticides seem to affect the land and how nobody seemed to believe him. He’d never left the island, he doesn’t have the internet, he knows nothing about the worldwide anger raging about the use of these products; he just knew what he saw and drew his own conclusions. The wholehearted embrace that he gave me when I explained about Monsanto was like I’d put his mind at peace.

It wasn’t just knowledge they gave me. They gave me their hearts, their community. They had their wives teach me Spanish and how to cook. They shared stories and introduced me to their families.

Between us we grew a garden that managed to create some of the most delicious recipes I’d ever tasted, making that restaurant a bit more sustainable. Between us we managed to teach and learn and create. I thank them so deeply for those lessons and to me it’s proof that social diversity creates resilience, it creates strength. Because alone neither of us had the answers, but together, we killed it.

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