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

Classroom Prisoners – Permaculture as Cross-Curricular Education

So I talked a little before about outlining your own journey to understand where you want to be in the end, to understand what you need to learn. Outside of the four square walls of the oppressive schooling environment, I’m learning to learn in a far more effective and viceral manner. And this is the problem with school; you’re tied to a desk and expected to learn one way and only one that suits the standard format of statistical outcome spreadsheets. Are the children learning or ticking boxes for the sake of the government’s need to prove their ‘achievements’?

The Problem with School

The problem I often see in the schooling system, not that I’m the first to say this, is the compartmentalisation of learning.

Here’s science class. Sit down and learn your science. Here’s geography class. Let’s learn geography here as a completely isolated construct to science.

It makes no sense to me that we would separate these interweaving concepts. It somehow takes out the mystery and magic, the excitement and epiphanines. I’m just spitballing here but I think a lot of it has to do with trying to create a standardised education that’s easy to deliver to children in an organised and easily packaged manner so it looks good in the data. I hear my sister, a primary school teacher, complain about ‘data’ all the time. Data? What data. How can you measure somebody’s capacity to have learned when you apply it in an isolated manner.

I have seen a change though. I see my sister apply cross-curricular thinking to her 6 year olds; trying to develop links between subjects across the board. However it’s insanely difficult to do that when the only stimulus you have is a concrete box in which they sit, an interactive whiteboard, and some crepe paper. You can learn all this theory about the world as much as you want, but as any millenial will tell you, this school system tells you nothing about how to actually be, live, breathe in the world. I was atrociously underprepared for what adulthood would throw at me because I didn’t know how to recognise interconnectivity in the system.

We see a rise of school gardens as a political nod at the envrionmental movement. Here you go, shut up, we’ve given the kids a garden now, what more do you want? What more do I want? I would like you to use it as the multi-faceted tool that it could be utilised as. I would like you to train your teachers into enticing and influencing creativity and pattern recognition in their pupils through this incredible medium that represents basic human needs in its rawest form. I’d like you to encourage children to become self-sustainable so they don’t have to live their lives believing your lies that they’re not good enough or clever enough or brave enough or smart enough to do it themselves and that they need governments to hold our hands in everything they do. This of course is a far bigger paradigm shift…one I firmly believe starts in the garden but it certainly doesn’t end at the tip of a trowel.

Permaculture as a Conduit

Permaculture. Ah. The baffling complexity and simultaneous simplicity of the concept is striking, even overwhelming. Many mistakenly see it as away of doing really good gardening. That’s short-sighted in my humble opinion, as it renounces the incredible capacity for it to demonstrate manners in which we can teach social, economic, and personal development.

Starting this journey, I realise the breadth of everything I need to learn. School teaches us abstract concepts without providing us with applicable scenarios. Kids switch off. Why in God’s name would a 15 year old care about erosion of soils? For serious, it’s not interesting to a teenager, no matter how jazzy your Powerpoint is.

If you want someone to care about something, you have to give them a reason to care; a stake, some ownership, a sense of pride and responsibility.

Wouldn’t it be far more engaging if you said to a 15 year old ‘Here look, by the end of this term, you’ll be making and selling your own hot sauce so you’ll have a bit of money in your pocket, a sense of self identity, a project of which you can be proud, something from which you can demonstrate your responsibilty, and skills which you can take out into the world. However, to get to that stage, there’s a few things you need to know.’ I know I’d be far more willing to hear about soil erosion. Maybe that’s just me.

Permaculture_Education_Mindmap
Permaculture Education Mindmap

Let’s picture what permaculture can teach kids. While the many branches of water management, natural building, cottage industry etc are all connected, let’s take the small example of the school garden; what can they learn? How about the chemistry and biology of soil and plants? What about the physics and mathematics of earthworks. How about the nutrition? Pattern recognition? Mapping? Natural geography? Botany. Energy recycling. Waste management.  How about all the economics they learn from producing products: profit and loss, distribution, marketing, inventory, problem-solving, planning. How about the community and social skills they learn? The philosophy of whole systems thinking. The documentation teaches photography skills, video skills. Want a child to learn IT? How about learning to use complex 3D design programs, video editing? How about the ability to historically look back at the land and understand previous usage; both people and planet. Climate changes, human geography. Entrepreneurship. Art. Home economics.

Sure kids won’t be interested in it all. But the one thing I have really learned through permaculture is that, yes, while I want to make beautiful natural cherry syrups, I have to learn all the processes that go into getting the cherries first and that journey makes it more worthwhile. It gives me a stronger sense of achievement and appreciation for what I have finally produced. Not only does it give me pride, ownership, and economic reward, it also teaches me value. The sheer work that goes into producing stuff and learning that process myself helps me to value things differently, reducing my consumption. It takes you out of the faceless, irrelevant classroom, and puts you in a place where where your learning becomes relevant to the real world.

I know I’m not the first to say this. I’m not the first to push this point across and I’m probably not the most articulate in doing it. However, it has given me the idea of perhaps producing a few resources aimed at education, for schools, parents, homeschoolers. So we’ll see how that goes. We’ll see if we can stimualte to activate.

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