The Systems Mindset: Managing the Machinery of Your Life

The Systems Mindset: Managing the Machinery of Your Life

by Sam Carpenter


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626342521
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 05/03/2016
Pages: 164
Sales rank: 896,011
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Sam Carpenter, a telecommunications professional and multiple business owner, has a background in engineering, management, publishing, and journalism. He lives in Bend, Oregon. The Systems Mindset is his second book.

Read an Excerpt

The Systems Mindset

Managing the Machinery of Your Life

By Sam Carpenter

Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2016 Sam Carpenter
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62634-252-1



Being a control freak is to be avoided at all costs; people should lighten up and go with the flow. Isn't this culture's incessant search for control the root of the problem?

I could have titled this chapter "Systems Mindset Fundamental Number One." Some people cripple themselves because of a certain brand of political correctness, and it revolves around the obsessive misinterpretation of the word "control." This is a near tragedy because of the dire effect this posture has on their individual lives and to society as a whole. "Seeking control is a bad thing" is a theoretical banality that is stifling a lot of lives. To so many, it just sounds good to declare that seeking control is a callous thing, that rather, it's oh-so-sensitive to go with the flow, to not strive so hard to be in the driver's seat. And yet a modicum of quiet observation reveals that, for any of us, getting through the day is an epic quest to gain more control than we have.

To make things better for ourselves we constantly assume a third-party personal management stance, doggedly analyzing what we think, say, eat, and how we comport ourselves, how hard we work, how we spend our free time, how we relate to the people around us, how much we are willing to give (and take, and understand), and how we want to be perceived, all while expecting serenity to just happen.

For each of us, this control-seeking is constant and never ending. It started with our first breath, and it won't end until our last.

Am I suggesting that control-seeking is a bad thing? Not at all. Simply consider the alternative: The opposite of being in control is to be out of control, and it's the out-of-control parts of our lives that cause pain. Is being out of control ever a good thing?

No one is immune to the control quest. So why do so many condemn it? Doesn't it make better sense to improve the process?

And in this effort to get more personal control, I'm not talking about victimizing others or plundering the environment. It's too bad so many people equate seeking personal control with causing harm.

It's ironic, but a rejection of control-seeking is, in itself, an assertion of control.

* * *

OK, I'll consider that. So where do I start?

First, find a way to control you. So for starters, accept that having more control is a good thing and then thoughtfully seek it, but only within your circle of influence. ("Circle of influence" is a great term, don't you think? It's Stephen Covey's gem.)

To illustrate: Within your circle, you can manage the development of a particular skill and then, in practicing it, the skill will become more honed, more complex, more controlled. How about making more money, finding new friends, or getting fit? It's the same thing as you act within your circle: Get good at what you do. As you improve your expertise in a particular area, pay attention to feedback, tweak incessantly, and become more efficient at creating value for others, and getting ahead will happen almost spontaneously. Becoming adept at anything has everything to do with gaining more control.

The consequence? Getting efficient inside your circle of influence is how the circle gets larger.

* * *

Isn't the quest for money and domination a huge problem?

That's a general misconception. Money is an inanimate tool. That's it. I used to think the pursuit of money turned people bad, but I was wrong. The selfish/greed element is always out there, but even that is not about money or the lack of it. It's about control, and problems ensue when you either demand too much of it or tolerate having too little. So your best bet is to stay within your circle and take the necessary steps to manage yourself, to get your own self under control. Sometimes it's cleaning the house. Sometimes it's breaking off a relationship or doing what is necessary to begin a new one. Other times it's executing a business deal, and all the time it includes routine inside-the-circle mechanical work: eating right, exercising, finding enough sleep, fulfilling responsibilities, and treating other people with respect.

Think about this over the next couple of days as you go about your regular business: Analyze a particular problem you have, one that is especially bothersome. Does it seem to be rooted in money or relationships or health? Go one layer deeper and see that it's really about control.

As an example, let's talk about control within a family. This is what works: The parent and the child are not pals. The parent is the parent, and the child is the child. The parent acts like a parent and exerts respectful control over the child. The mechanical reality is that the parent must ultimately direct things if family life is to stay orderly and constructive, and the child can develop a spine and learn to respect others.

The posture assumes the child will be a parent one day, too, in control and responsible for preparing yet another child to be an adult.

* * *

If I look at things in this way, it seems my marriage is a battle for control. What can I do?

Here's a concept that's central to the Systems Mindset vision. Get "outside and slightly elevated" of the particular situation. Together, both of you take a position where you look down on this thing called the marriage relationship. Never mind the individual personalities and consider the relationship as a separate closed system: two people in a pact with certain needs, expectations, and goals. This is the external perspective in which the linear, mechanical dynamics of a system can be analyzed without a power struggle ensuing. Ask, what are the unemotional, mechanical rules of this marriage? Get specific about the details. For instance, when exactly is my time mine, and your time yours? How, precisely, is the money to be spent? Who earns the money? Who manages it? What are our promises to each other — clearly defined promises that have to be kept to preserve trust and the marriage itself?

Eckhart Tolle talks about this "outside" concept in the first pages of his book The Power of Now. In his dark days, there came a moment when he said to himself, "I can't live with myself anymore!" In that observation in which he was involuntarily thrust outside of his own self and was able to look down on his existence, he discovered, "There are two of me, the watcher and the watched." How profound, as he realized for the first time that there were two of him, and that through his new outside positioning he could choose which one would be in control! He then acted upon this simple insight by assertively managing himself, and then he built a life of contribution.

So with your partner, see the marriage as the independent mechanism that it is. To negotiate a relationship in this way is refreshing and exciting.

* * *

How is a health problem related to control?

In any instance of illness or injury there is some degree of anxiety caused by the decrease in normal functionality. A virulent strain of cancer is perhaps the most vivid illustration of this, whereby the ultimate loss of control, death, is a real possibility.

* * *

What about work? I'm a manager and can't get control of my staff. I can't convince them to do things the way I want them to be done.

Your business department is your responsibility, so it's within your circle. It's your machine, your primary system. (And this primary system is made up of subsystems. And yes, you can consider your staff — and your own self — as subsystems within this primary system that is your department.) You want to be outside-and-slightly-elevated as you see them and yourself functioning down there. Within a business, a vital step in applying the Systems Mindset effectively is to ask staff to list, in black and white, the precise sequential steps of the execution of their various work processes. Then, ask them what they think and how they would go about performing their duties. If their recommendations are sensible, you implement them. Then, turn your people loose, giving them support, the tools they need, and rewards when they achieve what you want them to achieve. Do this, and the cooperation you seek will enter through the side door, with enthusiastic employees willing to give 100 percent, because they are part of the decision-making process and are being properly compensated for their good work.

For now, at this early stage of the book, especially focus on this Systems Mindset premise: Personal control is a good thing, and you want as much of it as you can get.



My life is hectic. Too often I feel confused and just can't seem to get things done. If I back off and take a breath, I feel guilty. If I proceed, I make a mistake. Life is chaotic and I feel trapped. Is it me?

Well, yes, it is you, but that's a good thing, because you can fix you. You are the supreme commander of you!

Up until seventeen years ago my life was a swirling, confused ordeal. Yet in a flash of insight, at a specific moment in time that I vividly recall, the chaos disappeared for good.

Because the new vision enabled me to create the conditions in my life that I wanted, my first effort was to forge all the free time and money I needed, and that's what I did. Immediately upon experiencing the insight, my business and personal life began to improve, and I've been incrementally building value ever since.

This is what I want for you: to experience the Systems Mindset insight and then create exactly the life of freedom and wealth and peace you've always wanted.

But let's start by tackling the elephant in the living room, what may be your largest challenge in acquiring the Systems Mindset. Although this particular elephant isn't the subject of the book, it's the reason most people can't even get started in the process of securing the personal control they need to effectively manage their lives. It's the plague of what I call DDD: Digital Drug Dementia, the mental-paralysis epidemic that is ignored even though, or maybe because, most people are infected. It's the primary reason for personal flakiness. (Flaky people are everywhere. Have you noticed?) DDD is the reason most people can't concentrate, and concentration is mandatory if there is to be action one layer deeper: down in that place where life results are created.

DDD detracts from every facet of a life and makes it impossible to break free, so let's see if it's a problem for you. (If it is a problem and you're not willing to deal with it, then no matter what you learn here, getting a grip on things is going to be tough.)

* * *

OK. I admit it. I'm a bit flaky. How did I get this way? Just how big a problem is it?

I should qualify this. It's OK if you're a little flaky because, for good reason, a tendency in that direction is part of the human condition. Thoughts race through our heads in a sequence that is not always logical, but this rapid thought fluidity, fostered over eons, gives us quick adaptability to the rushing torrent of the world. This wonderful ability to adapt is why we humans are at the top of the food chain. Our experience varies moment to moment, and we adjust quickly to the ever-changing stimulus: first we try this, then we try that, and then we go in yet another direction to see what happens next. We're experts at instantly adjusting to circumstance: listening, talking, thinking, analyzing, testing, seizing opportunity, changing our minds, learning, and taking action right now due to the new information that just popped up.

It's the human gift that our brains are fluid and able to move fast, so don't waste mental energy thinking it's an internal dysfunction.

But this incredible agility — our innate capacity to turn on a dime — is also an open door for the DDD elephant to charge into the living room and take up residence, paralyzing our ability to focus.

What is the digital component of the DDD plague? It began sixty years ago as TV made its debut and our culture first met the screen. It's the media we absorb; it's the devices we respond to throughout the day, our attention flitting from one thing to the next. We're moving fast, fast, fast! It's the steady onslaught of email and social media: Texting! Twitter! Facebook! And it's the passive entertainment, too, including TV, movies, and portable music devices with their infernal earbuds that lock us in our cages no matter what else we might be doing.

There's online gaming, too. It goes on and on ...

Bam! Bam! Bam! We lurch from one topic to another hundreds of times — thousands of times — each day, and a lot of us have become quite good at it. And in all of this we don't get much practice concentrating. Truth is, we learn how not to concentrate, becoming experts at shallow-thinking multitasking.

And we get impatient with ourselves and with others, wanting answers now!

Look around at any cluster of people and see how many are mentally extracted from the real-time events of the moment, hammering away on a smartphone or plugged into music.

It's not just that our concentration abilities have been crippled in this focus-hostile world. As we're swallowed up by our devices, we don't think creatively. Why? Because we don't need to. Information is ceaselessly delivered to us, and for a huge swath of humanity it's not necessary to think originally, so it doesn't happen much. Instead, we absorb, with even further attention span diminishment. You know it's true.

The screen delivers gobs of information, and we acquiesce to what feels best right now. There's a huge stream of random input, but not a lot of output.

Have you heard the adage that "your strongest point is also your weakest point?" It's a cogent observation, and here it's illustrated perfectly: Our instant adaptability delivers flightiness as a by-product.

Here's a quote from the preface of my book, Work the System:

In the past thirty years the lure of instant gratification has seized a huge chunk of our population. For members of the hooked-up generation, too many with the attention span of a gnat — addicted to smartphones, preoccupied with social media, and dumbed-down by the silliness of much of the media and entertainment industries — it's a stretch to slow down to consider the root of things. The nervous gratification of the moment is a distraction from the quiet contemplation of the reasons why events unfold as they do. Today, unlike twenty years ago, a good now is available by just plugging in and tuning out. For too many of us, slowing down to examine things is not entertaining, and that's too bad because it's mandatory that we take the time to understand the machinery of our lives if we are to modify that machinery to produce the results we desire.

That's bad enough. Now, add the drug component of DDD. Especially in the US, back in the sixties, mind-altering substances made their wholesale introduction and are now, fifty years later, socially acceptable. Yes, there has always been alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, but they were ingested sporadically with the understanding they were probably not all that good for us. Twenty-five years ago, the social acceptance of prescribed mood adjusters began. (In those days it began with Prozac for adults and Ritalin for children.) Now, the legalization of marijuana is front and center.

People don't just think it's OK, they think it's necessary.

In the West, consider that 80 percent of us drink caffeine to the point of addiction, while here in the United States, any number of surveys show that 10 to 12 percent of the adult population uses antidepressants, with each individual convinced that their brain cells are somehow not active enough.

And what about alcohol? Ten percent of us are alcoholics. Add in nicotine and all the other legal and illegal substances, and it's safe to say that 98 percent of us ingest some form of mood-adjusting substance every day.


Excerpted from The Systems Mindset by Sam Carpenter. Copyright © 2016 Sam Carpenter. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Introduction 1

Part 1 The Machinery 13

1 Control Is What You Want 15

2 The Frenetic Life 21

3 Your Life Is a Collection of Separate Systems 29

4 The Universal Formula for How Things Happen 33

5 Go One Layer Deeper 39

6 99.9 Percent of Everything Works Just Fine 45

7 There's Not That Much to Fix 51

8 Emotions Follow Mechanics 59

9 The Simplicity Thing 63

10 Your Task Is to Create Value 65

11 Going with the Flow Will Ruin Your Life 67

12 Begin at the Bottom of the V 69

13 The Ubiquitous Misconception 73

14 The Siren Call of Good, Right, and Fair 79

15 Major in Majors 83

16 Your Systems Mindset Analogy 87

17 You Get to Keep Yourself 91

18 Your Personal Attributes Don't Matter That Much 93

19 A Better You 95

20 It's a Very Good Thing to Have Lots of Money 97

21 Miracle at the Airport 101

22 You'll Never Go Back 105

Part 2 Managing the Machinery: Essays 107

23 Dissection's Your Name and Repair's Your Game 109

24 Semantics Matter: Making Your Machines Visible 113

25 We Are Not All One 115

26 Clustering: Guilt Free and with a Calm Mind 117

27 Automate, Delegate, Delete 123

28 Texting Isn't Enough 127

29 Make Point of Sale an Obsession 131

30 Prime Time 139

31 Your Mind Can Be a Bad Neighborhood 143

32 Deal Killers and the Main Machine 147

33 Observing the Family System 153

34 A Bull Rider's Life 157

35 The Fabric of Your Existence 165

36 Choose the Red Pill 169

About the Author 173

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