The other day I put on my workout clothes and drove to the gym. But when I arrived I didn't feel like working out. This was not a huge surprise, since I didn't feel peppy before I even laced up my running shoes. Perhaps I hadn't gotten enough sleep that week. I wasn't sure what the problem was. I ate lunch in the snack bar then drove home and took a nap.

Question: Did I fail at my exercise goal?

Your answer will say a lot about you. But I'll warn you that it's a trick question. The trick is that I didn't have an exercise goal in the first place, so I couldn't have failed to reach it. What I do have is an exercise system, and I was completely successful at the system. My philosophy is that losers have goals and winners have systems.

In this case, my system is that I attempt to exercise five times a week around lunchtime. And I always allow myself the option of driving to the gym then turning around and going home. What I've discovered is that the routine of preparing to exercise usually inspires me to go through with it even if I didn't start out in the mood. This particular day, my body wasn't going to cooperate. No problem. The system of attempting to exercise worked as planned. I didn't have a trace of guilt about driving home. I've used this system for my entire adult life. I see exercise as a lifestyle, not an objective.

If I had a goal instead of a system, I would have failed that day. And I would have felt like a loser. That can't be good for motivation. That failure might be enough to prevent me from going to the gym the next time I don't feel 100%, just to avoid the risk of another failure.

A week after graduating college, I took my first flight in an airplane. I got in a conversation with a businessman in the seat next to me. He was CEO of a company that made aircraft screws. He told me that his career system involved a continuous search for a better job. No matter how much he liked his current job, he always interviewed for better ones. I assume he failed to get most of the jobs he interviewed for, but over time his system worked, and he became a CEO. My own system at the time involved listening carefully to the advice of anyone who was successful. I adopted the CEO's system in my own career, moving to higher paying jobs about once per year until I started drawing Dilbert (while continuing my day job).

If I were to summarize the CEO's advice, it went something like this: Your job isn't to do your job. Your job is to get a better job. That's a system, not a goal.

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-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 4, 2011
"And once the experts and the voters are mostly on the same side, the politicians would find it embarrassing to disagree. Embarrassment is the main tool of my Transitional Government."

What make you think that politicians find it embarrassing to disagree? Most of them are not embarrassed at all about the mess they have made. Some of them are even proud to lack education, while deriding those who have an education as 'elitists'. Quite a few blatantly deny science. Sorry, I just don't think embarrassing politicians will work.
Sep 19, 2011
Good idea. Only seeing some of the !$%* I've ben through.
-6 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 14, 2011
Hey................ jzlondon................I am an American and I lived in Europe for some years. Believe it or not, in the US there are 20 or 30 year olds who drive great big SUV's 2 !$%*! to the gym so they can walk on a tread mill for 5 !$%*!. And people wonder why they need SUV's with extra wide seats??????
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 14, 2011
Could we add to the concept "CREATE a better job". You don't have to leave your company or start a different business from the one you have. You have to keep adapting the job/business you have so that it conforms more closely with your current and likely future desires. Companies that don't let you adapt your job are clearly the wrong kind of companies to work for, but I've never found one.

That said, when you are really good at your job, sometimes they resist letting you move away from it. If you're that necessary it's a perfect opportunity to start out on your own and contract to your previous employer.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 13, 2011
Just in case that wasn't clear: I was actually agreeing with Scott. Showing up is the system in this case (in many cases, in fact). Winning may be the goal - but if you are only willing to play when you know you will win - you probably won't play much - which means you won't win much. I vote for the showing up approach.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 13, 2011
I watched my 15-year-old drop a touchdown pass the other night. My first thought was: "Cool! First game of his HS career and they send *him* to the end zone for a pass!" It didn't bother me that he dropped it, though catching it would certainly have been cooler. (Unnecessary confession: I'm not much of a sports fan.) When I pulled up to the locker room to take him home, I practically had to scrape him off the pavement - he was so depressed. His world is pretty black and white: You win or you lose. You catch the ball or you drop it. For Dog's sake! He's a relatively small kid. I thought that would doom his chances to play - yet the coaches had him in the game for 2/3's of the very first game of the season - playing both offense and defense. I couldn't believe he could not see that just being on the field was a victory. You can't win unless you are on the field. Of course, you can't lose either. So... you can stay home and never lose - or you can show up, go out on the field and put yourself into a position to win. I told him, "just get your butt back out on the field - and hold on to the ball next time!"
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 13, 2011
I can feel your pain, because I always try to tell myself I NEED to work out more, but then instead of a routine, I end up just working out once every month or so...
Sep 13, 2011
what if a system is to have goals? Or the goal is to have systems?

what about "winners seek change" and "losers settle?
Sep 13, 2011
"Your job isn't to do your job. Your job is to get a better job": That's a real paradigm-shifter for me. I've been dimly aware of this concept since my brain was changed by, of all things, a piece in the onion: http://www.theonion.com/articles/employees-loyalty-garners-ceos-contempt,4727/ but your blog entry has really slotted the idea into place.

Interestingly, I've become relaxed about the concept of "succeeding" and "failing" since this blog allowed* me re-consider my understanding of the concept of free will too. (*I use the word "allowed", as I've also recently realised that "I don't have enough information" is much more truthful than fully believing my own opinions)

Just wanted to say thanks, I suppose.

I don't know if you do requests, but I'm writing this from the UK and would be interested to hear analysis of the US presidential race from the point of view of someone who understands that other points of view exist. Sadly, the best press analysis we have at the moment seems to be "WOMAN WHO WANTS POWER IS CRAZY AS SHE IS A WOMAN WHO WANTS POWER" or "Wealthy man claims his imaginary sky-king is best and killing humans is right (if they are really, really bad or believe in other sky-kings)"

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 13, 2011
So it's OK to lie to yourself ("I didn't fail to exercise today, I didn't have an exercise goal in the first place"), but not forgive yourself ("I would have felt like a loser").

How did you know where to drive to if you didn't have a goal of getting there to exercise?
Sep 13, 2011
Once had a job working on straight commission and was really good at it. Thinking it was a reward; the boss took me to lunch one day and said that if production did not improve in my sales in the next three months I would be fired. Well, immediately plans formed to leave the company and start another business doing the same thing. Years of success later ran into him and he asked how it was going. Told him and he had the nerve to ask why he didn’t get a cut on the deals because many of the contacts came through the time with his company. In business, as in many things in life, often the only one that really cares about you is you.
Sep 13, 2011
Funny you should post this on Monday because I was taking the CMSP class over the weekend and if there was one takeaway from the entire program, it was this.

"Forget about where your motorcycle is right now, because it is too late, you are already there. Look at where you have to go and you'll figure out the best way to get there. "
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 13, 2011
"moving to higher paying jobs about once per year"

So it is not that you worked a few year in businesses and then got frustrated with them, but you had a cynical attitude towards them to begin with.

This attitude is not very good for the company, I think there is hardly any need to explain that. I have the impression that it is a very American attitude.

If you are really interested in ideas to improve the American economy, which you seem to be, imho it would be better to motivate people to do their job. That's what people are doing in Germany anyway.

Or to put it another way: the system of the CEO was working well, but the goal behind it is questionable.
Sep 12, 2011
I like this idea.
im no good at working when i get home, even though i should, so gonna implement a system of my own: every whole hour, after i get home, im gonna sit down at my desk with papers and pc for minimum 5 min. i dont have to do anything, but im gonna sit there. if i do nothing, i can watch tv, guilt free, for 55min.

i suspect the result will be alot of 5min of writing down what i should do, which will lead to me having a better overview of my tasks. And that will lead to me being more motivated to working at home.
Sep 12, 2011
(Scott's post, not mine)
Sep 12, 2011
I could be wandering off-track a bit with this thought, but the poker player in me wants to make an analogy to a concept that a lot of new poker players get wrong.

New player: "Oh wow, I'm playing a hand, I WANT TO WIN THIS POT ASAP" (Goal/results-oriented)
Experienced player: "I'm playing yet another hand, I want to make the correct decision on each betting round" (System/decision-oriented)

The new player might win a few pots (regardless of how correct/optimal their play was), and feel happy about their results, just as Scott might have ended up exercising that day because the goal "exercise 5 times a week" demands results. The experienced player will make correct decisions based on a system (probably based on some kind of GTO-style baseline with some adjustments for his opponents, position, and other factors specific to that hand) and not worry too much about the results: if the system is good, the results will take care of themselves over time. 90% to win still means 10% to lose!

Scott made a correct decision by choosing not to exercise when he didn't feel like it. His system allows for that (might even demand it!) and he'll still end up achieving positive results if the system is designed that way, whether or not he demands results as a "goal".

I'm not sure if that made any sense at all. Probably not. Good post, anyway.
Sep 12, 2011
No you did not fail your goal

I found that goals creates more problems than solutions when it comes to successes in my life. Even when i reach a goal, I end up wondering what to do afterward. Do i create another goal or do i just sit around scratching my ass...

I found that following successful people and doing what successful people do helps more at being successful than creating arbitrary goals all the time. I wrote a paper in college on memetical mimesis. From what i remember, I basically simplified the two theories togather as evolutionary systematic monkey see monkey do.

If i want to be the top tool maker in the tribe, do i follow/learn to make tools from the guy who makes tools of less quality that don't work, that no one wants. Or do i follow the guy who makes the high quality tools that work the best that everyone wants.

Ofcoarse i'm over simplifying, and quality and success is arbitrary to any given system. Plus the variable and somewhat unpredictable dynamics of economics and life will play a role in determining successes as well. But over all the logic is the same.
Sep 12, 2011
(iPad edit shame)
I think the system Scott mentions is really just a system of small easy to attain goals, and a better way to say "system" is to say a series of "failure-less !$%*!$%*!$%*!$%*!$%* day going to the gym had goals - wake up, get dressed, drive to gym, etc. If you hadn't done any of them I doubt you would have felt the same.

But the big question is how you define the big goal of exercise, and in your case, it's "if I do a few of these easy small goals". Which is great for your self esteem, and maybe even provides motivation to stick with it, if your goals are really easy to begin with. Maybe that's more the key: most people would probably be ok with easy goals like " eat right 80% of the time" and "exercise every three days". But if you were an Olympic athlete your system wouldn't be enough.

Right now I have a goal of "when I wake up, I try and do more pushups then yesterday". 90 percent of the time I do try, sometimes I forget, and sometimes I do more than the day before. Over the course of the summer I've gone from three to twenty-three. That's a workable lifestyle.
+15 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 12, 2011
Sounds very similar to Woody Allen's famous quote: "Eighty percent of success is showing up."
Sep 12, 2011
I think Scott that your system is rally
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