Systems vs. Goals

By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo

A lesson we can learn from Scott Adam’s book, “How to Fail in Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of Story of My Life” is on the difference between systems and goals.  Scott Adam is the author of the famous Dilbert comic strip known for its funny workplace themes.  Scott dares to say that “Goals are for losers”.  What he meant is that although by instinct we would always have goals, but more often than not we don’t have a system to help us achieve it.  A system is a set of good habits or skills we do every day to achieve our goals.  The beauty of having a system is that it does not matter what your goals are, if you have an effective daily system of working on improving your skills, you can achieve almost any goal you set in life.

Why systems are better than goals, in terms of health for example the author says, your goal might be to lose 20 pounds but what is better is having a system of eating right.  Or your goal might be to run a 5-kilometer marathon but what’s better is to have a system to exercise regularly.  Or a goal of earning a million pesos in 12 months, but Scott says it’s better to have a system of being a serial entrepreneur where there’s no limit to how much you can earn.  Aside from that, goals can make you rigid and focus only on one thing that shuts you off from other opportunities. But systems are flexible and they open you to be curious of better ways of doing things.  Goals are only good for playing games and doing simple tasks that are short in duration and have a clear purpose but are terrible at lifelong endeavors and personal success.

When you focus on systems instead of goals you will also look at failures in a different perspective.  Scott says that his previous undertakings in business of creating computer games, making a file transfer software and meditation programs can be looked at as failures in terms of goals stand point.  But in the stand point of systems it helped him acquire the virtue of hustle and persistence that allowed him to devote long hours to make his comic strip get off the ground.  His failure to move up the ranks when he was still working in a bank allowed him to develop enough business skills to launch and manage his comic business.  This is a great lesson especially to fresh graduates that no matter what your work might be after graduation, (it might not be the ideal job you wanted) you can surely use the skills you’ve learned from that job with your next job and thus, nothing is wasted.

Systems is skills focused.  It increases your luck which is another ingredient to success.  Scott says, success = luck + skills. If you don’t have enough skills, when luck arrives, you will not be ready to capitalize on it.  There were many programmers better than Bill Gates during the early years of computer, but it was Bill Gates who took on the opportunity to build Microsoft because he had all the skills of programming, organizing and building a new company that majority of programmers at that time did not have.