@fortelabs posted quite a good tweetstorm on twitter today.

He goes on:

It involves generating lots of “non-negotiable” requirements that you “must” do before you can do what you want to do. As in, “Before I do X everybody knows I have to do A, B,C,D, E, F, G, etc.” It’s clever because it sets up an unlosable game. If you fail, you can blame immediate steps for putting the goal out of reach. If you reach X but it took too long, you’re justified because you “followed the correct process.”

There’s more–and I highly recommend clicking through and reading the whole thing–but this sums up the basic premise.

I recognize myself in it. Like, way too much.

“Before I start writing Batfort I need to hone my writing skills and learn how to be disciplined to do something every day and get a real camera and sketch out a whole editorial and business plan and and and”

“Before I can get a car I need to get a new job that pays better and live in a place where parking doesn’t suck and and and”

“Before I can be healthy I need to stop eating carbs and sleep 8 hours a night and stop worrying so much and exercise more regularly and and and”

“Before I can date that attractive man, I need to get a car…”

You get the drill.

It is SO EASY to use the guise of “building a plan” and “doing your research” as an excuse to do nothing of consequence. Yes, plans and research are necessary, but they are not DOING THE WORK. It’s frittering away time and creative energy on small-potatoes things that feel just productive enough that we don’t realize that all of the sudden we ate an entire bag of chips for dinner.

Do that enough times in a row, and you’re going to feel sick.

With all respect to Scott Adams, I have a negative reaction to his “systems, not goals” approach to life. For the longest time I could never figure out why, exactly, but I think this is it.

If you bury yourself in systems, even good ones like going to the gym every day, without having a goal that you’re pushing yourself toward, it’s really easy to settle into the groove of the system. The system becomes your end product, instead of what you designed this system to move you toward.

You work your muscles, but don’t get stronger or build out some sweet pecs.

Sure, goals don’t always work out. There are things that are beyond our control. That’s life.

The resilient pick up, dust off, and keep going. The antifragile incorporate those lessons into their next attempt.

You set a new goal, and move on.

A system alone won’t work: you need something to work toward.

Goals alone won’t work either: you need daily practices to propel you toward them.

Get you a plan that can do both.