Chapter 13

A syste­matic approach is the key to success

Only a syste­matic approach will help you avoid life’s short­co­mings. It’s like playing chess: Success is achieved not by a sponta­neous move, but by a carefully delibe­rated one. This requires recognizing and under­standing the systems that surround us to develop your own systems. This applies in parti­cular for your job and gives you confi­dence even in turbulent times.

Even though some people are reluctant to admit it: Nobody’s perfect 

Being able to draw like Picasso, play soccer like Pele, sing like Maria Callas, be as beautiful as Marilyn Monroe, be as wise as the Dalai Lama – all of us who are jealous of others and their special attri­butes and skills also admit at the same time that we are imperfect. We would so love to be ingenious!

Instead, we are forced to admit that our knowledge is incom­plete, our skills are under­de­ve­loped and that we lack many attri­butes that we would like to have. This is what our reality looks like: We overe­stimate or undere­stimate ourselves, have inaccurate percep­tions, we set the wrong priorities, we select the wrong time, we walk in the wrong direction – but we are also successful at a few things.

Having a syste­matic approach helps us to overcome our own inade­quacy. We already learn as kids that we have to proceed syste­ma­ti­cally when we want to achieve something. There is no point in putting Lego blocks together randomly. It must first be clear to us what we want to achieve by putting together the blocks. There must be an objective in order for the activity to make sense. You can only put the correct blocks in the correct order afterwards.

Recognizing and under­standing your environment

People who want to find their way in a material world have to ask themselves two questions:

  1. What are the components?
  2. How does it work?

We have an innate curiosity to explore our environment. As babies, we put every­thing in our mouths, we want to get our hands on every­thing, and try things out. How does that taste? How does that feel? What can I do with it? Later on, it becomes interesting to take thing apart. Your dad might help you to put it back together again. IKEA and other providers of furniture assembly sets build on the abilities developed during our childhood and adole­s­cence to proceed systematically.

Do the following test on yourself: After buying a product you need to assemble before using, put the assembly instruc­tions aside. Look at the picture of the fully assembled product and develop a concept for the assembly. Only pick up the assembly instruc­tions again after­wards. Compare your concept with the supplier’s concept!

How does what work? You should train yourself to ask yourself this question. This will help you to not only get to know your environment but learn to under­stand it. You can also practice this approach in situa­tions where you are waiting for something, for example. How has the doctor whose waiting room you are in organized his or her practice? What is the structure of the public office building whose corridor you have to wait in? In what complexes is the airport split into? According to which system are the goods offered at a grocery store?

Acting syste­ma­ti­cally is the opposite of “just jumping right in”. Animals act guided by their instinct. We need to use our heads. Otherwise, we would end up in chaos and disaster.

Develop a syste­matic approach on your own 

As children, we learn through imitating. When we as adults have forgotten this method or there is nobody to show us anything worth imitating, we have no other choice than to develop our own learning with a system. We learn our mother tongue by listening and repeating what we hear. As adults, we can learn more languages through syste­matic learning. We rely on learning processes developed by educators and psycho­lo­gists to do this.

However, it is not enough to simply passively follow the system provided by teachers. As a learner, you need to be able to solve tasks on your own. How do I use a library? How do I grasp the content of a book? How do I organize my daily routine? When working groups are formed in indus­trial manufac­turing that are no longer required to use a certain workflow, the group must be able to organize its work independently.

Unfort­u­nately, children and adole­s­cents are taught very little about a syste­matic approach to their own, personal develo­pment. For this reason, you more or less have to teach that to yourself. You are well-positioned for such self-develo­pment if you already learned how to keep your room tidy as a child and also helped with doing household chores. Nothing is better suited for developing and constantly improving useful systems than housework. And that’s not just for you alone, but in the group, within your family.

Disorder as a protest 

Most of us prefer to leave activities like tidying up and cleaning to others. Some mothers raise their children to have this kind of bad behavior. This is either since they model being messy or because they act like they are our maid. Welcome to Hotel Mom and Dad. As a result, we have been avoiding any kind of housework since our childhood, detest cleaning, doing dishes, ironing, mending clothes, etc. We consider this to be menial labor that you used to have slaves for and nowadays, you have staff or an illegal worker take care of that for you.

Being a messy person can be a form of protest. Young people going through puberty want to demons­trate their rejection of the tradi­tional systems and show their own will. They develop their own systems and subcul­tures. If this leads to the develo­pment of their own new systems when they reach adulthood, then that’s alright. However, adults who remain in their adole­scent rebellion get in their own way if they refuse to do what their boss wants or rebel against dominant partners.

Adults who try to hide behind or within their disor­ga­nization also exhibit childish behavior. They claim to know what they have and where they can find it. This may be true for things they use often and as long as they stay within familiar territory. However, using disorder as a kind of “hide and seek” indicates impaired social behavior.

If our parents have not shown us how to keep things in order, if they have not conveyed to us that order is something useful, if they have not called our attention to the fact that the world around us consists of a system of order, and if they also did not let us experience that it is easier for people to live together in a system of order they practice together, then we have to make up for this for our lives as adults and for our household alone and in groups – or things will become unpleasant.

Profes­sional develo­pment as an ongoing task

Aside from organizing your personal life, your job is the most important area in which you can use a system to offset our imper­fection. Anything else makes us dependent on good luck and seren­dipity, which is the opposite of a self-directed life. This is the case since the techno­lo­gical develo­p­ments and market changes are becoming faster and faster. Nowadays, none of us can be sure that we will be able to carry out a profession we have learned until we retire. All of us have to constantly learn and relearn things these days.

This is what matters most: Analyze and rethink your position early on; don’t wait until you are unemployed to do so. And the best way to do so is by perma­nently observing and assessing this position. People who have not yet inves­ti­gated how they got into their current situation should have a look at their past experiences.

People who do not do that of their own volition will be asked to do so by their employer, at least in basic terms: Job appli­cants must provide quite a bit of documen­tation and go through testing stations such as assessment centers for the heads of HR be somewhat certain to have found the correct employee in the end.

Not focusing on your potential yourself is negligent. Failing to do so makes you unable to present yourself with confi­dence toward others or improve yourself on your own. Ask yourself:

  • Where is my current job taking me?
  • What possi­bi­lities for develo­pment do I have?
  • What should I not accept?
  • Which of my abilities and attri­butes are being neglected?
  • What has to change?
  • What do I have to change?
  • What keeps me from getting better?

Your personal job market

People who work for themselves, such as carpenters or lawyers or psycho­the­ra­pists will not be able to avoid having to find customers and focusing on their market. Customers will not just walk into your workshop, firm, or practice on their own. In addition, as a self-employed person, you need to remain fit for the market. That means you need to develop profes­sio­nally and adapt your services to changes in the market.

People who do not create their own jobs but have them provided by an employer should also have the same attitude. There is an incre­asing tendency for employees to only give those people a job who are able to fill it with purpose on their own. To fulfill this requi­rement, everyone has to develop their own system of personal work capability, which consists of two basic areas:

  1. ongoing self-impro­vement
  2. market obser­vation and maintenance

This book offers countless insights, experi­ences, and sugges­tions for Item 1 in every chapter. You can use them to develop the necessary planning, plans, and measures for your personal capability to work.

Item 2 is about defining your market both geogra­phi­cally (locally, regio­nally, supra­re­gio­nally, globally) and to under­stand the sector and area of specia­lization regarding its dynamics, trends, and tendencies. But this requires research. It’s not enough to just read the trade journal of your profes­sional organization. It requires an additional activity: Constantly estab­li­shing and maintaining contacts. This not only includes parti­ci­pating in events of profes­sional associa­tions, trade fairs, and confe­rences, but also member­ships in organiza­tions with a focus on customers.

The best jobs are usually given to people via “vitamin C”. You do not neces­s­arily have to be included, but your fellow profes­sionals should know who you are. Academic creden­tials only partly reflect character traits and key quali­fi­ca­tions. This is why everyone in the sector of the job market in which your desired position is to be filled should not just be well-known as an expert, but also as a person.

Self-confi­dence in turbulent times

People who plan and implement their career develo­pment like an entre­preneur who knows which strengths they have that need to be developed and which weaknesses they need to compensate for or eliminate are very likely to achieve their goals. And they will largely be able to face the pitfalls of the job market. Thus, these people will not be devas­tated when, for example, the company that employs you is sold or when the company goes broke. They will recognize the develo­pment early on and draw the corre­sponding consequences.

Over time, we all develop life habits that we are reluctant to give up. Some of us have put down deep roots for ourselves and our families in a place where we live and work and are not willing to sacrifice that for a job. You can use a situation analysis to find out what you value more or less than your career develo­pment under which circum­s­tances: What do you perhaps forgo and what will you never give up? How can you change your personal living environment without having to experience this as a loss?

Those of us who come to the conclusion when examining our living situation they would really not want to change anything and only need to keep their current job to do so run the risk of being completely unpre­pared when fate strikes. The dynamics of economic life will continue to increase and allow for fewer and fewer jobs that are not subject to constant changes.

Being born and dying are part of the interplay of life. People who are their own entre­pre­neurs when it comes to “work” matters are the most likely to be able to handle this ebb and flow. To do so, you have to determine your career yourself. This requires you to know what you want, where you want to be in your career, and how you want to live. The objec­tives must be planned and pursued in line with this.

To stay ahead in life despite our imper­fection, we have to exploit the possi­bi­lities of taking syste­matic action.

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