System Error

There once was a man, who after years of trying, won $5 million dollars in his state’s lottery. He won on a Tuesday. Thinking his activities had somehow influenced his winning, this man reverse-engineered all the steps taken on that day. In his mind, he had found a winning system.

The morning he purchased this lottery ticket, he left home at 8:17 a.m. He grabbed coffee at the local BP gas station. Rita waited on him at the counter. He paid with loose change and upon leaving, said “good morning” to a man in a blue polka dot shirt exiting an ’89 Honda Civic Hatchback.

He then drove five miles east, catching every green light except one, the last one. He arrived at a second BP gas station where he purchased a white Moon Pie with sawdust-colored filling from old Mr. Grimes.

Today, 10 years later, this lottery winner has a trunk full of molded Moon Pies, and a bucket of loose change in his car. He never hit the lottery again.

There are several problems with his “system.” Old Mr. Grimes died. On the site of the first BP gas station is now an apartment complex. He never saw the man in the polka dot shirt again. He could never reproduce what transpired on that winning Tuesday morning. The system had an expiring relevance, and so do most systems today.

We live in a world of systems. The system of racial identity, the system of resumés, the system of media. Most of the individuals or ideas that originally created the system you are now following are dead.

Success today is defined by those who realize this—failure is defined by those who don’t. Have you noticed how many young people are becoming successful in half the time of their previous generation? This is because these young people have either ignored the previous system or are oblivious to it.

In this new environment, if your company fails, it is purely a system error. Create a new one.