“You don’t rise to the level of your goals, but fall to the level of your systems” - a quote that well captures the idea that motivation and desires are ineffective at delivering results if they are fighting the underlying systems that run our every day lives. James Clear
writes in his book “Atomic Habits” how important it is to influence and curate these systems in order to change the direction of your work and life. Almost two and half decades before James Clear, this concept was brilliantly articulated by Robert Fritz wrote in his thought provoking book “The Path of Least Resistance”.
Fritz highlights three important insights.
The first is this: You are like a river. You go through life taking the path of least resistance… You may try to change the direc-tion of your own flow in certain areas of your life—your eating habits, the way you work, the way you relate to others, the way you treat yourself, the attitudes you have about life. And you may even succeed for a time. But eventually you will find you return to your original behavior and attitudes. This is because your life is determined, insofar as it is a law of nature for you to take the path of least resistance.
The second insight is just as fundamental: The underlying structure of your life determines the path of least resistance… Just as a riverbed determines the path of the water flowing through it, so the structures in your life determine your path of least resistance. Whether you are aware of these structures or not, they are there. The structure of the river remains the same whether there is water flowing through it or not.
You may barely notice the underlying structures in your life and how powerfully and naturally they determine the way you live.
The third insight is this: You can change the fundamental underlying structures of your life. Just as engineers can change the path of a river by changing the structure of the terrain so that the river flows where they want it to go, you can change the very basic structure of your life so that you can create the life you want… with an appropriate change in the underlying structure of your life, the path of least resistance cannot lead anywhere except in the direction you really want to go.
The guiding principle that emanates from these three in-sights is this: You can learn to recognize the structures at play in your life and change them so that you can create what you really want to create.
We all think we make these choices ourselves. It certainly feels like we’re in full control. But it turns out that our choices — both in our startups and in our lives — are more constrained than we think.
The unseen hand in them all is the networks that surround us and the powerful math they exert on us.
Working with network effects in our 100+ companies makes it impossible not to notice how the same mechanisms and math that create near-destiny for companies also create near-destiny for us as individuals. It’s mind-blowing once you see it.
These constraints are highly determinative of how your life will turn out, guiding us inexorably down one path or another in ways that are both quite predictable. Yet these forces are typically unnoticed.
This article reflects the saying that you are the average of the 5 people you are closest to (attributed to Jim Rohn
). They are the path of least resistance for your day.
Problem solving is an example of single loop learning. You identify an error and apply a particular remedy to correct it. But genuine learning involves an extra step, in which you reflect on your assumptions and test the validity of your hypotheses.
Achieving this double-loop learning is more than a matter of motivation — you have to reflect on the way you think. Failure forces you to reflect on your assumptions and inferences.