We Always Fall Back To The Systems We Have In Place

Though I’m a staunch critic of education and schooling, my own time at school was an amazing experience overall. The thing I loved most was the sense of community and being able to see around a hundred people I genuinely loved every single day. 


It Was A Great System


The beauty with school was that I never had to arrange to see people. It just happened. 


We all showed up to the same campus five days a week and for sport on Saturdays. Our lives were beautifully interwoven as we did a whole range of activities together; I had some friends I did debating with, others community service with and still more who I played football and performed in plays with. 


All of it was centrally organised on one campus. What a dream. 


Life Has Changed Since Then. 


I was reluctant to leave school. Though there would be advantages to being in the outside world, I just did not see how it would compete: The community was no longer being facilitated and everyone would be going their separate ways. 


Curious thing we do in our lives isn’t it? We appear to have the formula for a guided and facilitated community – I know given I lived it – yet we can’t offer this in our ‘adult world’. For some reason our economic and social infrastructure doesn’t support it. 


In the outside world I was very lonely during my first years outside of school. I still caught up with friends here and there but it was more effortful – you had to remember and maintain, scheduling in and setting up time to connect. All this while balancing study and the other logistics in your life. 


Every now and then I would bump into a good friend who I hadn’t seen or thought of in a while – not because they weren’t a good friend, but because I didn’t consciously arrange time to see and talk to them. We simply cannot maintain a hundred one-to-one relationships on a purely manual basis – not without a system in place. 




Last Friday Scott and I spent our evening at a bar in North Sydney, negotiating with the managers to bring back their monthly karaoke nights now that COVID-19 restrictions were ending. They must think we’re mad I thought as we sat with them, preaching our love of karaoke. There was no way these managers would guess that Scott runs a tech startup or that I write about a wide range of philosophical and deep subjects, often intertwining karaoke in amongst them. 


Many people have laughed at the effort and time I’ve put into campaigning for and facilitating karaoke given the other things which compete for my time – to them I say, what is the point of the other pursuits if we can’t have karaoke? To me, it is the centre. 

The Karaoke Story Once Again


For those who are unfamiliar, karaoke was a discovery like no other for my small tribe. The experiential education startup Scott and I established is named ‘Doohat Labs’ after Doohat Avenue in North Sydney – the street Scott and his friend Will lived on when we first walked down to this bar and had our first karaoke night as a group. 


It became a system for us. The karaoke night was run on the last Saturday of every month, meaning it did not have to be arranged. All we had to do was remind everyone that it was on; there was no real limit or ceiling on who could be invited – so when I bumped into people I missed and hadn’t seen, there was a system and a routine that they could subscribe to. The manual maintenance was reduced and gone if they bought into a monthly routine of karaoke. 


Another example of this was a football team my school friends established in 2014, which keeps around thirty friends together year-after-year through another great system. When you are part of a sporting team, you see each other once or twice a week – and I would hardly see any of these thirty people if we had to catch up manually. 

We Always Fall Back To The Systems We Have In Place


Which thing do you want to improve most right now? 


Perhaps you want to lose weight? 

Perhaps you want to spend more time reading? 

Perhaps you want to get better at storytelling and speaking? 


My question to you is – what’s your system? 


If I asked you when you were going to exercise, when you were going to read, and how you were going to develop your speaking skills, what would you say? 


If it’s not in your diary it’s not going to happen, and if there’s no system then you’ll fall back to whatever the default is of what you’re doing now. If you think you will read, exercise or speak when you feel like it, you’ve already lost… 


You’re relying on momentary inspiration, which is sporadic, unreliable and unpredictable. Do you think Seth Godin has maintained a daily blog for so long by blogging when he feels like it? Do you think Olympians wake up every morning at the crack of dawn every day feeling like training


If you can’t tell me what time you’re going to read tomorrow and for how long, then how on earth will you do it? 


Planning for spare time


Do you ever celebrate your day off or weekend with the thought that you’re going “to get so much done!” – but rarely do anything productive at all? 


After years of this very failing I’ve found that I have to plan my weekends in order to get good use out of them – from a social and a work perspective! When time is unstructured, we fall back to the systems we have in place. If we don’t have a system in place, we fall back to nothing! Simple!


If you read for thirty minutes a day for ten years, would you not guarantee that you would be infinitely wiser than you are now? Almost certainly. The most difficult thing is not the math, it’s the discipline. The focus now becomes ensuring that the thirty minutes a day is maintained. 


How will you design a system for it? Perhaps you will need to carve out time that no one can interrupt or hijack – and you’ll probably need a place no one can interrupt you in. You will need to switch your phone to silent, and build the routine. 


Systems and Routines, when done well, become effortless. 


Karaoke is easy and effortless when it is maintained monthly. The school community was an effortless yet high-reward experience for me, though it simply required me to show up. 


You can read all the personal development books you want and inject yourself with temporary fist-bumping motivation – all you will do is fatigue like your body does to the effects of a drug, building up tolerance and falling into addiction. Motivation does not bring consistency. Accountable systems do. 


How about you try cutting the bullshit, the fluff,  and the sporadic impulses – set up the system that will make the effortless change. Take fifteen minutes or half an hour today to think about what will be required, and then put it in place. 


Would this open a Door For Someone You Know?

Remember to share it with them, after all, the best way to Open a Thousand Doors for you is to concentrate on Opening Doors for Others.

With Joe Wehbe – The Podcast

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