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Focus on Systems Not Outcomes

"I'm going to lose 50 lbs", "I want to make $1 million dollars, I'm going to increase my sales to $10k a week"

All good things and something we say to ourselves when we want to improve, these are pretty common, especially around New Year's. One problem.

Outcome, Outcome, Outcome.

All three statements are focused on outcomes. What's the quote: “If there’s a single lesson that life teaches us, it’s that wishing doesn’t make it so." (1)

You can want something and believe that you can get it. You can say all the affirmations you want but unless you focus on your system for obtaining it, it's not going to happen.

The Paper Clip Strategy

The system does not have to be complicated either. Take the story of Trent Dyrsmid and his "paper-clip strategy."

He was a 23-year old rookie stockbroker working for a Canadian Bank outside of Vancouver in 1993. Nobody at the bank really expected much from him. Except he had a simple system that would lead to enormous success.

"The Paper Clip Strategy" Every morning he started with a cup full of 120 paper clips and an empty cup on his desk. Every time he would make a sales call he moved a paper clip over to the empty cup until at the end of the day it was full of 120 paper clips.

Something extraordinary happened with this very simple system. Within 18 months he brought in $5M to the firm and was making $75,000 in 1993 all this by the time he was 24. He eventually landed a 6 figure job with another firm. (2)

Was Trent's goal to make $75,000 or bring in $5M to the company? Probably not but by focusing on a very simple system, moving one shiny metal object from one cup to another he accomplished something great.

The power of a simple system can crus the enormity of an impossible goal.

If you want to lose 50 lbs

Start with 10 pushups

If you want to start saving a little for retirement

Start with $25 a month

If you want to become a better writer

Start writing for 2 minutes a day

The system is the behavior, the output is what you become. Focus on the system and you'll get better outcomes.


  1. This is a quote from Lev Grossman, The Magicians

  2. The story of the "paper clip strategy" is not only about a simple system but it also relates to visual cues in behavior. Making it attractive, obvious, easy, and satisifying. Creating a visual cue helps to solidify the habit.



Hello, My name is Brice. I am glad you're here.  I am excited to share with you all the things I'm learning and writing.  I am on a journey to share what I learn with you and in some small way give back so you can share with others  There are a few resources on this website that can help you accomplish that.

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