“There is nothing that stays without effort”
This week we participated in a multi-day professional development session along with many of our team members. Having gone through our fair share of leadership books, podcasts, and conferences, we have noticed a pattern: to achieve goals—whether it be running a marathon, achieving a revenue target, or being a better spouse—you must put in place a structure to hold yourself accountable to that outcome. Ideally, that structure guides allocation of your time on a daily basis to ensure you are steadily working toward your goal: as one of our instructors told us, “show me your calendar and I’ll show you your life.”
That said, as far as we can tell, it doesn’t really matter which framework you choose. It could be OKRs, Traction/EoS, MBO, E-Myth, or a method we have yet to learn. It just matters that you choose a system and have the discipline to stick to it.
Unfortunately, setting up and maintaining any system is really really hard. And darn it, it takes time! On that point, we enjoyed a recent POV40IQ post that touched on systems thinking: “Instead, I look at these laws of physics in a more philosophical way: systems require work: There is nothing that exists without effort. There is nothing that stays without effort either.”
We think the second point, “there is nothing that stays without effort either,” is the most important but also the most overlooked. We see (and are not immune ourselves) to initiatives that start with great enthusiasm, make initial progress, and then… fizzle after a couple of days, weeks, or months, because maintaining a system takes a lot of continuous, unglamorous effort and it’s easy to revert to the old way of doing things.
This is the difference between a diet and a lifestyle. Many will state a goal—to lose weight—and go on a diet. If they are committed to the diet, it will be hard, and they may lose weight. But then, when the diet is over, the work stops, and they gain it all back. That’s because “there is nothing that stays without effort”. Healthy lifestyle choices, on the other hand, embrace the reality that health is a continuous daily effort that never ends.
In the small business world, we see a lot of diet vs. lifestyle choices. Human resources is a good example: company wants better employee retention and development, puts effort into establishing a structured onboarding and review process, does it for a while, but then (because it takes time and there is no immediate payoff) effort slowly falls by the wayside to more pressing things. All of a sudden, no new employees have gone through the onboarding and nobody has been given a review since who knows when.
Systems dieting is all too common and likely why most small businesses don’t achieve their full potential. Part of our aspiration for the Chenmark structure is that it creates a level of accountability for the companies on our team, as well as the resources to build and maintain those systems. If we really want to commit to a lifestyle however, mindset is the biggest factor, which is why one of our core values is to Chase Better: We must lean into the fact that the systems at the core of an enduring business are a lot of hard work — work that literally never ends.