The "Systems" Trap

The first time I fell into the “system” trap was high school.

I was lucky to go to a school that graduated a whole class of students who were college bound. The system was set; Go to school, get into college, get a degree, find a company to pick you and follow the rules. and I unconsciously followed along, albeit with some nagging feeling that this wasn’t meant to work for me. 

Luckily I was blessed to be ADD and Dyslexic. 

The only advantage I had was things didn’t come easy, the routines everyone else took wouldn’t work for me, so I was forced to think outside the box a bit on how I’d survive in this world. 

Upon graduation, I woke up to the realization that none of what I had currently partook in had felt like a conscious choice. Had I chosen to go to college? How had I chosen my major? What was I planning to do after school? Kurt Cobain, the Grateful Dead and Steve Jobs led as beacons for me as I evaluated alternative paths.

Right as I entered college the housing crisis hit. Although I was insulated by the 4 years of college ahead of me, it confirmed my suspicions about what the system could deal you if you just played by the rules.

I had no answers until…

Until I found startups. And the Business Builders Club, which showed me the other path I had been seeking.

It was the group for tech kids, who didn’t want to wait until graduation to get a move on impacting the world. Bullied through life but triumphant at last, with naïveté and a bit more arrogance than we should. 

With them I felt like I was breaking the rules and in on a secret no one else had been let in on; the real way the future was moving. It’s thrilling to be a part of the wave.

I learned from the older members. I stopped caring about class as much. We’d talk ideas over beers after every meeting. That was the best part of my week. I got a burning desire for talking the talk and imagining opportunities. 

I got the fundamentals down. What is angel investment? How to pitch your business, who’s hot and who’s not in the valley. I interned. I attempted “the start.” I started meeting with higher and higher level entrepreneurs and I was just ignorant enough to think that I could make an impact like them without a 10 year trough of work. 

And then all of a sudden I graduated and I was out in the world and I woke up again. Although this time it was realizing that the path that bucked the system was structured the same as the previous.

First is was: Go to school, get into college, get a degree, find a company to pick you and follow the rules.

Now it was: Come up with an idea, raise money, get co-founders, scale, raise more money, attend a few conferences, sell!!

Another system and pursuit laid out for you. With guys n gals at the top persisting the structure to maintain the control cuz the money’s funneling upward. With all systems, the myths were amplified as the entrepreneur revolution began. There was Tech Crunch spewing success stories, bold founders on stage, The Facebook movie came out, and we all just had to do it man!! 

Except then I started seeing first hand the underbelly of the startup culture. Don’t get me wrong, I’d take this path over System option A, but among the real stories of triumph were massive money making exits that led to depression, missed family lives, sacrifice and bankruptcy, and the crushing feeling of a company headed south with jobs on the line. 

A year in and I started to live in the existential crisis that is running a company. Mostly self-imposed, and often built on comparison to where I should be among others. I hadn’t raised money, and through luck of a co-founder I found some purer seeming pursuits that I believe ultimately led to our growth. 

It’s hard to buck any system. The old guard hates to see you take another path. It’s a data-point punch in the gut of what they want to be doing. 

Your friends think you’re crazy, or are envious, but mostly you can’t talk to anyone who’s not directly in the midst of it. 

I’ve had my most cleansing moments in coffee shops with other entrepreneurs talking about the shit of it. 

And at the same time you’re in a twisted fantasy others dream of; unlimited vacation! Your own schedule, calling the shots, pursuing a passion. So it’s not easy to complain. 

I think the best way I’ve explained it is; You constantly feel like you might be fired, or like you broke up with your girlfriend, or are about to. 

So It seems system A leads you to feel numb. At least the notion I got from my friends who kept along the original option. 

System B leads you to have a minor heart attack about 3 times a day. 

But there’s something happening now with a system, let’s call it system C.

This week Radiohead has wiped their internet presence. And I’ve seen the light again.

Hail to the Thom Yorke, we are not worthy.

Where the rest of us are trapped into the rat race, Radiohead leaves it all together. Back to purer pursuits of the art. That’s why we’re all so attracted to it. 

There’s a saying that we’re all chess pieces, jockeying for a better position, and a better role on the squares.

But it’s better to be the board, or change the rules entirely. Play checkers instead. Invent a new game.

 Be the foundation for another system.

I’m inviting you to take part of a school of thought for another wave. Come with me to system C. It’s blurry but I’ve tried the other two and I had to jump ship again.

System C is built off of being a new board where your job is to spark opportunities for others. 

Build your life in a way that you are what creates the spark for the rest of us. It's about giving, creating, teaching, and striving through bold decisions.

Thom Yorke has shown us a path. Casey Neistat. Kevin Kelley. Prince.  

System C doesn’t want to be numb, it wants passion. 

System C doesn’t feed off of scale and hype, the money is only worth it to a point. 

System C is about a life of intention. Of understanding our options and making a deliberate decision about what we want.

We’re quietly working to make a dent. Shh let’s just whisper at first. We ask “why” a lot because we’ve put a guard up for accepting things as-is. We say “why not” a lot because we sometimes choose heart over mind. 

Now here’s the beautiful thing about “system C”. It’s tailored to you. It’s just yours. Now sure, there’s some concepts and outlines we’re constructing. But system C is all about the life tailored to you. The reason it’s the system of intention is at every step you reach a fork in the road. It’s make your own adventure. 

I’m not saying it will be any easier. It may be more difficult at times. It’s lonely being in a new system. 

But it feels more natural in it’s pursuits. It inspires more humanity in your work, more empathy for others making their path, and more moments of clarity around what’s truly important.

There’s a new game I want to play and you can too but you can’t play by my rules, you have to make your own.