Greetings Creative Hackers ✌️
You want the cheat codes, don’t you?
Who doesn’t, right? I know I did.
But the truth is there are no cheat codes, no shortcuts.
After 25+ years managing artists in the music industry I learned it’s all about systems:
- Systems are all around you. If you look hard enough. By understanding and working the systems you gain a small but significant competitive advantage.
- This advantage will compound over time and massively increase your chances of success.
- Build the right system and with time, hard work, and lots of trying and failing you will get to the top of your niche.
Not everyone gets it. In fact, it’s only the marvelous minority that sees what others can’t — and has big enough Cahonies to do something about it.
It’s the red pill or blue pill thinking.
In 1979, 4 MIT students, a professional gambler, and an investor hatched a plan to legally beat casinos with card counting.
They made millions.
Most people think card counting is about memory. According to former MIT card counter, Mike Aponte (a.k.a MIT Mike) card counting is not about memorising cards; it’s about systems.
Card counting gives the counter a 1% advantage over the dealer.
That doesn’t sound a lot. It’s a marginal gain but over time the odds compound significantly in their favour.
Without systems, the house has the advantage and will nearly always win. Most people know that.
Card counting systems swings the pendulum of certainty in the direction of the counter.
Systems…good systems, provide a competitive advantage if you know how to create and implement them.
Later in the article, we’ll unpack how you can build your own systems that give you a significant competitive advantage in both life and business.
Life is a series of systems
I first became aware of systems from Scott Adams’ book ‘How to fail at almost everything and still win.’
Scott is the cartoonist who created Dilbert. He also inspired and is credited in James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits.
I then dug deeper into systems. I realised that our lives are shaped by systems.
If you look around they are everywhere.
For example, a mortgage is a system. A bank agrees to lend you the money to buy a house. You pay them back monthly for an agreed amount of years and the house is yours.
There is no uncertainty about this. As long as you pay the mortgage the house will eventually belong to you.
Your life is a system of getting up, going to work or whatever you do, getting home and eating dinner, and repeating it all over again the next day.
Eating your favourite dish at your favourite restaurant is a system.
Systems also shape our societies. There is a political system, an education system, and a class system.
Systems are predictors of our future. A bad political system will have an adverse effect on both the economy and society —and vice versa.
Our lives and businesses are the same. The difference is we are in control of our own personal systems.
Humans are creatures of habit. We have routines that are essentially our systems.
If we eat junk food and don’t exercise then this is a poor personal health system. Conversely, if we exercise daily and eat well then it’s an excellent personal health system.
Our systems today are our future tomorrow.
If you’re filled with self-doubt, procrastinate and your creativity is limited by fear then this is a poor creative system that will reap poor results.
If you do the opposite over an extended period you will achieve positive results.
Good systems remove uncertainty and give you a significant competitive advantage. Bad systems don’t.
Good systems breed confidence. Bad systems breed self-doubt.
You’re only as good as your system.
Systems remove uncertainty
Let’s say you wanted to be an accountant. There’s a fairly straightforward system to achieve that. Get good grades at school; go to a good university and get a good relevant degree.
Get a job as an accountant. Simples.
We like systems because we like certainty.
A proven step-by-step framework that will pretty much guarantee success as long as you follow the steps laid out before you.
Of course, if you are an artist, creator, or entrepreneur there are no frameworks to guarantee success.
But there are systems that can give you a competitive advantage.
Crowded market stats:
Studies show that 92% of people give up on New Year’s resolutions.
The top 8% of bloggers make a full time living.
The top 8% of YouTube Creators make a full time living
The top 11% of gamers on Twitch earn a full time living
Your competition is not the entire market. It’s the 10- 12% that don’t quit. That’s your real competition.
And employing good systems is the key to keep consistently producing quality content and getting yourself to the top of your niche.
Systems in saturated markets
There really is only one system:
- Produce content
- Publish content
- Promote content
- Rinse and repeat until successful
It’s entirely possible to blow up on any platform in 2 years or under (there are thousands of recent examples) but it’s safer to say 3-5 years depending on how steep the learning curve is.
Famous creator systems:
John Grisham wanted to quit law and become a full-time author. He used his legal experience to write gripping legal based dramas.
He got up at 5 am to write a page a day. Every day.
His first book sold just 5,000 copies. His second, The Firm, sold millions, and Tom Cruise played the lead role in the movie adaptation.
Grisham has sold over 100 million books.
Brian Koppelman and David Levein wanted to be Hollywood screenwriters.
They wrote for 2 hours every day before going to work.
Their first movie, Rounders, was eventually sold and starred Matt Damon and Ed Norton. They also wrote Oceans 13 and created the Showtime hit TV drama, Billions amongst many others.
Jerry Seinfeld wanted to be a famous comedian. He needed better material. So he wrote a new joke every day.
He bought a calendar along with a red marker pen and put an X against every day he wrote a joke.
He swore he would never break the chain.
This is how you massively increase the surface area of your luck and significantly increase your odds of success.
(And we all need a bit of luck!)
As in card counting, having a simple repeatable system gives you a small competitive advantage.
It is the repetition of the system that compounds over time and will massively increase the odds of your success.
Nb: The only guarantee is there are no guarantees.
But you can hedge the odds massively in your favour as long as you follow it.
Confidence is the biggest predictor of good performance. Good performance is the biggest predictor of success.
But confidence is fragile and often illusive. And how, exactly, do we definite it?
According to the Cambridge dictionary, it’s: (noun:) the quality of being certain of your abilities.
In other words, our confidence is directly linked to the degree of certainty we feel about successfully getting the results we desire.
Systems vs Results
When we start a new business we are at the mercy of the marketplace. We can’t control the situation.
We can’t control success. We can’t control if people resonate with our writing/ songs/ videos/ ideas or podcasts.
We can’t control whether people share our content.
If our confidence is based on results and the applause of strangers then it’s shaky and inconsistent.
You need a better strategy. Otherwise, your confidence will be up and down based on your results. Results that are out of your control.
This breeds more uncertainty which kills confidence.
And this significantly limits your performance levels further.
When we lack confidence, we subconsciously protect our egos and get in our own way. We give less than 100%
We believe, often subconsciously, that not trying our best failure will hurt less.
In professional tennis, they call this tanking.
It’s also a self fulfilling prophecy.
Processes and systems
However, if you base your confidence on completing your daily system (process) instead of the results you create internal validation.
By simply executing your process every day you can build your confidence quickly and robustly.
Why? Because if you are in control of your process. You are also in control of your confidence.
Complete your daily system and you will feel pride and confidence.
And this is another reason for the importance of creating and executing your system.
This isn’t my system. Bill Walsh was a hall of fame American Football Coach who steered the down and out San Francisco 49ers to 3 Super Bowl wins in 10 years.
Bill focused on the things under his control, the process, and the score took care of itself.
His team focused solely on their process and let the results take care of themselves.
You can do the same: Obsess about improving your work, improving efficiency, and improving the standards of your creative system.
This is your goal.
Improve your standards, focus exclusively on the system that you can control and the results will take care of themselves.
How to build your system
The first rule is you need accountability. You need to set a creative challenge and announce it publicly.
Building in public is the ultimate productivity tool. Get your audience involved.
Or get an accountability buddy.
Do whatever it takes to put emotional skin in the game.
I did 50 blog posts in 50 working days. I announced it publicly. I had several subscribers who emailed and lent support on my challenge. It really meant a lot.
It forced me to be more productive and build a system that would allow me to achieve that goal.
Accountability is the bedrock of your system. Without it, you will procrastinate and you will be far less creative and productive.
However, the best thing about completing creative challenges is that it builds your confidence.
You will feel pride when you complete your daily system.
All systems work on the following three principles
- Creating content
- Publishing content
- Promoting content
It’s a flywheel. Depending on the complexity of your creative output determines the complexity of your system.
If you’re a writer then it’s a simple system.
Write a page a day, a blog a day, or 1,000 words a day. If you do the latter you can easily write the first draft of a nonfiction book in 3 months.
If you want to be a cartoonist then draw a cartoon every day. That’s what Scott Adams did with Dilbert.
Building systems for complex creativity
If you’re a YouTuber or a musician then your creative output requires you to combine several elements.
A songwriter for example has to write the track with melodies and hooks and then the lyrics.
These are different elements and should be separated. You can either batch them. Or work on them separately daily.
Then you need to record and mix the tracks.
This takes work but you will have to break down the separate components required to produce your work and compartmentalise them.
Break down each component and diarise them into time blocks.
It requires discipline, but by reducing the time you will significantly increase your creativity and productivity.
- Introduce time constraints to increase productivity and creativity.
- Following your system daily lowers pressure and increases confidence.
- Increased confidence boosts performance and determination levels.
- Increased confidence and determination levels will result in you releasing more and better content.
- Do this long enough and you will breakthrough.
To conclude, there is no secret sauce. There are only systems.
- Systems are predictors of the future.
- Create a system, repeat it daily and build your future
- If you don’t, your future will be the result of your current system — or lack thereof —whether you realise it or not.
Thanks for reading.
Peace out ✌️
A bit about me
I’m an ex- multi-platinum artist manager. I created strategies and built audiences for artists who sold millions.
Too Much to do? Don’t know where to start?
I help artists, creators, and indie founders build no bullshit step by step systems to achieve their long term goals
I do discovery calls to see if we’re a good fit.
Cost? $0.00 Commitment? Zero. Time? 30 minutes
More info? Go here