On Systems

The best system is any system that works.

The best system is any system you use.

The best system is any system that works for you.

And finally, there is no best system.

I don’t know where I read that spending money on the tools you are going to use is a good idea. I thought I knew what that meant, until it completely clicked for me when I remembered all the trouble I’ve been having to set up a blog. Just a simple blog where I can write stuff. Borderline impossible.

True: I did try to learn Hugo, Github, CLI, Homebrew, and many other things in one go. But did I really? Or did I just need money spent on the tools or hiring someone to get me a functioning blog?

When I was writing and setting up the “Letters to Luxembourg” blog, that was quick. Perhaps because I felt I didn’t have as much going for it as my ultimate facing-the-world blog that would get me critical and commercial fame. It is many times a matter of expectations and how you set yourself up for success.

My drive for the Luxembourg blog was simple: get something going as quickly as possible to just write the things I had in my mind and heart. And I did it.

Perhaps it’s also a matter of discriminating and separating the (very) different objectives one has when doing something. Taking my as of yet failed blog as an example:

  • Did I want to write?
  • Did I want to learn about Hugo and static site generators?
  • Did I want to learn how to do everything from the CLI?
  • Did I want to use my Github account and start building a repository?

The answer is yes to all of these but what I most wanted was just a place to write. That’s all. And I didn’t want to pay money. But now I’m paying for Dreamhost, I believe, and have no idea what happened to that as I’m writing.

I’m reading and listening to Cal Newport. He’s good. He has simple yet profound activities and I want to pay attention to him and his ideas. I started to read his latest book Slow Productivity and I was enjoying it until I started to get tired of all the examples of famous people and his way of excessively massaging his narrative to fit his ideas. I hate this type of extreme survivorship bias and retroactive narrative. I don’t understand why he can’t just make people up or find anonymous people he’s perhaps worked with and talk about them. A made-up “Sally from North Dakota” is much more relatable than Benjamin Franklin.

Still, the ideas are good. And as always with these books, I go back to something my friend Uri used to say and has stuck with me forever: publishers make writers fill up their books to conform to a standard “serious-looking” length because thinner books (yes, thinner) don’t sell as much or are regarded as not so well documented. Why, oh why?

I hate this about the book publishing business. So many books would be so much better off with much fewer pages. One that comes to mind is Peter Drucker – Managing Oneself: it’s short, to the point, and full of spectacular feedback and useful tools. Also, it’s pleasantly re-readable! I think this should be the way forward for non-fiction books: short, evergreen, to the point, thin, transportable, mini, pocket-sized, take-everywhere, keep-it-in-my-man-bag type of books.

Not surprisingly, it’s part of an “Ideas” series by Harvard Business Review so the book is not so much short (supposedly unsellable) but part of a series and therefore collectible (so sellable!).

Now that I think of it, maybe the malaise of not knowing how to bookmark or store digital assets such as articles, ebooks, etc., boils down to the fact that they are not books. AKA, they are not things that silently sit and occupy space in a part of the house dedicated, knowingly or unknowingly, to the maintenance of Knowledge. In short, a library.

Digital assets don’t have that heft or space. I’m sure much of this could be alleviated and worked on with proper UX and UI. Calibre does this to some degree as does this new collect everything app called “my mind” which, for me, is just a failed Raindrop.

Keep It comes to mind, perhaps I should revisit it and see how it looks today. I don’t understand how my mind (mine, not the app) works when spending money. I think of Keep It and I automatically pull back because I don’t want to spend money on another subscription. However, I’m spending money on Dreamhost which I had genuinely forgot about until I wrote about it here.

Oh well… perhaps the best system is the the best system is any system that works. Or perhaps the best system is any system you use. Or maybe the best system is any system that works for you.

But in all likelihood I should just remember that there is no best system.


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