One Book A Day

Work The System by Sam Carpenter: Summary and Notes 

One sentence summary: Work the System, by Sam Carpenter will show you how to incorporate system thinking into every aspect of your life with the goal of improving your relationships, business, job, and much more.

One paragraph summary: Before achieving incredible success as a entrepreneur, Sam Carpenter’s life and call center business were a mess, and he was only able to turn things around by adopting a systems mindset. His book,Work the System, will show you how you too can tweak the systems in your life, business, and job to achieve better results in all these areas. Sam’s story also demonstrates what can happen when we decide to decode the fine

Favorite quote from the author:

“Despite the common assumption that chaos reigns, the truth is that the mechanics of the world work very, very well. And if we can proceed from the premise that there is a proclivity for powerful efficiency, rather than blindly buying into society’s general assumption that all is chaos, we will stop fighting things. Instead, confident and deliberate, we can dig a bit deeper and, step-by step, construct the lives we want”

One of the most insightful things that I have ever read comes from James Clear; he says, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” It really got me thinking, how can I create a badass system that allows me to be on top of my game? And that’s how I found myself reading books like the one I am about to share with you.Work the System, by Sam Carpenter.

In Work the System, Sam goes deep into what it means to work the system. He says that whether we know it or not, our personal systems are the threads of the fabric of our lives. That together, our systems add up to who we are. It sounds like something Master Yoda would say right?

Jokes aside, Sam’s book is eye-opening because he offers a plan for bettering all the systems that surround and make us. His insight touches on relationships, health, self-improvement, businesses, and much more. I tell you, there are few books like Work the System, there is a reason why it was a New York Times bestseller to begin with. It is the kind of book that can change your life for good.

This article will share five of the top lessons from Work the System.

Main Takeaways from Work The Systems

Here are the lessons that resonated with me the most from the book:

  1. There are two psychological approaches to finding a way to lead a full and positive life

  2. You can't fix life’s problems in one swoop: You have to make one step at a time

  3. Document your system

  4. The aim of owning a business is to work hard and make enough money than you require

  5. It is not enough to know what to do. One must take action

Lesson 1: There are two psychological approaches to finding a way to lead a full and positive life

Sam says that there are two psychological approaches to living a happy and fulfilling life. The first approach is the Freudian approach, and it holds that our past determines the level of our future happiness. While the second approach, the cognitive approach, implies that the thoughts that we feed ourselves today matter the most:

According to Sam, the second approach is more practical because it frees the individual and allows them to gain control of their immediate thought processes rather than wallow in negativity. Pat makes his opinion clear with the following quote:

“I believe that what we do today will determine our tomorrow, and blaming the past, or the world, or someone else is a debilitating way to travel through this precious one-time event called life.”

The Work the System method, puts focus on what we are capable of doing. Sam insists that the past is the past, and there is nothing you can do about it, so the best is to move on.

The goal of the Work the System method is to:

  • Internalize the fundamentals: By internalizing the fundamentals, you will have guiding principles for your life and business

  • To pinpoint the goals of your life, job, and business:This is your Strategic objective

  • Create your collection of General Operating Principles:These documents will set your priorities for as long as they exist

  • Define specific systems for improvement:These are the systems that exist and the ones that you must create

  • Dissect each system into its fundamental aspects:Create the steps you have to take for every system in your life

  • Improve each step one at a time:The goal here is to make something that works

  • Document each system into a working procedure:Documentation ensures that everything is set for implementation

  • Put the new working procedures into play:Make tweaks where necessary

Lesson 2:You can't fix life’s problems in one swoop: You have to make one step at a time

“You can’t have a baby in one month by making 9 women pregnant” — Warren Buffet

Sam says that there is a direct relationship between happiness and the amount of control you have in your life. To take control in your life, you must question the status quo in reference to yourself.

A way to do this is to reduce your level of anxiety and recognize that some things just take time. He reminds the reader that the universe has an overwhelming inclination towards stability and order, and to achieve both, you must pay attention to the mechanical details of life. Sam adds that when your life is in chaos, it is not because you are a victim of circumstance or anything like that. Instead, it is because your subsystems are not primed for success. The world is 99% perfect, and if you think otherwise, it is just a matter of opinion because the systems on which the universe is based work 100% as expected.

Lesson 3: Document your system

There is power in writing things down.

According to Sam, the simple crux of the Work the System method lies not in manipulating outcomes, but in creating the systems that deliver the result you want. To ensure that you have the right systems in place, document them. You will need to create three main documents for this:

  • The Strategic Objective: Sam likens this document to the Declaration of Independence and calls it your mandate for a better future. The strategic objective will provide direction to your work and personal life

  • The General Operating Principles document:This document will provide a template for the rules and regulations that you will follow

  • The Working Procedures:These are the end products of the systems improvement process. They will guide your day to day operations

  • Train your managers

When times are tough and you are running low on self-discipline, your Work the System protocol will keep you on your toes.

Lesson 4: The aim of owning a business is to work hard and make enough money than you require

Sam spends a significant portion of the book describing how businesses can benefit from Work the System method. He says that most businesses are run poorly because the owners don't have predictable systems in place, and as a consequence, they work themselves to exhaustion.

Does that sound familiar? Yes, because you will find a similar message in the E-myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. Gerber makes the bold claim that you need to make your business reproducible in the same way every Macdonalds’ is indistinguishable from every other. To do that, you must document everything. After all, a business should work for you and not the other way around.

How do you go about documenting your business? Sam offers a few clues:

  • Record every recurring process into a working procedure

  • If a problem arises, your employees should use it as a cue to record or modify a working procedure

  • Make your working procedures identical in their presentation. This will make the instructions loud and clear

  • Always make sure that new procedures go through staff members who will run them through to spot any glitches

  • As the business owner, sign off every procedure. Use the opportunity to make sure that they are consistent with your overall vision

Lesson 5: It is not enough to know what to do. One must take action

Sam asks the following question: What good is knowledge if you can’t use it for your own betterment? Accordingly, The Work the System methodology aims to fix your systems and habitualize the solutions.

Sam once wrote 15 areas in his life that needed improvement and set action plans for each of them. It was his way of reducing stress, and he advises the reader to use the same approach in their own lives.

Let me share a little secret I learned from The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg about changing many habits at once. Duhigg says it is often impossible to do so, but you can try and isolate one habit — a keystone habit — that will have the most significant impact. Examples of keystone habits include exercising, dieting, and learning a new skill.

When you implement a keystone habit, you will often find that forming other habits becomes easier.

Wrap Up

One sentence summary: Work the System, by Sam Carpenter will teach you many things about life, business, and how the world works in general. Sam essentially challenges us to inspect the systems in our lives and try to improve them. He uses his experience as a businessman to show that great things can happen when we focus on the mechanical details of life. He turned his business and life around and believes you too can do it.

Who Would I recommend the Book To?

Anyone who feels that their life is out of control should read this book and remember Sam asks: what good is knowledge if you can’t use it for your own betterment? So you are going to purchase Work the System, get doing.


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