Themes and Systems Trump Goals

“No plan survives first contact.” — Helmuth von Moltke

Goals. Conventional wisdom says we’re doomed without them. Not according to James Altucher and Scott Adams. Their suggestions are the closest you’ll get to having a Superpower. Just don't’ start wearing a superman t-shirt. I heard it’s bad luck.

James Altucher

James says having goals narrows your focus too much and sets you up for disappointment. He suggests a ‘themes’ list instead. With themes, you’ll always be focused on what’s important to you; family, health, business, etc. In addition, James recommends scrapping the daily to-do list. To-do lists tend to create unnecessary stress and anxiety. Most people seem to never get more than 50 percent of their list done anyway. Make a themes list and add an I ‘did-list’. If you want be an even bigger badass, add a to-don’t list. It’s easy. Make your usual to-do list, then either don’t do it, or DELEGATE it. James promises the universe won’t end. You can learn more in The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth.

Scott Adams

Like James, Scott’s not a fan of goals. According to Scott, Losers have goals, Winners have systems. He says having a goal is like riding on horseback in the mist and fog while shooting an arrow at a moving target at full gallop. And you only have ONE arrow. Sure, once in awhile someone actually hits the target. Then they write a book about the importance of Goals. Instead of goals, use systems. Scott says “systems” are skills and relationships you develop over time. These, in turn, become your “talent stack”. With a proper talent stack you don’t have to be the best in the world at one thing. Scott explains he’s not the best artist, best comedian, or the best author. He’s easily in the top 20 percent of each though. His combination of those skills gave us Dilbert. Combine two or three skills in your own talent stack. Be sure one of those talents is Public Speaking. Scott estimates you’ll be 90 percent ahead of everyone else if you do. You can learn more in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.


Combine James’ themes with Scott’s systems to create personal Synergy. Sure, it’s an overused buzzword, but it’s what you get when you marry themes with systems. The sum is greater than the parts.

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