In Blog, Personal Development

I was sitting next to my partner when I heard her exclaim “Oh crap!”

“What’s up, honey?” I asked, sensing she was really upset?

“I just missed a Skype call with an important client,” she confided.

Tears began to well up behind her eyes and I knew she was beating herself up for missing the call and probably thinking that she had potentially tarnished her professional reputation in the eyes of an important new client…

“What’s wrong with me that I can’t even make a simple call on time?” she exclaimed in exasperation…

This was the second time in one day she had missed a scheduled call and she was understandably frustrated.

Here’s how I coached her back to the point where she was smiling and laughing again…

“Honey, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you…

Instead of thinking about this as a problem with YOU, let’s approach it in terms of a problem with the SYSTEM you use to schedule calls across time zones…”

It was her 4th week traveling on the road with me and she was still not used to scheduling her business calls across multiple time zones.

“How come you missed the call, honey?”

“Well, he’s on Central Standard Time and I’m on South African time, so I proposed a time to him and then added on 7 hours to figure out the call time here in South Africa… except, I counted wrong and entered the wrong time into my calendar, and then missed the call… Dumb, dumb, dumb!”

I suggested we leave ‘dumb’ out of the equation and just look at the system…

“Where was the point of failure in your scheduling system?”

“In relying on my math to calculate the time difference between USA and South Africa time.”

“So, what could you do in future to ensure that you calculate the correct time?” I asked.

“Well, I guess if I entered the time of the call into my Google calendar in Central Standard Time, Google can display it accurately in my local time zone and I won’t have to do the math…”

“Exactly!” I burst out with delight.

“With that new SYSTEM for scheduling calls across different time zones, you’ll always know the right time for the call in your time zone…”

I could see the color returning to her face and she leaned over and hugged me (I like hugs).

“See how changing an element in the system is a more effective approach to fixing a problem than trying to fix yourself?”

“Yes!” She exclaimed with a grin on her face, “I feel soooo much better.”

So, the moral of the story here is this:

If you approach your everyday breakdowns in terms of a system failure instead of a personal failure, you not only bypass the bad feelings of  shame and failure, but can look at your problems objectively and create solutions that would never have emerged had you given in to the trap of trying to fix yourself.

Trying to fix yourself assumes that something is wrong with you… and nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s the unconscious logic that occurs in your brain when you try to fix yourself:

  • Something is wrong with me
  • If something is wrong with me, I must be broken.
  • If I’m broken, then nothing I try will ever work…
  • If nothing will ever work, I will always be a failure…
  • If I’ll always be a failure, then what’s the point in trying anything ever again…

THE RESULT: Endless self doubt, shame, depression and no action – not exactly a recipe for success…

Sound familiar?

So, next time you think you’ve screwed something up, STOP – then approach the breakdown in terms of a system fault instead of a personal fault. See if you can fix the system, and then go reward yourself for being so smart!

That’s all for this week…


P.S. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you learned from this article…

Showing 28 comments
  • Jason R. Ayers

    Wonderful advice Bruce… and the great news is that it’s usually a lot faster to fix a flaw in the system than to try to change some aspect of our personality. I think part of this comes from being harder on ourselves than we are on other people as well…

  • Christa

    Too many people get too quickly frustrated, just because something doesn’t workout immediately and they give up too fast, instead of questioning the underlying system that might be false.

  • Ewan

    such an attention grabbing title to a blog post and what an system-solution! Who could have foreseen the perils of traversing time zones and scheduling skype calls?

  • fortune albert

    I am so grateful to you Bruce for this solution you’ve offered me,cause it came to me when I needed it most.Thank you so much.

  • Kimberly Johnson

    Awesome Bruce. I loved the dialogue and am definitely systems challenged but on the way to changing that.

  • Gabriele

    Hallo Bruce,
    Wonderful advice. Will remember that next time I am angry at myself.
    Take care and be well.

  • sonyamacdesigns

    Thanks Bruce … some awesome must have information for creative collaboration across time zones.

  • Simon Smith

    Well put, I heartily agree with the sentiment; people don’t fail, systems do. When I keep that in focus it stops me going into crisis mode and panic and allows me to calmly move towards the solution (well that’s the theory anyway!!)
    thanks for more great insights
    simon smith

  • Christian

    Thanks Bruce,

    Perfect timing

  • Robert Audet

    This is the gem of the day for me – perhaps the gem of a lifetime. After a difficult morning with my life partner, feeling particularly defective myself, I realized that the more defective I feel, the less I am available to him. I “get,” in a deeper way, that the who and how I am are a gift and that I am responsible for fostering and sharing this gift and uniqueness with the world. The folly I have lived with is trying to fit into the norm, to be the way others want me to be. Wow – no wonder I have felt so stuck, especially in relationship!

    Systems – this is the best gift I can give myself and my clients as I start my new coaching business. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this gift. I have a more positive perspective on my relationship, myself and my business.

    Peace, joy and love to you!

  • Charmaine Treherne

    Hi Bruce, I see you are in sync with Geneen Roth’s approach to weight-loss. It’s quite a challenge to change the prevalent mind-set that we are NOT okay as we are, that there is NOTHING to fix in us, that we ARE perfect just the way we are, regardless of our fowl-ups, our shape or size or skin colour. I believe THAT belief in a worthy, whole self, is the key to Joy. Now…. how do I turn that key?

  • Jonni La Force

    Thanks for this very timely post. Such a relief to work on fixing systems instead of fixing self. 🙂

    Rock on…

  • Laura Roeder

    Yes! Yes! I recently introduced a new program about systems ( so clearly this is something I’m passionate about as well. Why not make life EASY! 🙂

  • Gary

    This is great Bruce, empowering and compassion for one’s self – fab!
    Love to all,

  • sylvia resnick

    Hey Bruce,I’ve been learning how to use the system to create an easier life. I still reproach myself on occasion for being “disorganized” or “forgetful”, but by getting my mind set in the Help Sylvia mode I am finding more ways to make life easier and much, much more productive. Thanks for the lesson that just reaffirms my new found “widsom:” and hey, are there any older men around like you. I am hoping to find one before my get up and go just goes.LOL. f

  • Adal

    Wow Bruce!

    Thanks, I just got a problem with someone I really love and this email I just received from you with this excellent “system fix” is just the thing I needed and looking for inside myself!!!

    Best Regards, you´re the man!

    Adal Molina
    “Rich in Life and Money”

  • Jen

    Since you have more experience working across time zones with international clients, and you are the one taking her on the road (apparently) shouldn’t you have been sharing your time-tested tools & techniques with her from the get-go? (And you will do that in the future, right?)

  • Jennifer Smith

    I was so beating my boyfriend up, plus myself.I agree and I think it was cos i was doing the improvement stuff and things just bloody worse.Sorry. but they did. I messed up, I became harder, even thought i wanted to love him up and so on. You words make me want to cry……i just want to cry…all this self improvment stuff was getting me down and i was super scared i would lose a love that I really was into.I am not susre what will happen now…..but at least I can be a bit kinder to myself now

  • Susan

    Bruce. What great clarification. I was focusing on getting money for my project from the bank, forgot my cell phone, went back to get it and being late slid thru the intersection , blizzard. Thank goodness no one was coming, then stopped, relaxed quit beating myself up and focused on how to go forward and accomplished everything I needed to do after an apology for being late which was accepted graciously as they were going to be making money from me !!! The perspective of putting the system steps to working for me was very helpful. thanks a million. Susan

  • Kim

    Hi Bruce,
    I have just started to tap into your work…sorry just found you but wish I had years ago 🙂 Absolutely loving your work and looking forward to learning so much from you. This one was a light bulb moment for me… thank you, thank you, thank you.
    I feel so much peace in my life knowing there are beautiful people like you out there, holding our hands and showing us the way.
    You are doing an amazing job Bruce, well done you are appreciated very much 🙂

  • peter womersley

    HI Bruce

    Nice, succinct,to the point. What about taking the discussion further and factoring in skills vs callenges



  • Louie Apsokardu

    People will let you down! Never take it personally! Systems work and will get you where you want to be! Louie Apsokardu

  • Matt

    This is awesome, I have been beating myself up over what, when you look back is senseless, human issues. Work, I just feel cheated that business is not closing as fast as it could and keep blaming myself for it. I have now made a few minor mods to my “system” on my PC with better reminders and guess what?…. results and I feel happier!
    Thanks Bruce,
    R U still in Cape Town? If you are and some stranger comes up to you on Blouberg Beach and just says thank you and smiles then it may well be me! Thank you, my smile is back…the work still needs to be done…but the smile is back!

  • Julie Kleinhans

    Thank you Bruce! As with the Law of Attraction, this blog came to me at the perfect time. Over the past 3 days I came to realize that I needed to upgrade my systems in order to be more successful. And then your email came to me and further confirmation of this truth!! It helps so much to hear you say that we beat up on ourselves when the real problem is with our systems, because I was experiencing just that. So thank you a bunch!

  • Patricia

    Brilliant!! Fix the SYSTEM!! Will go through my day remembering this, and looking for systems to amend.. LOL Thanks!!

  • BS

    I’ve tried to follow all the principles but recently have felt so down, my question is, how do I lift myself up again?

  • Tina Haywood

    Thanks Bruce,

    Just learned why I am where I am and never gone forward, the story of my life!!!! Just keep doing the same old thing over and over

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