What I learned about systems from a book about relationships

by | Mar 24, 2022 | Entrepreneurship, Systems

One of my goals for this year has been to read a lot about my craft. I want to learn from all the greats when it comes to things like systems and time management.

I want to read for fun, too. I just finished listening to Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel, which is a fascinating book about intimacy in long-term relationships. I didn’t expect to get any ideas about systems from it, so that was a fun little perk.

One of the core points in Esther’s book is that long-term relationships need to navigate two human needs that feel contradictory – the need for intimacy, and the need for freedom.

She described the tension as a polarity.

I looked up how polarity works when it comes to electricity. I’m no science whiz, but from what I can tell, electrons seek equilibrium. If one point (pole) has more electrons than another, some electrons will flow towards the other pole. The flow is what gives us an electrical current.

Esther’s argument is that intimacy and freedom operate in the same way. They seem to pull against each other with energy flowing from one to the other, but they’re not in competition. We need both for a healthy relationship.

Depending on our backgrounds, living in this polarity can be really scary. Differentiation in a relationship can trigger a fear of abandonment, while too much closeness can trigger a feeling of suffocation. We might try to escape the tension altogether, or we can work together to balance between the poles.

Your business is doing something just like this.

Instead of freedom and intimacy, we might call it creativity and stability.

Systems done right actually help you balance those two things – cultivating consistency where you need it so you have space to channel your best creative energy.

We often think of systems as removing our freedom – making us do the same things the same ways over and over ad nauseam. And they can do that. But they don’t have to!

If invoicing takes you five minutes a month instead of fifty, guess what? You have more time to write!

If your team doesn’t have to spend hours just figuring out what’s going on, they’ll have more energy available for new ideas.

We need consistency AND we need change. We need stability AND we need innovation. We live in a world that likes binary black and white ideas, but we can all learn a lot by getting comfortable with polarity.

A great question to ask is: which pole in your business has more juice right now? How can you send some of that energy the other direction to create some equilibrium?