System Failure

Technology is cool, but are we losing the battle for our minds?

There was a time when life was simple. You could start a job and finish it, you could start a conversation and finish it, and conversations were actually voice to voice or face to face. Even temptations were simpler for the most part.

Our gluttony for information has certainly had its drawbacks. Unlimited access to knowledge has also opened the door to many things that I’m not sure our families and communities were/are prepared for. Also I should point out that we tend to mistake knowledge for wisdom but if that were the case you wouldn’t know any smart/stupid people (and I’m guessing you do). Some of the smartest people I know get frozen with options and can’t seem to make the simplest of decisions that sometimes I wish my sharp and very blunt five year old daughter could hang out with them for a day to make some alarming observations such as: “THAT wasn’t very smart!” and ask “Why’d you do THAT?” (followed by good natured laughter of course…)

Imagine a society totally unprepared for technology… Imagine trying to develop thought processes and boundaries after the train has fallen off the tracks? It’s not the easiest thing to do, but the easiest thing to do is whatever is easiest and most gratifying RIGHT NOW and then spending the rest of our lives paying the bill and feeling sorry for our mistakes.

When I think about technology and society I think about giving teenagers the key to the Ferrari and then wondering why they wrapped it around a power pole going way too fast? If I’m honest that is exactly what I think has happened…

Maybe more accurately, and closer to home, is this analogy: giving young children the keys to the Ferrari and hoping for the best. We are doing this in our homes and I’m going to write about it next week. Do you remember how screwed up you managed to get when you were younger? YOU didn’t have a fraction of the access to…. ANYTHING compared to what your children have if they have an iPod connected to wifi. With your tiny amount of access you probably managed to get into things that you have spent the greater part of your life regretting. “I wonder if my marriage would have lasted if I hadn’t….” “I wonder if I would have the career I wanted if I hadn’t….” etc etc.

I’m preaching a series called Crash the Mainframe right now. I’m just so sick and tired of dealing with the disasters that families deal with on the back end of the problem that I thought I’d do something foolish (and break the rules in church a little:) by taking it on the front end. I’m risking people getting all up in arms about their rights and calling me a neanderthal. I’m risking telling parents they’re doing something terribly wrong and I’m also risking some of the parents (who care more about their kids than they care about their image as parents) going home to lay the law down to Teenage Johnny and having Johnny soundly hate me for a couple of months. What is worth the risk for me is the possibility of Johnny fifteen years from now talking to his kid’s grandparents (his mom and dad) and thanking them for having the guts to save his future marriage and family.

I’ll explain… in a minute:)

I was reading about the Romans and how they made war and ran an empire. It’s always easy to look at a successful nation/ corporation/ person and say “they had the biggest guns!”. But success is a street fight most of the time and people who have it generally deserve it. Now the morality of what the Romans did was certainly sketchy but I found myself fascinated by a word that describes why they were so successful:


I’d never really thought about the word systems until a few years ago when I came across some business authors who seemed obsessed with it. The more I dug down the more I realized any successful corporation was obsessed with the same thing. I then looked into my own business success and realized that I could credit most of it to the systems I was employing at the time. When things weren’t working very well I began to realize my system was to blame. Most of the companies I worked for spent most of their time monkeying around on the back end of problems while I began working on the front end, and with much greater success.

The Romans would invade a region and immediately make a road. Why? Who would spend all that time engineering and building a road? Some of the roads were build so well that they still exist! I realized that if I understood this I could get a grasp on their success.

Roads were used to quickly resupply an army. A quick invasion and hope for success could blow up quickly if your army was starving or lacked supply or reinforcements. A well stocked army fights more effectively. Quick troop movements are very effective. The roads could also provide an effective retreat if things went against them so they could live to fight another day. The roads provided a means to effectively interconnect the Roman world on a long term and governable scale. Conquest is one thing, but long term control and success is another. Build slow build right!

Our society norm is thinking that we’re talented and relying on it in our business, our relationships, frankly in everything. This leads to disaster sooner or later. It is short term thinking and always destroys itself.

A system can be described as a plan that includes structure, behaviour and interconnectivity. I shorten this to: “The plan for success in this one thing from A-Z”. Start with a very focused goal, spend more time than you think you need to on the front end by gathering information, getting help from successful people who might disagree with you, preparing for obstacles, and creating a system that determines your behaviour.

A phrase I used that seemed to stick with people was this: “A good system does not subject you to the tyranny of the urgent.” Think about that for a minute. If the tyranny of the urgent calls the shots in your life your systems (or more accurately LACK of systems) could be the problem. I’m not talking about a sudden death of a family member or completely unforeseen tragedy, but I am talking about nearly everything else. If cars break down it is a foreseeable problem that you need a system for.

“I don’t have time for systems if that’s how fussy I need to be!” Ok, spend at least ten times the amount of time and energy trying to fix problems later and read a blog that makes you feel good about your present circumstance…

System Failure normally happens because of one of two things: 1. Ignorance (you don’t know what you don’t know). 2. Lack of discipline (intentionality).

You can ignore these or make excuses about them and live your life like a victim, or you can take them on and have success. No one will do it for you, and if they do you should ask them to stop because they’re not doing you any favours.

More about systems in the next few blogs….

Back to the Romans.
Three of the many tactics of warfare I came across (not solely Roman tactics) that I specifically believe are killing our families in regards to technology are:

1. Divert
A small company of fighters can divert and harass the main body of an enemy with very little overall effort and resources. Distract them, be a general pain in the neck, slow them down and make every inch they move slow and costly. Get them to do what they don’t want to do.

Have you ever been with someone who took their phone out while you were talking and subverted your conversation/relationship to answer a random text, or check on some rather pointless FB conversation? We have so personally fractured our attention that the amount of small tasks that get actually get finished to a desired result are terrifyingly few in number. Why have 50 “conversations” (I don’t know if you could call them conversions or even interactions) in a day when you don’t bring one to a close with measurable success?
This results in very little actual traction and the long term effect is thinking that you will be able to accomplish your goals in this life because of random moments of talent or energy.

2. Distress
Wound your enemy. Hurt them. Kill their morale. Affect them psychologically.

The addictions directly related to unrestricted access to any evil you can imagine on the internet are just starting to come onto the radar in our homes. Pornography, Illusion. Sadly it is normally far too late to save a family by the time you find out. The ridiculous access to indiscrete conversations and influences that should never be considered normal in any society can be accessed by my seven year old girl in her bedroom IF she has access to wifi. More about this next week…

3. Disrupt
Roman military maxim: “To distress the enemy more by famine than by the sword is the mark of consummate skill.”
Destroy the enemy’s supply lines. When you enter an area leave no food or anything else behind you that will help them. Lay siege to their cities and don’t let anything that will help them in, and don’t let any of them out.

The supply lines in our homes are being eroded and eventually the very relationships that should sustain us are torn apart violently and viciously when the addictions and illusion from technology come to nest in dissatisfaction, lack of commitment and erosion of the will to fight for those we love.

Part of this sickness comes from the notion that we are actually connected in community by FB or other social media. Listen carefully, when my marriage is in trouble or I’m being personally attacked by a troublemaker or I’m discouraged and thinking about quitting, the friends I’ve fought for and cried and laughed with don’t post something on my Facebook page, they call me on the phone and say “We’re coming over to help you whether you want us to or not!” All the money in the world can’t buy you that kind of care. It wasn’t an accident, I was very intentional to build those kind of friendships because I knew I would need them sooner or later. Ignorance isn’t bliss for very long when a storm comes.

(Side note for the younger generation: Many of you think you deserve these kind of friends and wonder why no one is that committed to you when you need them? The reason is that you are not that committed to them and haven’t sacrificed to be their friend ahead of time. That or your current friends need to be fired because you need better ones… Nothing that can stand up during a beat down happens by accident. Nobody owes you what you won’t pay for out of your own pocket.)

Build systems. Be insane about them. I could never cover even a fraction of what you probably need to hear in this series but I hope you can take a little of what you need from my experience.

I’ll leave you with a personal system of mine…
Do whatever you want (you will anyways), but this is something I tried that works for my family.

I don’t know the passcode to my own satellite system.
My accountability partner and lifelong friend does. It’s a bit of a pain in the neck sometimes, but I have limited my own access to my own TV. It’s not because I’m addicted to anything. It’s not because I can’t be trusted most of the time. It’s because I don’t want it to get that far.

I have children that I want to protect, I have a marriage I want to last, I have a mind I want to be free. I have a God I want to please.

So I made a decision to ratings-lock my channels. Some channels might have good shows on them most of the time but if they carry pornographic or weird content I lock out the whole channel. “Don’t you miss the good shows too though?” I don’t miss what I don’t see honestly, and believe me when I say I’m not a legalist. My freedom to access things doesn’t mean that I’m stupid. I want intimacy. I don’t want to wonder what my wife has access too and I don’t want her to wonder about me. My right to watch whatever I want to might become my right to sleep by myself and watch some other guy raise my kids. Not an option!

So Shawn comes over every now and again to hang out and I have him enter my password for me so I can remove promotional hockey channels from my search list, which have been killing me because I don’t like hockey all that much and have to scroll through them to watch my shows. It’s a little painful for both of us but he doesn’t mind because I’ve taken some bullets for him, and I don’t mind because I have a marriage few people dream of anymore.

It’s a good system:)


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