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Why The System Won’t Set You Free

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Systems

“The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order.”
Alfred North Whitehead

Why won’t a given system set you free?
Because you can’t change it.

A system you can’t change is a prison. A man-made system you can’t change is a cult. The assumption is that the system was perfect when it was created. This is arrogance of the bad kind. (Yes, there is a good kind).

So there is, arguably, only one reason why the system won’t set you free: immutability.

As long as you can change the system, you at least have the opportunity for correction and improvement — for kaizen (改善) 1. Or even for all-out abandonment.

The system will set you free. But only if it’s somewhat mutable — only if it can be changed to fit you. And only if you’re willing to mutate it. Generally speaking, we can go further and faster in shoes 2, but only if the shoes fit, and only if you’re open to changing shoes (in the event that they don’t fit).

You’re not a loser just because you can’t or won’t do certain things I and other people suggest. AJATT is not a religion. Changing end goals is giving up. Changing means isn’t. And the system is always only a means, a tool.

Set your system free so it can set you free.

Series Navigation<< The Search for the System: How I Found One, Why You Need OneThere Is A Magic Silver Bullet >>


  1. 仕事の改善ルール PHPハンドブックシリーズ
  2. we’ll allow that Abebe Bikila and other old school runners from the highlands of East Africa collectively hock a gigantic loogie in the general direction of this assertion

  6 comments for “Why The System Won’t Set You Free

  1. blackbrich
    July 16, 2012 at 07:32

    Haha I see what you did there.

  2. July 18, 2012 at 03:37

    Be like water, my friend 😉

  3. Kimura
    July 29, 2012 at 15:46

    I think I finally get why I was feeling so burned out. My studying had turned into a rigid system: go do these reviews, go listen to Japanese music while coding and not other music, go to #AJATT Movie Night every Monday and Learn Japanese Through Music every Thursday (which was disappointing because I can’t use a mic so I was always left out of karaoke)… Everything had become “must do this, must do that”. Tofugu’s ebook says in one of the very first day-lessons that “should do” and “must do” are dangerous phrases, because you only have so many “willpower trees” per day, and gotta-dos use them up like a tree-punching Steve?.
    So, I just let it all loose. The only “should do” now is “should do SOMETHING Japanese every day”, and the “what” is now “whatever the heck I feel like doing”. I still keep Anki and WaniKani at the top priority for “consider doing these first”, and anything else I just do if I feel like it.
    (Also, I think the other thing Movie Night and LJTM were doing was making me feel bad about how much I suck at understanding spoken Japanese, and I know I need to get better, but I was looking too far up the echeladder when climbing the more reachable rungs will actually feel like progress instead of “bluh bluh 分かれない~!”.)

  4. Scott
    September 19, 2012 at 22:29

    Nuance is hard to find, and harder to master.

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