A thousand years ago, in a piece for Upline, I wrote:

Back when AT&T was Ma Bell, they said, "The System is the Solution." Great copy--but much more than that. It's a profound truth. And it's especially true in network marketing, where we champion the glories of the "Simple Duplicatable System" as the key to networking success.

"A profound truth." Fancied myself a pretty profound pundit, I did.

I explained that a system is the underlying structure that supports all our endeavors, just as the skeletal system supports our bodies and the phone system supports our communications with other people. I said you can find systems anywhere, in or about anything, if you are looking for them: the way you brush your teeth, make a phone call...anything can be diagrammed and considered from a systemic point of view.

When placed in a system, I continued, no matter how unique and different people are, they tend to produce the same results. Systems are not personal--that is, they cause their own behavior. What a relief that such lack of success as should occur rarely exists in who we are! The system is the solution. It's not personal. I completed making my point with this story:

A man was walking through a stone quarry where masons were cutting and shaping huge blocks of granite. It was hard, demanding work, and most of the men were sweating and swearing at the stones as they chipped and split them with hammers and chisels.

As he walked, the man spoke to many of the stonecutters. "What are you doing?" he asked each in turn--and to a man they angrily spat back, "What's it look like I'm doing? I'm cutting stones!"

One worker stood out from the others, smiling and singing a tune as he happily cut away at the big blocks. The man was fascinated. What made this one man enjoy his work so? He approached the man and asked, as he had the others, "What are you doing?"

The stone-cutter stopped his work, looked up at the visitor and replied, "I'm building a cathedral."

But here's the salient question: How come only one of those stonecutters was happy? I mean, they were all using the same system....

Turns out, I was taken in and mistaken. The system is not the solution. The system is the system. That's all.

Perhaps in a world of human doings, the system could be the solution. But you and I are human beings. It's not the system. It's who and how we are that makes the difference.

Whether you're cutting stones or building a cathedral is a choice you make. That's all.

is founding Editor of
Networking Times and author of The Greatest Networker in the World.