In my booklet, The Success Formula, I make the point that a key to success in any area in which one might desire to succeed—whether it’s building a business, losing weight, improving relationships or lowering a golf score—is finding a system that’s been proven to work, and then simply duplicating that system.

As author and legendary speaker Brian Tracy advises, “Just find out what successful people do, and do the same things until you get the same results.” Yes, it really is that simple—though “simple” should never be confused with easy.


What a System Is and Does

I personally define a system as “the process of predictably achieving a goal based on a logical and specific set of how-to principles.” To paraphrase Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth, “Systems permit ordinary people to achieve extraordinary success, predictably.”

There’s a saying network marketing leaders accurately use when confronted with those within their organization who try to circumvent or custom-streamline the system (for example, by not using the right tools, or by following only those steps with which they feel comfortable):

“Don’t try to shortcut the system: the system is the shortcut.”

I’m in the middle of re-reading a book entitled The Millionaire Real Estate Agent by Gary Keller, Dave Jenks and Jay Papasan. I don’t happen to be in real estate myself; most likely, neither are you. But I feel very strongly that success principles work across the board, regardless of one’s profession, and this book is chock full of success principles.

I love what the authors say about the concept of systems:

“Systems are simply the repeatable process that allows us to duplicate magnificent results easily.” Wow—I love it!

Okay, you say. We’re all on the same page. We all know that systems are the way to go.

Good. Now, the challenge.


The Challenge

Can you guess what the challenge is? It’s the same thing that is always the challenge in an otherwise perfect idea: Human nature!

The tricky part about teaching the importance of using systems is trying to get people to stay with the basics and not get too creative. To be content with the fundamentals, especially at first.

Here are the basic objections people often have:

“But, Bob, are we supposed to be robots, never doing anything different?”

The answer: Not at all. But before you’re ready to get creative, you first need to absolutely know the fundamentals. Creativity is wonderful—and it’s extremely important to base it upon a foundation of knowledge and wisdom.

What a system will do, in any area of your life, is allow you to accomplish your goals in a much more predictable fashion. While creativity is a very worthwhile aspect of life, to be effective, it operates best when flourishing out from the bedrock of the well-learned basics. Every magnificent move Michael Jordan has ever made on a basketball court has been a derivative of the most fundamental aspect of the sport: dribbling the basketball. Ray Charles was a brilliantly creative artist—and man, did he know the basics.

One of my favorite business quotes is from a mega-successful entrepreneur (and wish I remembered his name so I could properly credit him). He said: “I’ve never been much interested in being on the leading edge of creativity. However, I’ve always been fascinated by being on the leading edge of profitability!” This holds true whether “profit” is meant in terms of money or any other worthwhile accomplishment.

For example: let’s say your goal is to lose 20 pounds (as mine was a few years ago). Do you care if you do so by following a proven system or by making up your own? Personally, I just wanted to lose the weight in the quickest, most efficient manner. I wanted to take it off and keep it off, and be healthy. I wasn’t invested in being original about it. And since I personally lacked the knowledge to do so on my own, I chose to follow someone else’s system. It worked.

What I did not do was to start out with that system and then change it as I went along. How counter-productive that would have been.

Weight-loss author and consultant Julia Griggs Havey, who herself lost 185 pounds and now successfully teaches her system to people worldwide, and Donna Krech, author and owner of a chain of the renowned “Thin & Healthy Weight Loss Centers,” both teach systems for losing weight. They don’t say, “Hey, try it my way for a couple of days—but feel free to add your own new stuff in there as you go along.”

Here’s what Krech had to say about this: “Practically any worthwhile weight loss system will work for you—if you follow it.”


Keep the Faith

You can follow any system taught to you by your upline mentorship (providing, of course, that it’s proven—in other words, that it has worked for others), knowing that if you follow it faithfully, it will work for you. Following it faithfully means you don’t invent your own variation along the way. You stick with it; if you have doubts or questions, you ask someone upline who is most likely to know the answer.

Keller, Jenks and Papasan write: “Until you have implemented and worked with a model [a system], you have little business trying to change or improve it…[yet] strangely enough, against all advice to the contrary, most agents begin by implementing their own ideas and models.” The authors go on to say, “The best houses and the best businesses get built from clear blueprints, solid foundations and proven frameworks.”

Regardless of the area in which you desire to succeed, first find a system for doing so, and stay with that system. Resist the temptation to get too creative too soon. Instead, focus on the results. Once you’ve attained the results, then you can get creative…if you still want to.

Of course, once you attain the desired results, you might choose to keep doing what has already worked!


BOB BURG is author of Endless Referrals and The Success Formula.