What does an Engine of Improvement Look Like? Pt. 2
So, we’re jumping in where we left off last week during Part 1. If you’ve not read it yet, I recommend on stepping back and giving it a read. Last week gave the justification behind developing a ‘how’, or a system, for achieving our goals beyond the goals themselves if we want to thrive — this being our ‘Engine of Improvement’. This week I am going to do the title justice and go into more detail about what some of these might look like. There is a proviso to the text below and that is that Engineer Your Life is growing and changing with me and so these elements may change and morph as I delve deeper into them and some may take on more prominence than others as we see what jams with ya’ll and as others fall flat. That said — let’s dive on in.
How do we get from A to B?
How you envision your engine is entirely up to you. It is useful, in order to gel with the analogies I use, to envision it as some kind of vehicle. Afterall, we’re trying to get from where you are now to your better successful self in the future. A weapon, be it an AK-47 or a bow, aimed at your goals also works just as well. For me? Apache Helicopters give me serious wood — so that’s how I like to envision my desired engine of improvement and it’s what I’m going to use as the example in today’s post. Draw your own conclusions from my preferences as you will.
Don’t forget as discussed last week — start simple and build more complex over time. A kite is much easier to build than the marvel of engineering that is the Apache, so it’s usually better to start there. However, we know the kite won’t get us… well anywhere really, so we’re always trying to improve our vehicle over time, but those upgrades need direction so we need to have an idea of what our end goal looks like in order to get there.
What makes your Engine?
Built for Purpose
Before you start building it’s important to get right what you’re building your engine for. You do not necessarily need to know the final purpose of your engine of improvement to get building, but it is important to be generally aware of where you’re going. This purpose, or orientation, is your goals. They decide whether you need an engine that crosses oceans or, in the Apache’s case, hunts tanks.
As I have said in other blog posts our goals are orientated towards some vision of success and success looks different to all of us. For some success is becoming the next Elon Musk, for others it is raising moral children or perhaps it’s becoming a professional DnD Dungeon Master. Whatever it is, you need clearly defined goals otherwise you’ll constantly drift this way and that on the eddies of time achieving nothing but a subsistence lifestyle a.k.a. living without really living.
“The unexamined life is not worth living” — Socrates
You need a main source of propulsion. If, as last week, you’re starting with a horse and cart — this is your horse, or in the Apache’s case this is your rotor. It drives you forward towards your destination and the better you nurture and upgrade your propulsion system the faster you’ll move. Your biggest source of propulsion towards your goals are your daily actions. Each action is one turn of the rotor, one step along your way. You simply will not achieve your goals if you’re not committed to living them daily. Enough said.
Whether you’re navigating by the stars or a complex geo-positioning system, you need to know where you’re going, where you currently are and to some degree where you’ve been. First, we can do this by breaking down our final destination into a series of way points that are much easier to find and we definitely know that we’ve arrived. Secondly, we can use tools like planning and habit tracking to keep tabs on our progress and get a good gauge of where we are in our journey.
Just as an Apache has a big instrument panel to tell the pilot what’s going on with all the complicated whirry things, so do we. We need to develop ways to give ourselves feedback about, well… everything. There are several ways to achieve this, for example meditation is a way of listening to ourselves and being a witness to our own thoughts in the moment — journaling also helps us to organise our thoughts, put them on paper and gives us a tangible way see what’s going on in that old noggin.
Steering & Interface
The Apache needs a control column and your car needs a steering wheel otherwise you’re in for a wild ride. We need to equip our engine with a way to steer. This is where self-talk, language and personal philosophy come in. Some of you out there I’m sure turned your nose up at that, but the things you believe in, the mantras you live by and how you perceive events all help to guide you down a path that leads to the outcome you’d like to see. When we have a personal philosophy, we are less likely to be pushed off course by others and once developed it should, in theory, make choices (steering) easier for us.
We need to create memory to store the output of all the things above, in essences to remember what worked, what didn’t but also have the computational power to analyse that data. Again, journaling as a tool really helps us with organising memory, but there is greater emphasis here is on making sure we can look back and find things easily. We can also read books and add them to our memory to inform our personal philosophies and provide some of the upgrades we need. However, adding to our internal memory without an output is useless, just as a computer without a screen is useless, we can’t see what’s going on. We need our inner computer to analyse that information, in conjunction with the real world in front of us and the diagnostics from our instruments in order to make informed decisions. We need it emotionally to either turn on a warning light, or to give us that rush after breaking a PB.
“My friend…care for your psyche…know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves.” — Socrates
A good systems engineer knows how to put these different systems together and get them to work in harmony. They all feed into each other and they’re all linked. While only focusing on one of these aspects may work for a short time, you’re just compensating for a weakness in other areas and you’re not going to get very far in the long run. The systems engineer is you. You’re in charge of putting all those systems together and getting them to work for you.
Don’t worry, through these articles and other forms of outreach I am going to be writing the manual to help you do all of that. This may all seem complicated right now, and part of the reason is I’m summarising hundreds, if not thousands of blog articles into this one which has attempted to cover all my plans for Engineer Your Life. However, as we get into each section I’m going to zoom in on separate ideas where I can really break them down and simplify them — after all the whole purpose of this project is to make things simpler, not more complex.
We’re going to tackle these elements in order, so next week we’re going to get more closely acquainted with success, goals and goal setting. So tune in next week and don’t forget to tell your friends!