Andrew Mackross

September 24, 2022

Reliability is a system

Charlie Munger is quoted in his almanac on how to live a life of misery:

First, be unreliable. Do not faithfully do what you have engaged to do. If you will only master this one habit you will more than counterbalance the combined effect of all your virtues, howsoever great. If you like being distrusted and excluded from the best human contribution and company, this prescription is for you. Master this one habit and you can always play the role of the hare in the fable, except that instead of being outrun by one fine turtle you will be outrun by hordes and hordes of mediocre turtles and even by some mediocre turtles on crutches.

I must warn you that if you don’t follow my first prescription it may be hard to end up miserable, even if you start disadvantaged. I had a roommate in college who was and is severely dyslexic. But he is perhaps the most reliable man I have ever known. He has had a wonderful life so far, outstanding wife and children, chief executive of a multibillion dollar corporation.

Like quite a few men of my generation, in my late teens I lacked discipline and had no real time management skills. I was a C student at best, except for my favorite subjects (Physics & Politics). I was addicted to video games (CS 1.4, RCT3 & Perfect Dark), and I was completely unreliable.

I was so poor at managing time and commitments that in my final year of high-school I missed over a third of my classes and only managed to turn in the bare minimum homework to keep my teachers falling me. That year I completely ruined my chances of getting into medicine (thankfully). And, I only just scraped into a science degree, which was about the lowest degree you could get into (about as equally low as teaching 🤷🏼).

During 2007, my first year at university, I decided enough was enough, and went to the library to the find a book that might help me get organized. I stumbled upon Getting Things Done (GTD).

Much of the success I’ve had in my life is due to luck; and finding books at the exact right time moment makes up a healthy amount of that luck🍀! This was one of those lucky moments.

Key to me getting organized was a system that could process everything and a system that I could rely on to not drop anything.

My reliability skyrocketed. Anything I wrote in my pocket book was safe.

Until it wasn’t. After a few months my discipline running the system faltered, and I was flung back into my old chaotic ways.

A few years on, I had left university to work at a startup and was quickly overwhelmed by the work — I cracked out GTD again. This time it stuck a lot better. I think perhaps because it was digital this time.

Since that day, I’ve strived to keep my system running. But in truth, my system has broken down from time to time. Thankfully, I’ve been able to get it back and running usually within 6 months or so of failing, and for the most part of the last 10 years it’s been functioning.

It’s truly has been a constant struggle, but it’s been worth it. When the system is functioning, I’m more productive and much more reliable.

Since those early years my personal system (nicknamed mackOS 😏) has evolved. Today, in 2022, I store most reference information in my Second Brain using Craft (aka a Personal Knowledge Base) and tasks and projects live in Things.

My latest version, and inspiration for this post, is my biggest evolution to the system to date. This time it’s not the tools that have changed but the methodology. I’ve replaced the core GTD flow with a new flow based on Do It Tomorrow and Tiny Habits. Of course, there are still definitely elements of GTD in there — there is a reason the author of GTD, David Allen, is called the grand-daddy of personal productivity!

It has only been a month, but it seems like this new version might be more resistant to break downs and make me even more reliable than GTD — only time will tell. 

If it continues to prove itself, I might write a post on it. 

Whatever the case, optimizing my system to follow wise old Charlie’s advice on reliability seems like the right decision. 

About Andrew Mackross

Co-founder of HappyCo and Inktrail. I 🥰 close friends and family, taking things from zero to one, and the unbeaten path.