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Success Hacking — How to Use Systems to Create Exponential Effectiveness in Life

Why Systems Updates Aren’t Just Essential for Computers

Derick Van Ness
May 15 · 10 min read

What if you could succeed at anything you chose to do? What if it wasn’t going to be impossibly hard? What if all you need to succeed is the right systems in place?

The answer to each of those questions is the same: YES YOU CAN.

YES, you can succeed at anything you choose to do. YES, you can have success without it being impossibly hard. YES you can (and will) succeed if you have a the right systems in place.

Reread those statements again.

Let them serve as your new mantra.

As you may have guessed, the secret sauce of success — achievable success — is having systems in place to support your growth.


Without systems you are inconsistent at best and, at worst, dead without knowing it. The reality is the you probably believe we are making progress toward your desires, but if someone actually tracked your progress, they’d see you’re often going backwards rather than forwards.

Here’s a common example: If you are like most adults, you don’t have a system for your health. You might be gaining weight, losing strength or both. You blame it on aging, your busy lifestyle, too many happy hours.

You believe you are “mostly” eating healthy and exercising “as much as you can,” but your results are headed in exactly the wrong direction. The closest thing you have resembling a system for success is getting on that scale in the bathroom from time to time, and doing “damage control” when the number goes up.

The bottom line is this: If you don’t have a system, you’re going to get results… just not the results you want!

“Systems are consistent, people aren’t.”

~Derick Van Ness

Now contrast this with having a conscious system in place.

Imagine you had an excellent trainer and met with them 3 or 4 mornings per week. Specifically, you met each Monday, Wed, Friday and Saturday at 7 AM. They took you through a comprehensive routine each week and you always showed up because you were paying them handsomely to be there.

Then, when you got home you had a pre-planned, clearly stated plan for your food. You knew exactly what you were going to eat each week including snacks, coffee, water & wine, the whole works! You had a shopping list for each week and went to your favorite health food store at 5 PM on Sunday and did food prep for the week while cooking dinner each Sunday evening.

Six months from now, how do you think you’d be doing? Infinitely better, right?

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Now imagine if you created systems like that for your financial success, relationships, grooming, home maintenance, and more.

Many people do. They are the ones we look up to as successful. They aren’t perfect. Not even close. But the systems they’ve implemented in their lives allow them to achieve incredible things by taking the guesswork out of necessary tasks. Everything is crystal clear, optimized, and consistent.

Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg famously wear the same thing each day. It’s a system designed to streamline that part of their day and it works gloriously.

I know dozens of self made millionaires and even a few billionaires. What they all have in common is that they use systems to keep them on track in every area of their lives. They don’t leave anything to luck, whimsy or chance.

Take a minute to digest this. Success is predicated on systems. It’s not magic. It’s not talent. And it’s definitely not “luck”.

Here’s where the majority of us get in trouble…

It’s far too easy to try and explain away why a system isn’t necessary. Not for YOU. You’re the talented, rebellious unicorn. The exception. You can just wing it and do great!

You might think something like, “I don’t need a system for keeping romance alive in my relationship. It should just happen naturally.” Or “I’m motivated and smart so I don’t need a routine for my health and fitness. I’ll just be more motivated and it will all work out.”

Sorry, but in both cases it doesn’t work. Well, more accurately it works on a much lower level that it could.

Just look at your own life and see if you can find any exceptions. You might find some areas that are working “ok” without a conscious routine or habits, but given enough time most of those areas break down too.

So I invite you to take a look.

What works at a high level in your life? Your health, your wealth, your relationships, or your business? Break it down. What makes it function so well? Chances are you’ll find hidden systems in place you didn’t realize you had.

Or maybe you’ll find systems you’ve developed out of necessity. Your morning routine. Winding down before bed. How you plan meals or vacations. The order you use to brush your teeth, wash your face, and comb your hair.

Systems, routines and habits govern your life. The better the system, the better your outcome. They are the unsung hero of your Divine destiny.

The good news is that you get to choose. You get to pick what systems you implement, the direction they point your life, and how effective they become.

Don’t let this overwhelm you. It doesn’t mean you need to plan every drop of your daily blood. Most of that is already done automatically anyway. But if you focus on the most meaningful areas of your life, you can see huge changes with a little bit of intentional tweaking.

“Little hinges swing big doors”

~W. Clement Stone

I firmly believe that if you can get a few things right, the trajectory of your life will skyrocket. Here are a few simple systems I use that have made a huge difference in my life and success. They require minimal cost or effort and best of all…they work. Feel free to take these and make them your own:

Have a planned, healthy breakfast and lunch routine -

Most of us are in a rush at breakfast and lunch, so its ok to skip all the fancy stuff and stick to something simple. If you can get those 2 meals right, then you don’t need to be perfect with dinner to maintain a great eating regimen.

For example, I make a high-protein smoothie each morning for breakfast full of healthy fats. It keeps me full for hours. For lunch I often have leftovers from the night before because I purposely cook more than I need for dinner. Or I will simultaneously cook 2 meals while cooking dinner. One for that night and one for lunches for the next 2 days.

This simple system keeps me from breaking down and eating terribly at breakfast or lunch and is easy to maintain.

Meditate for 15–20 minutes after lunch each day -

I firmly believe that taking time to rest or meditate after lunch makes me vastly more effective the second half of the day. It’s pretty widely known that meditation is great for stress, but it also helps me to stay present during stress and see the “big picture” amidst the madness of daily life.

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Plan your day the night before -

As an entrepreneur I find the hardest part of the day to be figuring out what I should be doing each day. Mornings are often rushed and confusing if I don’t have a plan, so taking time at the end of a workday (or before bed) to plan the upcoming day allows me to start off focused and energized. It also let’s my mind “let go” of all of the workday stress so I can be fully present in my personal life.

Learn while you get ready for work -

I believe that learning more about your passions or profession always leads to greater fulfillment and success in life. The problem is that finding time to read for an hour each day isn’t easy. My hack for this is listening to educational audiobooks and podcasts while I get ready in the morning, cook, or do household chores. Chopping veggies or doing dishes is way more interesting while listening to podcasts, and I find that I can “read” a book or two per month this way. Even better, it takes WAY less effort than finding specific time to read.

Make at least one personal connection each day -

In a busy world it’s easy to lose contact with the most important to us. I make it a point to reach out to someone I care about each day. It might be a simple text asking how someone is doing, but often it is related to something important going on in their life. Because of social media I usually have an idea if someone’s child is graduating high school, if they changed jobs, or if they just ran a marathon. I like to reach out to say congratulations, wish them good luck, or tell them that I’m thinking about them.

I also have a system around calling my family or close friends every time I drive anywhere longer than 15 minutes. My family lives on the other side of the country, but with an unlimited cell phone plan and Bluetooth built into my car, it’s easy to stay in touch while I’m running errands or driving somewhere. It keeps me in close contact with the people I love most without needing to carve out a bunch of time to catch up.

In the past 10 years I’ve lived in 7 major cities in 4 different states, but this habit has cultivated close relationships with friends from all areas, even if we haven’t seen each other for years.

Hire someone else to do anything below your pay grade -

To figure this out, multiply the number of hours you work per week times fifty (assuming you take two weeks of vacation every year). Then divide your annual income by that number. This will tell you what your hourly rate is. This will give you your approximate “hourly rate.” Never do work below that pay scale. It takes discipline, and an upfront investment of time and money, but it pays dividends in the long run because you are freed up to do what you do best.

There are tons of sites (e.g. Upwork) that allow you to find affordable contract workers for all kinds of tasks. The system of hiring someone more well suited for a job than you is vital because it relieves you of tasks that slow you and your success down.

“You don’t rise the level of your willpower, you sink to the level of your systems.”

~James Clear, Atomic Habits

Like a garden, the things you systematically attend to in life grow and flourish. Those that you don’t nurture consistently wither and die. The irony is that many of us resist setting up systems, but they make our lives MUCH easier and ALWAYS gets a better result. It may take a little time to think up the systems you want to create, but once you have it planned the execution is typically quite easy.

Photo by Max Felner on Unsplash

Just ask yourself, if I was going to accomplish _____ without disrupting my current life and schedule, where could I find the time or resources to do it? What system could I put in place that would be even easier than how I am currently doing it?

Perhaps a silly, but perfect example of this is my system for clipping my nails. I didn’t have a routine, I just tried to clip them when they began to bother me. This created an ongoing battle with my nails because I always seemed to notice while I was traveling and didn’t have my clippers. That meant constant irritation until I got home from the trip.

Instead, I began cutting my nails when I got out of the shower each Sunday morning. Amazingly, my nails have never been a problem since. It takes 30 seconds and is easier than waiting for the irritation to pop up. I know that’s ridiculous, but life is made up of a million minuscule activities and distractions. If you can remove all of the static, you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful song of your life more fully!

So where in your life are you missing the systems that nobody told you were needed for success? Where are you underachieving or getting a result below ideal?

What if you were to create a system for the perfect day or week? One that you’d LOVE if you lived it consistently. You’ll never get to live an uninterrupted life, that’s not the point. The point is that your new normal, your “automatic” way of living, performs aligned with the life you want to live.

Specifically, if you don’t have a system for your health, relationships, and your money — get one. Without your health nothing else matters. If you’ve ever been sick, you already know this. If you don’t, go visit someone who is stuck in bed all day.

Your relationships determine the quality of your life more than anything (besides your health). Without the people in our lives, it ceases to have meaning. Our country is full of deeply lonely people, you don’t need to be one of them.

Finally, figuring out how to save consistently will give you the freedom and certainty to live a life you love! When you have money saved doors open and everything is easier, without it the world is suffocating and dangerous.

The choice is yours. Make the investment in creating the blueprint of your own life. Consciously plan and implement systems to the best of your ability. Consistently look for ways to get better and create “brain off” success. Your future you will thank you!

Ready to Learn the Ultimate “Hack”?

I’ve created a cheat sheet report to “hack” financial certainty starting today. Follow what it teaches and your life will change dramatically.

Get Your Cheat Sheet Report Here!

Derick Van Ness

Written by

Artist, Dancer, Sailor & Perpetual Optimist. My specialty is helping people create financial certainty, but I love to help people succeed in all areas of life!

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