This is a guest post written by Zac Parsons:
On June 22, 2009, Erich and I decided to meet in person to do some hiking, planning, and bonding at Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell, IN. It was also Erich’s birthday, the second official day of summer, and a beautiful day to be outside. By the end of the day, we realized that our experience itself was actually interesting enough to write about (and hopefully interesting enough to read). We decided to write about our accounts separately, to see where our perceptions of the same days events would take us. What would I write about? What was meaningful and impactful to him? Where would we be similar? Where would we differ? Erich’s thoughts, (which I have not read, at the time of this writing) can be found here.
We grabbed a map, and headed out on the trail closest to where we had parked. As we walked and talked about the future of our business, we crossed a bridge over a muddy river.
We mused over what could have caused it to become so dirty, and never really came to a conclusion. What we did conclude was that in order for the river to become clean again, the dirty water would have to run its course. If we were to dam up the river, then we would have a dirty lake. Not much of a solution if we got thirsty (which we were starting to). It was an interesting object lesson for us on the messes of life that we find ourselves in. Even when we decide that the water is dirty, we have to let life keep running while we allow the clean water to slowly come back in and take over.
Continuing on down the trail, and continuing with our conversation, we eventually found ourselves in the middle of an early 19th century village, restored and preserved for visitors like us to observe and explore. It was a welcome surprise for me, as I just expected trees, rivers, and trails like in the picture above. There was an old school house, sawmill, leather mill, tavern, pottery shop, and more. In the middle of it, we came across a huge water wheel next to a three story building. Erich wondered how long it had been since the wheel was in operation. Well, we were about to find out.
Watching the man slide the cog into the system was fascinating. Not the physical act itself, but just realization that this huge machine absolutely depended on this small piece in order to function properly, if at all. The power of the water was being used to grind corn into meal for the rest of the village. If the little cog broke down, the people wouldn’t starve, but they would have had to work harder for their corn meal. I immediately applied it to other situations in my life and business where things were not optimal.
It’s a question that we all have to deal with: Is there a piece damaged or mission, or is the entire system broken? Sometimes, we make huge changes in our lives, and we throw out a system that seems to be broken. Often it is just a cog, or a gear that needs to be tweaked or replaced, and not the whole thing. You may have heard this being called “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”. Just because you have identified a problem, does not mean that that problem is systemic. Look closely at the gears, cogs, pulleys, levers, and tools you use in your life. Your thoughts, habits, experiences, expectations, beliefs, relationships, attitudes, etc. Perhaps more attention being paid to just one of these “cogs” count significantly change your system, whether it is your life, or your business.
Erich and I continued discussing the gristmill as we hiked around the park. We saw an astronaut memorial, some caves, a graveyard, and got a nice little workout in the process. My relationship with Erich was good before. We email constantly, comment on each other’s articles, and speak on the phone. But, this face to face meeting added a new dimension to our relationship (system), bringing in new pulleys and sinews that connect us. Everything is a system. Everything is a balancing act. Everything has a tipping point. By the end, we relaxed with some Cherry Coke Zero and let our bodies recuperate. It’s all a part of the system.