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Do you fall to the level of your systems?

Do you fall to the level of your systems?

Check out our Amazon search history to see how we’re coping as a family during the pandemic.

First, you’ll find a Doug and Melissa Magic Responsibility Chart:

Then there’s a book on Scratch Jr, a kids’ programming language:

And finally (I promise, I’m not kidding), an iPhone Prison:

I know what you’re thinking: What the heck is going on at the Hy household?


One of the most powerful takeaways from James Clear’s Atomic Habits highlights a common form of self-sabotage:

“You fall to the level of your systems,”

You default to hacks instead of habits.

You chase tools over systems.

You do $10/hr work over $10,000/hr work.

Which leads you right into the Shiny New Toy trap.

IF I buy an Ōura Ring THEN I will get better sleep.

IF I buy a Whoop Fitness Strap THEN I will drink less Tequila.

IF I buy a new iPad Pro (with the new Magic Keyboard) THEN I’ll finally start blogging.


So back to the Shiny New Toys in our Amazon cart.

IF we buy the Responsibility Chart THEN our kids will let us have at least 1 adult conversation per day.

IF we buy the iPhone Prison THEN we won’t be distracted by our phones.

IF we buy the Scratch Jr Book THEN I’ll magically get more involved in my 6 year old’s home schooling.

But in our heart of hearts we all know it’s a bunch hogwash. It won’t work.


In my years of coaching high-performing executives and entrepreneurs, I’ve developed a 3-step framework to side-step the Shiny New Toy Syndrome.

Acquiring tools (i.e. Step 2) is easy. But tools in isolation are just shiny new toys – they’ll never deliver the desired outcome. Let’s look at the other two steps:

Step 1: Awareness

Ask yourself:

  • What outcome will this tool deliver?
  • Why do I really care about this outcome?
  • And finally, am I running from something deeper?

With the responsibility chart we want our kids’ to just start behaving.

We want them to sleep in their beds at night.

We want them to stop causing mommy and daddy to argue.

And most importantly, we want to watch Ozark in peace.

But there’s a catch. They’re great kids. They’re well-behaved and sweet.They sleep through the night. And they’re trying their best.

So what is it that I really care about?

I want more free time. Why?

Well, to work more. It’s scary to be the sole breadwinner during a global pandemic. And furthermore, being “good at work” is a big part of my identity.

So if you examine the big picture, buying the responsibility chart is motivated by my own desires to define myself by my work.

See what just happened there?

Step 2: Buy the tool

We’re very good at that. Next!

Step 3: Behavior change

Let’s put aside the existential questions for a moment (is that even allowed?) and say that getting the kids to behave is a legit outcome.

So why have our reward chart efforts always failed? We – as parents – didn’t modify our behavior.

What we needed to do was jointly commit to reviewing the behaviors after dinner.

We needed consistency in enforcement.

We needed repetition of the vision – why should they care about the outcome of good behavior.

Nothing you buy on Amazon will transform life outcomes without self-awareness and behavior change.

But when you combine the three, oh man.

That’s where the effortless action – the Wu Wei – kicks in.

Let’s design a life system to find that Wu Wei, sign up for Supercharge Your Productivity with Notion. Enrollment ends on May 6.

Khe Hy
[email protected]

Khe Hy is the creator of RadReads.