The Blank State

We are all born into a world, not of our own making. We inherit ways of looking at the world, paradigms and thoughts, from those who have come before us. Even those non-conformists in rejecting the conditioning and indoctrination of the systems and rules they find themselves entangled in, are by default, bound and controlled, in reacting to constructs formed by others. Can we ever, therefore, be truly original or free?

What if instead, we were able to start life with a Blank State? With the power to choose what to keep of the old world, and what to create anew

“In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete. That, in essence, is the higher service to which we are all being called.”(R. Buckminster Fuller)

Reading Thinking in Systems inspired these types of questions within me … and yes, there are indeed glaring impracticalities and contradictions with The Blank State as a concept. For example, to create a Blank State for each and every person born into the world would be an impossible feat. After all, each person needs to be born into something … nurtured and raised… Perhaps we need to accept a season of initial instruction in existing concepts and ideals (both good and bad), and instead of a Blank State at birth, look to institute a scaled down version, of Grey or Mixed States – allowing for periods of transition and generation of new paradigms. Where, through a process of collective discussion and regular review (every, 5, 10 or 20 years?) across a range of areas – the economy, housing, politics, travel, environment, foreign policy, etc. – systems, policies and laws are checked for alignment and fit to the purpose and attitudes of the new age. Similar to fixed terms of office for government leaders, where voters have a regular opportunity to elect the political representatives reflective of their own current paradigms and values… Like a regular programme of (Swiss-inspired) referendums.

Could this give rise to a world more reflective of our latest beliefs, or lead to greater instability, a world constantly in flux? Would this give rise to too limited a form of The Blank State, only leading to piece-meal reforms and reactions within existing structures, rather than generating new, fundamental and original concepts of thought and life?

Perhaps the actual practicality of The Blank State is not of major concern here …. but instead, the thought process it inspires … revealing just how far we may function unwittingly out of habits and thought structures passed onto us. Without taking the time to re-evaluate our beliefs and values, and question the relevance of existing systems and structures as a match to a world we truly want to live in. Without a carved space to consciously deconstruct and reconstruct. Would we create the homes we have today in the same way? Without the concept of a prison, what would we create in its place? Would we generate a wildly divergent solution for those who circumvent the rules of society? Perhaps the conversations around the toppling of historical statues are part of this re-evaluation process, revealing a wider paradigm shift …


“Your beliefs become your thoughts.  Your thoughts become your words.  Your words become your actions.  Your actions become your habits.  Your habits become your values.  Your values become your destiny.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

Paradigms describe the overall mindset of a society – the collective brain from which all systems are created. From a collective understanding of the nature of life and reality flow system goals, and the systems underneath them. The Egyptians built pyramids because of their belief in an afterlife. The differing economic paradigms of capitalism and communism produce contrasting ways of life. Societies prioritising the elderly may ensure a percentage of homes are designed with “granny flats”; communities valuing inclusivity may design pavements truly conducive to wheelchair use.

As Donella H. Meadows highlights in Thinking in Systems, if the goal of a society is to increase Gross National Product (GNP) as a sign of a thriving economy, the societal system will focus on producing GNP. It will not produce welfare, equity, or justice unless these are defined as goals of the system, and progress is regularly measured and reviewed.

The beliefs and priorities our societies hold most dear translate into the goals, measures, language and constructs of our everyday existence. A nation’s success and status in today’s world is judged by its economic success, translating into productivity and profitability, possibly at the expense of health, fulfilment and family time.

What if we lived in a world where, instead of competing to have the highest per capita GNP, nations would compete to have the lowest infant mortality, the cleanest environment, and the smallest gap between rich and poor? Perhaps the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a step towards this  However, with a target date of 2030 and limited progress towards their achievement to date, it seems this paradigm shift still requires years – and more likely decades – of discussion and action, to realise significant change.

The battle may be large, but not lost. The humble individual may have more agency than it might appear – despite living within the framework of an existing and possibly outdated paradigm – to drive the conversation forward and enable change in their own spheres of influence.

PARADIGM SHIFTS AT THE INDIVIDUAL SCALE – Project [Insert your name right here]

Thinking in Systems highlights change at the systematic level in order to tackle the world’s biggest problems, but it also got me thinking about the individual as a system. What if we as humans viewed ourselves as systems above and beyond our biological human functions, as Projects with a Purpose? Where we, the individual, have power over the rules in our own little patch of the globe? How would this change our sense of agency in creating change in a world inherently not of our own making?

What is your purpose in life? What problem does your life solve? Does it even have to solve a problem – perhaps your life mission is simply to have fun?

Your own personal paradigm – your beliefs and worldview – will be reflected in your purpose and the subsystems you incorporate into your life – the jobs you seek, the businesses you create, the friendships you establish… If they don’t – your beliefs and purpose are simply rhetoric. You say you believe in a cause, but your actions and behaviour suggest otherwise…

To gain greater insight, let’s walk this through from the perspective of two fictional characters to aid our exploration.

INTRODUCING Project [Ama] – The Zero Waste Catalyst & Project [Luca] – the Maslow Warrior

In Thinking in Systems we explored significant facets of a system (a group of interacting elements with a purpose) that can have a major influence on the success of that system in producing desired results and behaviours.  For a more in-depth examination of these factors, read the original book summary here.

  • 1. PARADIGMS – our worldview and beliefs
  • 2. GOALS – the direction setters of life
  • 3. RULES – allowable actions in the system
  • 4. FEEDBACK LOOPS – information is power
  • 5. RESILIENCE – system survival
  • 6. BOUNDARIES – where does your system begin and end?
  • 7. LIMITING FACTORS – what is preventing success?
  • 8. HIERARCHY – a system’s strength is in the sum of its aligned parts
  • 9. DEPENDENCE – treat system failure at its root
  • 10. STANDARDS – view failure as temporary
  • 11. SYSTEM MERITOCRACY – level the playing field

We’ll walk through each of these as they apply to our characters and their projects.

1. PARADIGMS – how we view the world

Ama (our Zero Waste Catalyst) is an environmentalist – she believes that humans are only one of many species sharing the earth and its resources, and consequently they have a moral imperative to live sustainably and protect the earth from harm and pollution.

Luca (our Maslow Warrior), inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, believes that every human being should have their basic needs met to achieve full self-actualisation. He believes in the ideals of meritocracy and equality for all.

What is your guiding personal paradigm? What do you truly believe in, independent of the views inherited from society and the collective brain? 

2. GOALSthe direction setter of life

Project Ama’s goal – Viewing her life as a Project with a Purpose, Ama focuses on honouring her paradigm through the achievement of a zero-waste ambition in her personal life. Her long term and ultimate goal is to self-build and create a fully sustainable home and lifestyle.

Project Luca’s goal – Luca has already become a millionaire through his successful business enterprise. He now sets a goal of making sure his business reflects his guiding paradigm by ensuring all of his employees have the financial resources necessary to meet relevant aspects of the first two rungs of the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid – Physiological and Safety – their very basic needs. Ultimately allowing them to move higher up the scale to self-actualisation.

What are your goals and how do they reflect your worldview – your overarching personal paradigm?

3. RULESallowable actions in the system

Project Ama’s rules – Ama sets the rules in her system, to govern and regulate the direction of her life project towards its goal. They determine and provide guidance for her actions and behaviour.  She buys goods with no packaging, cycles everywhere, never flies, composts her food waste, buys second hand and repairs her clothing. Each year she adds on a new challenge to further her efforts towards achieving Project Ama’s ambition. She uses energy from renewable suppliers. She creates her own herb and vegetable garden at home. Anyone visiting or staying with her has to abide by her waste policy (not bringing goods with packaging into her home). Perhaps in the outside world she has little control over the rules and actions of others, but inside her own home she gets to set them – she has power over her system’s rules. She realises Project Ama is far from reaching her perfect ideal – the flat she currently rents doesn’t give her full power over the rules. For example, her toilet is a standard one – a compostable one would far better align with the goal of her system, but her landlord will not allow a change. This is why she has a longer-term ambition of creating her own home, where she can indeed exercise full power over the rules.

Project Luca’s rules – To achieve his ambition – that every employee should be able to meet their fundamental basic needs such as security of property and employment, food and water – Luca conducts some research and determines that $70,000 is the minimum basic wage any person would need to live on securely, and institutes this as new rule for all employees in his company, including himself. To fulfil this aim, he reduces his own salary from $1 million to $70,000, making major lifestyle changes to achieve this. He also institutes a training scheme open to all in the business, allowing any employee the opportunity to re-skill in a new area and move to a different part of the business, providing equality of opportunity, and means to realising true self-fulfilment and one’s full potential – self-actualisation. His system’s rules have had an unexpected knock-on effect on the behaviour of its participants – his employees, faced with the elimination of stresses around paying rent and bills, have been freed to divert their energies to the company’s ambitions – now that their basic needs have been met. Their productivity soars and the business experiences huge growth and success.

What are the rules you live by in your own life – above and beyond those that dominate society at large? Perhaps reverse engineering your goals can help you to identify the rules, actions and behaviours you will need to adopt to realise your ambitions?

Rules guide actions and behaviour

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” (James Clear)

Like a fundraising thermometer that tracks the sum of donations against the target amount, every action you take could be summed and tracked towards the achievement of your personal goals, and against your beliefs and values. It’s your behaviour and actions that actually demonstrate what you believe in above, and beyond what you say. Action trumps rhetoric.

Imagine accounting for your daily actions during waking hours over the course of a month – what would it look like? 

Something like this?

Or this?

Which one best describes your actions currently?

4. FEEDBACK LOOPSinformation is power

Project Ama – How does Ama measure progress and success in her world, and of her project in achieving its goals? How does she know when her system is off course and how to course correct?

Ama keeps a tracker of actions and results, particularly those that are unaligned with the goals of her project, where she has circumvented her system’s rules. Project Ama’s aim is to generate zero waste in her personal life, and she makes a note of where this has not been possible. She analyses trends in the types of items where this occurs and takes steps to course correct. For example, she sets up digital billing and statements in place of postal mail where possible, asks friends and family to send her e-cards, and arranges to collect online secondhand purchases in-person to avoid packaging. She institutes a control mechanism to help keep her behaviour in line with her goals, by donating money to an environmental charity each time her actions go against her beliefs – a “positive impact fine” of sorts.  Another feedback loop is intangible – her sense of pride, generated by an alignment between her actions and her principles, in private as well as in public.

Project Luca – Luca uses feedback from a quarterly staff survey as one means of an information loop in his system. He tracks the satisfaction of staff across a range of measures including views on salaries and their ability to meet financial needs, and attitudes regarding the ethos of the company. He regularly reviews staff retention rates and tracks trends regarding reasons for staff departures as well as those of prospective employees wanting to join the company. He also welcomes suggestions for new ways to improve equality and access to opportunities within the business. An anonymous suggestion box is in existence and regular forums are held to generate ideas, supported by an accountability group to ensure the best ideas are implemented and reviewed for impact.

What information do you use to assess whether you are on track with the goals you have set and your overall purpose? What do you do to implement this feedback or course-correct?  For example, do you take time to analyse your spending to determine whether you are investing in the right areas that will bring you closer to achieving your goals (e.g. healthy pursuits) or whether your spending indicates the opposite (e.g. investment in fast food take-aways and caffeinated drinks)?

5. RESILIENCE – a system’s resistance against its own dissolution

Project Ama – Ama declares her life purpose and goals to her family and friends, who effectively become her accountability board, helping to keep her on track towards her declared ambitions. She writes about her escapades in a blog, with a commitment to transparency, noting times where she has slipped up and areas where she could improve. Her blog readers have become another kind of accountability group. She writes an annual review of Project Ama’s progress and impact over the year and plans for the next, in line with a growing trend towards personalised annual reviews. She also reads environmental books and blogs to keep her motivated when life gets challenging and she is in need of some inspiration, to help fortify her beliefs and values.

Project Luca – Luca’s employees are his resilience structure. He has created a culture of openness and transparency within his business, where employees can call him out openly where they feel any policy or plan goes against the ethos of equality and meritocracy. At each meeting, staff members are reminded of the overriding paradigm, values and commitments of the organisation – and time is designated each year to collectively write out and agree what these actually mean in practice e.g. equality of opportunity in practice means blind recruitment processes,  published gender and diversity pay gap analyses, employee share schemes, and training routes for every employee allowing them to learn skills necessary to undertake a range of other positions within the company at all levels.

How resilient is your system? What actions do you take, and what structures have you put in place, to protect and sustain the beliefs, values, and resulting actions and behaviours necessary to reach your goal? Who holds you accountable to your goals and life purpose? A mentor, a coach … perhaps you could even establish your own “Personal Board”– applying the concept of corporate governance boards to form your own person-centred accountability structure made up of people who hold you to account?

6. BOUNDARIES – where does your system begin and end?

Project Ama’s system includes all of the elements of the world she interacts with that have an influence on her behaviour and actions relevant to her life purpose – zero waste in her personal life. All of these subsystems  – her home, her friends and family, her work, shops she frequents –  lie within the boundaries of her overall system – Project Ama. She needs to consider them and her reactions to them, to ensure her project purpose space is not compromised – as far as is possible. For example, what does she do when her best friend invites her to be maid-of-honour at her wedding to be held abroad? Does she decline in adherence to Project Ama’s guiding principles – to minimise pollution to the Earth – or does she generate a creative solution – opting not to travel by plane with the rest of the wedding guests but instead taking an extended holiday and undertaking a round-trip cycling and wedding adventure?

Ama knows there is no such thing as a perfect boundary, and no system boundary is ever fixed anyway. Ama’s blog is an example of the expanding boundaries of her system and sphere of influence – she leverages her experience and further progresses the ideal of environmentalism and a zero waste culture by spreading awareness and encouraging others to adopt these practices, simply through reading about her experiences. The boundaries of influence of Project Ama could be ever more widening  e.g. she could choose to target the air travel industry and campaign for greater sustainability, but for now, she restricts her system boundary to the immediate problem space she wants to work on and influence to her personal life and those in the immediate vicinity of this – her friends, family, colleagues etc.

Project Luca – Luca realises the boundaries of his system broadened beyond the realm of his company, when his radical action in instituting a basic minimum salary of $70k was picked up and became popular in the press, spreading the idea to others. His sphere of influence has become so much larger than he ever expected.

Where does your system begin and end?  How do you define the boundaries of your Life’s Project space and your sphere of influence? What subsystems do you interact with and react to, that can impact on progress towards your goal – your friendships, workmates, business partners, family… ? How do you ensure alignment to your purpose in these interactions, particularly where your paradigms may conflict and contrast (think of the Wedding example above)?

7. LIMITING FACTORS – what limits the growth and success of your system?

Project Ama’s current limiting factor in the realisation of her goal is a lack of zero waste and reusable packaging suppliers. Spending time travelling far and wide to particular shops in order to purchase items free from packaging is time consuming; time she would like to spend working extra hours to fund a fully sustainable self-build lifestyle – her ultimate ambition. To try to overcome this challenge, Ama has started researching locations she could potentially move to, where she would be closer to the shops she uses regularly.  This would free up more time and enable her to tackle the next limiting factor preventing fulfilment of her longer-term ambition – finance to buy land and pay for its creation. She has already made sacrifices towards achieving this aim – not going on holiday (apart from her best friend’s wedding of course!), taking on extra hours at work, seeking work promotions and salary increases, and skipping social events with her friends to double down on savings.

For Project Luca, the popularity and success of implementing a minimum wage of $70k – that far exceeds market averages – has actually become a limiting factor for the growth of the company. Although staff turnover is now relatively low, each open position attracts huge numbers of candidates and the HR team is overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of applications to sift through, taking focus away from implementing and reviewing meritocratic practices within the company. Additionally, the fact that staff turnover is very low means Luca is not able to employ new talent within the company – new talent that comes brimming with new ideas, brings an outsider perspective, and keeps things fresh and relevant, thus avoiding an entrenched status quo from developing. Although there is an advanced system of meritocracy within the business, his company has actually become a bottleneck for equality of opportunity in the system at large, beyond the boundaries of the organisation. To overcome this, Luca is looking to expand the company –  his minimum wage rule has led to an exponential increase in staff productivity, publicity for the company and financial success – he decides to reinvest the profits made into a new arm of the business increasing jobs and opportunities for new candidates.

What currently holds you back from meeting your overarching goals? Try to solve your most pressing needs in order to get your system moving and prevent stalling progress towards realisation of your ambitions e.g. work an additional job or downsize in some way to secure money to fund training for a career change aligned with your purpose; or seek support through a mentor or coach to help motivate you to make changes and overcome any resistance to fulfilling your true aspirations.

8. HIERARCHY – a system’s strength is in the sum of its aligned parts

Project Ama -Ama takes an audit of each of the subsystems that make up her world – her work, her friendships and family, her home, the shops she visits, her modes of transport etc. And also, Ama herself, as master of her hierarchycontroller of the rules of her system. She wants to check if all parts are working towards her overall purpose of creating an environmentally sustainable world, within her personal sphere of influence. After all, a system is only as strong as it’s sub-parts and their aligned interaction, working towards fulfilment of a system’s guiding purpose.

One area that she feels is out of sync with the overarching paradigm of Project Ama is her workplace. Ama works for a technology company and earns a good wage, helping her to save towards her long-term self-build ambition. However, the organisation does not share her environmental views. She enjoys working there but the contrast in values causes her some concern, making it more difficult for her to exercise actions and behaviours in alignment with her beliefs. Pizza night is a particular source of conflict, with the mountain of cardboard boxes generated every Friday evening. Yes, they do recycle, but as a Zero Waste advocate she wants to stop the problem at source – preventing waste before it occurs. Despite not personally purchasing items with packaging, by default, in working there and gaining financially – she benefits from using packaged resources, albeit purchased by others.

She has considered finding another workplace more aligned with her environmental values, but as well as liking the organisation, her above average salary is helping to fund her self-build goal. She doesn’t want to stop attending pizza night – it’s become a space to bond with colleagues, hear about the latest developments and generate new work ideas. So she opts to work on improving the environmental culture of her workplace – she offers to make homemade pizza on the premises  (which does not go down well), and suggests a pot luck dinner with home cooked food brought in by colleagues (which attracts further derision) – pizza night is paid for by the company – who is going to decline free food?!  She accepts defeat in this area (for now), and instead pivots her efforts to improving other areas of the business e.g. liaising with the Office Manager to institute other office zero waste practices.

Through conducting her audit, Ama realises how far things have changed since she first adopted a zero waste lifestyle, when there were very few packaging-free options apart from fresh produce. And when those first few zero waste shops to appear failed due to lack of popularity – they became unstable subsystems within her overall system despite her attempt to strengthen their financial viability by promoting them to all she knew. Now with growing popularity and awareness of the concept, it has been easier to incorporate subsystems with aligned values, helping to strengthen the viability and impact of Project Ama.

Project Luca -Although there is always room for improvement, Luca is confident that the ideals of meritocracy and equality are being practiced effectively within the working environment of his company, as evidenced by the data generated from his system’s feedback loops e.g. quarterly staff surveys. There is one area, however, that he realises he has never fully consideredthe families and loved ones of his employees (or co-workers – his preferred term). After all, any impact on their well-being will have a knock-on effect on his co-workers and their welfare, and therefore his system as a whole. For example – despite being paid an above average living wage salary and compensation for additional hours, a co-worker undertaking overtime may impact on the ability of his partner or other family member to pursue fulfilment of their own goals and potential. So, he suggests more family friendly policies such as remote working and flexible hours, based on achievement of results rather than time spent in the office. He thus widens the boundary of his system to include consideration of the strength of co-worker family subsystems, to fulfil his overall goal of self-actualisation for all within his sphere of influence.

What are the subsystems you interact with to achieve your goals and how stable are they? Are they in alignment with your purpose? Or perhaps they may need re-assessing? How far do you go to introduce the values of your life purpose within these spaces – your workplace, even your own business? For e.g. If you believe in justice, do you stand up for justice at work or do you see it as a (sub)system lying outside the boundaries of your sphere of influence, of your project problem space?

9. STANDARDS – view any under-performance as temporary to avoid a downward spiral

Project Ama – Ama’s bike gets stolen. It causes a dip in her standards as she accepts a daily lift to work from a friend who lives nearby, in her gas guzzling car … Ama’s options for sustainable public transport are not yet available along her route to work, and the current public transport option would involve a long walk and take far too long. As she does not drive, hiring an electric car is also out of the question. As she gets picked up from her front door, allowing her an extra hour in bed, she fears a downward spiral in her standards in becoming too comfortable with this luxurious arrangement. To avoid this, she enacts an immediate plan of action – asking for an advance at work to purchase a new secondhand bike with additional security features (all of her savings are locked into a high interest account dedicated to her self-build project), ensuring the dip in her standards remains as short term as possible.

Project Luca – One of the quarterly staff surveys shows a 10% drop in overall staff satisfaction, falling outside the target range for the first time. Viewing this as a temporary dip in performance caused by systemic factors rather than an inevitable occurrence outside of his control,  Luca immediately sets out to investigate the reasons behind this, and enacts actions to ensure satisfaction rises up to the original performance standards set, and to avoid a downward spiral towards acceptance of ever lowering expectations.

When you experience a dip in performance, do you lower your expectations to this new level, rather than seeing it as a temporary situation you can rise from? What actions do you employ to “raise your game”?

10. SYSTEM DEPENDENCE – treat system failure at its root

“Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets (Upstream)

Project Ama -Whilst actively saving towards her self-build financial target, Ama hears about an opportunity to buy a plot of land at a very cheap rate, and on viewing, falls in love with it. It’s at this point that she realises the dependencies of her current system. Her system works because of subsystems that support it – she lives in a small city with incredible variety, with others who have set up constructs that support and align with her purpose – zero waste shops (even if she has to cycle across town to use them), second hand clothing and furniture stores, environmental community groups, places and friends she can cycle to easily… This place however, is in the middle of nowhere – the nearest village is some distance away – even if she was able to find packaging free items there, she would find it hard to carry a full shop on her bike, let alone bulkier items, and she would want to avoid becoming dependent on deliveries by polluting vehicles. If she were to purchase this plot – putting aside the need for further funds of the build itself – she realises her system would need a drastic reconfiguration in the transition period between buying land and completing her self-build, to maintain her current environmental standards. How could she make it work? Perhaps she could purchase or hire an electric car, allowing her to travel further afield to places offering secondhand and zero waste shops – assuming she could find an appropriate place to charge it. Or perhaps instead, she would have to find land in a more suitable (and consequently more expensive) area with infrastructure better serving the needs of Project Ama – thus delaying her dream further in order to raise funds. Ama realises that until she has created a fully sustainable lifestyle, her project’s success is necessarily but heavily dependent on other subsystems and infrastructure to realise its goals.

Project Luca – A security hack leads to a huge loss of customers, with a disastrous impact on the finances of the company. Overtime, the company becomes ever more dependent on loans to fund the shortfall – buying time for the business to recover – in order to meet Luca’s minimum $70k wage rule and avoid or minimise any compulsory redundancies (which would be in opposition to the spirit and ambition of his project). Being able to maintain this salary rule, far above the market average, means the company is significantly dependent on high levels of commercial success, more than most.  A downturn in finances in other organisations could in part be recovered by cutting wages. After burying his head in the sand,  Luca now realises he needs to treat the core cause of his system failure (system security) rather than merely treating the symptoms of this (loss of revenue), and starts to generate new ideas to shift the system out of its dependency trap on external loans. In order to generate profitability again – to change the behaviour of the system to achieve desirable results – he shifts focus onto revising security policies and infrastructure, re-building customer trust and the company brand, and diversifying the customer base and income streams to avoid dependency on any one source.

Where are the dependencies in “your system”? Should the source of a dependency be removed, could your system still function and produce desired outcomes? What can you do to treat the underlying causes of any system failure (producing unwanted results) and encourage greater independence – to help your system help itself?

11.  SYSTEM MERITOCRACY – avoid success to the successful

“The more the winner wins, the more he, she or it can win in the future.“(Thinking in Systems)

Project Ama – finally realises its long-term ambition – Ama has found suitable land and created her eco-home and sustainable lifestyle. Ama realises that she has had a significant “leg up” – an advantage over others – in being able to realise her goal while relatively young – it was made possible through an unexpected inheritance she received. She wants to help make this lifestyle change accessible to others, independent of affordability. She has built a second smaller property on the land where she hosts anyone who wants to stay for free, help tend to her vegetable farm and learn about sustainable building and living practices in the process, sharing her valuable asset of her accumulated knowledge in this area and giving her time for free.

Project LucaEquality of opportunity has been a specific goal of Project Luca, in part achieved by instituting a minimum wage of $70k and creating training pathways within his company allowing anyone to up-skill in another area of the business. He now wants to expand this to the wider community beyond his company, offering free training and scholarships, mentoring and work-shadowing programmes and opportunities to interested students in underserved communities – his way of levelling the playing field.

Where have you “won in life” and how are you using your privileges to help open up equivalent opportunities to others – to help level the playing field? How are you sharing the assets you have developed (e.g. knowledge, time) to help others? Examples could include mentoring, teaching, volunteering, developing courses and training guides, blogging ( :


I hope our consideration of The Blank State, along with our leading characters Ama and Luca, has helped you to see your life from a fresh vantage point. Viewing your life from a systems perspective, as a Project with a Purpose, with its own paradigms and resulting behaviours, can help you realise your capacity for self-determination, your sense of agency and ability to generate change within a world not of your own making. You have more power than you may realise over your chosen sphere of influence, even within a more dominant and possibly conflicting paradigm. Change always starts somewhere…

If you are not getting the results you want in your life, perhaps thinking in a more systematic way could help uncover what needs adjusting – to see the inputs and interactions in “your systemthat are generating the results you are getting. What paradigms are you subscribing to in your life? Are they unwitting beliefs inherited from those who came before you or ones consciously chosen by you? Whether it be a commitment to justice or helping the world to relax through jacuzzies, your true paradigms go beyond rhetoric and are demonstrated in your behaviour, and brought to life through your actions, even in the most horrible of circumstances.

If resources were no issue, what would you love to create in the world? What legacy would you be proud to leave behind?

Disclaimer: I’m by no means a systems expert so please forgive my loose and imperfect application of systems thinking to this exploration!

To learn more about Thinking in Systems, read the original book summary here.

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