Everything I know about Systems I learned from Cristopher Lowell


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Systems Development Coaching and Christopher Lowell?!

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Another article in the Coaching Series

I really love the heart inside this man, and think many of you will too — but this article is primarily a light-hearted introduction to a number of foundational concepts (which will be especially valuable for those of you who struggle with impulsivity and have come to be wary of decision-making as a result).

Because I wrote this as the holidays were getting underway, the article ends with some suggestions to help  navigate the decisions of the shopping frenzies of Black Friday and Cyber Monday — and they apply to the entire Christmas Shopping season.

They ALSO will be helpful things to keep in mind for anybody who struggles to resist the allure of certain kinds of places to add to your collection of whatever
(you know what I mean and you know who you are!)

Decorator and Systems Guru

The minute I became conscious of the “TV hypnosis” experience, I realized the danger. Since I wanted to spend my life DOING, not watching, I chose to banish the bugger. I haven’t owned a television set in decades.

As a consequence, I came years late to the Christopher Lowell party — aware of his existence only after I picked up a discount decorating book at one of those “odd lots” resale stores.

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you might recall that curling up on my chaise with a huge cup of coffee and a decorating resource is my cookie. (click on: Virtue is Not its own Reward, part of the TaskMaster Series, for more about this Cookie concept and how I use it in MY ADD-drenched life)

My New Best Friend

Once I became aware of this Discovery Channel “You Can Do It” sensation, I wanted more. I bought each of his books, any time as they came up at bargain prices on Amazon — which really confused their “recommended for you” bot! (Let’s see, she is a sucker for books on ADD, neuroscience or . . . Christopher Lowell ???)  

And I have to tell you that the bloom has NOT left the rose.
Repeated exposure has only deepened my regard.

Since we both are Baby Boomers with show-biz backgrounds, his “set design” solutions to organization and decorating dilemmas speak to me loud and long. His ideas jumpstart my own creativity and his writing style makes me laugh – sometimes aloud. LOVE that!

He’s  the design community’s Peg Bracken (whose housekeeping and cookbooks are as delightful to read as Pam Houston short stories).

For readers who don’t know any of these guys, I started with Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book and Houston’s Jackson is Only One of my Dogs, now available in her short-story anthology, Cowboys Are My Weakness.

Throw a dart to decide where to start with Lowell, but ADDers will find Small Spaces especially useful. (He’s one of our own, by the way, which is probably at least PART of the reason he resonates with me).

For those who are still unaware of Lowell or the reasons for his popularity, he is one of the few decorating divas for whom provenance holds no meaning.

His one and only focus is creative functionality: how well your home environment is an expression of your talents and supports your dreams.

He encourages all of us to be fearless with his mantra: Where there is fear, there is no creativity.

Under the weather comfort “food”

Immediately upon awakening Saturday, I put myself back to bed. Those “allergy annoyances” I had been dealing with, I suddently realized, had been symptoms of a budding cold. Spending a day or two giving my body the rest it needs is my life-long strategy for heading things off at the pass, before they can gather strength that might take me out of the game of life for a longer period of time.

Along with a HUGE glass of water, vitamins, and other cold remedies, I grabbed a stack of Lowell’s books to inspire a solution to a design problem I have been noodling. Between naps.

Even though I haven’t reached a decision about my design problem (yet!), flipping through a stack of CL’s books, one after another, made me aware of what a magnificent guru for systems development he is.

While it’s not really true that everything I learned about systems and systems development came from Christopher Lowell, it could have — we approach creativity and follow-through the same way. Although I picked up a quite a few new ways to language many of the concepts I explore on this blog, I’m going to share only a few of them in the rest of this particular article.

Starting at the very beginning:
What IS systems development coaching?

Good question!  Systems Development Coaching focuses on helping a client discover the underlying concepts that will help them develop systems.

system is a set or arrangement of things so related as to form an organic whole.

When an ADDer activates a system, s/he is freed from having to remember each individual step — less likely to get distracted in the middle of a task, or stopped cold by the need to make one of those pesky pre-frontal cortex intensive decisions in the moment.

Most people are a little fuzzy around this concept, probably because the last systems development training we received was potty-training. (How many of us forget to do what-comes-next when we’re going to the bathroom? Or even give it a thought?)

Exactly!

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Copyright 1999, Madelyn Griffith Haynie, All Rights Reserved
Graphic thanks to Phillip Martin: artist, educator

Systems vs Solutions

When we focus on solutions, we generally expect to come up with something that will solve a particular problem.

When we focus on systems, we develop templates for solving all sorts of problems –
some of which we are then able to avoid altogether from that point on.

While solutions tend to be more specific, templates are modular - we can port pieces of working systems to new situations to propagate new systems.

Neat, huh?

I will expand on the Systems concept in an upcoming series on Systems Development, taken from the Systems Module of the world’s first ADD-specific coach training, the A.C.T. Training I developed and delivered originally through The Optimal Functioning Institute™, many years ago now.

For this article, let’s take a look at some systems pieces that we are going to need to have in place REALLY SOON!

Internet Shopping 101

Ultracases’ photostream on Flikr (Creative Commons)

As Black Friday and Cyber Monday draw nearer, Deals and Steals litter the landscape, both live and virtual. How’s a poor shopper to cope?

Despite only the best of intentions, few of us manage well with the numerous shopping and buying decisions we have to handle in the period beginning shortly before Halloween and continuing until New Years Eve Day — at least not in a manner that leaves us t-totally pleased with ourselves and our choices come January.

My subconscious mind has been working overtime trying to figure out what goes wrong when we shop.

What are we THINKING?!

More to the point, what do we need to think INSTEAD?

While very few of us adore the idea of sticking to a budget (even when we relabel it a “spending plan”), SOME of us understand inately that saying yes to one thing MEANS saying no to something else.

MOST of get into trouble when we fail to think about that little reality when it counts.

The OLD advice was: Stay out of the stores!
So now what? Don’t turn on your computer?

While black and white solutions are better than NO solutions – especially for those of us whose financial lives are out of control and in danger of getting increasingly worse – illuminating the underlying principles makes more sense long-term.

For reasons I won’t enumerate here, a number of my colleagues and students have been particularly focused on principles of internet marketing of late.

  • They have been trying to dig out from under the surfeit of advice from the “Make A Fortune with your Home Computer” and “Social Media Gazillions” gurus to come up with marketing methods that make sense with their values and visions — especially considering that they are all too aware that taking advantage of impulsivity as a “fill your practice” strategy would be clearly out of integrity for ADD Coaches.
  • At the same time, they wonder how best to attract the attention of their marketplace, and how to encourage the follow-through of individuals for whom their offerings could be life-changers (potential clients who are not exactly noted for their follow-through skills).

At the other end of the I-really-can-help-you-change-your-life spectrum are clients for whom the Internet has become littered with landmines because of Internet Marketing.

Let’s start there. Down the line I will attempt to knit together the needs of both communities.

Five Shopping Principles to Keep in Mind

On the way to developing your very own shopping system, here are a few suggestions designed to improve your functional baseline in the intentionality realm. (Improving functional baselines in various arenas is the goal of all systems development coaching, by the way.)

By way of attribution (a current crusade, since the ADD community is generally lousy about acknowledging the sources of “their” ideas and content), I want you to know that they popped into my head as I leafed through my stack of  Christopher Lowell decorating books.

1. Hyperbole Helps (who knew?)

Unusual, often over-the-top ways of looking at things “help” grab our attention by piquing our curiousity. (Admit it, would you have been as interested in THIS article if it had been entitled something less provocative?)

Pay attention to your reaction to clever titles – they’re designed to engage your interest in a manner that will get you to click. In the upcoming shopping window, most will be designed to get you to BUY as well.

2. Distinguish Shopping from Buying (Don’t buy anything you haven’t already shopped)

Not only will you be unlikely to distinguish a great deal from a great snow job, if you haven’t taken the time to investigate how much something you need or want is likely to set you back, what makes you so sure that it is something you WANT at all?  Don’t fall prey to those “last chance to send your dollar” ploys.

At the very least, shop with a LIST. You might run into 10 “perfect” gifts for Grandma you “can’t afford to pass up” BEFORE you remember that there are 10 more names on your Holiday Gift List. Then what?

3. Never fall for a negative sell  (Fear-based marketing is make wrong, manipulation is covert coercion)

Yes, you’re worth it, they’re worth it, and everybody deserves a little something extra sometimes – ask yourself if THIS is that time!

4. Don’t confuse impulsivity and decisiveness (Don’t buy your own hype)

Don’t use a Thirty-Day Guarantee as an excuse to BUY NOW/Decide Later.
(Did you know that sales surveys show that very few people jump through the hoops to return things, EVEN if they are dissatisfied? What does that tell you?)

On the other hand, don’t complicate decisiveness with “happily ever after.”

Make like Santa: make your list, check it twice, and make friends with the idea that a
“good enough” gift beats shopping exhaustion coupled with a last second wrapping marathon — HANDS DOWN!

5. Remember that tomorrow usually comes

Use TODAY ONLY as an incentive to $BUY NOW$ ONLY if you are one of those with “Shopper’s Syndrome,” or if you are one of the few saner individuals who already know that this is as good a deal as you’re likely to get and are seriously seeking a solution to a previously identified problem — even if the “problem” is what to gift this holiday season.

Since I made it a rule for myself NEVER to respond to the TODAY ONLY tactic (unless there is an explanation that makes total sense to me, and I am ALREADY in the market for whatever they are selling), I have observed that the very same deal is quite often available when tomorrow becomes today only.

Now that Cyber Monday follows Black Friday (and Cyber “Monday” often lasts an entire WEEK), Principle #5 is more relevent than ever!  Keep it in the forefront of your mind.

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with Executive Functioning struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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