One of my first “real” jobs, before I started University, was at Future Shop. In 2000 I was hired into the computer sales department despite having very little knowledge of computers. I was hungry though, needed to earn tuition money to make my dreams of higher education a reality, and I knew how to sell. So despite the obvious fact that my computer knowledge was clearly lacking, the store manager took a chance on me (knowing that since the job was 100% commission either I’d learn quickly or find myself out the door).
I’m grateful that he did. I worked there for just over 8 months, earning enough money to get me started in University, and I learned a thing or two about computers in the process. I even earned the “part time salesperson of the year” award (yes, they actually had one of those) complete with a trophy of a figurine holding a briefcase (I’m not making any of this up). My mom still has the trophy at her house. So I’d like to think that I made good on the risk that the store manager took on me.
When I was first hired, the reality that I knew nothing about what I was supposed to sell hit me really hard. So the first thing I did was go to the local bookstore and purchase everything I could on computers. I learned the difference between “hardware” and “software”, I learned about “operating systems” and enough basics to be able to sell computers and related accessories to the wide array of non-technical retail customers that would, on a daily basis, walk through the doors.
I also became acquainted with our “service” department, and on occasion I would have to assist my customers when their computers needed repair. I’d walk into the service room and see a number of machines waiting to be fixed, and marvel at how these very expensive computers (remember this was the year 2000 and it was not unusual to sell a computer for between $5000 – $8000) would be rendered useless if their operating system crashed. In a very simplistic fashion I began to see just how important the “operating system” was to the health and functionality of the computer itself.
Fast forward 15 years. For the last 7 years I’ve been a full time entrepreneur. In one of our businesses I’ve had the chance to work with, associate with, or coach in some capacity or another, several thousand entrepreneurs and small business owners. In this experience I have learned just how important a “personal operating system” is to the results that people achieve in their lives.
What is a “personal operating system”?
In my opinion, a “personal operating system” is that set of beliefs, behaviours, and habits, that a given person has, that operate both consciously and unconsciously in that person’s life, to dictate the results that the person achieves.
In my experience, everyone has a different personal operating system, and the consequences of this are quite noticeable.
For example – one person’s operating system instills a belief that they are entitled to things. They believe they are entitled to help from others, they believe that it is their right to have what they want, and if they don’t get what they want then it is not their fault. They are a victim. It is someone, or something, else’s fault. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
Another person’s operating system may give a completely opposite belief framework and suggest that in fact they are 100% responsible for their life and the results they achieve. It may suggest that they are entitled to nothing, and no one owes them anything. As a result, they are grateful for what they have, and never look to blame anyone, or anything, if they don’t get what they want. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
One’s person’s operating system may become repeatedly frozen when confronting anything outside of their comfort zone, or attempting anything that scares them. As a result, they stay safe, rarely take risks, avoid all situations where they might be rejected, or hurt. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
Another person’s operating system pursues things that scares them. It pushes them to operate outside of their comfort zone, to continually seek growth, and continually do things that scare them. It encourages them to take risks, and not live paralyzed by fear. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
One person’s operating system might look for escape from reality – through the very attractive medium of TV and movies, non-productive internet surfing, and gossip. They are up to date on the latest fashion trends, the gossip of celebrities, and the constant stream of happenings in the world. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
Another person’s operating system would rather create than simply be a passive observer in life, and they are willing to toil in obscurity, creating their unique art, even if no one sees it, or rewards them monetarily. They feel that a life worth living is a life filled with the act of creation. So they create. This operating system generates a certain result over time.
Every one of us are “operating” with a certain “operating system” – a unique set of beliefs, habits, and behaviours that direct how we spend our time, what we think about the world, and what it does or doesn’t owe us. Our operating systems generate a certain result over time. The results that all of us have, right here, and right now, are the consequence of our operating system.
The source of our operating system is complex – I realize that. I realize we can’t control where we were born, or the ills that we may have suffered at some point in our life. But we can, absolutely, choose the operating system that we use starting right now, until the end of our life. Many people don’t even realize they are “operating” with a certain “operating system”. A failure to consciously “choose” an operating system is still a choice – it is a choice to take the operating system that society, and your social circle, gives you. With that choice you get results. Your results are the consequence of that choice.
It is not an excuse to say we can’t “find an empowering operating system”. There are examples everywhere. If we can’t create an empowering one on our own, we can walk into the nearest bookstore, pick out a book by a person we admire, and immediately act to implement their operating system in our life. This will generate results in our life.
This is an element of life that I find most exciting and empowering – the fact that we get to choose. Nothing can take away our power of choice. We can choose the operating system that we are going to use today, tomorrow and forever. No matter what happened in the past, the future is ours to choose the system that we will use to dictate our lives going forward.