Systems Thinking Clarification

By Leo Gura - June 12, 2017

This is in regards to the Intro To Systems Thinking video.

After learning about systems thinking you might feel like, “Oh man… But how can I — this one small individual — fight against such overwhelming forces like global warming or terrorism or corruption in politics? It seems hopeless. Just a pipe dream.”

Or you might get the bright idea to go rally people to some kind cause. Like… “Come on guys! Let’s go save the whales. We gotta burn those evil whaling ships to the ground! Get off your lazy asses, we gotta act now!”


That’s the wrong approach. You must begin by turning inwards. You begin by recognizing that all our collective problems are actually rooted right inside of you! How are you contributing to global warming? How are you contributing to corruption in politics? How are you contributing to terrorism? That’s where you start! And you better fucking believe that you’re contributing directly to these problems. That right there is whole the problem! See?

Trying to fix these problems by rallying people to some cause is actually part of the problem. Because it externalizes the problem so nobody bothers asking the really important question: How is my being in the world creating all the evil I see around me?

Here’s the paradox of systems thinking: we need more people to be socially conscious, but the only way to do that is get more people to turn inward. Systems thinking might seem like it’s asking you to orient outward (because the focus is on solving external problems like global warming or terrorism) but solving these problems first requires a radical turning inward. So you must turn inwards first, master your self and your understanding of systems, then you will turn outwards and transform the world in a responsible manner.

There can be no meaningful transformation of the world without a personal inner revolution. This is where most revolutionaries go wrong. If you just try to overthrow the government or start some kind of political action group, you will fail, because you lack the requisite inner development to lead such a group in a conscious and responsible manner. Your actions will also be misguided because you misunderstand the root problems. Your personal weaknesses and corruption will undermine you. If you start a movement without first expanding your own consciousness, you will deepen the problem because you will just spread ignorance.

An ignorant person cannot help spreading ignorance. This is a certainty. No ifs about it. Notice that this has been a huge trap across the centuries. When someone starts a movement without first taming their ego, the movement always backfires and leads to great evil. Closely study the development of religions, cults, Nazism, Marxism, anti-communism, existentialism, nihilism, post-modernism, Scientology, evangelical missionaries, the PUA community, Alex Jones, etc. All of these movements were created by people who haven’t mastered their own egos, and therefore they spread ignorance in the name of doing social good, actually creating the very same evil they are trying to stop.

The source of all evil is personal ignorance. Evil is not created with evil intentions. Evil is created with good intentions. The better you think your intentions are, the more evil you will create in the world, the more ignorance you will spread, because you will think you’re right, leaving no room for self-reflection. Evil is just a lack of self-reflection. That is all. So watch yourself!

Also, systems thinking is not just about manipulating systems. Many of the lower Spiral Dynamics stages like Red, Blue, and Orange can manipulate systems very successfully. A mob boss is very good at ruthlessly pushing through his egoic agenda. This is not systems thinking. This is shameless egotism. Systems thinking requires that you start to step outside your self-centered view of the world. You have to be conscious enough to step outside your own value system, and genuinely care about other beings besides your self and your tribe.

Stop using success, wealth, or fame as measures of systems thinking. Just because some businessman has made billions of dollars and has 10 luxury cars and a trophy wife, does NOT make him a systems thinker. Just the opposite in fact. It’s really easy to make money in a ruthless, unecological manner by exploiting a system. That is NOT systems thinking. That’s unchecked stage Red or stage Orange egotism.

If you feel that your perspective of the world is THE TRUTH, you’re not at stage Yellow.

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