When It Seems Impossible To Succeed Against The “System”


This article focuses on people who consistently fail despite their (claims of) sincere, dedicated, efforts. They get thrown out of class, and don’t understanding why they’re treated worse than other people who did the same things. They can’t keep a job. They aren’t able to sustain healthy relationships. They attribute their failures to everyone, and everything, which they dub the “unfair system”. They try hard, and really seem to do their best. Yet they constantly fail.


There’s a certain amount of truth to their claim that systems aren’t fair. Systems work with rules. Rules don’t, and can’t, take into consideration individual circumstances. Systems can’t be expected to take intangible factors into consideration, and they can’t make exceptions. Despite the “blindness” inherent in systems, people should be able to “master” any system if they change their approaches.

Eventually, people’ll appreciate the value of systems. Systems create norms that’ll allow people to expect things of themselves, and others. This’ll make their lives less complex, and create a quality control which is universally accepted. Appreciating the value of systems will make people to give up the flexibility of making their own decisions, and have others make decisions that affect them.


This article discusses how people can overcome the challenges faced by those who believe that they’re being micromanaged, graded, and then rewarded/punished, by a group of unfair rules created by “other people”, many of whom are less intelligent than they are. “Other people” may be their school, job, or the court system. As with many articles, this message may appear to focus exclusively on a small subcategory of people who are experiencing extreme circumstances. Please don’t make that mistake. Everyone, even if only in small ways, attempts to beat “the system”, even if they’re unaware of what they’re doing. 


I, now, find myself speaking less to people about behaviors, and more about attitudes, and perspectives. When people attempt to conform to a system, and change their behaviors to do it, they’ll find themselves acting contrary to their true belief system, and to what makes them feel good. It's very difficult to sustain behaviors that they don’t understand and, after a while, many of them will begin to “cut corners”. Eventually, consciously or subconsciously, they’ll begin to think that whatever they were asked to do was “just stupid”.


As soon as people cut corners, they forget what was expected of them. They begin deciding on their own what they have to do, and with what they can get away. Instead of black and white guidelines, they consider whether “this is really important”, or “will anyone notice”. They won’t acknowledge that they’re cutting corners and, when confronted with the fact that they are, lament the unfair system. Once caught acting contrary to the system, the monitoring will increase, and so will their resentment. The gap between what the system expects, and what they’re willing to do, will increase, until they self-destruct. Once they self-destruct, the system will react as expected, and they find themselves fired from work, expelled from school, or jailed. 


The above pattern doesn’t have to “play out” as I’ve just described. Through an appreciation of how systems, and life, works, people can learn to appreciate, and master, the systems, that seem to constrict them.


Below are some rules that I’ve used to help me appreciate systems, even those with which I disagree:


1) People should remind themselves that everyone is surrounded by systems, and people are not “out to get them”. They forget that no one appreciates systems, but they should appreciate that the advantages of systems, exceed their disadvantages. People wait on line in stores, instead of pushing to the front, because of the system put in place to create order. Waiting for a bank deposit to clear is another example of a system. Systems are a part of everyone’s lives.


Instead of changing, or restraining their personal behaviors, I suggest that people change the way they perceive the systems. They should have the maturity to realize that just as they’re willing to give up tangible possessions, such as money, to receive other tangibles, such as clothing and food, they must give up some of their intangible rights, such as the right to e.g. stand up during class, whenever they’re tired of sitting, in order to receive an education. All families, and communities, require systems which will “force” them to give up some of their personal privileges, in order to receive, in their place, other, more important, privileges.


2) People who believe that systems aren’t fair, are often also arrogant. They believe that their understanding of the world, and everything about it, is better than those of others. They believe that they can beat the system, and are offended when they’re caught, and punished, because they also believe that rules that apply to others shouldn’t apply to them.


3) People shouldn’t waste their energies lamenting reality. Instead, they should assess what the reality is, accept it, and incorporate that reality into their personal world. For example, people can lament about someone who promised to lend them a car, and reneged on his/her commitment, or they can accept reality, and focus on alternative ways to get to where they have to go. Systems may not seem fair, nevertheless, people should accept them, “move on”, and consider what they have to do because of those systems. In general, people who move on from what bothers them, succeed significantly more, and are more respected, than those who stagnate, and/or fight reality.


4) People should accept, and stop insisting, to themselves, and to others, that their version of fair is the only one that matters. I’ve realized that I’m not the sole decider of what’s fair and unfair. Not only do the rules of the systems apply to me, but I, like everyone else, can’t insist that I understand the rules better than everyone else. Systems were created after a lot of research and experimentation. Systems know things which I don’t know. Instead, when people are confronted with something that I believe to be unfair, I consider whether or not I can change it. If I can’t change it, I incorporate it into my life, without resentment.


5) People should realize that eventually, everything that they do catches up to them. I’ve learned that people only have to get caught once, for their world to unravel, and it won’t matter how many previous times the system didn’t understand/notice what they did. People should realize that it’s not worth acting contrary to any system, even once.


6) People should remind themselves that systems don’t think, have no feelings, and don’t care. This is true even when the system has a “face”, such as a Yeshiva, or other community organization. It makes them an “adversary” which is hard to beat. The system always reacts and can’t be worn down. The earlier that people realize this, the better their lives will be.

7) People should remind themselves that when they apply the six previous rules, their lives will be less stressful, because they realize they have fewer choices. Since I want my life to be simplified, I, willingly, adopt the rules of the systems as my own, because I appreciate that the advantages truly exceed the disadvantages. Embracing systems that I can’t ignore, transforms me into someone who’s doing what he’s happy to do.