Coping: Millennial’s Book 4: [keyword: Flow]

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Reader Note: If you are just catching on, each Thursday we’re are doing a chapter each week of a book I’m writing for Millennials – teaching the insights that will (hopefully!) allow them to live long and prosper – and be around to clean up after us Old People who made a mess of getting civilization this far.

There are three sections to each chapter. Something you can read to children, a general reader part, and the advanced/business section.

We pick up with morning like so…

We established in the first chapter that there is RECIPE for everything we do.

Chapter 2 involves understanding (and owning) PROCESSES.

Chapter 3 discusses recipes and processes of INVENTION.

Today we discussed building a dynamic flow which allows us to share and manage our lives.

For Children

Tom The Baker Leans “Flow”

Tom the Royal Baker was getting on famously with the whole Kingdom.

The King thought he was the cat’s meow because he had managed to capture the best of the best in baking. Tom had invented delicious new things – like raisin bread – where none had existed before.

The King was eating better than ever. What’s more, his stature in the world of Kings was growing because he had something no other King had: the Power to Make Choices.

Tom the Baker had elevated himself to something of a legend by simply catching on to the ideas behind recipes.

Tom had figured out that there were really only three things you could do to a recipe: add, subtract, or change ingredients, or some combination of these. So he took each one in turn and worked through a process of invention, much to the King’s delight.

Some days he would add something new to one of his recipes. Other days, he would take away something. Other days he would change a few things.

On each of these days, Tom would always make a batch of his standard bread, or one of the King’s other favorites like his raisin bread, so that the King would never be disappointed if his newest experiment wasn’t especially good.

And, that did happen.

Like the day he tried adding small salty anchovies and strawberries to bread at the same time.

“No,” thought Tom, “this is not quite fit for a King. I’ll give him the fresh crunchy French bread recipe instead.” It was a good choice.

Baking bread was the King and the royal Court was a lot of work. So Tom needed to make sure that his assistants were baking his “original recipe” exactly as instructed.

To make sure this happened, he built a series of checklists for his assistants to follow in the exact order he laid out. Each time the bread was exactly right.

But it wasn’t always easy for Tom. Sometimes he would have to correct an assistant.

Billy the Baker’s assistant, for example, always packed the flour too tightly when measuring it. Billy would scoop up the flour, just as instructed, but he would always add too much and he would pack it tightly time after time.

Baker Charlie was in charge of mixing. And sometimes he would not quite mix things enough. Tom has learned that it was always better to over-mix than under, provided it was all done in three-minutes time.

While thinking about the problem, an idea occurred to Tom.

What would happen if he were to place Baker Charlie in charge of measuring and move Baker Billy to being in charge of mixing?

He tried it the very next day. And it worked out perfectly.

Charlie measured perfectly, without Billy’s tendency to pack-down the flour. And since Baker Billy was always very-slightly overdoing things, he did a much better job of mixing.

The the bread they made was better than ever.

Tom thought about what he’s done.

Presently, he decided to call his discovery “Flow.” For he had seen how the flow through his bread-making process could be smoothed and better bread resulted.

This got Tom the Royal Baker thinking about what other aspects of baking could be improved upon by focusing on flow between processes.

Time went by and Winter arrived. Tom had been working at baking for more than a year. Tom began thinking about a vacation.

Then one morning, as he was supervising the flow of processes to build the King’s recipes for bread, a marvelous thought occurred to him.

“If I can monitor the flow of my assistants, maybe I can get someone else to monitor the flow…and maybe then I could get a Vacation!”

After asking the King’s approval, Tom placed an ad in the Kingdom’s Herald, the newspaper everyone read.

Wanted: Baker’s Assistant: Help Tom the Royal Baker. Drop by the Palace and let’s talk.

The ad created a huge commotion in the Kingdom. On the morning of the ad, Tom had no less than 20 people waiting outside the gates of the castle by the time he got done with his morning baking duties.

Tom didn’t know what to do. There we so many people and he began to get depressed.

But then, a thought occurred to him. “If I am asking someone to do something they have never done before, it probably matters less what the person has done than what the person has the potential to do!”

Tom walked out to the crowd that had now grown to about 30. He addressed the crowd: “Have any of you done something really heroic?”

The crowd parted and a somewhat portly fellow of late middle age came to the front. “Folks ’round here call me Little John. I used to fight guys who crossed bridges wrong in Sherwood Forest.”

“Did you work with that Robin Hood fellow?” Asked Tom.

“Yeah, that’d be him.”

Little John had been a legend throughout the Kingdom during his working days with Robin Hood. Now, having served his time in the dungeon, he was here applying for a baking job.

Tom was curious why someone of such fame would be applying to work with his, so he asked, “Little John! What’s your motivation?”

“You mean my motivation like actors need motivation?” asked Little John?

“No. Why are you applying to be my baking assistant?” said Tom.

“OK, look, I’m gonna put it to you straight” said Little John. “I’ve been asking around, and you’ve come up with some way to always make great bread and I want to find out how you do it. No one else has ever heard of such success in baking.”

After a long moment of thoughtful silence, Tom looked up and said “OK, Little John. You’re hired. The rest of you can go home now but drop in to the bakery for a free loaf of our finest bread.”

There was a certain grumbling in the crowd, but they dispersed peacefully

“What’s first?” asked Little John.

“Can you write?” asked Tom.

“A bit” said Little John.

For the next month, Tom taught Little John how to be a great baker like himself. It wasn’t a terribly difficult task, because once Little John wrote down a recipe, he was able to cook everything Tom had. Tom was so pleased that he had picked Little John. He quickly understood the idea of adding, subtracting, or changing an ingredient in the bread recipe and now, he was even trying new things on his own.

Little John had really gotten into adding, subtracting, and changing at the same time to make really complicated and delicious new recipes.

Little John had even started a book where he wrote down all the recipes he had learned from Tom and the delicious new ones he had come up with on his own.

Tom made Little John promise not to reveal any of their secrets to anyone else. Tom arranged for Little John to even be promoted to Senior Assistant Chief Royal Baker.

Then Tom and Little John worked out a work flow. Each of them would work a little more than half of the time. Since they made very good money being Royal Bakers, they could take almost half the year off to go adventuring or whatever each felt like doing on vacations.

After a further intense month of training Little John, Tom finally took off on vacation.

Tom had not seen it at the time, but by focusing on flow and sharing responsibilities with Little John, he had accidentally made the best career move of his life.

In a reflective moment one day, as the King’s bread was baking, Tom asked Little John about it.

“Little John, you’ve worked with some famous people – like that Robin Hood fellow. What do you make of how this is all working out for us here in the Royal Bakery?”

”Well, Tom,” said Little John gruffly, “It’s all just the same kind of basic leadership and management that Robin Hood taught his whole Band of merry men.”

“Could you summarize it for me, Little John?”

“Well, Robin always said ‘For anyone to move up, they needed to move someone under them UP so they could take over their job. Once that was done, then THEY, in turn, were free to be moved up as well. That’s what Robin Hood said.”

“Splendid,” said Tom.

Tom smiled like a freshly lit fire. He had learned the two secrets of flow. The flow of processes and the flow of people.

By getting both right, Tom saw success flowing his way.

For General Readers

In the first chapter of this book, I presented the case that almost everything that happens in your life may be viewed as a recipe of some kind. A recipe is a series of steps or events that lead to some predicable outcome.

The steps can be changed, steps can be added, or steps taken away. Usually, changing a recipe changes the outcome. So far, so good.

Then we got into Process – which is the sequencing of discrete recipes.

And now we’re into flow. It’s the art of getting everything to work smoothly and harmoniously.

It is the central nature of good managers to focus on flow.

When you want to take a vacation from work, and if your work is of a time-critical nature, someone has to step in and run your recipes.

If you happen to work on an auto assembly line, the challenge of sharing your recipe doesn’t fall to you necessarily, but to a supervisor.

The ideal supervisor knows each recipe on the assembly line by rote. But they can also see how the individual parts weave together as a whole. And from this, the sense of flow can be measured.

It doesn’t help the auto company to make 1,000 engines, but only 500 cars to put them in, and this is where flow – the integration and numerical analysis comes into play.

Flow works into personal and family relationships, as well.

If you want to share a recipe for something with your children, you have a choice to make. The task can fall to you – as a parent – or you can hire it done. As in piano or swimming lessons.

The concept of hiring recipe instruction can be a little complicated.

For example, when you go church so that your children can pick up good moral concepts, lessons, and maybe decent behavior, it doesn’t feel like you have hired anyone, does it? But then comes the collection plate. Bang, you’ve done some hiring.

The notion of hiring becomes even more obscure when you consider watching television. Indeed, that television is sharing recipes, presenting processes and that part is hardly debatable.

But we need to dig deeper. Ask yourself “How you are hiring the delivery of recipes and processes by simply watching television?”

The answer is that you pay for television (open air stuff, not cable) with your attention. What you trade-off is time.

When you could be making money, mowing lawns or whatever, you choose instead to get recipes and processes in return for up to 18-minutes an hour of advertising messages. Each of these is designed to program you to consumer behaviors.

This payment for the television recipe and process delivery is often hidden. When kids watch enough television, their consumer behavior is changed.

The danger lurks when young impressionable children don’t understand what recipes they are getting. Worse, most parents don’t understand the payment process. It is a deal with the Devil.

Our motivation for sharing recipes is simple enough: In a highly complex and highly regimented society, we simply don’t have time to execute all the processes and recipes we’d like to in order to benefit people we love.

Recipes are often shared in the context of our relationships.

When you come home from work, your spouse might begin with “Hey…guess what I heard today?” Bingo, out comes some new recipe.

An example is when the spouse says “I heard the new high definition television sets are pretty good, and I think we oughta buy one”.

What’s the recipe change that occurs? Your spouse is asking to change the family television recipe by adding a new ingredient in the form of a possibly improved appliance.

Suppose that you agree with the notion that yes, a new high definition television would be a good thing, and you buy one. What is the likelihood that you will watch more television, and maybe even different television when it arrives? I think you’ll agree that is almost a certainty. The new television will be more enjoyable and so you may watch more programming. But as a result, you’ll be paying more for television by giving more of your attention to the commercials.

Every time you see a commercial, it is sure to suggest that you change some existing recipe in your life, to somehow make things “better” by executing the purchase of some product. That you real-life recipe change may not be for the better is of no concern to the advertising industry. Money is agnostic that way.

Similarly, if you can’t genuinely afford that new Ford Exploder, the car dealer isn’t going to care. If you fit a loan profile (their recipe for who will pay for a car as their sales process) they’ll sell you the vehicle.

It’s how runaway consumerism works. That, in itself, is a sort of uber flow in the corporate-material West.

What this dynamic suggests is that you need a certain amount of belief in some core recipes of life, of you’re going to run-down and swamped by commercial recipes that will end up owning your consciousness.

Sadly, most people never sit back and ask “What are the recipes I need to have a happy Life?”

Upon reflection, we can see that it is our “hiring” decisions that lead to sub-optimal outcomes.

I was tempted once – while taking music lessons from the late Mrs. Shimamura – to suggest to my parents that “If learning to play piano is so all-fired important, why aren’t they taking lessons as well, and then teaching me?

Time constraints and love can drive parenting in unwanted ways.

Money! If you have an unlimited amount of money, you can enjoy unlimited consumption. But even so, then you need to delegate some of the responsibilities. It’s why Donald Trump doesn’t fly his own airplane.

The reality is that the relatively fixed amount of money you have today limits the number and kind of recipes and processes that you can can select from.

Does television care if you go bankrupt due to excessive consumption? Hell no! The television is only a delivery system. If you absorb the message from an automobile manufacturer that your life recipe will be better buy purchase of a new car every year, that’s fine. But not everyone understands that they need to question the Ford consumption recipe.

I don’t mean to pick on Ford either. I could pick on Colgate-Palmolive, or GM, or any company that engages in mass consumption goods production. The bottom line of television – and other media, including now the Internet, is delivery of recipes below the threshold of critical review.

Right now uncountable recipes are in simultaneous combat to own your behavior and this goes on for an entire lifetime.

It is a flow we have stepped into that – like quicksand – is hard to renounce.

If you wonder how people can get into credit card debt, how people can get themselves into the situation where they must declare personal bankruptcy, guess what? They are not “bad” people. They just didn’t understand that there’s an outcome for every recipe change they made in their lives. Some people learn this boundary by running out of cash, others run up the credit card bills, and many of these have to seek debt protection.

That the boundary recipes related to limits on consumption are not taught in today’s educational system is either a travesty or conspiracy.

I’m sure that a little education goes on in high school civics classes. But the typical high school student is busy collecting knowledge at gunpoint and doesn’t take time to view everything learned as a recipe to be selected and applied consciously.

Ever read Jerry Mander’s book “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television?”

Electronic media (and computers in general and social like Facebook) really need the same kind of disclosure statements as you see on cigarette packages and booze bottles. Cigarettes will take 20 years off your life. Booze will take perhaps a dozen. Electronic media? They’ll steal your entire life if you let them. Life, dribbling out your wifi is the paradigm.

The theft is subtle, and actually feels pretty good when you drive that shiny new car off the lot. Or you get your 10,000th Like on FB.

But is that something you consciously decided as a citizen of fixed resources (not to mention limited time in this) world would be the highest and best thing you could do?

Probably not, but let’s not quibble.

The same mechanisms that work for media, also work on the job. You get handed recipes, told to execute company directives and tasks within a process framework, and are led to expect everything will be fine and usually it is.

Until it isn’t and you’re fired.

To summarize, we know recipes and processes come in to our Being consciously or not. And they wander in through each of our five (or 37) senses.

Few claim their choices, but a few do.

Before we got married my wife Elaine, for example, had chosen to live her day-to-day life on nearly cash-only basis. It helped her to avoid debt, kept her from going to banks very often, eliminated the need for a checkbook (and fees!), and reduced the potential for overspending to zero.

Because she chose to operate on a nearly cash basis, she didn’t have credit card bills, monthly bank statements to worry about, spent no time writing down check numbers, and didn’t have to remember the process details that I did.

Brokerage account? Nope. Utilities? Money orders work fine for the few things she needed that didn’t operate on a cash basis. Rent, phone, power…

My solution to the same recipe problem was almost exactly the opposite. I had credit cards. I had several bank accounts, a brokerage account, and have in the past managed accounts for my children.

When I add up all the time spent running my small financial empire, it becomes obvious that Elaine’s approach was much more time-efficient.

I used to spent at least half-hour a week, or more, on banking.

There was the nine-minute drive to a branch and eight minutes waiting for the cars ahead of me in the drive through. The time waiting in line at the drive-through was spent filling out deposit slips and double-checking my math because I didn’t have a calculator in the car. The physical part of banking for me was 26 minutes, darn near a half-hour!

But, managing the wonders of finance didn’t end for me there as anyone with children will attest.

Then there is the market. Although my financial assets are about as large as the proven crude oil reserves of Vermont, I still watch uncounted hours keeping up on – and usually well ahead – of markets.

Our financial recipes and processes totaled a 5-6 hour per week difference. Elaine had time to polish her car. But flow saved me. I traded cars with Elaine now and then.

You’ll see Elaine and I are both subject to corporate and societal recipe delivery systems, like television, radio, the web, billboards, and what have you. Our interpretation of the recipes is wildly different. She gets about 400 hours a year more free time than me because of her approach.

Her simple recipe (before marriage) meant the short tax form, and I got the long one generated by Turbo-Tax Home and Business. We have developed slightly different interpretations of how to make the personal finance recipe make sense.

Her optimized flow was different than mine.

What makes ours a unique relationship is that we both understand and have talked about this recipe, process, and flow situation a good bit.

When it becomes second-nature, it can help any couple through a lot of the challenges of life – like remodeling for example.

Instead of going directly to argument over this detail, or that, we instead go back to the recipe. “What’s is the recipe you’re trying to cook here?”

Then we fit it into process: “This recipe detail has to fit with this other one as well…”

And then we look at flow. How well does it all work.

So far, very nicely, thank you.

One of the keys to getting a perfect relationship is merging of your flows as a couple.

Your results may vary but recipes, processes, and flows are certainly good starting points for any discussion.

For Business Readers

“Flow” is the application of metrics to every aspect of a company.

In the most complex of companies (like Amazon, which is a mother-giant of a mega-flow study) flow not only drives the customer buying experience and track, but it also triggers both the order fulfillment (robot stock pickers) on the back-end, but also reorder levels and a lot more, as well. Including not only internal but external financials, as well.

There is no substitute for measurement to determine flow.

But it’s also not difficult to achieve – usually with only two management reports.

The first of these is the Sales Funnel which we discussed in our eBook on sales that was posted for subscribers.

The “flow” in sales Is graphically represented by some variation of this:


This, in turn, generates a weekly sales report that can track – and troubleshootize (to borrow the Googlism) problems in the sales process:


And it is then refined as sales leads are tied back to advertising sources so that marketing efficiencies can be optimized:


I trust you see the flow from simple to complex?

The complete eBook on Sales is available for Peoplenomics subscribers here:


The only other management report you’ll need will be an Operations Report to manage flow.

What goes into the Operations Report will vary by company, but the critical visual to keep in mind is that any company may be considered as a piece of “business pipe” that commerce flows through.

In an ideal company, all four major sections of the pipe would be the same size. This would be a properly flowing company.

But problems can, and do, arise. Here for example, is a company which has become Production-Limited:


This would show up in an Operations report as more Sales coming in than are being made by the Production Department. Distribution/Shipping can ship a lot more product, so with this staring at you, it’s easy to head over to Production and see what is holding things up….

Of course, two weeks later, a major shipper like UPS or FedEx could have problems and in this case here’s how the “flow” degrades with a blockage in Distribution/Shipping:


It’s not terribly difficult to build such metrics, but it’s often hard in small companies because one of the most difficult lessons to learn in management in the one our friend Tom the Baker learned more or less by accident:

You’ve always got to have people you can move up to do the “routine” work so you can focus on the one thing the Boss is really responsible for.

Growing the Company.

Next Thursday:  [keyword: Worldview]

Reader comments on whether this project is worth continuing are always welcome. 

Write when you get rich,

4 thoughts on “Coping: Millennial’s Book 4: [keyword: Flow]”

  1. THANK YOU SO MUCH GEORGE! This is an amazing segment your doing! It has helped me to learn more about how to go forward. it is extremely helpful and has already changed my life in simple ways. I hope to really apply this into my career and working life. I apologize that I am not gleaning what I’m learning as I am getting ready for class. I can share more when I get back! Please keep this going George! Me and a couple of my friends really enjoy this series! And also, thank you so much for taking the time to do this for free. I know your time is worth something so it especially meaningful your doing this the way you are on urbansurvival!

    • Tell ALL your friends to tell ALL their friends. You all are the future movers and shakers and we can’t have you all wasting your precious talents on mindless pursuits! Arise, go forth and thrive! Life IS worth living and this is an incredible world AND you all are meant to be here. (Paraphrasing Desiderata.)

  2. I love the series, and cognitively look forward to it… Tomorrow’s Thursday, cant wait for the Millennial report! I never ever thought about all the ways we pay for things like you demonstrated!

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