The Setup


August 2015
Ivan Obolensky

One of the most important concepts for anyone to master is called the Setup. It applies to both individuals and organizations.

For a corporation, a group, or an individual to grow, it must be set up to do so. If not, it won’t. This might seem obvious, but it is a fundamental that can be overlooked, or more likely, put off. The idea becomes buried in the everyday coping that defines the routines that keep a business, or an individual, afloat. There will always be vital tasks that have to be done right now; however, if insufficient attention is directed toward the future it will become the present far too quickly.

An organization must be set up to expand and do well.

The head of a company can decide to grow revenue and earnings by increasing sales. A marketing plan can be developed and executed that widely promotes the products the company produces. Delivery facilities can be beefed up so that delivery can meet expectancy. This is all straightforward, but getting to it becomes difficult when daily traffic consumes the majority of time and attention. Further, this traffic does not include the occasional disaster that requires still more herculean effort to handle successfully. Nor does it include the subsequent investigation as to why the disaster occurred in the first place, and the necessary programs to prevent its reoccurrence. Unless a bright future is planned out and then set up, it will unfold, but not necessarily in the way you would wish. The coping, the flat production, and the anemic sales figures will simply extend into the future.

An organization can be set up to fail.

A company can over-extend itself to create a new plant, for example; but what if the loan is tied to short-term interest rates which suddenly triple. The increased interest expenses may add so much pressure on the bottom line that the organization must tap every existing credit line to keep going. Eventually, the company can no longer continue because no bank will extend further credit.

Another way to be set up to fail is to not keep pace with the evolving business environment. For instance, a company manufactures CDs and DVDs. The demand for these dries up, replaced in the marketplace by hard drives that require no disks at all. Management may have foreseen this eventuality, but the market fell apart faster than expected. The result is a bankrupt company.

For individuals to succeed, their lives must also be set up to win.

Having sufficient skill, doing what one enjoys, having security, creating financial freedom, being happy: all these require setting up. This means planning, working out a strategy, and doing the required steps.

Individuals, too, can be set up to lose.

You can have a job with little hope of a salary increase while benefits are slowly cut back. This creates stress, but the need for change is small compared to the necessity to survive. The thought of having to go out and look for other employment along with the potential income stoppage during the transition is too horrible to contemplate, particularly if others depend on your support.

You can be in a toxic home or work environment where the energy necessary to make change is not there. You can feel overwhelmed.

Following a path that aligns with your life’s purpose can make all the difference, but that is not always possible.

So, how do you start setting things up the way you want?

First, answer the following questions:

From what you can foresee today, is your business or employment situation set up to succeed, or to lose?

Is your personal life set up to win, or not?

If, after looking this over, you determine that change is needed, I would consider a few things:

  1. Decide what it is you want.

Without a clear vision of the end result, it is not likely your efforts will amount to much.

  1. Commit to the decision.

Change is the only way to change things, whether for good, or bad. Without the firm decision to alter your life in the first place how different will your life become?

On a business level, creating a plan and a strategy to implement it are important factors. When adding a new process, or a new line of product, testing it separately rather than dropping it on already busy staff is the better way. If this not possible, then a conference with those who have to do the work using their suggestions for getting it done, not only helps to reduce resistance to the changes but ensures vital routines aren’t dropped in favor of the new.

  1. Give yourself sufficient time.

Changes require time to implement. Big ones often require 3X the amount of time expected. The biggest failures I have experienced resulted from not allowing for the necessary time and effort required. My setup was inadequate to create the envisioned outcome.

Allocating the needed amount of time allows the present routines to continue so emergencies are not created along the way that can derail the plan completely.

On another level I have observed that people usually have two ways of going about setting up a better life: they either make it gradual, or they blow everything up. Sometimes the latter seems like the only way to proceed, but it is likely that the resulting explosion is due to insufficient planning to begin with. Planned change is better.

The other factor that elicits a blowup is resistance to change. Making real and lasting change in your life is not easy. Some individuals feel the only solution is to alter the current situation irrevocably. Blowing up connections and relationships seems like the only way to make that happen. This may be true, but hindsight often shows that there were better ways to do it. Allowing sufficient time to take the necessary steps reduces collateral damage.

  1. Remember that real-life progress and growth proceeds in waves. It is not linear. Plan for the ebb and flow of progress.

In business, if you create a sale and end it, don’t expect the number of products sold and income generated to continue higher the month after. Plan for the downturn.

This also applies to an individual. Expectations have to be managed just like in a business.

  1. Don’t avoid the hard parts.

These are usually responsible for how you got into the difficulty in the first place, that’s why they are hard. Chances are there was no, or insufficient, setup to address these issues to begin with.

  1. When all else fails, get help.

Others are usually more adept at seeing what one’s personal or business issues are and can point out when one is going around and around with them rather than addressing them head on. It’s not personal. It is the way we are made, and how our minds work. (See Incompleteness and the Imagination).

There are many factors that determine success. Napoleon was said to have withheld giving a prospective Field Marshal the baton of office unless they were lucky.

Barring luck, mastering the setup is one of the keys to success in all things.

If you are set up to succeed in your life, you are blessed.

If not, the above steps will help. They did for me.


My own experience


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© 2015 Ivan Obolensky. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced without the written permission from the author.



  1. Craig Houchin
    Craig Houchin08-17-2015

    Very good article, Ivan. Thanks.

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