Ankord Memo - July 2nd, 2024


July 2, 2024


Milan Kordestani

Entrepreneur, writer, and founder of 3 purpose-driven companies oriented toward giving individuals control over their own discourse and creation. Milan works to produce socially positive externalities through a mindset of social architecture.

Milan Kordestani

July 2, 2024

Milan Kordestani Profile Image

Milan Kordestani

Hi! I'm Milan, an LA based founder and writer, architecting impact-first businesses.

Popular Articles

See More

Hi Friends,

I hope you're all enjoying the beautiful weather wherever you are. This weekend was a tough one, marked by the loss of my grandmother. While making time to see my family and be with my dad during this challenging period, I’m grateful that I can find the time to be still and present where I need to be. I often reflect on the systems that enable me to be the best version of myself: present, calm, and curious. Sometimes, these reflections reveal that some systems in my life are not serving me, or that I’m missing others. This week’s newsletter is about systems thinking because I’m at my best when all my systems are working properly.

Beyond being present for my family and creating space for my own grief, the past couple of weeks have been busy with editing my manuscript, working on the cover of my next book, juggling the creation process for new video content, and managing exciting projects at Audo and Nota. That's where this week's topic comes in – systems thinking! As someone with a lot on their plate, I find systems thinking crucial for keeping things balanced and managing stress. Please join me in this deep dive; you might find something useful that you can apply to your own thinking.

Systems Thinking: Seeing All the Connections in the Big Picture

Ever feel like you're carrying too much responsibility at work, juggling chores and commitments at home, and trying to squeeze in some fun, and everything seems to be competing for your attention? Life throws a lot at us, and it's easy to get bogged down in the details. Between work schedules, family commitments, health issues, and even our hobbies, it's easy to get overwhelmed.

But there’s a way to turn this chaos into an advantage: systems thinking. The things that happen in your life are not all separate. It’s more like your life is a giant spider web, where everything's connected around you. Job stress might impact your sleep, which affects your mood at home, your energy levels at the gym, or even the way you view events around you. Systems thinking helps us see these connections, not just the separate pieces. Instead of just fixing one small problem, we can understand the bigger picture and find solutions that address the root causes of stress and make things better in the long run. It's about creating lasting positive change, not just temporary fixes!

There are several themes that shape systems thinking, and mastering each one will make it easier to see the world from a systemic perspective.

  • Interconnectedness: Systems thinking reminds us that everything in our lives is connected, and change can happen like dominoes: one “falls over” and hits the next and the next. 
  • Synthesis: Instead of focusing on individual components in isolation, systems thinking encourages us to understand the "whole picture." 
  • Emergence: Systems thinking shows us how separate things working together can create something entirely new, like a flock of birds becoming a swirling, coordinated dance.
  • Causality: Systems thinking emphasizes causality, the idea that events have causes and effects within the system itself. 

Feeling overwhelmed can often stem from a fragmented view of the challenges we face. Systems thinking tackles this head-on by providing a powerful framework for problem framing. By encouraging us to consider all the interconnected elements and their interactions, we can define the problem more clearly. 

We can see patterns emerge, including good and bad behaviors that we want to amplify or stop doing. Think of it like finally seeing the forest instead of just focusing on individual trees. This pattern recognition allows us to pinpoint the root causes of stress, rather than simply reacting to isolated symptoms.

Applying Systemic Thinking to My Life

As an entrepreneur, systems thinking is one of my secret weapons, and sometimes I think I’d be lost without it. Let me give you a few examples from my work where systems thinking is incredibly helpful:

  • When ideating and designing products, I use systems thinking to predict what new features users might also want from the product. 
  • Founding a startup that people want to be a part of and fund is a game of spotting larger trends and patterns in the world to understand the problems and opportunities that need solving. 
  • My writing on emerging tech like AI and transhumanism only make sense from a systems perspective. After all, these technologies don't exist in a vacuum; they're part of larger, interconnected systems of technological development with ripple effects across society.

But how do I keep track of all these intricate systems and connections? That's where my personal knowledge management (PKM) system comes in. It's my second brain for capturing insights, research notes, and observations. Inspired by August Bradley, I use Notion to do this, and have built myself a clean system that helps me catalog, tag, and link information, making it easy to access any part of my personal or professional life.

In my system, I’ve built pages, links, and tags which help me see the bigger picture of my day-to-day life. It’s easy to get caught up in a state of “doing” without ever being able to see the various big pictures you’re working towards. To avoid this, I focus on things that anchor my life: my health, my work, my family and friends. I’m able to use tags to ensure that the hobbies and habits that mean the most to me–from attending concerts and yoga to writing and getting great sleep–all become integrated into my responsibilities and regular activities. Commitments like volunteering and philanthropy become easier to tie to my core values. I even tag notes on dating and interpersonal relationships, to help my romantic life: tracking dates, my reflections after them, etc.  

Life is more than our day-to-day, and sometimes it feels even harder to keep track of our values and long-term goals. Part of what I love about systems thinking is that it lets you put layer upon layer of meaning together, making it possible to see your values and goals emerge from your activities and behaviors. 

For me, the search for meaning is one of humanity’s greatest challenges, and one we will only accomplish through systems thinking. I spend a lot of time thinking about the challenges–and opportunities–that are barrelling down toward humanity, and systems thinking helps me to organize my thoughts on these larger social and technological trends, all while trying to find my place in that momentum. I can fill vaults with notes on important issues for humanity, from technological development to ethics and philosophy, to take a step back and dream about a brighter future for us all.

Systems thinking allows me to see myself in the greater system of our planet and species as well.  Remembering that we’re a part of a greater ecological system, full of cycles and collaborations and species, full of flaws and differences, reminds me of my individual responsibility to be a steward and kind to others. So many things in my life–from psychedelic therapy to traveling–remind me of the larger system we share with all living things on Earth, and utilizing systems thinking in my work and my PKM system keeps me grounded and sane amongst all the information.

Of course, systems thinking isn't a magic bullet, and it's important to be aware of potential drawbacks. Probably the most obvious is spending too much time analyzing and tracking information rather than creating and building. Don't get stuck in the planning phase–use your newfound clarity to take concrete steps and create positive change within your systems.

Taking on Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a powerful tool, but it's even more powerful when we share our experiences! Have you tried using systems thinking to tackle a challenge or manage stress in your own life? Perhaps you mapped out your morning routine to identify ways to streamline your day, or maybe you used it to improve communication within your business or family. I'd love to hear your stories! Drop me a line here and tell me how you're incorporating systems thinking into your daily life. Your insights might just inspire others on their journey to a more balanced and fulfilling life.

And if you are interested in learning more about systems thinking, make sure to check out some of my favorite media about the topic:

So if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by all the new stresses summer adds to our lives, take a step back and embrace systems thinking. Systems thinking has given me a powerful framework to manage my short-term and long-term visions and create a more balanced and fulfilling life. By understanding the interconnectedness of elements within our lives, we can identify root causes of stress and implement solutions that have a lasting impact.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this intro to systems thinking inspires you to learn more! Soon, we'll be switching gears and providing a monthly update on Ankord Labs' exciting portfolio companies, along with Ankord Media's latest projects–you won’t want to miss it!


Milan Kordestani