Systems vs Goals in Street Photography

Beverly Hills

One of the most interesting concepts I’ve learned recently is the concept of “Systems” vs “Goals” from a book written by Scott Adams titled: “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.”

Basically Scott Adams says that in life we should focus on “Systems” instead of “Goals”. So what is the difference? Scott Adams defines a system as the following:

“A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run.”

“Systems” are daily routines or procedures we do everyday (which we tend to have a lot of control over). For example in the context of street photography, going out and shooting everyday is a system. Buying a street photography book once a month and studying it is a system. Meeting other street photographers in person to get feedback and critique on your work is a system. Systems are much more dependent on the process– not the final result.

“Goals” tend to be external accomplishments that we have far less control over. For example in street photography– goals include: getting 100+ likes on your photos, having your book published by a famous publisher, having a big solo exhibition at a prestigious gallery, and becoming rich and famous through your photography.

So in life and street photography– focus on systems instead of goals. Focus on the daily things that you have control over.

Systems focus on the small daily achievements you make– and the step-by-step progress you make forward. Goals tend to be focused too many on things you have no control over. Not only that, but we tend to get more disappointed by goals as they are harder to achieve.

In conclusion to gain more happiness and progress in street photography– focus on systems, not goals. Now go out and pound the pavement!

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  • valzi

    I really like these minimal, carefully focused posts. They’re my favorite format of your posts, despite not being as creative as your “# Lessons Learned from ******** *********” which are also quite a good format.

    Good topic, good points!

    • Eric Kim

      Dear Valzi- lot more minimalist posts to come, thanks for the feedback :)

      • valzi


  • tom

    This is almost identical to how one should approach poker. Don’t be results orientated. Focus on doing things correctly and the results will flow in over time.

    • Eric Kim

      Amen to that Tom!


    Perhaps you confuse the idea of GOALS with DREAMS? The statement “Someday, I’d like to be a millionaire” is a dream. But setting goals, preferably in writing, establishes a pattern of behavior to reach said goal. So goals are NOT out of our control, they are attainable through a systematic application of steps to make it happen.

    So, decide where you want to go, develop a plan and make it happen!

  • Cornell

    I really found this “article” very informative, but I’d have to question your definitions on goals and systems. So you say that goals are long term accomplishments that can either be met or not. But if you work towards that every day, gradually you will get to that goal in due time. BUT, think about it, that right there in your words is a “system”. Because everyday you are getting into the habit of doing whatever it is your doing that you enjoy. So in the long run, the system is a necessity towards your goal, without that system you will not archive your goal. So without a system you cannot get to your goal, and without a goal you won’t have a system to abide by.

  • Ver Astro

    So what I have been doing is a system, finish up a roll of film and have it develop at home over the week end. Book a darkroom on my off days to print to papers and file.

    Goal- to have an exhibition within the next two years… Which I have very less control with. No funding, difficult to find location and other factors…

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