Problems: For Better or Worse?

I get letters and phone calls all the time with requests for help. So I decided to address it head on and let you in on the secret.
When an attempted solution doesn’t also dissolve the previous problem it is
seeking to resolve . . . that solution now becomes the problem!  Trying to put in a new solution without facing the previous problem first only adds to your troubles.
For example, lets take someone who is out of money yet has a family to support. He’s
confused. He doesn’t have a job. There doesn’t seem to be any apparent solution and he
needs money now! He’s got a problem.
So a friend comes over one night and tells him about an easy way to make some fast
money. Yes, it’s a little on the dark side, but it’s only this once and if he doesn’t do it,
someone else will. So, he decides to go along with this plan though he knows it to be a
compromise of his personal integrity. Desperate men do desperate things right?
So, as is usually the case, something goes wrong. He gets caught, arrested and is going to
jail. Big problem! That takes more money plus the family is still going hungry. The
pressure mounts.
At this point his “solution” has turned very sour indeed, as now this new problem
requires even more drastic measures to solve. He decides to run . . . thinking that if he
can just get away from the stress for a bit, he can figure out how to solve all this and
everything will be fine.
Whoa, wait a minute, running away creates an even bigger problem for his family (ever
notice that the problems you’re running away from seem to grow exponentially the faster
you run?) Plus, now they’re after him so he can’t even get a legitimate job so resorts to a
further step down the dark path of criminality to “solve” his problems. This is quickly
becoming a slippery slope, roller-coaster ride that he now wishes he had never gotten on
in the first place.
It should be apparent by now that each “solution” turned into a new and bigger problem
for one reason:
The solution did not also involve facing the initial problem as the first step.
Rather, the fellow in our example, decided to ignore the problem and just grab onto any
solution that presented itself, resulting in an even bigger problem. No wonder the guy
felt like he was sinking in quicksand! Like the drowning man who sees what looks like a
board to hang onto which turns out to be the back of a shark! He’s in big trouble!
This all could have been avoided had our guy realized one thing.
There are always problems in life. But some are desirable and some are not. The key is
learning to tell the difference!
• Good problems are interesting, challenging and are those associated with moving
toward attaining things you desire. Morale improves as you move through and handle
these challenges.
Bad problems are stressful, worryingly overwhelming and associated with things
you find abhorrent, distasteful and even degrading. Morale suffers no matter how well
you handle the problem, as any time spent doing so is detested.
People who are doing what they should be doing don’t mind the problems associated with
the area, in fact, they welcome them. You can usually tell what one really loves to do as
this is what they measure how they are doing in life from their own point of view.
To illustrate, as a business consultant/executive, my primary responsibility was to make
sure the sales executives were happy and successful at their jobs. At one point I was
working with a sales executives trying to de-bug why his morale was low and why he
wasn’t selling to his real potential. After some string-pulling and deft questioning, I
discovered that what he REALLY wanted to be doing was . . . surfing! He had been a
surfer all his life, loved it, had won many awards and contests it was what he thought
about all the time, regardless of what he was otherwise involved in.
For him, morale and confidence in life was determined by handling problems associated
with an area that he wanted to be working in. His IMG or “internal morale gauge” of how
his life was going was how much time he was able to spend working on his surfing!
Everything else was a distraction as it took him away from his true love.
However, this presented a problem . . . he was broke. Under pressure to get a “real job”
by family and friends, he took the easiest and quickest route and became a “professional
sales rep” (at least that is what his business card said). But it ended up being nothing but
an endless series of tedious meetings and sales presentations, none of which gave him
any satisfaction whatsoever. He doggedly stuck with it and worked constantly to remind
himself that making money in sales would solve his problems even though it seemed to
require more and more effort to stay on his game and look like he was enjoying it. Was
this all really worth it?
Privately, he admitted he wasn’t happy. Selling wasn’t what he wanted to be doing with
his life. What made him happy was to take every available opportunity to get in the
water and surf. He would even go to the beach on long lunch hours, quit work early and
do anything to create the time to be surfing. He didn’t mind the endless hours of waiting
for the waves to be just right, preparing his board with the exact wax necessary for the
best ride, getting up very early to catch the first waves . . . all this was part of the joy of
doing what he wanted to be doing! It wasn’t work. It was fun. He loved it. So, even
when he did realize some early success in sales, he put the brakes on it himself because
the selling success took him even further away from what he really wanted to do, which
was to SURF!
Unless something changed, his selling career was to be short-lived. Sooner or later, it
would come to a point where he could no longer force himself to continue doing
something that he hated while ignoring his true love. He would eventually create a
situation where a change had to be made. He would find the job intolerable and quit or
his sales would be so bad that the company had no choice than to let him go . . .
something would happen that got him out of that job.
It boils down to the old, familiar problem-solution-problem dilemma.
Surfing was a problem, as it didn’t give him enough money immediately.
Selling was adopted as a solution to his immediate financial woes.
Selling became a problem as he hated his job and this fact was apparent to his customers
and to his employer.
His SOLUTION became his PROBLEM!
Still, the tendency was to adopt yet another solution to solve this new problem all the
while getting further and further away from his true purpose while trading his time and
his life for money.
A real solution had to be something that dissolved the problem and didn’t also create
more problems down the road.
As this guy was a likeable fellow and loved to talk to people about surfing, it became
obvious to both of us that if he were going to sell anything it should be something to do
with surfing and not what he was currently involved in.
At the end of the day, we found him a job at a local surf shop that provided the necessary
funds to survive and gave him the time to pursue his personal surfing goals. And in this
way, the solution to his problem didn’t turn into another problem.
Further, this solution solved both of our problems. He was happy in his new job and I
was happy to now be able to get someone to hold his previous position who did want to
be there and mostly, we could both get on with handling the inevitable problems
associated with expansion!
Question: When is a solution not a solution?
Answer: When it’s a problem!
• Good problems are interesting, challenging and are those associated with
expansion! These makes you feel better about yourself and life in general.
• Bad problems are stressful, worryingly overwhelming and associated with
contraction! These make you feel worse about yourself and life, no matter how attractive
they may seem on the surface.
Learn to tell the difference quickly and act accordingly. You’ll begin to welcome
problems as they now represent growth and expansion and not contraction and despair!
Remember: Never flinch from problems; they are only opportunities in disguise.
Copyright © 2005 by Daniel Jacobs
All rights reserved
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