Entrepreneurs are nothing other than problem solvers for humanity. Their stock in trade is creatively thinking up solutions to the problems plaguing the world. This unusual burden is the essence of entrepreneurship. To successfully carry out this task, as entrepreneurs we must first understand fully the nature of what we are up against – problems.
What exactly is a problem?
A problem is a gap between where you are and where you want to be, with obstacles existing that prevent easy movement to close the gap.
This definition was given by James P. Lewis a project manager. In my opinion, no one understands problems better than project managers whose only task is to plan and schedule solutions to problems. I picked this definition because it’s so direct, no stories, simply straight to the point. A problem is nothing other than a gap! Having this mindset helps you get over the phobia of problems.
This definition is so accommodating, rather than making you see problem as something to avoid, it presents problem as a gap; a missing link; an obstacle, and these are less threatening. When you begin to see problems as a gap (missing link) it enables you to consider options you wouldn’t have naturally considered before. You begin to see the problem as what is hindering you from accomplishing what you had set out to accomplish. That alone, makes you want to go all out to find ways of dealing with the hindrance. At that point, the problem is not regarded as an option that can be overlooked, but rather, an obstacle that must be overcome if the goal is to be achieved.
Two Tips for becoming a better problem solver
1. Be willing to pay a price to find a solution
Each time I’m called upon by a client to solve a problem, before getting into the consulting process, this is what I often ask them;
“Are you prepared to find a solution to this problem?”
Most of the time they get turned off by this question, to them, if they weren’t ready to solve the problem why on earth would they invite me in the first place. No matter how ridiculous this question may sound, I have discovered through experience that people naturally want a goal achieved but are seldom willing to pay the required price. They allow themselves to be buried by the weight of the problem. The very mere mention of a problem seems to knock out any form of idea that could have led to a possible solution. Because of the way they dread problems, finding a way out of a problem becomes almost impossible.
People, rather than focusing on solutions tend to be more comfortable concentrating on the problem itself. So, rather than thinking, they find themselves worrying. John C. Maxwell once said;
“50% of getting what you want is knowing what you have to give up in order to get it.”
The truth is this; if you truly want it, you will go after it and get it at any price. I’m sure you are familiar with the saying that “fortune favours the bold”; here is a better way of saying it; “life makes way for the problem solvers.”
You see, there is always a way out of every problem we encounter in life or in business. The very fact that we are faced with a problem is a proof that the solution lies somewhere. The problem with most people is not that they don’t know how to think (although this is equally true) but that they always want to run away from problems. This is why finding a way out of a problem seems very difficult. You cannot overcome that which you are afraid to confront.
They don’t look beyond the problem to see the goal which must be accomplished. The very moment the problem surfaces, they seem to lose sight of the goal they initially set out to accomplish. One thing is certain and that is what I want to point out in this unusual article; problems arise only when we are in pursuit of something.
Life has been designed in such a way that makes us all to be lacking one thing. No one is self sufficient and as a result, everyone is after something at every point in life. This is because; Life is built and governed by the principle of exchange. Yes, nothing goes for nothing! The principle is simple and states that; you cannot get unless you are willing to give; you cannot find unless you are prepared to lose. There has to be an exchange; something for something.
Ever wondered why we humans breathe in oxygen (what plants breathe out) and the plants breathe in carbon dioxide (what we the humans breathe out?) Ever wondered why rain falls down to the ground and later goes up back into the cloud during photosynthesis only to form another rain? Why are the waste products of animals being used later as fertilizers in the production of food for man?
All these, point to one fact, life is designed for exchange.
Nothing is ever wasted in the universe. No one is an island of itself; we were created for connection and that’s what makes the exchange possible. In order to get something, you must give up another.
The problem with most people is that they often want to get ahead in life without playing their part in life. If you are one of those that think you can get without first giving, I suggest you try living elsewhere and not on this planet earth. A principle cannot be broken, principles are to be obeyed. Giving comes before getting, just as sowing comes before reaping.
In the end, problems are just nature’s way of bargaining with us each time we want to get something from life.
Every time we set out in pursuit of something and eventually encounter problem along the way, nature wants to know how bad we really want that thing and what we are willing to do in exchange for that thing. For every problem thrown our way by nature, we humans must proffer solutions if we ever want to move ahead in life. This is why the ability to think is perhaps the greatest skill worth developing by anyone who desires to be anything at all in life. We are both the recipients of nature’s gifts as well as the instruments for nature’s needs. We only get the gifts of nature when we meet the needs of nature. We get only when we fulfill the requirements for getting which is giving. The gifts are not meant for nothing, they are given in order to fulfill needs.
Solutions to problems are what we give to nature in exchange for our advancement in life. Without solutions to problems, there will be no advancement and development of life. Choosing not think by avoiding problems is simply choosing not to make any progress in life.
Think about it, have the greatest inventions by man in history contributed to the advancement of life here on earth or not? The answer is very obvious; each time man solves one of nature’s problems the world is becomes better as a result. Solving problems is our only way of making any meaningful progress in life and thinking is the only tool given to us to achieve this.
2. Keep a positive attitude about the problem
“The problem is not the problem, but rather, how we ‘think’ about the problem”.
In other words, the real problem is not with the problem itself, but the way we see or perceive the problem. The real issue is with how we define the problem. It’s our attitude towards a problem that often makes finding a solution very difficult. Often times our attitude influences and affects the way we ‘think’. A person with a wrong attitude towards problem will always find it difficult to arrive at a solution when thinking.
Before a person can know how to think, he/she must be willing to cultivate the right attitude for thinking and this can only be achieved when they change their attitude towards problem. If you hate or have a negative feeling about problems, then knowing how to think and mastering the ‘art of thinking’ might not work out well for you. I suggest you first address and change your attitude toward problems first. You cannot hate one and like the other. Before you can arrive at a destination (solution) you must acknowledge where you are coming from (problem). If you must know how to think and master the ‘art of thinking’; then you have no other choice, but to develop a positive mindset for problems. The greatest achievers in life are people who literally fall in love with problems; here are some of their views about problems;
“It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer” – Albert Einstein
“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem”. – Theodore Rubin
“A problem is a chance for you to do your best”- Duke Ellington
“Problems are to the mind what exercise is to the muscles, they toughen and make strong” – Norman Vincent Peale
“Money is the reward gotten for solving a problem”- Sam Adeyemi
“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes (disguise)”- Henry J. Kaiser
“Problem solving is the purpose of any business enterprise”- Peter F. Drucker
“Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally or spiritually. When we desire to encourage the growth of the human spirit, we challenge and encourage the human capacity to solve problems.” – M. Scott Peck
I want to believe those quotes have helped to steer up within you a positive attitude toward problems. The truth is this; problems are necessary challenges we all have to conquer if we must achieve our greatest dreams in life. The road to success, fulfillment and significance in life lies right in the middle of many problems; that is, there will always be missing links (gap).
To get to our set goals and visions, we have to be prepared to solve all the problems life will bring our way; close or fill up the gaps. You’ll notice I didn’t say, “Problems life maybring our way”, but rather “problems life will bring our way”. This is because; problems are an essential part of life. They are not what may happen (probabilities); they are what will happen (certainties). Just as passing an examination is the only way for a student to get promoted into a new class; likewise, our ability to solve problems are our only chances of moving ahead in life. If we must rise to the next level, phase or stage in life and in business, then solving problems have to become our second nature. It’s not a choice, but a must (necessity). Hence thinking cannot be regarded as a convenience but a necessity if we must get beyond survival to really living.
Over to you
How have you been dealing with problems in your entrepreneurial journey?
What other tips are available to entrepreneurs for becoming better problem solvers?
Share your comments below, thank you for your time!