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There’s an old story that addresses the early days of the space age. Supposedly the Americans had passed the Russians in space technology but still had one major problem to overcome. They couldn’t figure out how to get a pen to write in space. No matter what they tested on Earth, they just couldn’t get this issue solved until many years later when they finally came up with felt tipped pins, which seemed to work just fine. The thing is the Russians never had this problem; they used a pencil.

I sometimes like to think that I’m a really smart guy. I can solve a lot of problems, and in my fields of expertise I can often solve problems pretty quickly. That type of thing will give you a false sense of yourself as someone who can, or should have all the answers.

Like when I was spending all my time trying to pull the tape from my box of needles (I’m diabetic) so I could protect my private information. Every couple of months I went through this thing, and it was frustrating because the pharmacy tape is thick and wide and very strong. One day I happened to mention it to my wife when she came into my office. She asked me to hand her the box, which I did, and she ripped the top off and handed me back the box and the top so I could shred it; the top had my info on it. Goodness, why hadn’t I ever thought about that>

And my blu-ray player. I bought the remastered version of The Lion King and wanted to watch it a few nights ago. I popped it into the blu-ray player and then nothing happened. I took it out, cleaned the disc, popped it back in and once again nothing. I opened the drawer, waited about a minute and closed it again, thinking… I don’t know what I was thinking. After almost 10 minutes of trying multiple things and thinking that the disc was just warped and damaged something hit me. Blu-ray players are pretty much mini-computers, and sometimes they need to be rebooted. The only way to reboot a blu-ray player is to turn it off. So I did, turning it on 30 seconds later, and all was right with the world.

Often we look at the world’s problems as though they’re going to take eons to solve, and a lot of work. We forget to look for simple solutions first; many times there’s an easy way to solve almost everything. I have a business friend who was having problems with two clients he didn’t enjoy working with. He said he’d pondered what to do about it for the longest time and he wasn’t sure how to handle it because he worried that if he told them he didn’t want to work with them anymore that they’d tell others about how bad he’s treated them and he wouldn’t get any more business from anyone. I told him to raise his price, double if he had to, and see what happened. He did that, they both jumped ship, and his problem was solved. There were no problems because he’d been working without a contract, so he didn’t do anything unethical.

The next time you have a problem, whether it’s technical, personal or professional, see if there’s a simple solution staring you in the face first. You might save yourself a lot of grief.
 

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