opportunities take shape within the problems

“Wherever we look upon this earth, the opportunities take shape within the problems.”

—Nelson Rockefeller

Image of Hans Gosling

Image of Hans Rosling from TED.com

Looking at anything and declaring it a problem is a very human thing to do. In many ways, this very characteristic is what makes us human.

In his fascinating book, Factfulness, professor of international health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling and his colleagues Anna and Ola, offer an amazing new explanation of why we see the state of the world as far worse than the facts reveal.

Rosling explains what he calls the “Ten instincts that Distort our Perspective.” Among them are:

  • Dividing the world into camps such as “Us and Them,” or developed and undeveloped countries.
  • The way we consume media in which fear rules.
  • How we perceive progress versus believing that things are getting worse wherever we look.

Rosling and his team of researchers are by no means blind to the significant challenges facing the world. He is, however, asking all of us to look closely and clearly at the objective facts to better enable us to tackle the very real problems facing humanity.

EXERCISE:

What is at least one significant opportunity in our world that you are committed to working on, given this clearer and objective perspective?

Please consider watching Hans Rosling’s TED Talks, and if you wish to learn more about his important work, read his book.

Peace is not made at the council table

“Peace is not made at the council table or by treaties, but in the hearts of men.”

—Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States

Image from Flickr by Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan

Image from Flickr by Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan

In the movie, Miss Congeniality (2000), Sandra Bullock plays an undercover FBI Agent posing as a contestant when terrorists threaten to bomb the Miss United States beauty pageant. Bullock’s character, Gracie, is the only female FBI agent who can “look the part” despite her complete lack of refinement and femininity. She prides herself in being “just one of the boys” and is horrified at the idea of becoming a girly girl.

Since the film was a comedy, the audience wasn’t alarmed. We all happily watched all the interplay of contestants and other characters. In one scene, the contestants were asked about their personal goals and aspirations. Almost every contestant mentioned world peace at some point in their response.

In today’s dynamic and often violent world, we sure could use more people working on world peace in their personal and professional lives. If all of us did our part, we would never need a council table or treaty, which as President Hoover points out, rarely works.

EXERCISE:

What heartfelt attitudes and actions can you share in your communities to bring about greater peace on earth?

Avoiding Problems

“Avoiding a problem doesn’t solve it.”

—Bonnie Jean Thornily, Illustrator

Image of an ostrich with its head in the sand

Image from www.dailymail.co.uk

The ostrich doesn’t really bury its head in the sand —it wouldn’t be able to breathe! But the female ostrich does dig holes in the dirt as nests for her eggs. Occasionally, she’ll put her head in the hole and turn her eggs.

People, on the other hand, often “bury their heads in the sand,” ignoring problems for long periods of time, hoping they will simply go away.

EXERCISE:

What issue or problem have you been avoiding, professionally or personally? Where would summoning the courage to take this issue “head on” make the biggest difference?

 

Nip it in the bud

“Nip it in the bud!”

—Author Unknown

Image of fingers pinching off a new leaf

image from haveyoueverpickedacarrot.com

Today’s quote comes from the world of horticulture, where trimming a bud from a plant prevents it from becoming a flower or a piece of fruit.

Since most of us appreciate the beauty of flowers and the sweet taste of fruit, it would seem there would be little use for that advice, but this form of gardening prevents overgrowth or the spreading of unwanted issues.

As a metaphor in our lives, nipping things in the bud is a good practice when we wish to stop a potential problem before it blossoms into a major issue.

EXERCISE:

Where and on what issue would nipping it in the bud serve you best, personally or professionally?

Resolving Difficult Problems

“A difficult problem at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”

—John Steinbeck, American Novelist

Image of sleeping man

Image from Flickr by Or Reshef

A growing body of evidence demonstrates the ability of the unconscious mind to work on a problem that requires a creative solution. Similar results have been gleaned in studies on daydreaming, and its value in producing creative and more original ideas.

Turning inward mobilizes the right hemisphere of the brain. The sleeping or relaxed brain cuts out many distractions, which leads to greater capacity to solve problems.

EXERCISE:

How can you invest in a good night’s sleep, a power nap, or even a bit of daydreaming to more fully tap your creative problem-solving powers?

solve problems

“How can I help others solve problems and achieve their dreams?”

-Brendon Burchard, American Motivational Author

image of a reciprocity ring

image from Humaxnetworks.com

What do top organization like IBM, Boeing, General Motors, and Bristol Myers Squibb have in common?

They have all used the Reciprocity Ring Exercise developed by University Sociologist Wayne Baker, and his wife Cheryl, at Humax.

The process involves groups in which the members ask for something important to them in their personal or professional lives. Requests are put out to the group and all participants make connections, offer introductions to contacts, or give other, more tangible help with achieving the member’s goals.

EXERCISE:

Check out the Reciprocity Ring Exercise and consider using it to help others in your professional or personal world solve problems and achieve their dreams.

Threshold of your Mind

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom, but rather, leads you to the threshold of your mind.”

-Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer

image from itu.edu

image from itu.edu

Take a moment to get into an imaginary time machine and go back to your youth.

Specifically, I’d like you to visit your grammar school, middle school, high school, college, and if you had them, post-graduate educational experiences.

As you explore each of these periods in your life, take note of the teachers who have made the most memorable and lasting impact on your life. How many of them challenged your thinking and encouraged greater personal inquiry, rather than simply pouring their reservoir of knowledge into you?

EXERCISE:

Who are the current teachers, mentors, and coaches that lead you to expand the threshold of your mind? How can you be such a resource for others in your personal and professional communities?

From the Errors of Others

“From the errors of others, a wise man corrects his own.”

—Publilius Syrus, ancient Syrian writer

QC #906

A highly notable technique to support personal growth and development is to encourage people to embrace failure. When we fail, we have the opportunity to pick up experiential lessons from the event.

Today’s quote, however, suggests that not all lessons need to occur from our own failures, setbacks, and stumbles. All we need do is pay particular attention to the misadventures of those around us. From them, we can glean additional nuggets of knowledge and wisdom.

Given the fact that there is only one of you, and so many people in your personal and professional worlds, the odds favor the open and receptive mind in picking up a higher proportion of lessons this way.

EXERCISE:

Where and in what ways can you use the errors of others to pursue greater success and mastery throughout your day?

“Fall in love with the problem…”

“Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.”

—Kaaren Hanson, VP of Design /Innovations/ Intuit

QC #853

Through the course of our lives, we have all developed strategies for success which we apply to the daily challenges we face in our professional and personal worlds.

As long as these default solutions work reasonably well, we rarely seek alternative solutions that may actually work far better.

When we embrace, and even fall in love with, the problems we face, we generate a higher ability for innovation and creativity, discovering possible solutions that were previously unrecognized.

EXERCISE:

How might falling in love with your problems help you release some of the “sacred cow solutions” you have used over the years? What new and potentially more successful solutions would be possible?

“I’m no longer sure what the question is…”

“I’m no longer sure what the question is, but I do know that that answer is ‘Yes.’”

—Leonard Bernstein, American composer, conductor, author, and pianist

Photo from Flickr by Valerie Everett

Photo from Flickr by Valerie Everett

One of my favorite and longest standing clients – a man named Stephen – was recently on vacation. This may not ordinarily be remarkable except that he and his family were in Antarctica. On Facebook he posted the ultimate “Ice Bucket Challenge,” by jumping into the frigid waters of the Antarctic Ocean.

How many of us would have said “Yes” to such an experience?

Stephen and I have worked together for 19 years. I admire and respect his “Yes!” attitude and intention to be fully alive.

EXERCISE:

Examine the opportunities that lie in front of you today, professionally and personally. Where would saying “Yes” and leaping into your own life waters help you live an even more extraordinary life?

Consider picking up a copy of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, to explore the writings of Donald Miller,  another individual who chose to say “Yes.”