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Don’t solve problems. Try this instead.

Posted in the following categories: Personal Development, Problem Solving

A quick announcement first: The doors are now open for the next cohort of the Moonshot Mastermind. It’s a premium program for 6-8 high caliber business leaders from different industries who have big goals for themselves and their businesses. If you want to be part of a small, dynamite cohort that will support you, challenge you, stress-test your ideas, and help you soar to levels you’ve never reached before, then the Moonshot Mastermind is for you.

We’ll keep applications open until Thursday, May 27th. You can get the full scoop, learn about the huge wins of past members, and apply at this link.

Onto the regularly scheduled programming . . .

I’ve been a problem solver for most of my life. It’s part of my training and my identity.

I was an astrophysics major in college, trained to solve problems in math and physics.

I served on the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, identifying and preventing potential problems in the rovers’ operations.

I later became a lawyer, tasked with identifying weaknesses in my clients’ cases and finding a way to address them.

As an academic, I spotted deficiencies in existing theories and wrote papers to suggest ways of fixing them.

At every juncture, I would ask, What’s broken, and how do I fix it?

But this isn’t always—or even often—the right question to ask.

As the saying goes, if you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you’ve identified yourself as a problem solver—if you view the world as a series of problems to be fixed—you’ll find problems even when they don’t exist. Or you’ll adopt other people’s problems to get your problem-solving fix (Here, let me tell you exactly what to do!).

What’s worse, when we jump into problem-solving mode, we focus on what isn’t working, rather than what is working. We look for weaknesses, instead of strengths. We focus on the negatives, instead of the positives.

The remedy is simple.

Instead of asking, What’s broken and how do I fix it?, ask, What’s working and how can I do more of it? 

Instead of using your limited time and energy looking for problems, look for bright spots. Bright spots are the areas of your life or business that are working well. The goal is to study them and amplify them.

If you have a productivity problem, think about the moments of your day when you are productive and replicate those conditions.

If your sales efforts are coming up short, find the members of your sales team who are outperforming the rest, figure out what’s helping them succeed, and spread those practices across the team.

If you got a C in one class, and an A in the other, figure out what was different about the class—or your exam prep.

If your dog does his business in your bedroom, find the bright moments when he goes outside and amplify them by rewarding that behavior with treats.

If you had an amazing day, look back on what went right and ask yourself, How do I create more moments like the ones I had today?

The bright spots are often hiding in plain sight.

Make an effort to understand them.

You’ll find that it can be more effective to amplify what’s working than to fix what’s not working.

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