Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Formula

One of the most important things I've ever learned was something I learned on Walkabout. It is the formula to solving problems. It's simple and easy, even if its execution is not. And the more you use it, the more effective it is.

While on my trip, I was faced with more problems in a single day than I was used to dealing with in a week. Everything that could go wrong, did, and sometimes things that couldn't go wrong invented ways of screwing up anyway. It wasn't just the elements, which always had a plan for surprising me, but the simple things as well. Acquiring water in the middle of town was an act rife with obstacles. Once the stores were all closed, the only way to get water was the outdoor faucets, but most of those have had their knobs removed. And don't even get me started on hitching.

Day after day after day, the problems of life on the road ground me down and all too often I dreamt of quitting. But quitting was not an option, so I had to find a way to deal with the problems. I had no other choice. That's when I discovered the formula. Creativity + Resourcefulness + Determination.

Creativity: When a problem arose (usually right after breakfast, but sometimes earlier) I would try to think outside the box. If the solution was apparent, then it wasn't much of a problem. Every problem has a solution, I just have to figure out what that solution is. I'd examine the problem from all angles and try not to discount ideas just because I lacked the means to carry them out. I never knew where one line of thought would take me. I'd discover a solution based on the problem, not my ability to execute the solution. Example: I need to get across a city but the cops won't let me hitch on the interstate and it's too far to walk. Solution: hitch anyway. The problem is no longer a problem, but a challenge.

Resourcefulness: This is where I look at my solution and adapt it to my resources and situation. I know the starting point and the finishing point, I just have to bring the two together using what I have. And if I don't have what it takes, I need to find someone who does. If I need to solve a complex geometry problem and I don't know geometry, why learn when I have a friend who can figure it out quicker? I can learn geometry later, but for now I need instant results. Example: I need to hitch across town without getting on the interstate. Solution: Start chatting up people stopped at a gas station and try catching a ride with them. The challenge is now a reachable goal.

Determination: I have the solution and the plan, now I must put it into action and see it through to the end. This is easier said than done because from the onset the problem has the advantage of circumstances. Those circumstances are stacked against me and working with the problem to thwart my progress. As long as the circumstances are working against me, I cannot defeat the problem. I cannot meet the challenge. However, every situation is fluid. Circumstances change and all I have to do is keep pushing harder and longer than the problem until the circumstances are no longer working against me. Once that happens, the problem cannot withstand me. It will crumble and fall away and I will succeed. Example: Everyone I talk to refuses to give me a ride and some even threaten to call the cops. Solution: Adjust my tactics and keep chatting people up. Eventually a person willing to give me a ride will come around, even if it's a cop. The challenge is now something of the past. It's a deed I accomplished.

A man once tried to climb a mountain that had claimed the lives of many who had tried to climb it before. Reaching the summit was impossible. It couldn't be done. To try was to face humiliation or death. Then a man named Eddie decided that everyone in the world was wrong and a solution existed. He was creative enough to think of a new route, resourceful enough to gather what he needed to traverse this route, and determined enough to defeat every problem that lay in his path until finally he stood atop Everest, the impossible mountain.

Now you know the formula and how to apply it. The problems of your life cannot withstand you.

1 comment:

Bridget Delaney said...

When I got to mountain, I thought Everest, and when I read Eddie, I knew it had to be Sir Edmund Hilary.