A model to make problems go away

April 22, 2013 by Joshua
in Exercises, Habits, Models, Tips

[This post is part of a series on “Mental models and beliefs: an exercise to identify yours.” If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Have you notices some people never seem to have problems? And others seem to complain all the time about their misery?

Today’s model will help you become part of the group that doesn’t have problems.

I’ve come to believe that some people look for problems in life. Others look for solutions. I consider it tragic that both types of people get good at what they do. Practice makes perfect.

A model to make problems go away: Some people look for problems. Others look for solutions. Both get good at what they practice.

I’ll give an example where solving a problem in one area led to improving many other areas.

I used to go dancing a lot. In New York that means getting past a lot of doorpeople — the people with the lists of who can get in or not. Getting past doorpeople can be challenging, so a lot of people look at them as problems. I did at first. Over time, I found some people were skilled at getting past doorpeople. They didn’t seem to see them as problems. I noticed they went up to them and talked naturally, like they belonged. The doorpeople often liked them right away and let them in.

They saw doormen as their route in, not as a barrier. Seeing solutions instead of problems made the problems go away. They still had to talk to the doormen, but they and the doormen enjoyed it.

As I learned to emulate them, I came to stop seeing what was once a big problem.

Moreover, I’ve come to believe that people who look for solutions don’t even know some “problems” exist that others sweat over. The more solutions you see, the easier life seems.

It doesn’t stop there, because solutions to one problem tend to solve other problems. Who else is like a doorperson? How about gatekeepers at workplaces? People who interview you for jobs? Or to get into schools?

In my case, when I applied for business school, I interacted with my interviewers with skills I learned with club doorpeople. I adjusted for context, of course, but when you have lots of solutions, you can solve lots of problems. Since I started business school 23 days after deciding to apply, I enjoyed a process other people sweat over.

There’s nothing special about getting past doorpeople. People see problems everywhere you don’t have to. I once had a girlfriend whose mother was sick every time I met her. And I dated that girlfriend for years. Maybe her mom was sick for years. I don’t know. But I don’t see sickness as a problem. I keep waiting to write a post about doing burpees when I’m sick, but in the roughly eighteen months I’ve been doing them, I haven’t felt sick enough to merit saying I did them sick.

Did I feel ways that others who felt the same way might claim sickness? I can’t say for sure, but I think so. I just do them. Feeling sick is a part of life, so I just do what I think will make me healthy, which includes exercise. There. Problem solved. If I feel sick I still do burpees. So I don’t notice I’m sick. Or maybe I don’t get sick because of the twice-daily exercise.

The same patterns happens all over in life.

When I use this belief

I use this belief when I face problems. I start to imagine that if anyone anywhere has solved this problem, I can too, and I stop seeing it as a problem.

Then I realize my life feels better. I’m more able to solve the “problem” at hand.

What this belief replaces

This belief replaces problems with solutions.

Where this belief leads

This belief leads to remaining calm when others sweat about problems because you see solutions. Like my friends enjoyed talking to doorpeople or me handling sickness, you enjoy what others fear.

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