I was at the side of the road, sitting in the cold, frantically calling up road-side assistance.
In my car, I had just experienced a phenomenon similar to running out of gas, only there was still plenty of fuel left in my tank.
I wasn’t really sure what to make of it; I just knew that my car had malfunctioned.
I had just left a friend’s place, and probably could have called him up and asked for help, but for some reason I didn’t. Maybe I felt embarrassed, or, maybe my pride got in the way.
I had been sitting there for about 20 minutes waiting for road-side assistance, so on a whim I decided to try the ignition again.
Surprisingly, not only did my car start up, it seemed to function normally again. I decided to continue my journey home.
Alas, when the same thing happened again, I was forced to stop at the side of the road.
Then, like before, I waited for another 15 to 20 minutes, and started my car again. It functioned normally for a while, and again slowly fizzled out.
I must have repeated that process four or five times before I finally arrived at home safely. It was a long journey.
The Unexpected Becomes Urgent
This is the type of scene that plays out in life more often than you would think.
You’re going about your day, and you expect it to turn out exactly like yesterday, only something unexpected suddenly turns up.
It throws a wrench in your plans, and makes the trivial immediately urgent.
You are now forced to deal with whatever problem lies before you.
Foresight & Anticipation
Sometimes, the things that morph from insignificant into the urgent can actually be prevented.
For example, if you bring your car in for regular maintenance and repair sessions, you could avoid breakdowns like the one I experienced.
In this instance, I was already bringing my car in for regular checkups, so no amount of foresight or anticipation could have prevented the issue.
However, there are many times when spending the money, the energy, the effort, or whatever is required – earlier rather than later – would be less expensive.
Back to the Story
I brought my vehicle into the dealership, where they diagnosed my car.
Apparently, my transmission was defective, and had to be replaced. “Fortunately”, they told me, “it’s under warranty.”
Fantastic. The only problem was that I had numerous opportunities lined up on my calendar, including live performances and teaching gigs. I needed a way to get around.
So I decided to rent a car. It wasn’t going to be cheap, but the dealership told me that replacing the transmission would only take two weeks, so I was prepared to offset the costs with the work I already had on my calendar.
The only problem was that my car was not ready after two weeks. When all was said and done, it took six weeks for them to get my car ready!
Suffice to say, I racked up a hefty bill between the rental and the repairs, but that’s another story for another time.
I’m sure you’re beginning to see the moral of the story here. When my car broke down, I solved the problem by renting a car.
Looking back, though, I could have dealt with the issue a lot better. For example:
- I could have mitigated rental costs by renting a car only on the days I absolutely needed it. I ended up paying for the entire six weeks.
- I could have taken advantage of public transportation for outings that were close to home.
- I could have borrowed a friend’s car. This may have required a lot of calling around.
- I could have used a combination of the above methods.
What I want to stress here is that we need to train ourselves to see beyond the obvious.
Hollywood often depicts people making unthinkable decisions (i.e. stripping for “quick money”, stealing when things go awry financially, violating personal morals to fit in, etc.), when there were plenty of alternatives they could have chosen from.
I’m usually shaking my head in response to these scenes, but hey, it’s just entertainment, right?
Wrong. See, the stats show that people, on average, watch five to six hours of TV every night! So where do you think their conditioning and programming are coming from?
It’s really scary to think that people make these types of poor decisions every day, but they do.
Thinking Outside the Box
The truth of the matter is that problem-solving isn’t necessarily difficult, but it does require practice.
You have to force yourself to see beyond the choices in front of you. At times, you may even need to ask trusted friends or do some research.
For me, problem-solving and thinking outside the box has become my default mode of operation. However, just because it’s obvious to me doesn’t mean it’s obvious to others.
What do you do when you get a flat? What happens if you lose your job? What if your significant other leaves you?
Every situation is a little different, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
But that’s exactly the point. You have to make decisions based on your situation.
However, you may have to take yourself out of the circumstance to really see the bigger picture.
If there’s too much emotion involved in your decision-making, then you are liable to make bad choices.
In entrepreneurship, new problems arise all the time. If you don’t get good at dealing with the challenges before you, you could end up spinning your wheels.
Next time a challenging situation comes up – and it will – remember to take a moment to think about the consequences of the decision you are about to make.
Then, take a look at the alternatives. At this stage, there is no wrong or right. Get all of your ideas down on paper if you have to.
As I noted earlier, sometimes a combination of those ideas could present an eloquent solution.
What do you think? Are you good at seeing the alternatives in every situation? Could you become a more effective problem-solver?
Let us know in the comments section below!
Author: David Andrew Wiebe
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.