WRITE IT DOWN (AGAIN)

“I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.”

—ALBERT EINSTEIN

Write down the best better problem you can think of. It won’t be perfect. Even after you have defined a motivating, enabling problem, you may still need to define your problem several more times before you are satisfied. Doing so is important and invaluable. You will find there are many more sides to the problem than you first supposed. Each new point of view broadens your accessible solutions.

Difficult problems require long, focused effort. A problem statement provides a consistent focal point for directing efforts toward finding a solution. Problems that are written down and reviewed are ten times more likely to be solved. Those that consume one’s thoughts throughout the day are a hundred times more likely to be solved.

Charles Goodyear is a classic example of what happens when you are focused. Goodyear played a key role in making rubber commercially viable. But he is the last person that one would expect to have done it. When he started his crusade to make rubber a viable product, Goodyear knew nothing about chemistry or chem- ical manufacturing. He had no money or business experience. But Goodyear had one unbeatable advantage—he was obsessed. He was determined to commercialize rubber.

Even when he and his family were living in a derelict rubber fac- tory, eating off rubber plates and probably wishing that rubber were edible, Goodyear remained committed. He never let up. He had numerous failures, but Goodyear stayed focused on finding a way to make viable rubber. He ultimately succeeded, stumbling across the vulcanizing process that solved his problem, and made himself and his long-suffering family wealthy.

After you have defined a firm idea of the solution you want, your mind will be able to focus its incredible problem-solving power on that solution. It is important that you see your problem definition often. Make it ubiquitous. Put a copy in your notebook or planner. Post a short summary of the problem or a code word representing it in a conspicuous place, like on the dashboard of your car. Whenever you are reminded of the problem, think of the car- rots and sticks. Motivation will lead to better thinking. Defining a problem clearly and thinking of it often is enough to stimulate good ideas from within your current patterns of thinking.

As you generate new ideas, you may want to change the definition of the problem. Climbing out of your mental rut will give you a new perspective on your problem. Changing the problem is good as long as you have one problem statement to keep your mind focused. An enabling problem statement is key to finding your solution.

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