Most people get caught up in specifics, guesses and assumptions but if you want to solve a problem for someone, or even yourself you need a little structure to make sure you get the best chance to help.
The examples here are from an IT perspective, but it really does apply to anything (I’ve used it when I was a motorcycle instructor and when I was in the ambulance service)
Get the right information first time
- What are they trying to do?
- What would they expect to happen/see?
- What does happen/ what do they see?
It’s amazing how many times I’ve started with complex issues, only to find later that it was a broken cable. So start simple and remember lot of stuff you can cover quickly if you have a checkpoint
IT Example: If you can query something from google everything up to and including internet access works (so it’s not the cable).
Other Example: If someone is injured and shouting, their airway is clear, and they are breathing/have circulation
Fixing the problem
If you have done the above, you have the best start, so lets fix this baby, with the only real way to solve it is…
I don’t mean be on your own (though some times that is easier ), I just mean don’t try loads of different things at once, or make big changes.
Just do the following:
- Change one thing
- Does it make a difference?
- If not, change it back (and/or make a note of the change)
- Rinse and repeat
Avoiding the traps
Here are some simple stuff to watch for as it can really hinder your ability to solve the issue
- People using the wrong words: The reason for the first 3 steps (go check again), is that people diagnosing their own issue usually sets you down the wrong path (I’ve had people refer to their screen as “the computer” and the computer “the hard drive”. So ignore the words and get them to show you what they were doing and what they expect to see
- Do listen to anything they have tried to do: Though this may be contrary to the quote above, this is mostly about assessing their knowledge on the subject. If they have tried logical stuff, beaware of it, and use it as an excuse to check the basics
- When you are a hammer every problem is a nail: Ok, so you’ve been on a “security course” or “first aid course” and every problem reminds you “a bit” of something you learned, go back to basics first.
- You want to impress someone with your knowledge: In order to show how much you know, you start talking about the complex stuff, how it may be magnetic interference or Mammallian Diving Reflex… time to check the cable
Most of all…
Follow steps 1-3 at the top of this post. It really is amazing how much miscommunication hinders problem solving, and this is the best way to find out what the problem really is.
This year my wife, taught my 6 and 3 year old daughters to swim.
Today she taught our eldest to ride a bike, and a video on Facebook showed me she is now riding without stabalisers (I’m currently stuck in a Hotel with work).
Although I’d loved to have seen her face on first ride, I will see her ride all the time, and I think my wife deserves those moments more as she does all the hard work bringing them up.
I get to come home after work and do fun stuff with them.
What it made me realise though is, if you have read my article on 100 coins a day, that when your kids are young it is the parents who decide how the kids spend their 100 coins.
Now I don’t think for a minute that you should spend ever second of every day getting your child to spend their coins on pure academia,any more than thinking you should let them spend it on any ONE activity.
You do however need to be conscious of HOW you spend them. Rest, fun and tv all teach them something and a lot of parents forget that social interaction, confidence and imagination are vital life skills.
Being a child genius at Chess is worthless if your child doesn’t have the ability to enjoy their success and share it with other people. That’s like being a billionaire but then not being allowed to spend anything.
My wife does a great job of consciously making sure the kids coins don’t get wasted, though she doesn’t think so – this is usually the curse of people who help others, you always look to your own actions first and they never feel quite enough – usually because you can see how much better you could do if you only had more time, energy or money.
Today though I realised that I need to take my own advice and make sure when I’m looking after them, I spend their coins wisely. You can never really waste coins, but being conscious of what I’m spending of their behalf is something I need to be doing more.
If I can’t take my own medicine, why would anyone else?
I wrote this down as a Twitter reply this morning and managed to say in one sentence something I have been trying hard to articulate as a one liner, and so here it is.
This concept is nothing new, and I’m pretty sure psychologists call it “projection” – ie projecting your own emotions/feelings on others. I just like it this way as it’s simpler to understand and much easier to summarise.
This is something though that often causes problems, mis-communication and a lot of stress/anger. People get annoyed because they assume that what ever action an individual did was done for the same reason they would do it.
It comes back a little to “use the world as your mirror” philosophy, but should also let you really understand and go easier on others.
Some examples of this would be:
Action: Someone overtakes you in a car
- Their reason: They are testing out a new car and want to “see what it will do”
- If you had been overtaken: You would do this to “prove” you are faster than they are
- Your result: You get stressed/angry that someone is “challenging” you and saying they are the better driver
- The reality: They probably don’t even know you exist
Action: You text a new partner to ask them something for tonight, 2hrs have passed and you have had no response
- Their reason: They have been in a meeting/focusing on a complex task/are out shopping
- If you had received it: If you disapproved of what they said your “silence” would send a clear message
- Your result: You will either worry about what you have done, or are angry that you are getting the silent treatment
- The reality: They either don’t know you have texted yet, or plan to get back to you after (Time is always relative to your current activity)
This is a fairly straight forward idea, but one that causes the most arguments etc. People’s motives are like a separate languages with common words from time to time.
So next time someone drives in front of you, you don’t get an immediate answer or even someone forgets your birthday please remember that it’s rarely aimed at you, and the reason they did it is unlikely to be the same as yours.
“Almost” everyone is trying to do the right thing, and what you think you see is rarely happening for the reasons you think they are.
…Whatever or whoever makes you happy. The hard part isn’t finding something/one that makes you happy, its remembering how happy it makes you and what you were lacking before you found it.
A near miss losing things dear to you is a sure fire way to make you sit up and notice
The problem comes when you get used to it. Lets say you meet someone amazing, you rarely fight, there are no soul crushing games or power plays. This is the point you truely realise how great life can be.
After a fair amount of time though, you get used to the lack of drama and forget how lucky you are and what life way like before. This is as true with people as it is with cars, bikes and pets.
Often it can take a life shattering moment to realise what you have, rather than chasing the next thing you “want”.
For me, it was a rupture in my stomach, that put me a day away from being dead -had the doctors not operated in time. I was very sick, and spent a week in a hospital bed
At the time, my wife was pregnant and had food poisoning so had to stay away for the last 4 days or so. This was my point when I realised just how empty it was without them.
Now though when things get crazy and I’m pushed to the limit, I go back to that feeling of near loss and it always reminds me just how lucky I am.
So instead of chasing that next shiny thing, take a moment to look at what you have, imagine losing it all and realise how lucky you are.
Of course on the flip side, if doing the above seems like a relief it’s time to find yourself some things that really do matter.
I heard a great interview with Paul Mckenner on the radio, about his book I can make you happy. It’s one of those things that seems obvious, but only AFTER you heard it.
“Imagine you won millions in the lottery, what would you change and what would you spend more time doing?”.
Now you don’t need the money (though it would be nice), as you now know what’s important (that you need to cherish), and what you need to change.
When you look around, everyone can often seem so much better, financially, intellectually and lots of other words ending in ally.
If you look really closely though you will realise that everything is balanced, and to be good at one thing means you don’t get to be as good at something else.
The 100 coins Concept*
- Imagine that every skill you possess costs money, everything from maths and English to body language and social interaction.
- Each day you get 100 coins to spend however you want (not real coins, but think of it as opportunity to learn)
- You will always spend your 100 coins – even sleeping or “veging” out you learn something, even if it’s just how to relax
- Everyone gets the same amount every day – no more, no less
So everyone is equal
Yes, personally I don’t think anyone is better than any other, it’s just where they spent their coins through out their life. If you put a group of individuals of the same age in a number of situations, no one will be best in all of them.
The age can make a difference, at 40years old you have spent twice as many coins as a 20 year old. Remember though that if the 20 year old spent 5 years worth of coins doing high level maths, and the 40yr old only spend a few weeks worth. In that area, the youngest will come out on top.
Sounds obvious/odd, how does it help?
The idea is really to help people not feel they have wasted their lives, and also make them more conscious of how they spend their coins. Lots of us spend them learning to improve mundane tasks or spending in areas we wouldn’t choose to if we did it consciously.
For an example of the “wasting your life” felling, you usually need a benchmark. The benchmark, I’m sure, will be easy for most people to find. Often they will seemingly have a better life/job/bank balance/confidence/intelegence/modesty.
It’s all about me baby…yeah
What you need to do though is to consider ALL your skills, and instead of comparing with another, think “If I could go back, would I really spend my coins any differently”. You may wish you had followed your dream to be a “Dancer”, but if you spent 80 coins a day to be good enough, you would have less in say social skills or teaching skills say (I’m not picking on Dancers BTW).
As an extreme example, Child geniuses – usually suffer with lack of social and interaction skills. People at the top of their sport often suffer this, as they often “gave up their childhood” to excel in a particular area.
In a much lesser example, one of my friends once asked how I know so much about tech and people, I replied I can’t dance and I know nothing about DIY or cars.
A great quote that sums this up better is “You can’t get anything clean without getting something else dirty” - (Cecil Baxter)
So, what now?
Have a think about how you spent your coins. Would you really spend them differently? Would it be a huge difference? Have you thought about how different a person you would be, and would you really want to be them?
How do you want to spend your coins going forward? Try to use, at least some, for learning something new, or improving a skill to a higher level every day. You can’t “waste” them, but you can spend them on the wrong thing – in 6 months you could learn how throw cards to get them to land on a matchbox from 30 yards or you could use it to learn guitar.
It’s nothing new …but…
It is just a different way of thinking about life. It will work for some, and not for others… vive la différence
* This concept came from a conversation with a friend of mine. Originally I used it to help with peer rating especially when you are new to a role/position, as it’s always hard to know if you are doing well because everyone seems to know far more than you and doesn’t look so lost.
I’m not talking about movies here, but good old fashioned real life
I’ve seen loads of articles, quotes and had conversations saying X person gave all this money to charity and are doing so much good that they can’t be a bad person at heart.
I say, in most circumstances, this is just plain wrong. Please bear in mind, this isn’t really a way of saying person X is good or bad and more a way to judge yourself and remind you to examine your motives.
Your actions do not make you a good person, your motives do
It’s not what you’ve done, but why you did it that defines who you really are
Now that doesn’t make the action any more magnanimous or possibly great, it just means doing something “good” doesn’t mean you are good – and conversely doing something “bad” doesn’t have to make you a bad person.