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Many people spend their entire lives complaining about and dwelling on problems.
I’ve watched these sorts of people my entire life and I am sure you have too. You may even be one.
There are people who will quickly and willingly open up about a massive variety of problems in their lives. They may have:
- problems with work,
- problems with relationships,
- problems with their health,
- problems with their children,
- problems with finances,
- problems with their job,
- and even problems with having problems.
I remember meeting a person one time who was having problems with the therapist they hired to help them with their problems.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having problems, of course. Everyone has problems. However, some people have more problems than others and still others use problems in different ways.
Depending on how you look at it, everyone has financial problems. Some people may be having problems paying their most basic bills. Other people may be concerned that they are not making enough money to influence the political process as much as they want to–with hundreds of millions of dollars. (After all, if you have enough money, you can go to parties and spend time with the President and others discussing policy. You can give money to giant lobbying groups that will influence how laws are passed.)
Everyone has “problems.” The issue is simply, how serious these problems are.
I recently read a book called Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the Founder of Zappos. Shortly after selling his first company, Link Exchange, for $265,000,000 in his 20s, Hsieh decided to take a grueling hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. In some detail, he describes the hike as one of the most difficult things he has ever done in his life.
What are the qualities of someone who would do something like this? Already extremely successful, he made the decision to expose himself to some of the most physically and emotionally challenging circumstances he could. Not content to relax, he wanted to push himself in a direction he had not previously pushed himself. In short, instead of relaxing on a beach somewhere he chose to expose himself to a giant problem.
Some people use problems to help them grow.
Other people use problems in a way that holds them back.
I once knew someone who blamed his parents’ divorce when he was a teenager for all of his problems. The person eventually became a drug addict. The person is now in their 40s, still a drug addict, and still blaming his parents’ divorce for his problems.
The difference between someone like Hsieh and the emotionally fragile person I knew is striking: one person used problems to help them grow and the other person used problems as an excuse for wallowing in self-pity and not growing.
Throughout my life, I’ve watched some extremely successful people challenge and expose themselves to problems when there was absolutely no need to. They create problems in order to grow, shake things up, and become more.
I’ve known several attorneys making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year who go back to school to grueling programs while working full time jobs. Why would someone do this? Because the need to complete the degree—“a problem”—is something that forces them to continue growing.
Many people welcome problems because they know that when they solve the problem they may become a stronger person.
- Lose your job? Good. Now you can get a better one than you had before. What a great opportunity.
- Have a health problem? Thank goodness. This was a warning and now you know the importance of being healthy and you can fix this in your life.
- Have financial problems? Great. When you climb out of this you are going to realize the importance of saving money and will always have a nest egg.
In the work world, many people spend their lives trying to avoid problems. We look for security, guarantees, and want a life and career where things do not change.
The “problem” is that there are rarely going to be times when there are not going to be problems for a sustained period of time. Everything changes and all businesses—no matter how stable they appear—are always going to be exposed to problems.
Companies suddenly go out of business.
Competition comes from abroad.
Key people leave companies.
The economy slows down, products stop selling, and jobs go away.
If you think you are in a stable job, the odds are pretty good that you are not. Very few jobs are stable and you are always going to have a difficult time finding security.
One time, I was sitting in my office and I got a call from a federal magistrate judge I once knew. He was looking for a job. I never realized that a federal judge would be looking for a job. For some reason, I assumed that he would always be employed. I’ve seen the same thing with professors I knew, politicians, and others. No job is ever safe.
Everywhere you turn in the economy, there are constant problems.
Your life is no different.
People close to you suddenly die.
You may get very sick.
You may do something bad.
Your spouse may suddenly leave you.
You are under constant threat from problems at work and in your own life.
Your ability to solve and prevent problems will drastically influence the quality of your life. In fact, your life and the results you get are largely a result of how you (1) prevent problems and (2) deal with the problems you face. Your ability to deal with problems needs to be amazing. The better you deal with problems, the more successful you will be.
Great and often lasting success comes from people who are able to solve problems.
Chester Carlson, the inventor of the photocopier, was an attorney in the patent office in New York. As part of his job, he was required to make a massive number of copies of various papers. He had arthritis and found this to be extremely painful and difficult. He had a “problem” performing his job. He started conducting all sorts of experiments in his kitchen and eventually applied for and obtained a patent for the process of making copies he had developed. Several years later, the technology was licensed to what became the Xerox Corporation.
People like Carlson use problems to push themselves forward. Not only was Carlson able to solve his problem with his invention, he was able to solve a problem for millions of people. Many people in Carlson’s situation would have looked at having arthritis as a curse. Instead, Carlson looked at it as a problem that required a drastic solution–and he found it.
The most important thing you can do, of course, is work to prevent problems and anticipate problems before they happen. That means taking steps in your personal life to protect your health, attract good people into your life, and make sure that you set yourself up for success. If you are somewhat cautious, you can generally prevent yourself from running into problems.
I’ve come across a lot of people in my life that, at one point or another, had problems with the law, problems with being honest, and other things like that. The way I was raised and taught was that you should always work to forgive people like this and give them a second chance. The problem is that most of the time when I have done this in my personal life and business life, I have been burned and hurt. Doing your best to prevent problems before they occur is a good idea.
Despite doing your best to prevent problems, you are always going to have problems. When you do have problems, you should aim to have good problems. For example, if you are a sports star, it is better to have your choice between playing for two teams than no choice at all. That is a good problem to have.
The only people who do not have problems are people who are dead and in the morgue.
When you are confronted by problems, the most important thing you can do is focus on the solution to the problem. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself or exasperated, you should focus on the solution. When you are able to confront and handle large problems, you will have the confidence that you can handle anything.