What problem are you trying to solve?
Albert Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about the solution.” I find that people are trained how to solve problems, but pay very little attention to understanding how to ask the right questions. We usually think we understand the problem pretty quickly and can transition to solution space immediately. Yet, how many times have we done this to find that others around us had a different impression of what the problem and solution should be. The fact is, most of the time, we are attacking a symptom of the real problem, not the problem itself.
I was once told the story of a university that needed to find a solution for the lack of student parking. They invested a lot of time in meeting, studying, and budgeting for a better on-campus parking solution, but could not find a cost-effective way to do so. They brought in a third-party consultant who was able to determine very quickly that the reason why students needed a parking solution was because there were insufficient options to lock up their bicycles securely. As soon as the university installed options for students to lock up their bicycles safely, the parking situation went away. It is worth the time and energy to invest in truly understanding the problem you are facing.
In 1952, Florence Chadwick, an accomplished distance swimmer, attempted to swim the distance between Catalina Island and the California coast. It was very cold and foggy on the day she attempted the feat. After swimming for over fifteen hours in heavy fog, she felt too exhausted to continue. Later, she discovered she was less than half a mile from her destination. She told reporters afterwards, “I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”
Exploring beyond our boundaries is like this story. The journey of discovery is like being surrounded by a heavy fog. Our destination could be just on the horizon and we would never know. I am convinced that, in most situations, quitting prematurely is responsible for more failures than a lack of ability. Be realistic in how much time you can devote to an activity – even if it is just 15 minutes a day. Once you set that realistic goal, however, be disciplined. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish with just 15 minutes a day, if you are disciplined about it.