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OPINION: Problems and solutions

by Devin Houston | February 17, 2021 at 5:25 a.m.

Is there any problem too tough to have a solution? My tendency is to think, "No, a solution exists for every problem." The real issue is when multiple solutions to a problem exist, or one is hesitant to work with what they know is the right solution.

I like to think of myself as a problem solver. I also think I have the charisma and charm of Tom Hanks, but that is a delusion on my part which is often a problem. Some would say I cause more problems while trying to solve one problem or my efforts in finding solutions make a small problem much bigger. My answer to such thinking? That's your problem. It's not my problem that you can't deal with the honesty of my solution. "Houston, we have a problem." Not from where I stand. "We" is not me, so you are on your own. Good luck.

I solved problems even as a child. I want chocolate chips, my 5-year-old self thinks. Chips are in the kitchen cabinet. A chair will allow me access to said chips. Drag chair to cabinet, climb onto counter, grab the chips and satisfy my chocolate craving. How was I to know my younger siblings would rat me out to Mom? A problem I did not foresee, but solutions would come in the form of revenge later.

We do learn from problem-solving, therefore it is good to have problems. Problems are necessary if we are to grow intellectually and emotionally, but only if we find appropriate solutions. Otherwise, the problems become a burden from which we may not escape. But accept the fact that every problem does have a solution, and you will find yourself working to find the answers, consciously or subconsciously.

For example, I left academic research because of a problem. Funding for young researchers was drying up, and older, established researchers were considered more of a "sure bet," so funding inevitably went to those with good track records of, naturally, solving problems.

My solution was to leave academics for the private sector. But this eventually led to another problem. My place of employment was in a cultural backwater, I was restrained in what I could do because the company owner was an unimaginative idiot, and I was also bored. The obvious solution was to quit and find another job. But the job paid just enough that I couldn't bring myself to quit because not having money creates problems. So not quitting was a problem.

However, one day my subconsciousness overcame the rational part of my brain. A situation developed into a problem, which had a couple of solutions. The logical solution was to ignore the situation involving a conflict between one of my workers and the company owner. Let the worker fend for himself, because, after all, it was his problem, not mine. But my subconscious, knowing that my own problems (bored, backwater area, idiot boss) needed to be addressed, took over and adopted the second solution: March down the hall to the boss's office and tell him that he was an unimaginative idiot boss of a boring company in a backwater burb.

Two days later I was dismissed for insubordination. Problem solved! I was rid of the job that was oppressing my inner happiness. And, yes, this was a situation where multiple other problems came about from one original problem. I had to find another job. I had bills to pay, and I had to consider options such as moving across the country. Some solutions create more problems, but the real solution eventually worked its way into reality.

So now you know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey often quipped. The problems were many, mostly of my own making, but solving them became necessary in order to grow. And by grow, I mean to be able to eat and put a roof over my head. Solutions present themselves, and we may be tempted to take the easiest path to solve a problem, but it may not be the best solution in the long run.

Linear thinking, such as pulling up a chair to snag a bag of chocolate chips, may also not produce the best solution. But my experience tells me that inaction, or indecision, only prolongs and sometimes worsens the road to a solution and may make those decisions for you. Telling the boss he's a jerk felt like a good solution, but it wasn't the best solution. Leaving that job was the correct solution, but it should have been on my terms, thoughtfully worked out, and not prompted by my irrational actions.

You got problems, Buddy? Good for you, join the club, and start working on solutions!

Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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