I can’t quite remember where I first heard it. It may well have been from some film as it’s not exactly the language of business - either as preached or as written. But it’s most certainly one of the key business and/or business-of-life maxims I was introduced to when I came to work in the United States a number of years ago.
As with many of America’s better business teachings - it immediately impressed me with its economy of thought and directness of line. And time and again - in all sorts of situations - dealing with all sorts of problems - even people - the key wisdoms hidden within the curiously catchall phrase proved to be as perspicacious as they are efficacious. Twin mental skeleton keys that can be employed to ‘pick’ and unlock even the very trickiest of problems.
And yes, dear Alice - I’m fully aware of the maxim:
It’s both admirable and true - but if you keep on trying to solve the same old problem in the same old way you’re bound to get the same old result. No solution. And a problem still unsolved.
The hard truth is there are times - moments - situations - when if you’ve tried your absolute best to solve a particular problem and it’s still stubbornly resistant to all you can think to throw at it - you need to pack up your tools - pick yourself up - brush yourself down - and move on.
It’s not so much a matter of admitting defeat. It’s more to do with the law of diminishing returns. And not keep digging yourself ever deeper and deeper into a hole you may well not be able to get yourself out of.
It’s not always easy to have the wit and the wherewithal to know when to stop - when to step back and away - withdraw. We can all get blinded - hypnotised even - by what’s directly in front of us. So you have to very consciously give yourself time to regroup. Give yourself the necessary space to look upon a problem anew. All with the express intention of then re- addressing the problem at some later time or date.
Your time and sanity are much too valuable to waste on any problem you can’t solve in the allotted time frame. And even if the subsequent delay in you finally resolving the issue amounts to minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or even years - it’s all still relative. Workable solutions always take time. And there are far better things for you to do than spend your time repeatedly banging your head against the wall. Repeating the same old problem solving processes and then expecting a new result is folly.
All I’m suggesting, here, is that when you find yourself faced with a problem that - despite all your repeated efforts - appears truly insurmountable - the smart thing to do is retreat - reframe - and then when the time is right - re-approach.
A change in circumstances - new knowledge, new ways of thinking - all can dramatically help improve your odds of finding a proper solution to a problem. In the end your resolve to succeed is the key to it all.
The path to success is never easy. It’s always much harder to achieve anything of real value than ever anyone originally imagines. The sobering truth is - there are few, if any, easy fixes or truly workable short cuts in life. It’s another hard fact everyone learns eventually.
And deep down everyone that’s ever succeeded in doing anything that demands prolonged and conscious effort to achieve the requisite levels of expertise knows that to be true. Teacher. Doctor. Scientist. Lawyer. Artist. Writer. Musician. Composer. Dancer. Coder. Designer. Pilot. Acrobat. Chef. Fireman. Navy SEAL. The list of endeavour is limitless - and edifyingly so.
The key to success in any discipline shouldn’t be to figure out how to make the journey ‘painless’ or ‘instant’ or ‘without cost’, but to recognise that every path to true accomplishment is always demanding and oftentimes very hard. And any person that knows that - and who’s still eager and willing to do whatever is called for - whatever it takes - will invariably succeed.
It’s “the road less travelled” that Robert Frost, the great American humanitarian poet, once, wrote about. And Joseph Campbell, the much- missed American philosopher and teacher did, too, in ‘The Hero’s Journey’.
In the end it all comes down to the matter of resolve. Do you have it or don’t you. And do you have a little or a lottle of it? Will it last? Stay the course? Will you? Only time will tell.
Want something bad enough and nine times out of ten you’ll make it happen. If you don’t know what you want or if you’re unsure or if you waiver - then all your best intentions - regardless of whatever surefire strategy or meaningful methodology you call upon - will serve as nothing.
You have to be clear on what it is you want to achieve. And then go do it.
Do everything you can to fully ‘get into it’. Do it with all your heart, mind, and soul. Do whatever it demands of you - however hard it may at first seem - to succeed. Do all that and there’s nothing you can’t do - or achieve.
If you’re especially lucky on your journey to a ‘better you’, you may even come across a mentor or teacher. Someone who’ll point the way forward - who’ll always make it abundantly clear that it’s you that’s got to do all the work on yourself - as no one else can or will ever do it for you.
I once knew such a man - who I’ll simply refer to as Mr. ‘L’ - a relentless taskmaster - who thankfully leavened his teachings with humility, humanity, and humour. And I offer a fragment - from memory. I’ve no doubt forgotten or jumbled some of the lines over the years since - but the meaning
It’s a short piece I’ve returned to again and again whenever I’ve had need of uplift or to reassure myself to stay the course.
RESOLVE to be fair with yourself and expect to have to win the good things. For the bad come on their own account to take away. Store up for yourself a large quantity of good times, memories, and values. It is then that you will weather the depressions and doubts. Place yourself in friends that are true and care for you. Don’t be petty. Or your life will be summed up by regret.
Learn to change and meet new requirements. Knowing it can only bring good and that all will be well. Time, which is small for you - and me - and all we see around us - can rob you of much if you do not take proper account of it. So be content to share yourself. And sometime give without counting the cost. Make the most of today and tomorrow and now. For you cannot have your time twice. Resolve to do better - with yourself - and to become a better you. Better you brace yourself, now, for the work to be done and give thanks for what you have and what is to be won - and WAKE UP AND LIVE.
Ponder that for a moment - if you will.
Then ponder this - teachings come in many guises and from the most unexpected of sources - both sacred and profane. So it’s always smart to keep an eye or an ear out for them. They can’t hit you if you’re not there.
But once you find what does work for you. Do a lot of it.
Enjoy it. Enjoin with it. Really get into it. And go all the way. Finish what you started. Get it done.