The solver and the finder

We had an urgent plumbing issue that needed solving recently and I spoke with a few plumbers before making the final decision.

One conversation stuck out – this person, within a few seconds of hearing the problem, outlined what he was going to do to solve the problem. The solution sounded a bit too aggressive for our case and I said as much. His response was – “I do this every day. I know what I’m doing.”

That was the moment he lost our business. Even if his answer was right (I’m not convinced it was), I was worried that he’d not be keeping his eyes open to problems that didn’t fit his existing assumptions.

It reminded me of the many times I’ve made the same mistake – attempting to be the problem solver without spending enough time as the problem finder. As I was on the receiving end this time, I think I’ve developed more empathy for the frustration folks on the other end feel.

Problem finding >> Problem solving.

Inconvenient good times

Kids often seem to choose the most inconvenient times to express their love. This may be right when you plan to brush your teeth, carry that box across the room, or better yet, poop.

They also often refuse to do so in more normal circumstances.

There’s a life lesson in this pattern. It is hard to plan for good things to happen.

So, all we can do is keep plugging away and be willing to keep our eyes open for the opportunity for something good – even in the most unlikeliest of places.

Fewer new ideas

A learning journey observation: As time passes, I find myself looking for fewer new ideas and, instead, seeking more ways to absorb and live a small collection of old (often time-tested or fundamental) ones.

For these sorts of ideas, the mental model isn’t so much 21 day habit streaks as much as it is about multi year construction projects.

One bin is rubbish

When Ogilvy took on the goal of making households in the UK recycle more, their “one bin is rubbish” campaign focused on getting folks an extra bin at home. This, in turn, meant that folks found it much easier to sort their recyclable trash and, thus, recycle more.

A big reason for the success of their campaign was their focus on changing behavior instead of attempting to make them card carrying members of the green movement.

Over time, changes in behavior inspire changes in beliefs and attitude.

It is a story I think of every time I think of the climate crisis of late. We need more of a focus on changing behavior before attempting to change beliefs.

Trust and good intent

A simple question to gauge trust in a relationship – how often does the other person assume we’re acting with good intent?

Folks in strong relationships generally assume good intent, folks in bad relationships consistently assume otherwise, and relationships that take a lot of work involve an imbalance in these assumptions.

Don’t quote, make it yours instead

I came across this post on Derek Sivers’ website.

Don’t quote. Make it yours and say it yourself.

Which sounds better to you?

“In his best-selling book on behavioral science, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman said, ‘Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.’.”

… or just saying it:

“Whatever’s on your mind is not as important as it seems.”

When I first started reading a lot of books, I started quoting them a lot. When bringing up an idea in conversation, first I would mention its source — the book, the title, the author, and the subject of the book — before finally saying the idea.

After far too many times hearing myself referencing this book and that book, always naming titles and authors, I realized it was a lot of unnecessary clutter. I could see my listeners waiting for me to get to the point. It was inconsiderate.

Then I started noticing how annoying it was to read books that do the same thing. It’s really common in these pop non-fiction books I like: “This person said this thing. That person said that thing.”

It got me wondering: Why don’t we just say the idea, instead of referencing and quoting it?

I think there are a few reasons:

1. It feels like stealing. It’s their idea, not mine. But all ideas come from somewhere. Maybe they were paraphrasing it from someone else.

2. School teaches us to reference. But we’re not trying to impress a teacher anymore. And every unnecessary fact dilutes our point.

3. By quoting someone else, we can easy disavow the idea if attacked. If someone says it’s wrong, we can avoid responsibility and say, “Don’t look at me! It’s his idea, not mine!”
So instead, I go the other way now.

If I hear an idea, have considered it, and integrated it into my beliefs, it’s mine. I’ll say it succinctly in my own words, and stand behind it. Like adopting a child, I will take care of this idea and raise it as my own. If anyone wants to know the source, I’ll be happy to tell them.

I highly recommend this. Stop referencing. Stop quoting. Paraphrase. Internalize it. Make it yours. Tell me what you think, not what someone else thinks.

I recognize the irony of starting the post with a hat tip to Derek. :-)

That said, the note really resonated. I’ve tried to attribute quotes and anecdotes for as long as I can remember. So, the simplicity of his approach to sharing them sounded liberating.

I’m not sure I’ll stop attributing quotes and anecdotes entirely – at least not anytime soon. But, this may be the start of becoming less obsessive about it.

That, in itself, would be a great place to start.


Antifragility – systems that increase their ability to thrive as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks, or failures – is a word that’s been on my mind of late.

On a daily basis, we face unexpected volatility, failures, and mistakes. Facing these twists and turns with courage and confidence and approaching every day with thoughtfulness, gratitude, and grace points to strong character and a life well lived.

All of these only happen consistently when we embrace antifragility.

They happen when we habitually squeeze learning out of every new experience (whether good or bad) and ensure we keep getting better.

Antifragility is both a powerful and inspiring idea.. one to think about the next time we find ourselves down or disheartened by some unexpected twist.

The 2 hour marathon

The 4 minute mile was considered impossible until Roger Bannister ran it. Once he did, many followed suit.

For more than half a century, finishing a marathon in less than 2 hours was considered an insurmountable barrier. This weekend, Eliud Kipchoge did a Roger Bannister and proved that it can be done.

While it remains to be seen if his achievement will have the same effect on marathon runners as Roger Bannister did, it did make me wonder about how often we limit ourselves by setting arbitrary mental limits on how much we can do.

It probably happens more often than we think.

Two commitments for the weekend

Two commitments to make to ourselves over the weekend –

1. If we have the option, we’ll disconnect from work and spend time with ourselves and those we love

2. When we spend this time, we’ll do so by paying full attention. Not the “I’ll check my phone every time I have a spare minute” sort of attention. Instead, it’ll be the “I have no idea where my phone is right now” sort of attention.

Time and attention is the truest manifestation of our love. Here’s to making sure we give plenty of that to ourselves and those around us this weekend.