Category Archives: Solving problems

Sailin’ not Wailin’

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

William Arthur Ward
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Recently, my brother in law took out our sailboat on Lake Ola on a windy day and got swamped! It was quite an adventure when we “rescued” him because when we got it flipped back over, it took off unmanned across the lake at breakneck speed. We helplessly watched as it rammed the shore just missing a dock…thank goodness!

Much has been written about the forces of wind as it relates to our lives. May I just reiterate how amazingly simple and true it is that with a small adjustment in rudder and sail, what was a hazardous situation becomes fun and exciting or what was a listless boring going nowhere trip becomes useful and fulfilling.

Sometimes when our lives are just not where we want them to be, we can make small adjustments that can make a world of difference in our satisfaction with life. We don’t need a new boat or a bigger sail …we just need to pay attention to the wind and make the small adjustments to change our course.

Admittedly, as an amateur sailor who seems to need to learn the ropes again each time I take our sailboat out, there are others who do a much better job because they understand how everything works. In our lives, there are also family and friends who may know the ropes just a little better than us and can add valuable wisdom and knowledge to help our situation if we are open to listening. Often times, the hardest time to learn is when we know just enough to think we know enough. The fine tuning adjustments needed in our lives may be right before our eyes but clouded by our pride.

img_0813Next time the winds of live seem about ready to capsize your boat, stop wailin’ and start sailin’. Learn the life skills to make adjustments and then hold on to your hat because the excitement of life will “blow you away”!

HighFive YourLife Principle

Make adjustments in your life to take advantage of the winds of life instead of fearing them.

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I Think We Can All Eat and Drink at the Same Table

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”

Ronald Reagan

A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed. Nelson Mandela

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Recently, I noticed a raccoon wading in the water at our home on Lake Ola in Tangerine, Florida. I grabbed my camera and as I focused in on him, I noticed there was a green heron right next to him. Each of them went about their business in close proximity and seemed to not be bothered by the other’s presence.

Everybody knows that one of the first rules of keeping peace in the family is to not discuss politics and religion at the dinner table. If only two people at the table enjoy a good debate, then everyone else becomes uncomfortable. If only one person is a good debater, then the other will not enjoy the joust. Once a normal person is outflanked by someone who has prepared better or simply understands the topic more thoroughly, the other person has nowhere to go but to dip into his/her emotions. Once you begin to defend your point of view with your emotions, it becomes personal and the wonderful meal that was prepared for you loses it savor.

The best debates, the ones that benefit everyone in the room, are done by people who respect each other and genuinely desire the best for the other side even though they may be as different as a raccoon and a bird. That respect can be built around a dinner table where interests are shared and people begin to know each other better. Each of us has his own story of struggle…of failure and success…of quitting and persevering…of pain and joy…and we see everyone’s life through the lens of our own lives. Once we understand the life of everyone around the table more, we build respect and a desire for their well being. We also begin to feel that those around the table feel the same way about us.

In this environment, you can allow yourself to be vulnerable because you know that the other side wants the best for you. Once those at the table become vulnerable, your discussion about God or politics or any other controversial issue, can be done without any endgame in mind other than the desire to be unified, not in your opinions of the affairs of the world but in your respect for and understanding of each other…and that is the basis for peaceful progress.

So, add an extra chair and welcome those you love and don’t yet love to dinner. If you do it right, you may actually enjoy the meal!

HighFive your Life Principle

The more that we eat and drink at the same dinner table, the better off our families and our world will be…if we follow the golden rule to genuinely attempt to love and respect our neighbors as ourselves.

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NBA Squirrel

img_5246I enjoy watching the birds at the bird feeder but I especially enjoy the battle with the squirrels. Over the years I have tried multiple devices and stratagem to keep them off. Today, a brave and very athletic squirrel found a way. He was very impressive and must have leapt 5 times his height. His one-handed form looked like an NBA jam!img_5251img_5252 He won the battle,  but later, I won the war. I raised it just a few inches higher and the poor boy just couldn’t reach it as hard as he tried.

img_5272If you look into the bushes on the last picture you can see the bird laughing too (don’t worry…Mr Squirrel gets plenty of natural food too).

HighFive Your Life Principle: There are generally multiple ways to solve a problem. When it all seems impossible, take a step back and look at the problem with different eyes. New ideas will come to you as you strive to solve the problem with an open mind. I am sure that the day will come when that squirrel will be back in my feeder because he always finds another way.

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Country Genius, Country Dummy

“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”
Elbert Hubbard

IMG_1821aSometimes having a little country in you creates a genius and sometimes it creates a dummy. I recently bought a smoker/grill from Lowes and it was too heavy for me to load into my truck. It took four men to get it loaded and I was not sure how I was going to get it out of my truck but I “figured” (country boy strategic thinking) that I would figure it out once I got home (country boy lazy thinking).

I had my shoulder and both hips replaced last year and a recent hernia operation and I am not supposed to lift more than 50 pounds. Even if I had been my old self, I could not have lifted it. My wife, as strong as she is, was also recovering from surgery and I would have hated to lose her under a several hundred pound grill. I guess I could have asked her 80 plus year old mother that lives next door to give me a hand but.…

But no, having grown up in Kissimmee, I learned that a rope and an oak tree limb can be good for more than just a sack swing.  I rigged a hoist over a huge oak limb but the only thing I had strong enough to pull on it was the truck that the grill was sitting in. So we tied the ropes to the truck and slowly pulled forward sliding the grill as we went until it was hanging in mid air. With only a little effort, I was able to slowly drop the grill to the ground. My wife was amazed it worked and I was a country genius for a brief moment.

Then she asked me how much it cost. Once again I became a country dummy.

I can’t think of everything…but I “figure” (country boy no brain activity) that she shouldn’t be able to either. My mistake.

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A Plane, A Headset, and Sunglasses Do Not A Pilot Make

“This above all; to thine own self be true.”
William Shakespeare

Recently, I had the opportunity to go up in a small plane and learn to fly. It was exhilarating. I held the joystick on takeoff and controlled the plane for much of the time in the air. I took the plane in a gradual decent for the approach to the airport and landing. I wore a headset and sunglasses and if you would have seen me from afar, you would have thought I was a pilot.

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However, if you would have been seated in the cockpit with me you would have seen a totally different story. Instead of a relaxed grip on the joystick, my hands were white knuckled. Every muscle in my body was tense as I tried to control the flight of the plane. Between looking at the instruments and looking at my surroundings, it was easy to get disoriented and forget what I was supposed to be observing.

The headset provided a noise reduction device so the outside sound of the plane’s motor was muffled and we could hear each other talk. However, when it came to the control tower giving directions, I wanted nothing to do with it. It was in a different language as we were told which runway to take to get to the runway where we would take off. The letters and numbers and identifying directional signs for the plane and runway were said so quickly and then repeated back with such accuracy, I felt like if it has been left up to me I would have had the plane doing doughnuts in the grass until the plane ran out of gas and somebody hauled the plane back to the hanger and me to the hospital.

When we came in for our final approach to land, the wind started to buffet the plane. The trees below got closer and closer and my knuckles got whiter and whiter. I finally at about 500 feet, asked the flight instructor to take back the controls…I had zero confidence in my ability to keep us out of the 6:00 news headlines.

The experience was one that I will never forget and one day I hope to go back and get additional flight instructions to see if it is something that I could enjoy. One thing for sure, just because I’m in a plane and dressed like a pilot, it does not make me a pilot.

This concept applies in almost every aspect of our lives

* Just because I have a son, does not make me a father.
* Just because I have a wife, does not make me a husband.
* Just because I was born a male, does not make me a man.
* Just because I can say Amen, doesn’t make me a believer.
* Just because I do good things does not make me a good man.
* Just because I am alive does not mean I am living.

For every title you can wear, there is a deeper role to learn and earn. Just like the pilot who needs to practice and practice and study to fly safely, we need to learn our duty in the area of our responsibilities and perform it well every day.

I understand that the number one cause of plane crashes is pilot error. Live your life so that the titles you carry mean more than just a group of letters that make up words. You are in charge. Make sure that pilot error is not in your life’s flight plan.

It’s Raining Moss (Four areas of your life where solving symptoms instead of problems can take a real toll)

“We live in a time when the words impossible and unsolvable are not longer part of the scientific community’s vocabulary. Each day we move closer to trials that will not just minimize the symptoms of disease and injury but eliminate them.”

Christopher Reeve

After every storm we know without fail, that we will need to go through our yard and pick up the moss and sticks that blew down. On seven and a half acres, this can end up being quite a bit of moss as you can see in the picture below.

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No matter how clean we make the yard, if there is another storm the next day, we have to start all over. You would think that eventually there would be no moss left. But after one look at the trees in our yard, you realize that we would be nuts to expect any other outcome. Of course more moss is going to fall!

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Common sense would dictate that if I really wanted to not have to pick up moss on the ground after a storm, I would need to somehow get it cleaned out of the trees. That is not an easy process but it can be done. Even though it is expensive and time-consuming, I think that everyone would agree that it is the required strategy, if I want to be rid of the moss in my yard once and for all. That is the only way I can solve the problem instead of just treating the symptom.

Are you a problem solver or a symptom solver…or a little of both? Below are four areas of your life where solving symptoms instead of problems can take a real toll.

 Are you in a relationship that continues to hurt all the time?

Almost all of us have had our heart-broken a time or two. If not for that there would be no money in writing songs. Love for someone else and being loved in return is the natural place most of us seek to be. Once you find your true love, you can begin to build a life together. Because people are different, it is also natural to have disagreements along the way. That is normal. However, it is not normal, nor should it be tolerated, to constantly feel hurt and pain in your relationship. In a healthy relationship, your companion shows their love for you constantly despite your daily disagreements. You know you are loved and the amount of pain you feel pales in comparison to the love you feel.

You may try to change yourself to make your partner “like you more”. Most of these “changes” are just treating symptoms and not addressing the deeper problems. If you are not feeling the love you are most likely not treating the problem. Love in a relationship is based on trust and forgiveness. It is based on respect and awe. It is based on caring and concern. It is based on the ability for you to love yourself and be proud of the contribution that you are making to the relationship and to society. You should not feel constant pain and misery. Stop flailing trying to solve symptoms and consider getting some professional help for the both of you. Life is too short to not feel the support and love from your partner despite the everyday differences that will occur.

Are you in a job or line of work that does not bring you joy?

Most of your adult life will be spent going to work. Sometimes you hear your friends say they love their work and others say they can’t wait to move on. How do you feel about what you do? If you are content then congratulations is due. If you are not but instead find yourself complaining and griping often, what are you doing about it?

Many will fight around the edges of the problem. Their solutions may include asking for a raise. Others may find security in the job and, though unhappy, they are too afraid to give up what they have. Others may complain to other employees or their bosses to try to affect changes in their workplace. There is nothing wrong with trying to improve your present working conditions. However, are you in the line of work that gives you joy?

Should you consider going back to school or learning a new language? Should you start networking more or stand before an intimidating creditor seeking funds to start a new business? Should you believe in yourself more when no one else gives a hoot. Since you will most likely spend a massive amount of your time left on earth in your profession, shouldn’t you take this problem solving seriously instead of dancing around with the symptoms?

Are you overweight or otherwise living an unhealthy lifestyle?

Maybe it does not seem fair to go here as it makes most of us uncomfortable to discuss our little love handles. However, many of us spend our adult lives going from one diet to another or starting a new exercise plan…all in an effort to feel and look our best. We have plans for this and programs for that. We have pills and supplements and books and lifts and procedures and tints and spas and….need I go on?

Living a healthy lifestyle requires few if any programs if we are a problem solver. It doesn’t even require discipline. It requires and active lifestyle where food is a bothersome stop in your journey instead of a destination you plug in to your body’s GPS system with a scheduled stop every four hours. Your body needs energy to accomplish what you want to do so your mind forces you to replenish your nutrients in order for you to continue moving mountains. Food becomes a silent partner instead of a pleading lover.

I know this zone exists because I have seen people who live there. How do you get to this place? I am not sure but one component I know is that to get there, you need to get busy with your life..get active…replace the love of food with the love of what you are accomplishing. I do not know the rest of the way but I hope to one day.

 Are you living beyond your means?

When you balance your checkbook are you happy with what you see? One key indicator of a symptom solver is that they live beyond their means. For some reason, they can’t see what everyone else sees…that you can’t afford to make “that” purchase. Their main enabler is their credit card and they solve the symptoms by making the minimum payments required each month.

Eventually this style of living is unsustainable and will lead to other problems. It affects relationships and health. It forces a person to go to their employer to ask for a raise, not because they deserve it, but because they have no other way to get out of debt.

A problem solver would see the overall situation and know not to put unnecessary strain on the family. The problem solver would have already moved on and not wasted another minute considering the purchase because the future is not hard to predict when you live beyond your means.

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Are there any constant negatives that seem to keep happening around you? Are there things that keep occurring that seem to always bring you down and cause you heartache and grief? If there are, you may find that you are a symptom solver instead of a problem solver.

Take a look around you and see if there is any moss in the trees above you. If there is, can you remove it? You may have to make some tough choices that really get to the heart of the problems around you…some moss laden limbs may have to be cut off…some hard to reach moss patches may have to be sprayed by a professional. Solving a problem requires more thoughts and courage than solving a symptom. It may require more time and money. It may require more faith, guts and discipline.

Ultimately however, when you solve a problem it is gone. Your life has less baggage and issues. Your will find that your joy will be more full and that your sense of accomplishment more complete. Don’t get mad at the moss that needs to be picked up every day. Figure it out. Go to the source. Solve the problem.

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Chewing Gum and Walking at the Same Time Maybe Should Be A Challenge! (Two great mistakes of the multitasker)

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simple not giving the kiss the attention it deserves”
Albert Einstein.

My wife cannot sit still. Her mind is always racing and consequently her body is always trying catch up with all the tasks her mind has told her need to be done. She is the consummate multitasker. Her phone has become the consummate enabler for good or for bad. The picture below of her on the phone while sweeping is typical.

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Being productive is awesome but don’t make the mistake of thinking you are a great multitasker if, when in reality, you are falling victim to the two worst mistakes a wannabe multitasker makes.

 

Mistake One
Don’t mistake being busy with productivity

I love getting things off my checklist and going to bed feeling like the day has been productive. I like to think that I can work on many projects at the same time. When I say, however, that I can process many issues and problems, I don’t mean that I can focus on all of them at the same time. I became very good at prioritizing and delegating so that many problems were being addressed at the same time when we built and operated a water park. But this is not saying that I can do two things at the same time. I do not do well for example, trying to listen to someone talk to me on the phone while someone in front of me is also talking. I can switch gears quickly to another issue but I cannot handle both of them at the same time very well.

When we multitask, the danger is that we mistake the need to get things done right now with the need to get one thing done correctly. It is almost unavoidable that the old story of the farmer trying to feed his chickens plays out at our home weekly.

The story goes that the farmer went out to feed his chickens and while walking across the porch noticed that the step needed a nail pounded back in it. He thought that he ought to go ahead and take care of that before anyone tripped on it so he headed to the barn to get a hammer. Once there, he recognized that his tools were all over the place from a recent project he had been working on so he decided to take the time to clean up the place and get his tools back in order. While doing that he saw his broken screwdriver he had busted the day before and remembered that he had planned on going to the store to buy a replacement. Being efficient he decided to make a list of everything else he needed to get so he could make the most out of his trip to the hardware store. He went back into his house to get a paper and pencil. The paper was easy to find but the pencil needed to be sharpened. He reached in to his pocket for his pocket knife but it was not there. He strained his mind to remember where he had left it and recalled that he has used it the previous day out by his front gate. He walked to the gate to look for his knife almost tripping over the hungry chickens gathering around his feet. Giving one of them a nice boot he exclaimed with stress in his voice…dang chickens..can’t you see I am busy!

Do you sometimes get so many things going at once that you feel like you are sometimes just making a lot of motion without getting anywhere?

A great example of someone who seems to be doing a lot of things at the same time but in reality is doing it in an orderly fashion would be a chef. He gets an order with chicken and steak and salads and beans and desserts, all of which require a certain amount of prep and cook time. He knows when each needs to be started so that it comes out at the right time to be served as a hot meal. He accomplishes multiple tasks because of his experience and by delegating and when the smoke clears you have a nice meal sitting in front of you.

A lesson for the wannabe great multitasker is to not mistake busyness with productivity. When given multiple issues that require your attention, develop a way to prioritize them between those that need your attention and those that can be handled by someone else. Delegate what you can. With the remaining issues determine the priority of each one and the amount of time that may be required. You may be able to send out an email on some issues to get the ball rolling so you can started on other issues while waiting for a response. Then focus all of your energy and wisdom on the one issue right in front of you. Take it to the furthest point of resolution and then move on to the next issue on your priorities list.

To someone on the outside you look like a madman picking up the phone and barking out orders and moving from file to file. But they don’t see, that much like the chef, there is order to your madness. In fact you are giving each issue your 100% attention in the critical framework for when it needs to be solved. When you can apply 100% of your attention to multiple issues during the day you are an effective multitasker. When you handle all of your crisis at once they do not get 100% attention. Though you are giving 100% of you, both you and your progress are stressed, frustrated and ineffective.

Mistake Two
Don’t incorrectly use the label “brainless”.

There are a few things we can do at the exact same time well. For example, chewing gum and walking seem to be mutually executable without taking away from the other…for most people! We can fish and converse with our friend and drive while we listen to good music. We typically can mix what we would call “brainless” activities together and do them at the same time. The problem is that we sometimes mistakenly put the brainless label on things that actually require our attention.

For example, some may feel like you can read the paper or watch TV while listening to your spouse talk about their day. Others may feel like you can go through in your mind the children’s home work projects that require your attention while you are kissing your spouse. We allow these type of multitasking experiences to happen because there generally is not a significant short term penalty for not paying attention. We do not realize however, that damage is being done. It is nearly impossible to focus on two things that need our attention at the same time in a meaningful way.

I remember by example what the leader over my church mission in Chile taught me. Once a month a few of us would have the opportunity to go to his home for training and direction. I was 23 years old and it was time that I treasured with great anticipation. While in his office with just a few other missionaries, he would lead us in wonderful discussions and impart wisdom. Occasionally one of his young children would interrupt our meeting and just barge right in. I watched with great interest as he would bring our meeting to an abrupt halt and focus all of his attention on the child. When he was finished and the child left, he would turn to us and pick up right where we left off, without missing a beat.

I learned so much from that experience. When we handle many issues it is important to be able to prioritize them but first we need to make the correct assessment as to their importance. My Mission President knew what was most important and did not hesitate to prove it to us by his actions.

Recently my wife tried to clean the pool with a long net while talking on the phone. The back end of the pole hit the pool screen throwing her in the pool phone and all. Sometimes we are reminded that what we think is a brainless activity actually requires more attention.

My recommendation is next time your spouse wants to talk about the day or give you a kiss, turn off the TV and stop thinking about the other things on your mind. Pay attention. When your kids come in and seem to be hanging around and want to talk, turn off the movie or stop mowing the lawn and focus on their lives. Pay attention and next time you are chewing gum and walking reconsider what really constitutes a brainless activity. Maybe you can make some improvements at home. At least consider that at times, you or I may be the one that actually deserves that label.

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