I was sitting at my desk the other day pondering a pesky problem that I’ve been having. And frankly, it was all I could do to keep from letting negative thinking about it overwhelm me.
When I went to check my email, my weekly message from my long-time friend Phil Humbert was in my box. The subject line of his email? The Gift of Problems.
How timely and what a great piece that Phil wrote (he puts out some great writing and always has!).
I contacted him right away and told him I wanted to share it with you. He graciously gave me permission so here it is in its original and uncut version:
“When we’re stuck or frustrated, I don’t suppose anybody really likes problems. But problems are the source of wealth, fame, power, progress and most of the good things in life. Without problems, I fear we might still be living in caves. Thank goodness for the gift of problems!
Do I really mean that? Yes, I do! But do I really feel that way all the time? No. I find it especially hard to appreciate problems when I have one of my own!
But the truth is that most of us earn our living by solving other people’s problems. In that sense, while I may be frustrated by my own problems, I am extremely thankful that other people have problems I can solve!
We had a minor mishap with Mary’s car this week. The passenger-side mirror got knocked off, and of course, it has the electric gizmo in it so there was no way I could fix it myself. We had a problem. And since it wasn’t scheduled, and I didn’t want to be bothered that particular day, it annoyed me.
But I noticed the guy at the body shop saw it very differently! Turns out that with his knowledge, experience and tools, he didn’t have a problem at all! For him, it was an easy way to make a couple hundred bucks! What a delight! Lucky him.
In a diversified economy, problems make the world go ’round! When I have a problem with my car, the mechanic makes money. When I have a problem with my computer, the tech guy makes money. When my clients want to grow their businesses, enrich their lives or have difficulty achieving their most important goals, I get a call. Thank goodness for problems!
The truth is, that if you want to make more money, you must (yes, I said, MUST) learn to solve more and bigger problems for more people. People pay to have problems solved.
This is easy to understand when the problem is also a crisis. In an emergency we want a doctor to stop the pain. When they break down, we want our cars fixed. When we’re traveling and need food or lodging for the night, we gladly pay someone to help us out. Those problems are obvious. But when we buy entertainment or furniture for our homes, or even a book to read on vacation, these are also problems we pay someone to solve for us.
Whether your customer is one person called your “boss” or the thousand people who come to your restaurant every day, they all have problems to be solved. If you want them to pay you more, you must find ways to either solve the same problem for more people, or learn to solve bigger or more complex problems. Your income is always a pretty accurate reflection of the value customers put on the problems you solve for them.
Thank goodness for problems!
And as an extra bonus, consider the amazing gifts problems give us, free of charge! Problems challenge us. They stretch us. They make us creative. They teach us things and force us to learn from or collaborate with very smart people. Sometimes I think of problems as God’s gift to the human race!
When we are totally relaxed and comfortable, laying in the sun with no problems of any kind, we are unlikely to be motivated. Sometimes, we even doze off! Without problems we do very little. We invent nothing and build little of lasting value. Only when we are hungry, frustrated, worried or challenged by a problem do we rouse ourselves, rally our resources, and get to work. Problems (and their solutions) have created the world we enjoy every day.
So, do I really enjoy problems? Well, not always. Like most people, I get frustrated or annoyed by unexpected problems. But I do see them as opportunities to learn new skills, to grow, and in some cases, to grow rich! Problems give me a chance to meet people with skills I don’t have, to extend my network, and to learn from people with expertise in areas I can’t handle myself.
I think it was W. Clement Stone who observed that, “Every problem has within it an even greater opportunity.” I think he was right. Examine every problem for the gold that lies within it. Problems make us stronger. They teach us skills, and over time, they make us rich!”
If you enjoyed Phil’s wisdom you can find more of it at: