On Problems and Solutions

Every day we prioritize, and focus based on our goals.

Every day we make choices.

Every day we evaluate.

Every day we are solving problems.

There are as many solutions and answers to our problems as there are sands on the shore. Whatever the ailment, there is a remedy. Of course, there may be side effects. The solution may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or even death but my nose will stop running. In some cases, permanently.

Maybe that solution is a little overkill. It’s possible that I would prefer to be alive with a runny nose than to be dead with a dry nose. That’s my decision. But I can’t say I didn’t have any options.

It all depends on what I am trying to accomplish. How much can I invest? What’s it worth to me? What am I willing to sacrifice?

I can’t reach goals I don’t have. It’s hard to meet expectations that I didn’t know existed. I need a diagnosis before I get a prescription.

Let’s be careful not to put the cart before the horse.

Advice Is Personal

In this age of digital enlightenment, it’s easy to lose sight of the truth that advice is, in fact, personal. Each of us has a lifetime of experiences that have shaped and molded us. Our likes, desires, impulses and aversions have been galvanized by these experiences.

When we receive advice, the giver is speaking from their experience. When we listen, we are listening through the filter of our experience. It’s a volley back and forth as the conversations drive on. Does this person understand me? Do they value me? Do they care? Is the advice relevant? And on it goes.

For me, the moral of this story is to eat the meat and spit out the bones. There is value in the input and feedback of others but I’m not beholden to their opinion. Sometimes they will understand and sometimes they won’t.

The same is true for giving advice. We give advice based on limited understanding and on our experiences. We aren’t talking about simple math but people’s lives that are complex and messy. I used to believe that we could distill life’s choices down to black and white, right and wrong. I don’t think that way anymore.

Now I’ve come to embrace the gray areas. The ambiguous experiences of life. I’ve learned that good can come from bad. I’m not afraid of mistakes because I know I can learn from them.

I have also learned that when you give advice, it’s coming from a personal place. You are sharing a bit of yourself and for that, I am grateful.

Learning Not To Preach

The frustrating thing about words is that they can be so elusive. I know what I want to say. It’s on the tip of my tongue and it’s powerful. If I could get the words out, I’m sure you would be impressed.

Trouble is, I can’t get the words out. At least not in any meaningful way. So, what do I do? I ramble.

My words meander like a stream, growing into a creek, they start to gather momentum as I string thoughts and concepts together, and then they form a mighty river of bloviated thought. A colossal wind tunnel of mind-numbing lecture and platitudes. My sermon reverberates off the walls and echoes off into the ether.

It’s a shame really because these ideas are gold. I just wish that my disciples would take heed of my wisdom. If they knew who I was and if they would drink deeply of my profuse knowledge their lives would bear the mark of enlightenment.

If only they would listen when I spoke. Instead, they are interested in their own thoughts and ideas. My audience is caught up in their own life, coming to terms with their own reality. They have questions and opinions, and they are malleable, if only someone would meet them where they were.

I suppose that’s the frustrating part. In my efforts to be heard, I overlook my audience and focus intently on my message. Instead of my words being a soothing ointment to the soul, they are arrows and pin-pricks wounding and maiming.

I need to learn to listen and ask questions. I think people do want advice, but they want it on their terms in a way that is relevant to them. They aren’t obstinate. Rather they are lost and looking for friends that will walk with them. It’s only when I stop preaching that they engage. It’s when I am listening that my audience listens as well.