High Risk Opportunity Website 

Problem-Solving Handbook




Our life is not without problems, and we can never live a problem free life, as survival is always challenging us with events and problems that require us to respond.  Each day can be divided into contexts.  Our life is a work in program, and the reason we aren’t further along is because we can’t do everything at once and the presence of roadblocks or problems.   There is always unfinished work in progress.  We are always starting projects, usually more than we complete because we get to a roadblock and either don’t know who to get around them or the cost of removing the roadblocks, with the solutions know to ourselves, is too stiff to pay relative to our expected reward.   A typical life consists of ongoing projects and problems.  Both the projects and the associated problems will never end.  “Our work will never be done, but it will end.”[1]


In everyday life, there are usually no clearly right or wrong answers to the problems we face in life, although there may be better and worse solutions.[2]   It is worthwhile spending some time both sharpening our saw, to get our projects done faster, and also, to find innovative solutions that speed us on our way without undo cost and delay.   Most practical problems are characterized by an apparent absence of the exact information necessary for solution.   We find solutions by looking for information that reveals good remedies.      


Problems develop in one of two ways.  In both cases, the goal is to create a desirable end state.  One way a problem develops is that you start with an undesirable state and decide you want to move to a more desirable end state.  Another way a problem develops is that you start with a desired state and some external change outside your control turned it into an undesirable situation.  The goal is to return to the original starting point or desired situation.  In both cases, the goal is the same…the creation of a desirable end state.  The two different problem cases differ only in the way they started.   One case started from the desired state initially, so the goal to return to the same desired state.  The pre-existing conditions of this initial state are already familiar, so when these conditions are recreated, you can presume the problem is solved.  In the other case, the undesired or initial state is also familiar and the goal is to change it to some better and preferred future state.  The goal is to find the best way to go from the status quo to a desired future state.    One solution is to reverse or correct all the conditions that make the current situation undesirable.


Regardless of how the undesired state came about, the goal is to achieve a desirable end state as defined by a preferred set of conditions.    Problem solving presumes that the desirable end state is known and can be described in all necessary features.   What has to be done to solve a problem is to define a way to restore or to create the desirable end state.   Sometimes, the desirable end state can be achieved in multiple ways, and the problem will be solved with the selection of any one of them.  In this particular situation, the resolution of the problem is one of making a choice of the best solution.  


Decision-making and problem-solving are intricately intertwined with some aspects applicable to each.  For example whenever there are more than one way to achieve a desirable end state, decision-making methods are used to pick the best one.   When attempting to create alternatives for creating the desirable end state, problem-solving method are used.   


A problem seldom gets better by itself.  Sometimes it does, but not often enough where waiting is the best solution.  However, waiting is always a candidate solution to any problem.  Countless people who don’t know to fix a problem or don’t want to spend the time to fix the problem use the strategy of waiting and hoping that the problem will fix itself.  Unmanaged, problems tend to go from bad to worse.


When left to themselves, things get worse and only improve with effort.

Andrew Mathews


However one defines a problem, people seem to have a lot of them.   Humans seem to be an animal species with high expectations for the future both in terms of what they want and what they think they can create for themselves.  Most people can imagine more desirable end states than they have time and energy to create.  So, people often decide to accept whatever deplorable conditions they are living with rather then expend the time and effort to improve it.  Only the most compelling of desirable end state are acted upon.  One must always balance the cost against the benefits one would receive by converting from their current state to the desirable end state.


While humans declare that they have many problems, they are also blessed with an abundance of skills and mental capability for dealing with them.  Problems are part of the human condition. Life is a succession of problems.   We will never run out of problems that need to be solved.  Since we are always going to have aspirations, we are always going to have challenges, so we might as well find a way to enjoy solving them.  We will never be without problems.[3]


Enjoy your challenges because you will have many of them.

Dave Pelzer


Since we cannot escape a life without troubles, we should not be surprised when problems find us.  Don’t let problems surprise you, immobilize you, or overwhelm you.   Don’t delude yourself into thinking that problems shouldn’t happen to you either.  Problems are the norm if you are living life fully.  The absence of problems is abnormal, because it means you are living too conservatively.  For people who seek greatness, there will always be trouble in the world.[4]   Expect them as part of the journey, try to avoid them with prudent actions, but handle them stoically when they arrive.   You need to find a balance between having too few and too many problems.   Too few problems is an indicator of unhealthy living just as too many problems is also a warning.   Anyone with too few problems is not living life a little too carefully and overly accepting what is to avoid the problems associated with what might be.


A wise person does not go searching for unnecessary problems that can just as easily be avoided. You should never willingly stick your foot in cow manure nor should you ever kick a skunk.[5]   Neither will result in a desirable end state.   All problems should be associated with some predefined and desirable end state.


Before you can solve a problem, you must know on have one. You have to realize you have a problem before you can deal with it.[6]   Before you can solve a problem, you must be able to define it.   It has been said that,  “A problem that is well defined is half solved.” The reason behind this logic is that once the root cause of a problem is defined, one solution is to remove the root cause.  Without the root cause, the problem is solved and the situation will reverts back into its desirable end state.


Don't just fix problems; eliminate the source.

Morty Lefkoe


In this handbook, you will learn everything you need to know to recognize and define a problem, how to develop solutions to these problems, and how to choose the most cost effective alternative from amongst the solutions you find.    Some people would be pleased with any solution.  Developing many solutions and then choosing the best one is normally the find way to solve a problem.


The problems we face today in virtually every area of life

cannot be solved with the options that exist.

Morty Lefkoe


Whatever the solution to any problem, remember that this solution will not necessarily prevent future problems from occurring, because as most people know, the chief cause of problems…is solutions.[7]  So, you have in incentive to pick a wise solution in that the better solutions have fewer downstream complications.   If many even be better to pay a higher price for the solution if it minimizes the potential for future problems.


Chapter 1 – The Problem Solving Process


Problem solving is a process that begins with a undesirable situation and ends with the situation restored to a more desired state.   In-between the beginning and ending states is the process of problem solving.   In problem solving, the goal is to move from a problem situation to a solution situation.  Along the way, alternative for improving the situation will be discovered and evaluated as to its goodness of fit. 


Problem solving is a cyclical process, because the solution to original problem often becomes the basis for the next problem.  Thus, the problem solving process is cyclical and not a straight line.    


Before the problem solving process can be activated, one must first recognize that a problem exists.   If you don't recognize a problem, you are not going to expend the effort to solve it.   Problems are hard to spot simply because people are good at ignoring or denying the existence of a problem or to conclude that the problem is owned by the people who complain about it.  Problems seldom appear suddenly; problems have a way of creeping up on us.  The symptoms appear slowly and are non-obvious until they are big enough to cause us significant inconvenience. 


Before trying to solve a problem, one must define it to such exactitude that the solution is the reverse of the cause.  “Problem definition requires that a problem be correctly identified and defined or one can waste time trying to solve the wrong set of symptoms.  Typically, the more time we take to figure out exactly what our problem is, the less time it takes to solve.”[8] 


How one represents information needed to solve a problem has a substantial effect on whether one is able to solve the problem.   Information must be presented without bias or distortion.  Good problem solvers present information about a problem as accurately as possible with a focus on the possible root causes of the problem or factors that have the potential to cause the observable symptoms.


Some typical human biases that might limit the hunt for good solution are these. The availability bias is based on how easily it is to recall relevant instances of a phenomenon.  If instances cannot be recalled, they are often considered to be less probable.  However, probability is independent of recent of the event.   Another bias is the belief that correlation or precedence is proof of causation.   Neither correlation nor precedence is evidence of causation, but instead, either could be coincidence or a side effect of some other higher order causation.  Functional fixedness is the inability to perceive that something that is know to have a particular use in one area may also be useful for performing other functions.  Functional fixedness prevents us from using old tools in novel ways to solve new problems.[9]                



To any problem will require resources, time, and energy.  People who are better at allocating resources are better problem solvers.  Smart people allocate time in an effective manner, spending just as much resources as a task is worth. 


As the problem solution is applied, the progress or movement from the initial problem state to the solution state must be monitored closed.  Monitoring and evaluation simply means keeping track of our progress.       

 “Problems with clear solution paths are defined as well-structured problems, whereas those without clear solution paths are termed ill-structured problems.  Real world successful intelligence is the ability to solve ill-structured problems.  Facts lend themselves to well-structured problems.”[10]


For ill-defined problems, sometimes experience with similar problems helps find a solution.  Problem solvers apply heuristics or rules of thumb to pick good alternatives out of the solution space, which is the universe of all possible actions that can be taken to find a solution.             Other strategies for finding solutions for ill-structured problems include means-ends analysis wherein the problem solvers begins by viewing the desired end state and then analyzes what actions would decrease the distance between the current problem state (status quo) to the desired end.      Another way of doing the same think is to start at the ends and work backwards.  Working forwards and then working backwards to find the solution path between the beginning and ending points often is insightful.   The intent is to generate alternate courses of action, executing the most promising of the lot, and then noticing whether any brings the outcome closer to the desired solution. 


Many problems can be solved in more than one way, and often the way we view the problem is shaped by cultural contexts.          Often times, it helps to reframe and redefine the problem in as many different ways a possible.  Sometime, an obscure perspective often if the one that leads to an innovative solution that would have been discovered with a prior problem statement.


If a problem defies solution, give the problem time to idle.  Incubation is a problem solving tool that places the problem aside for a while and then coming back to it later when the problem solvers are better able to view the problem from a new perspective or with fewer constraints.  Incubation seems to work best if we invest sufficient time upfront in exploring the problem and possible options.         


 Chapter 2 - Problem Definition


A problem must be understood before it can be solved.  One way to ensure understanding is to write a verbal description of the problem.  The value of spending time in understanding a problem is the solution hints offered in the description of the problem.


The solution to every problem is hidden in the description of the problem.

Jut Meininger, How to Run Your Life


A problem must be owned before it can be solved.  If a person denies that they have a problem, what they are saying is they are willing to live with the conditions they have.  If you don't deal with problems, they don’t necessarily go away, and if them seem to go away by themselves, perhaps it’s just that they went underground.[11]        


Only people have problems, because only people have future intentions and expectations that they desire to fulfill.  Once a person envisions a desirable future, they want to achieve it.  The problem becomes one of finding a way to “get from here to there.”  If you are fully satisfied with how things are, then you will not have a problem to solve.   You only have a problem if you want something you don’t have and don’t know how to get it.   If you do know how to get what you want, then you don’t have a problem. Instead, what you have is a decision to make.


One has a problem if they can’t get what they want out of life with the tools that they have at their disposal.   Solving a problem begins by confirming that there is a problem.   A problem by definition is an undesirable state of affairs that persists despite our best efforts to solve it.  Before charging off to solve what one initially thinks is a problem, one should begin at the beginning and decide why the focus of their attention is problem to begin with.   “Problem-oriented and explanation-based theories focus on what is wrong with a person or what went wrong in the past.  Solution-based therapy highlights what is right with the person and what the person can do right now to change things for the better.”[12]   Which perspective is best depends on whether you want to prevent an undesirable future or create a desirable one.


Not everything we consider a problem needs to be solved and even then not necessarily by us.  “The first step in solving a problem is to determine whether there is a problem at all.  The second step is to determine who owns the problem.”[13]  Sometimes, assigning problem ownership is most difficult part. “The age of hierarchy and speculation is colliding with an age of complexity.  All too often, the bothersome issues and problems we face fall between the cracks of the organization chart.”[14]           Even if someone finds a problem, to whom will it be assigned for ownership?  Without an owner, is there really a problem?


If you don’t know how to get what you want, then you have a problem.  A problem implies a deficiency somewhere.  So, until you are aware of an unmet need or deficiency, you don’t have a problem.  Only when you realize the deficiency do you have a problem.   So begin solving a problem, you must be able to define this deficiency.   Sometimes, just defining the deficiency is enough to solve it.  By removing the deficiency, the problem is solved.   Thus, a problem well defined is half solved.  “The first step in solving a problem is to determine whether there is one at all.  The second step is usually to determine who owns the problem.” [15] Very likely, the person who becomes aware of a problem also owns a part of it.


If one has a desirable situation that they want to maintain, and then something changes to cause that situation to become undesirable, then one can say they have a problem, especially if they don’t know how to recover the prior conditions.


One has a problem until they find a way to solve it.  If one lacks knowledge or know-how, the best way to begin a search is by formulating the right question. “Questions bring knowledge. Do we learn from experience or do we experience because we know how to?”  Either way, time spent in formulating questions helps not only organize an intelligent search for answers but also might even encourage looking for the answers in the right places.[16]   “Your questions will lead you to the answers.[17]     


Part of the solution to a problem is asking the right questions.

Richard Carlson (Don't Worry, Make Money)


A problem well stated is half solved.

Charles Kettering


The proof of an answer can be found within the problem.       

The Secret of Happiness by Billy Graham

 Problem Responsibility


Only people own problems.   For every problem, there must be a owner who is most effected by the problem and who is sufficiently motivated to do something about it.  The first order of business, if a problem is found, is to identify who owns the problem.  Logically, the people who suffer from the consequences of the problem own the problem.   The people who identify a problem that is affecting them must decide what action to take if any.  Some people will choose to live with the problems if the consequences are small and the cost to solve the problem is high.


The leaders in organizations who define problems in the organization will own these problems, but yet they will ask other specialists to solve it.   People assigned to solve a problem sometimes have not even experienced the problem. The people assigned to solve a problem seldom feel the pains of anguish from it.  Hence, they are less motivated to solve it as the people who suffer from it.  People who are assigned to solve problems rarely have the same problems as the people whose problems they are trying to solve.[18]   This puts the absentee problems solvers at a disadvantage, because their perception of the problem may not fit the perception of the problem as seen by the people who are suffering from it.  Only when the perceptions of the problem owners and those assigned to remedy the problem are the same is there some assurance that the real problem will be solved.


Everyone alive has and will have problems…we will always have problems.[19] Humans have problems, because our wants exceed our needs.   God created humans to have aspirations and He also has equipped us to solve them.   Most problems have solutions, because all problems have a beginning and ending point.  The solution to a problem is figuring out how to get from the beginning point to the ending point.   


Since only people can have and fix problems, they should choose their problems wisely.  Pick only problems you are motivated to solve. If you can life with a situation, this is the easiest course of action and the default options if you choose to take no action.   Some problems suffer more from lack of effort than lack of solutions.[20]  While solutions abound, they require time and effort.  Any resources spent on remedying one problem takes time and energy away from others.   Due to a limitation of time and resources, you need to choose your problems carefully.


Problem Definition


God has no problems, nature has no problems, and only humans have problems.   God’s world is perfect, and we humans would see it as perfect if we only had God’s perspective on things.  Humans have problems because we can visual a better future and we want to attain that future for ourselves.  When we have difficult getting it, we declare it a problem.


Problems are a matter of definition.

C W Sooter


What makes some problems mysterious is their elusive quality.  Often, what at first appears to be the problem is often not the problem.  The external problem is rarely the real problem.[21]   What we experience is often just the symptoms of the problems.  We are tempted to believe that removing the symptoms will solve the problem.  In fact, most problems are best solved by eliminating the source and not at the symptoms.   Once the root causes of a problem are discovered, only by eliminating them can the problem be solved. 


Only real problems can be solved.[22]  A problem is real only if you think it is.  The confusion over what is and what is not a problem is ultimately a personal definition.  If a situation bothers others, but it doesn’t bother you, then the situation is not a problem.  A situation is a problem only if is it undesirable and intensely so.   Once you declare a situation a problem and declare your readiness to solve it, usually a solution can be found.


Once a specific problem is pinpointed, it is fairly easy to solve them.[23]  In one sense, a problem is viewed as a deficiency between what one has and what they want.   To the people who have the power to resolve that deficiency, not only for you, but also for many others, this problem is an opportunity.   Thus, one man’s problem is another man’s opportunity.   A problem is an opportunity in work clothes.[24]   “Sometimes, obstacles and problems are just opportunities in disguise.”[25]             The best opportunities are those that are found in problems, because once you find a solution, it can be copied to solve the same problem in others.   For example, the problem of getting around from place to place could be viewed an opportunity to fix the transportation system.  Everyone wants movement to be faster, better, cheaper.  Those who solve this problem with a better product can make a good living selling the solution to others. If the Reward-to-Risk ratio is favorable, you can make money buying other people's problems.  And you can do it with a leveraged buyout.[26]


Sometimes, the tough problems we face today cannot be solved with the present technology or options available to us.[27] Completely new and unfamiliar options are needed to solve the tough problems.  In time, as new technologies and innovations are developed, the old problems that were partially solved are now capable of a more complete solution.    However, be forewarned that technology can solve all problems.  “History illustrates that technology and economic growth have little impact on complex human problems.”[28] They just tend to cause as many new problems as the old problems they solve.  Take nuclear power for example.   We derived a solution to energy problems but it added the problems of nuclear war and the dangers of nuclear contamination. 



Also, solutions become easier when we view them at the higher-order needs levels, as there are more ways to solve problems when we try to fix them closer to the source.   For example, many people quest for more self-esteem via recognition from personal achievement.   Thus, the chain of need stretches from achievement (perhaps from an award) to recognition (public acclaim) to self-esteem (feeling worthy and capable).   Once one recognizes that the need for the award is for self-esteem, they could consider other easier ways to respect themselves such as simply acknowledging their special talents.


Some problems are the result of an external change that resulted in an undesirable condition.   Had the external change not occurred, the undesirable condition wouldn’t have happened.  The best time to deal with problems of deteriorating conditions is before they happen.   Wise choices reduce the number of problems we are forced to deal with.  The second best time to deal with problems is when they are small. The bigger a problem grows, the bigger the solution required to solve it.  Solve problems before they grow bigger and more troublesome.[29]  While some problems do solve themselves in due time, time is in control and not you.  Wisdom is knowing when to act quickly and when to wait patiently.


Some views on problems are both interesting and empowering.   For example, consider this definition.   Both problems and opportunities force us to bring out our best efforts.  In this definition, has a problem is no different than an opportunity since both are self-defined.  Both are just something to do and when you decide to do it, you decide to do as best you can.


A problem is a chance for you to do your best.

Duke Ellington


Mistakes, Failures, and Assumptions


One common source of problems are caused when something you are working on doesn’t go according to plan.   There is some sort of deviation in the action plan that must be corrected.   Since people are not perfect, they are going to make mistakes.  Mistakes result in an undesirable present condition that must be remedied so that the project can proceed according to plan.  Mistakes must be acknowledged before then can be corrected.   If a simple solution exists, take it.  If not, then use the problem solving process to invent solutions and then pick the one that best solves the problem for the least cost.  Then, learn what you can from the mistake so that it will not be repeated.  Then, move on. 


When you make a mistake, admit it. 

Otherwise, you only make matters worse.

Ward Cleaver (Leave it Beaver TV show).


 Mistakes are nature's way of telling you that you are wrong. Experience is the name that everyone gives to their mistakes.[30]  Results from what we do are the lessons we need to learn so we can build our skills base.  Our mistakes communicate the lessons that we need to learn so that the next time, we will make not make the same mistake.  Mistakes are a costly but often times unavoidable way to learn what can not be learned any other way.  Each mistake is a valuable lesson in what not to do.


People who are busy trying to accomplish something are always making mistakes.  The best mistake to make is a small mistake.  Sometimes, small steps are good because they limit the consequences of mistakes.  So, must people are trying to move forward while at the same time trying to fix past mistakes.   No action is perfect so we must spend some time correcting them.


If you aren’t making enough mistakes, you probably are trying very hard to accomplish anything difficult.  The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.[31] To get anything worthwhile done, a few mistakes will be made long the way.  View mistakes as corrective feedback to get you back on track.[32]


Do not be afraid to take on challenges that can bring good to you and others.  Just don’t go into something blindly for eventually you will run into trouble.[33]  A little awareness goes a long way to preventing mistakes, but once trouble finds you, take action right away. Trouble comes to everyone, but it need not means that problems cause you unhappiness.  Problems just means that we must do a little more than we bargained for to get what we want.  Our problems should be a source of joy because they mean we are making progress on our goals.  Just don’t allow external circumstances from separating you from happiness.   If you allow circumstances dictate your life, you will never rise above them.[34]


A more severe form of mistakes is one where the entire venture is imperiled.   Failure is an extreme form of a problem.   Failure means you didn’t achieve success on the first try.   Failure is like a problem in that it must be corrected, otherwise the failure stands as permanent.    It make take more trials that what you initially imagined.   You must be prepared for failure until you finally find the magic formula that yields success. 


While failure is hard on one’s ego, the risk of failure must be accepted to make progress. Failure simply means you didn’t succeed and must try again.  Don’t failure crust your confidence.  One must be prepared to fail their way to a successful solution. The fast way to succeed is to double your failure rate.[35] The more things we try, the more failures and also the more successes we will have.  The toughest problems without known solutions can only be solved the hard way…by trial and error. You may be disappointed if you fail, but you won’t make any progress in life if you don’t.  The worst form of failure is not of a project but of not trying and not achieving desirable future states. 


Failure is not fatal.  You have failed in the past, you are failing in some things now, and you will fail in the future.  Everybody fails somewhere and in some way. Most people succeed despite their failure. The biggest failure is not reaching a goal but failing to set a goal.  Failure is not fulfilling your dreams but failing to have dreams.  Failure is not falling down, but refusing to get back up.[36] You have not failed so long as you have not given up, so don’t give up.  There are solutions out there waiting to be found. Just ask this question to find interesting solutions, "What would God use to solve this problem?”


Don't worry about tomorrow's problems, because we can't fix them today.  Instead, fix today's problems so that we will be clear of them tomorrow.[37]   Sometimes, looking at problems we can't fix is exactly what God wants us to do, for eventually, God may use us to fix an un-fixable problem.




Another source of problems is change.  No matter how comfortable we become in our situation, in our comfort zone, there will be changes that rattle our cages. Change will never be comfortable.[38] Everything in this world is a moving target.[39]  What we aim for may not be there when we arrive. Life is not predictable, so, remain prepared for change.[40]   Not all change is bad change.  People want change but only changes for the better.[41]   Whatever its source, some change is good and some is not, but change will happen.  The issue is how you choose to deal with it.[42]  One other advantage of change is that it gives you new choices. 


Besides external changes, we may be the source of change when we seek change for our own good.  Change is the way to self-renewal.[43]  Our circumstances change when we change.[44] Sometime, we are guided towards change so that we can make a greater difference in the world.[45] It is not our experiences that shape us but our own responses to them.[46]


Without change, tomorrow promises to be more of the same.   If you want more than what you have now, you will have to institute some changes.   Once you decide on change, prepare for it.   Change without preparation can be painful if you run into situations you are not ready to handle.   To change successfully on your own, you must let go of the old notions of how things are “suppose” to be and remain ready to embrace/grasp the way things are now.    If you choose to change, try to do so in small increments.  The easier change is a small change in direction.   It is easier to change direction that to reverse direction.[47] Many smaller changes are better than a few massive changes, because small is easier to manage and easier to correct things that might go wrong. 




As technology and knowledge progresses, the complex replaces the simpler prospect of a solution.  The more complex the tools we use, the more chances of things going wrong.  And when they do go wrong, they are harder to diagnosis and fix. 


Complexity means problems are no longer simple to fix.  

C W Sooter

 Moral Transgressions


Sometimes we develop problems because of the things we don’t that we shouldn’t.  Sometimes we do it to ourselves.   When violate norms, conventions, and the mores of society, and we are found out, we will bring scorn upon ourselves.  Fixing social problems are among the most difficult.  When we transgress, we learn more from pain than pleasure.  Our creator is often giving us feedback and telling us no when our transgressions are caught.  Our conscience and social problems are telling us when we are headed in the wrong direction in many subtle ways.   Deep within us, we know when we are straying from the path of righteousness.  We cannot say we were not aware that what we were doing is wrong, because inwardly, we know.   When you stray off course and become morally lost, you have a problem.  Fix morality problems first, as they are the basis of all else.


All moral transgressions start with a small drift that gets bigger over time.  Where you've been tends to determine where you are going. To live a well-lived life, you must be headed in the right direction.  What direction am you headed? Make sure you are marching in the right moral direction that brings pleasure to all.  We get off tract a little at a time, drifting until we are so far off track, we are lost. At all times, check your spiritual course to make sure you are still on track.


But is also to get started while the fire of passion is hot and the way ahead looks favorable. Before taking a risk, educate yourself, and then just do it.   Mentally prepare yourself for some disruptions along the way to your goal.  Trust yourself and the creator to help get you through the tough times when they come, for they will surely come.


People admire those who take risks.

Victor Kaim


Chapter 3 - Solution Criteria


If you have a problem, and you implement a solution, how would you verify that the problem has been solved?  After a problem has been identified and accurately defined, then some way of measuring that presence or absence needs to be developed.  Normally, one can tell if a problem has been solved if the offensive symptoms are removed.  But some problems run deeper.  So, it is beneficial to declare at the outset the conditions that must prevail before a problem can be declared as solved.  The conditions are called solution criteria.


 Benchmarks and Criteria


The best way to define the decision criteria is to describe the desirable future state (that the solution is intended to create) in enough detail as to verify that it has been achieved.   Another way to measure solution effectiveness is to list all the undesirable conditions associated with the status quo.  Once these conditions are eliminated or moved to the desired equivalent, then the problem is declared solved. 


Once you have defined what conditions must be achieved to declare a successful resolution of the problem, you know what to focus you effort on.  After you have defined what constitutes the problem, you can begin to fashion a solution around the conditions that must be present to attain the desired results.  There can be no focus unless one knows what to focus on.    No focus without commitment and no commitment without focus. Focus, concentration, and commitment are the keys to an effective life.[48]  Decide in advance what you are going to pay attention to. Don't major in minor things.[49]


What we focus on gets better.

Doyle Surratt



When in doubt, seek guidance from higher authority or persons of higher expertise. Where there is no guidance from a higher source, the people will fall.[50] Guidance on what to do is just as important as guidance on what not to do.[51] The more you seek and ask, the more wisdom you will find to help fashion a solution to your problem. You cannot sail in the ocean by looking at the horizon; we need to use the stars in the sky for guidance.[52]




Common standards exist to measure the goodness of any solution, and they depend on the specificity of the problem situation.   Most industries have a documented set of standards to measure the quality of defined job (solution).  Take welding for example.  A good weld meets the specified and measurable standards defined for the specifics of the job.   Set high standards for your solutions but not so high that you can’t find any solutions.   Doing less than you are capable is to waste your talent and purpose. Don’t use a substandard solution when with a little more work, you can have a better one. Maintain a high standard by avoiding compromise, nonconformity, and complacency.[53]


In most aspects of society and industry, “off the shelf” solutions already exist for most common problems.  These standard solutions are already proven and ready for use.  Most can be tailored to fit nearly any problem situation and can even be improved on to make them better.  Sometime, multiple solutions can be combined by taking the best parts of each and constructing an innovative fresh solution that is better than any single standard.




No solution can override our moral values and still be considered a viable solution.  The propriety of the means we use are just as important as the ends we achieve…solving the problem.  We want to use good moral means as part of any good solution that solves the problem.  If the solution violates our moral values, then for all practical purpose, the solution is not a viable solution.


Your values tell you what is important. Life is too value to waste on unimportant matters. Not everything is of equal value. Define your values in advance so that you always have them to guide you through life. Values control your destiny.  Your quality of life depends on the quality of your values. Values clarification reduces stress and supports the achievement of success and salvation.[54] Many of our values are temporal and only important in this life. The more important values are transcendent to any life that exists beyond this one.  The ultimate test of a value is whether it will endure the test of time.[55]  These are the moral values that we must use to judge the appropriateness of any solution we propose.   The greatest things in life are not possessions or creature comforts for they can all be taken away from you, and in the end, they surely will.  


Chapter 4 - Framing the Problem




One may think they have a problem and proceed immediately to find a solution.   The risk they take by rushing to a find a solution is that the solution may not solve the problem and/or the solution may not be efficient.   A good solution not only solves the problem but it is also the least costly and easiest to implement.  


The highest form of discovery requires problem finding.[56]  There are always problems in various forms of manifestation.  Some problems are just beginning to make itself known while others have been hanging on for years waiting for a remedy to be found.  Only after a problem is defined, can they be solved. The better you know the problem you face, the better you can target the solution. So, the first step in solving a problem is to explore the problem.  All aspect of what makes a situation a problem needs to be researched.  The boundary between what is and what is not the problem needs to be identified.  The deficiency or gap between what is desired and not desired needs to be defined in as much detail as possible.


The better that one knows the problem, the easier it will be to find good solutions.  In a future chapter, you will learn how to perform a root cause analysis to define the conditions or deficiencies that are causing the problem and also what must be done to remove these casual conditions.   Either causal conditions are present that should not be present or enabling condition that should be present are not present.  Once these causal or enabling conditions are removed or restored, the problem is likely to be solved.


If the addition or removal of causal factors does not completely solve the problem, then it means that there is still other causal factors that remain hidden.   The search goes on until all the causal factors are found and reversed.  When the last causal factor is fixed, the problem is solved.  You will know when this happens because the decision criteria will be used to measure either the presence or absence of the desirable conditions that a solution is expect to usher.




When a problem remains unsolved, and the proposed solutions does not bring the relief that was expected, it means that the problem has not been properly defined.   You can gain new perspectives on the problem just by reframing or seeing it form other points of view.   In fact, the more widely varying ways you can perceive the problem, the greater the likelihood that you will find new and innovative ways to solve it.  


The best solutions are found when there are many different solutions to choose from.  If you can only find one solution, there is a good chance that you have not tried hard enough to understand the multi-facets of the problem.   Most problems have more than one face, and other people who suffer from the same problem may offer a glimpse of how it looks from their point of view. 


Us reframing to collective different views of the same problem so that you can formulate solutions that are fundamentally different.   More solutions to choose from means more chance of finding one that will work.


Insight and Understanding


Problems are explored for one primary reason, so that you can understand the problem well enough to devise an effective solution.  With insight and understanding comes wisdom.  Wisdom does not come form cursory investigations but only after having wrestled with the problem for some time and from multiple perspectives.  Write as many problem statements as you can imagine.  Each one is a source of possible solutions.  


The better a problem is understood, the easier it is to find a good solution.



Chapter 5 - Perception


There is no single way to view a problem.  Each person could presumably view the problem differently since a problem only exists in the mind of the beholder.   From perception comes understanding and the ability to envision different ways to solve the problem. Genius means little more than the facility of perceiving in a new. unhabitual way.[57] The truly inspired idea is the one derived from thinking outside the box most people live in. Inspiration calls you to transcend the ordinary, allowing one to see better possibilities than usual. It pulls us out of our shell of self-absorption.  Get inspired by introducing positivity into those who are involved in a creative tasks.  Doing so is like sharpening the saw; it makes the work go much faster.




When people lack information, rather than stopping in their tracks and researching for it, then tend to maintain their momentum by making up plausible answers for what they don’t know.   Sometimes this is done deliberately with intent of backtracking and filling in the missing information at a more opportune time.  Most of the time, people form assumptions unknowingly and proceed as if they were true.  Built into any statement of a problem is likely a whole host of assumptions that the problem-solver is unaware they have built into the description of their problem.  You must start any problem-solving situation by listing all the facts and all the assumptions about those facts or the facts that have not been verified and are being carried forwards as assumptions.  Just by making assumption listing a habit, you can avoid many problem-solving mistakes.  You cannot solve a problem until it has been corrected stated.  A problem statement with erroneous assumptions built into it will often cause you to search for solutions in the wrong direction.  “Unexamined assumptions underlie statements prefaced by the words,  ‘Of, course…’ or ‘As you know…’ The assumptions and context in which the problem is experienced permeates the understanding of the problem whether it is recognized or not.  Almost any remark one person makes to another, or thought to themselves, has the potential to contain assumptions which provides a hidden incentive, meaning, or contract which may or may not be fulfilled.”[58] Fortunately, once the assumptions built into a social contract, problem, or decision are recognized, you can now challenge, verify, and correct them. 




Everything is a possible solution to something else.  Everything we can imagine can be created but perhaps not by us in our lifetime.  Someone at sometime will likely figure out how to generate what you can now only imagine.


God gave humans the ability to image the future and He also gave them the power to create those conditions. Everything flows out of our vision.  The person who is best qualified to fulfill their own vision is himself or herself.


I am the person who must qualified to fulfill my own vision.

Doyle Surratt


Hope and Optimism


We not only have visions of a better future, but we have hope that we will be able to create that future.   No matter what it is that we want, the situation always get better when we respond positively.[59]  If there is no open door to enter for one desirable end state, then look for a door leading to some other desirable end state.  Look for the open door that leads to new possibilities.[60] There are many doors that wait to be opened.  Keep opening them and enter only those that offer the best opportunities. The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.[61] The opportunity is lost as soon as it becomes obvious to all.


Hope and optimism are far better than their opposite…discouragement and pessimism.   Not only do hope and optimism allow us to travel through our adventure on a set positive emotion, but also we are motivated to take positive action to attain our desires. 


Nothing is more dangerous as an idea when it is the only one you have.             Ask solution-oriented questions to solicit suggestions from others.            Get yourself into a solution-oriented mindset.  Instead of seeing just the problem, begin spending more time imagining possible solutions.  Switch from problem-oriented thinking to solution-oriented thinking.[62]      


No matter our circumstances in life, we can always have hope that the best is yet to come… if not on Earth, then in life ever lasting. The world is calling out for hope.  If you can give another person hope, you have done God’s work.  Give the people what they want, be a messenger of hope.[63] Hope keeps us on track to doing good works in the name of healthy desires. You become what you invest in.  If you invest in the positive, you tend to be rewarded with positive outcomes. You will be welcomed more if you are a messenger of hope to people everywhere you go.[64]




With each new perspective, the world looks different.  From some perspectives, the problem ceases to exist.   What is wrong with making permanent the perspective that a problem doesn’t exist? If there are many good perspectives, then try to see the world from God’s perspective.  You might just see the perfect solution, one that your human eyes might never have seen. The more we understand the world from God's perspective, the more we understand and accept what takes place in the smaller picture of our individual lives. Putting problems in perspective simply means seeing the problems from heaven’s perspective.


Perspective changes how you view your circumstances

Doyle Surratt


If, by your perception, you view your plight as unfair, undeserved, or unjust, then you simply don’t understand the situation.  God and nature are neutral, and everything is exactly the way it is suppose to be.  If you want things to be different than they are, then you must objectively do what is necessary to change them. 


Chapter 6 - Ends and Means


Problems can affect either a desired end or the means for achieving the desired end.  Knowing the difference between means and ends can give the decision maker more choices in solving a problem. 


It is important to know if a problem affects a desired end or just the means to some higher order end.   If the problem affects a desired end, the problem must be solved in such a way that the desired end is achieved.  However, if the problem affects a means to an end, then the problem solver has more choices as to how to deal with it.   The decision maker could choose to solve the problem by fixing the means.  Or the decision maker could abandon the means with the problem and move to another means that could also achieve the desired end.




The end results of all our actions are designed to achieve a specified end result or goal.    Similar to cause and effect, we take actions to cause good things to happen in our life.    The means are the causes and the ends are the desired effects.  Most of the time, when we are faced with problems, the problems really deal with a means and not the ends.  To give an example, suppose that a neighbor forgets to come by and take you to the airport for a vacation flight.   The ride to the airport is a means, and not end by itself.  The real reason you want to get a ride to the airport is so you can catch your flight on time.  You could try to fix the means, perhaps by calling and reminding the friend to pick you up.  However, it might be more effective to focus on what the means was trying to accomplish, get you to the airport on time.   It might be easier to fix the ends than to fix the means.  You could pick another means that would be just as effective in achieving the same end.  You could call a taxi to get to the airport.  The point of this example is that we tend to focus too much on the problems associated with the means and not giving enough attention to the ends. 


Perfection of means and confusion of ends

 seems to characterize our age.

Albert Einstein


Always know what ends you seek and mindful that riders often change horses when they throw a shoe to get to where they are going on time. the   Recognize that many different means can lead to the same end.   If problems develop with one means, you can always shift to another means and still get to the same ends. 


Be firm on ends, but flexible with means.

CW Sooter


The more aware you are of the ends you seek the less distracted you become of the means you pick to get there.   Don’t let the means devours so much of your attention that you forget your ends.   A bad beginning can be redeemed, but an bad end cannot.[65] No matter where you start, if you find God, you will have a good end.  The important thing is to have a good end.  However, a good beginning and a good journey are also important.


Never put means before ends.

Doyle Surratt


Even more important is to be mindful that you can’t get to some ends with the wrong means.   For example, you cannot meet non-financial ends with financial means.  Ultimately, all means and all ends are directed to your purpose and destiny as defined by your creator.




We get to desirable ends by developing an effective action plans to get there.  Each action plan is considered a means to get to the end or desired result.   Sometimes, the action plans require us to do things that are beyond our normal practice so there is some chance that the work will not hit the mark the first time and have to be redone.  These mistakes and errors are not problems per se because their remedy is to redo them the right way. 


If a particular means is proving to be intractable, then you might consider replacing with it another means.  Instead of trying to fix a means that is proving unreliable, the better way to fix a problem is to shift to another means instead.   


Chain and Linkages


The linkages between means and ends can product long chains.  All means must lead to an end.  But the chain may not stop there.  While a means lead to an end, the end itself just lead to a higher level ends.  In effect, the ends at one level can become the means to higher order ends at another level.  If were to trace any means-ends chain to its highest level by asking the question, “Why do I want this?’, you discover quite a long chain end with intangible objectives such as personal identify, fulfillment of purpose, self-realization, etc.    At any point in the means-end chain, one can turn into the other.  Thus, if a problem develops at any point in the chain, the problem solves has one extra option to consider.  First, the problem can be fixed at the point in the chain where it occurs.  As an alternative, the problem-solver can move up the means-ends chain and see if there are other means that would lead to the same end within the chain.  If there are other means and they are easier to implement than to fix the means that is experiencing the problem, then switch to a new means.  The extra option of switching means has saved many an ends.  


Chapter 7 - Constraints and Boundaries


All problems have solutions.  Some solutions may be out of reach for humans because of limits of power and know-how.  Some solutions may be out of reach because humans decide they are not appropriate due to morality, convention, habit, rules, etc.


Any problem with restrictions eliminates some solutions from consideration. Some constraints are right and proper, if to use them meant that some moral codes would be violated.  Some constraints are arbitrary and therefore debatable as to whether they have value.   The fewer constraints on picking a solution, the more solutions that will be available to choose from. 


One aspect of our personality that has a strong impact on our ability to think outside of the box to a more expansive view of possibilities is our degree of optimism or pessimism. Negativity and neutrality constrain our experience of the world.          A easy way to promote creativity and aid problem solving is to bolster the team’s positivity and sense of optimism.  Optimists are better problem solvers for two reasons.  First, they are unconstrained in where they are willing to look for solutions.  Second, it is the person who thinks they can solve a problem that will take the extra time and work harder.    So, before beginning a search for possible solutions, which requires one to take extremely divergent views, get into an optimistic mood by find ways to stimulate your positive emotions.


Restrictions and Constraints


If you can’t find a solution to a problem, one likely reason is that there is a rule, restriction, or constraint preventing their selection.  So, an early step to solving a problem is to examine the unexamined rules as to what is and what is not permitted as a solution.   Some common restrictions for solving problems include cost, time, manpower/resources, know-how, legality, etc.   Check and double check to see if any of the supposedly inviolable rules, restrictions, or constraints can be adjusted to permit additional solutions. Rules can prevent one from solving many a problem.


There are no rules here -

we're trying to accomplishment something.

Thomas Edison


We really have more freedom of choice than we permit ourselves.  We hold back and have excuses to protect us from our fears.   We act as if we have more limits than we really do.   We consciously and unconsciously bound ourselves.  Constraints are the boundaries of our choices.[66] Our constraints represent the boundaries we choose to live within.[67]

What you tell yourself about your limits, will limit what you try to do and the solutions you don’t think about trying.  You need to remind yourself that you are not constrained by your past but carry the potential to be whomever you have the God-given potential of becoming.[68]   We can break through whatever boundaries that constrain us by acknowledging that they are there and then stepping boldly beyond them.




Some problems are caused with causes create effects that are undesirable.   Rather than putting up with these new effects, one decides to alter them either by finding and removing their causes or creating new causes that ameliorates the undesired effects. 


Other problems are caused by barriers that we hit as we pursue our goals.   To attain our goal, we must stand ready to face and remove the roadblocks or barriers we will find standing as obstacles in our way.   “So much of our journey is learning about and removing barriers.”[69]  The successful person is the one who best knows how to solve the problem of barriers.  Removing a barrier in front of a goal is nothing more than traditional problem-solving, which is the focus of this handbook. 




Assumptions are similar to rules and constraints in that they are all representations of the real world but not necessarily a true form of the real world.     Assumption are temporary placeholders for information that you are lacking until you can confirm or replace them with accurate information.   Assumptions are necessary to proceed with any decision-making or problem-solving process, because all information needed is seldom available when you need it.  The problem with assumptions occurs when you begin to believe they are true before you confirm that they are true.  At best, assumptions are close approximations, but hardly facts that you can rely on.


Continually reexamine your assumptions, because most of them are flawed, incomplete, or completely wrong.[70]  Some assumptions suggest you can do something when you can’t and some assumptions assume you can do something when you really can’t.  Always know implicitly your assumptions and don’t mix them with confirmed information and facts.  When problems arise, they often arise from our assumptions.  Most problems do not come from what we don’t know but what we think we know but isn’t so.[71]   So, always make an effort to check out assumptions early so that they don’t become a source of problems later on. If your views and assumptions of reality are flawed, then your strategies for success are also probably flawed. [72]  Whenever you must make assumptions, make them as close to a probable reality as possible.  In other words, be conservative in making assumptions…but not too conservative that you discourage yourself from making a valiant effort to get what you want out of life.


Do not become trapped in the web of your own assumptions.

Doyle Surratt



Another source of problems are predictions about the uncontrollable future.  Since we don’t know how the external environment will affect our plans and actions, we must prediction the future in order to create it.   Thus, predictions are very similar to assumptions in that we use predictions to make our assumptions.   Often, a person must take an action to force the future to reveal itself.   Some outcomes cannot be predicted until they happen.[73]  Thus, only until our plans get to that future will we really know for certain what that future will be.  As much as we would like to be about to create our own future, our span of control is limited.  However, preliminary actions can forces a potential outcome to reveal itself.


Sometimes, future events happen to us that turn out so spectacularly better than our predictions or assumptions that we are astonished beyond belief.  At that moment, we realize just how much we don’t know and how the hand of our creator can be placed against the forces of nature on our behalf.  


Limits and Boundary Conditions


The laws of nature and God define where we physically and morally cannot go.  The laws of man define where we should not go if we want to avoid penalties.  Then, there are laws that exist in our mind of what we ought not do to avoid psychological distress.  All these source act as boundary conditions to our choices.  From many directions, our choices are pen us into narrow corridors.   


In a sense, these boundary conditions protect us from harm that we might do to others and ourselves.  For example, the 10 Commandments were meant to be liberating, not restricting.  From whatever the religious or spiritual source, there are moral dos and don'ts.  Do the dos and don't do the don'ts. They provide good and reasonable boundaries and tell us how to live with freedom within them.[74]   Within these boundaries, we are free to make choices and life our lives as best we can.   While the boundaries restrict, they also protect.  So long as we stay within the boundaries, we are safe from harm.  All choices remain constrained by our boundaries…if we let them. 


There are times when to stay within our boundaries is the wisest choice, but not always.   Boundaries restrict as well as protect.   We want to be safe but we also want to be free as well.  When to stay and when to venture from our boundaries is itself a choice, one that should not be taken lightly.   The irrational fears that keep us restricted to safe harbors should never limit us.  Humans are like ships, we were meant to roam the waves and not side safely within harbors.


As a general rule, if your mother or God would not be proud of what you are planning to do, then don’t do it.[75]   If what you propose to do is noble and God honoring, then we should not let our fears and self-imposed boundary conditions restrain us. We must do what we can within the confines of our limits but we should always try to expand our limits.  Examine all self-imposed limitation to see if they are truly legitimate or whether they are just excuses to keep us just a little too safe…like a ship in the harbor.


Habits and Ruts


Another action inhibitor beside your beliefs is your behavioral habits.  Habits are decision shortcuts.   Once someone has found the most effective and efficient way to accomplish something, they tend to repeat this success by doing what works over and over again.  Habits are useful, because they reduce the number of conscious decisions we must make each day.  We go through most of our day performing the actions we performed yesterday using pre-programmed behaviors automatically.   Habits are a blessing in disguise, because they make us efficient and effective.  However, not every routine and habit is beneficial.  Bad habits are without merit, of course, but we repeat them because they are comfortable, and they do get the job done.  Sometimes, it is a job that doesn’t need to get done or it is done in such a way that it leaves more problems in its wake.  If a habit is not serving you well, it is worth the time to replace it with something better.   A minor investment in reversing or replacing bad habits will pay for itself manifold each time that you will use it in the future and reap the benefits of a better outcome.   Any behavior that is repeated over and over without a useful purpose or a good outcome is a waste of opportunity for what could be good habits. 


Instead of repeating the same old habits that may be part of the problem, try linking new actions to break of the old problem patterns.  Find something you can do every time you have the problem, something that will be good for you.   Become solution oriented.  Concentrate on solutions and not problems. Think solution, not problem. Whenever you seem to be stuck with an insolvable problem, experiment and try something new.  Do something different, just one thing different to break the pattern of the problem.  Notice what you are doing when things get better, and do more of that. One of the quickest ways to change behavior patterns is to find something you already know will work, and do it even if you don’t like doing it.  Find and use already proven solution patterns.  Import some solutions patterns from other situations in which you felt competent.[76] 


Chapter 8 - Questions and Answers


A good question is sometime better than a good answer, because a question leads one to explore their possibilities.   Without the question, there would be no answers.  What good would an answer have without a question.  To know what one needs to know is important and begins a search for the answer.   An answer is only found when there is a question that awaits an answer.




As we become aware of what we don’t know, we are tempted to start thinking about to much too soon.  Before investing time in thinking about what you don’t know, start by formulating a well-stated question.  The narrower and more focused the question, the easier it is to direct one’s thinking to get an answer.  Most people start thinking in generalities first without having a sharply defined question.  As a result, they may cover considerable ground, but without questions, it is unlikely they will come up with specific answers. Generalized questions never lead to answers.  Only specific questions lead to specific answers.[77]


Knowledge is nothing more than answers to specific questions.

CW Sooter


Successful people ask tough questions of themselves. People don't know what they don't know.   Don't be afraid of not knowing.  Wisdom is in asking the right questions and then waiting patiently until the answers start to flow. A good question to ask is what is missing in our life that isn't there because we have yet asked for it? [78]  An even more important question to ask is “What is my purpose in this life that God has equipped me uniquely to do and if not done by me might never be done?”   The significance of your life will depend on the answer.  You will become as great as your biggest aspect of your purpose or as small as your biggest desires.[79] You become as big as the questions you ask.


The only person who knows all the answers is our creator.  We seldom get direct answers from this source, but we are better able to find them for ourselves if we ask.  While only God is capable of answering all our questions, but only answers a few, because our ability to understand is limited.[80]   But many are answered when asked properly.


A key question to ask whenever you get stuck is where to get help.  Ask others for the answers you seek and let your quest be known to God.  Prayer can never hurt and may even help is nothing more than understanding what you seek more clearly.  Do not pray for God to solve our problems outright, but instead, pray for the strength, wisdom, and courage to solve our own problems based on divine insight.            




Knowledge is nothing more than the answers to questions.  Answers give you relief from a quest for understanding.  But an answer must be associated with a question, otherwise, there is not value added by the answer.  An answer without a question is like getting rest without fatigue.   Answers are less important without the question.  If you were told the answer is 32, how much smarter are you.  Without a question associated with an answer, you are no better off.  But at least, with a question, your awareness is alert and can make some intelligent guesses as to a probable answer, hence the value of predictions and assumption.  A good percentage of the time, they are right. 


Humans are smarter when we think and search for answers to well defined questions. Most people already know the answers they seek.  We are often the answer to our own questions.  And sometimes we can see the answers to other people’s problems when they can’t even see the problem.  


What keeps our answers from becoming our solutions is the fear that if we are right, we will have to do something with the knowledge our answers present.   So, don’t pose a question or present a problem if you don’t want to know the answer or solution.  You are better off not knowing than knowing but fearful of doing what you should with the answer.   We should hold ourselves accountable not only for the questions but the responsibility to implement the answer if we find it.  You always want to be a frame of mind where to know is to do. 


Continue to pose the question until you get an answer.   “Creative people do not rush to a solution.  They can live with uncertainty and ambiguity.”[81] You can always make up an answer based upon your own intuition and wait until you get some confirmation before you proceed to take action on it.  How much confirmation do you need?  The requisite confirmation of an uncertain answer depends on how urgent and important it is that you get started.   Just like assumptions, you could elect to get started with the good intention of confirming the assumptions as you go.  Likewise, if the need for action is compelling, you can always start and force reality to reveal the answer.   If we are lucky, God Himself may reveal answers to us that we alone would never figure out for ourselves.  If we remain alert for God’s answers, we are likely to get it in unseen ways at the right time and when we are most ready to receive His answer.[82]   While we may have an answer, we may not have “the” answer.  When we don’t have the answer, admit it to ourselves and to anyone else who is likewise dependent on the answers.  If nothing else, you can always be prepared to give an answer of hope for the common situation we share.  Keep hope alive that answers will be found once the question is understood.

 Chapter 9 - Root Cause


Whatever the situation, it exists for a good reason.  “Things are as they are usually for a good reason.”[83] To fix what you don’t like about any situation, you must find the reasons that cause the situation to exit and change them in such as way that results in a new and more desirable situation.  A problem is nothing more than a situation that is undesirable.


A problem may display many symptoms.  But the symptoms are not the problem.  Whatever is causing the problem is the problem.  One can remove all the symptoms, but if the root causes are not removed, the symptoms will only reappear.   So, the search is always to find what is causing the symptoms.  Once the causes are found, the solution is simple…remove the causes.




There are causes, and then there are causes.  There are causes you can see and then there are causes you can’t.  There are causes behind the causes.  If you are going to search for the cause of a problem, you will need to search very deep for the hidden and often most important causes.    One warning is appropriate.   Just because an event preceded an effect, it does not mean that it is the cause.   Precedence is not cause as it’s occurrence could be entirely coincidental or accidental.  “Correlation does not entail causation.”[84] 


Once you identify every probable cause to a problem, you are in a position to remove them.  By removing the causes, you will eliminate the problem.  How many of the probable causes need to be removed is uncertain.  You may not need to remove them all, just the ones that provide the conditions so that the problem exists in a form that causes the symptoms that are undesirable. 


If you continue to investigate these causes in depth, you may find the real source of the problem. In other words, the causes may be more like symptoms than causes.   Even if you were to remove the first level of causes, the problem may still persist because the cause of the cause remains.  In short, what the problem investigator is looking for is the root cause.  Only when you find the root cause will you permanently solve the problem.


As you search in depth for the root cause, the difficulty of removing the deeper causes could get easier or harder.  What one is seeking is the complete causal chain beginning with the root cause to all the influential causes and finally to the symptoms.  Somewhere along this chain is a “break-point” where if you break the chain at that point, by revering or removing one of the causes in the chain, then the problem will be solved. The ideal “break-point” is one that is the easiest to control.


You need to pick the problems you want to solve well and it requires time and effort to investigate just to find the causal chain leading to the problem.  And then, it will take and effort to eliminate the “break-point” cause.  Some problems tend to call to unique individual to solve as they tend to have an affinity to seeing causes that others cannot see.   In each of us are unique skills that make us better in finding and solving some problems better than others.  So, it your investigation of a problem becomes an overwhelming challenge, then it might be best to find someone else is better at sniffing out problems of this type.   Get the right person on the case, and the problem can be solved much faster.   Sometimes, knowing where to look is the key to the solution.


Somewhere out there are unsolvable problems that you are uniquely qualified to solve, and part of the reason you are created is to solve them.  Find your problem of destiny and you have a career waiting for you.   Step out fearlessly into the causes, challenges, and problems that God wants you to champion. 


Root Causes


Behind the causes are other causes.  If you follow the causal chain far enough, you will find the root cause.  By definition, the final cause is the only one you cannot ask the question, “What is causing this cause?” and get an answer.  By definition, there are no further causes behind the root cause except perhaps that’s the way God wants it.


The root cause is found by starting with the symptoms and asking the question, “What factors might be causing them?”  Continue asking this question of any answers you get.  Interestingly, as you continue to probe deeper, the number of causes tends to narrow.   And most often, when you can’t answer the question any further, there is usually only one answer.   If the problem is one of business or organization, the root cause is usually management or the leadership.  If the problem is a personal one, the root cause is usually some aspect of ourselves that we fear…that somehow we are not good enough.  If the problem is something physical, the root cause is usually one of the laws of physics.  Whatever the source, there is an advantage to tracing the initial statement of the problem to the root cause even if when you find it, there is nothing you can do about it.


Even though the root cause might be intractable, somewhere down the chain of causes, you will come to one cause that can be influenced.  The ideal influence is the ability to take some sort of corrective action to remove the causes influence on the next cause in the chain. Fixing the cause at the “break-point” then becomes the solution to the problem.  You can verify that the removal of the “break-point” cause will fix the problem by predicting the impact of the correction on the next set of causes in the chain. If the next tier of causes is not triggered by the “break-point” cause after it has been corrected, the problem is likely to be solved.  By going to the heart of the matter and solving it first, all else will fall into place.  Focus on the crux of the issues - the critical factors upon which success rests.[85]


Power to Remove Root Causes


We get the most leverage to solve problems at the root cause, if it can be influenced.  The second best leverage point for solving a problem is at a “break-point” cause that is closer to the end point of the problem.  Anyone can be power if they find a point in the causal chain that they can correct.   A little investigation and ability to remove the cause and the problem is solvable. 


Power comes from insight and awareness but only after some investigative work.  It may all seem so easy, but causes are not easy to spot and they remain elusive and hidden in the shadows.   They are only found with diligence and hard work.  Teaming with others makes the job easier as more possibilities are seen with many eyes.  To solve the toughest problems, you need to team with God and accept his powers. When times get tough, draw closer to God.  Your circumstances are never above God's power.   When backed into a corner, stand tall, walk straight, put a smile upon your face, and hope for the best.[86]


We are at our best when we stand before our problems and

do not bend under the weight of the burden.

Jim Dyke


Our highest power is available to us when our projects are intended to serve others. Power is revealed in the context of relationships. Alone, we are weak.  Only collectively are we strong.   Any power that you possess is good when it is used to do good.   Power goes bad when the person who has it thinks it is for them.


Power is better when it is offered than when it is sought…for it means that others trust you sufficiently to give it to you.  Use your power not to control but to influence. Power is not about controlling other but in changing the world for the better. Power means being responsible to others for the good that we do or don’t do with it.   The power inherent in our uniqueness and God-given talents is the ability to become who God wants us to be. There is no more powerful action we can take than simply being who God wants us to be. Power is just selfishness unless used for the benefit of others.[87] Power unused is wasted. Only God can only handle some of life’s toughest problems.  Don’t exclude the spiritual power available from the heavenly sources.


You don’t have to understand God to receive his power.

Mick Ukleja

Wisdom and Understanding


The ability to solve problems is based on wisdom and understanding. All understanding comes from our creator who gives us the ability to understand and to be wise.   God is the ultimate source of all understanding.  You can only know who you are relative to who God is and what purpose you were made for.[88]  When you begin to understand who God is you begin to know who you are.


“The more understanding you have, the more understanding you are.[89]”  We do not need more knowledge; what we need is more understanding. When you receive wisdom, apply it to the full extent of your understanding.  If you don't understand what you are to do in your current situation, then you have not come to know anything important.


Some understanding is not found in knowledge, but in the faith of your purpose.   Wisdom is the ability to make good choices about the way we live our lives. Become wise about what is good.  Only allow the good thoughts to enter your mind.    Those who become wise are happy.  Wisdom is knowing when to change and when to adapt. A man of wisdom and understanding will be able to make more changes than he finds. People become great not from ability but from durability in the service of their purpose.  Wisdom is gained by sharpening, stimulating, and renewing of our minds.  Acquire wisdom by opening the mind, feeding new ideas to the mind, exercising the mind, resting the mind, and inspiring the mind.  Love wisdom; it will make you great. Wisdom is a moral skill in knowing how to live your life well.    Knowing God and His purpose for you results in every other kind of understanding.   We will never know everything we need to know about living the good life separated from our purpose. Wisdom ultimately leads to satisfaction with life and peace of mind. [90]          


Chapter 10 - Invent Solutions


Going into problem solving mode, you can be encouraged by the knowledge that for every problem, there is a solution.  The solution may not be to your liking but it will not be an effective solution unless it is better than doing nothing or living with the status quo.


For every problem, there is a solution.        

Richard Carlson  (Don't Worry, Make Money)


If the problem doesn’t belong to you personally, but instead, the problem is owned by an organization of which you are a member, then you need to be both a problems and solution finder.   It is one thing to find a problem, but once found, the problems needs a solution.  Usually, the people who are in a position to see a problem are also in a unique position to offer a solution.  If you personally find a problem, then because of your vantage point relative to the problem, it likely gives you an advantage for seeing what solutions might be effective for solving it.  “Do not point out problems without providing solutions.”[91]   Since people don’t like problems, being the bearer of bad news is not likely to gain you favors.  However, if you can present some possible remedies at the same time, you become the savior of the situation.


If you don’t see an obvious solution to a problem, then you need to investigate to find the root cause or source of the problem.  Once the source of the problem is identified, the solution is to remedy or fix the sources.  The root cause or source gives you a starting point for inventing solutions.  Any action that will remove the root cause should solve the problem.   Problems get fixed when the cause is found and fixed.  However, there may be several ways to remedy the cause that needs to be considered.  Other causes up and down the causal chain might be worth considering if they allow one to fix the problem faster, better, and cheaper.


Corrective Actions


To solve a problem, you have to fix the cause.  Sometimes, the causes have rules associated with them of what you can and cannot do to them.   If these causes are to be fixed, you may have to break some of the rules.   To think like a genius, you have to break the rules.[92] Many solution lies outside the boundaries.


Beside whatever rules that might restrict good solutions, there is another barrier to some solutions.  It is the contest between good solutions that are fast and easy and the great solutions that take more time and results in the pride in ownership.   The choice between the good and great solutions is one of personal taste.  On the one hand, the real objective for fixing a problem is to get ride of the undesirable symptoms and/or to restore what use to be.  A good solution solves the problem.  A great solution not only solves the problem but also give you more than what you had before. Good solutions are often seem to be the enemy of the great solutions, because many people are so eager to get relief from the symptoms that they will implement the first workable solution they find.  Recognize that one must choose between the varying solutions that are identified. So, choosing between the good and the best is really one between the marginal benefits received by the great solution relative to its extra cost and effort.  To pick, you has to move to a decision making process.  However, the skill in finding many good and great solutions is what problem-solving is all about.



Good ideas are the obstacles that great ideas must overcome.

Scott Thorpe

 Vertical Thinking


Vertical thinking is typical of the way most people think.  They start with the problem and immediately start thinking of possibilities for solving it.    While vertical or forward thinking gives us clues as to what to do next, it doesn’t always lead to breakthrough solutions but instead, the more ordinary plain vanilla tried and true solutions.

While vertical thinking will put some traditional solutions on the table, the more innovative solutions are normally found by engaging the right or creative side of the brain.  Start thinking in shades of gray.[93]  Many good solutions exist between the extremes.


Nothing is as difficult and rewarding as thinking.   Not only do you become what you think about, but your thinking supports your decisions and problem solving skills.  When you come to a time of need, think clearly with you best abilities.  Think about your life and its purpose.  Don't let your emotions ruin your decisions by deciding in haste and in anguish.  Take time to think things through.   What you think really does matter to the quality of life you live. 


Part of thinking is controlling what enters and leaves your mind.[94]   What thoughts come into your mind eventually come out in your life, so choose your thoughts carefully. If you find that the wrong thoughts are coming at the wrong time and in the wrong way, then it is time to change your thoughts. Every thought either moves you closer or further apart from your purpose. [95]


Use vertical thinking to chain-link your way from a starting point, usually the problem, to an end point, usually the solution, by moving logically from one thought to the next logical step.


Lateral Thinking


Lateral thinking does not proceed logically step-by-step.  Instead, lateral thinking seeks relationships and connections between things.  By identifying relationships between parts of the problem and other unrelated objectives, the problem-solver becomes aware of aspects of the problem and solutions that were previously hidden.   With higher levels of insight, one is able to invent more innovative solutions.  For example, if one were searching for innovative ideas for closing two ends of a connection to keep them attached, they might pick an noun-objective and try to find linkages that spark new ideas for solutions.   Suppose they picked a common burr (those little objects that stick you your clothes when you go hiking), because there is some suspected attribute of the burr that allows it to attach to clothing.  Upon further thinking, you might discover that the microscopic tentacles on the burr have little hoods that grab hold of other objects to attachment themselves.   By further thinking, you might conclude that if two objects with hooks would have even more bonding potential.  Thus by investigating the connections and similarities of two different objects, you might discover some interesting solutions.


 Brainstorming by Comparison and Analogy


The biggest breakthroughs in finding solutions have occurred when one has studied the problem for some time with vertical thinking and then switched to lateral thinking to find new paradigms with which to perceive the problem or solutions.  Innovatively search for breakthrough connections between known problems and hypothetical solutions. Most creativity stems from connecting previously unrelated material.[96]   By connecting the previously unconnected, new perceptions of the problems emerge with fresh avenues for solutions.


Remember that the presence of optimism or positivity greatly expands one's creativity.  Positivity is a good investment when a group needs creativity.  If you are the group leader, it pays dividends to take the time to put the team into a positive or pleasant disposition before starting any brainstorming.  


Even seemingly significant breakthroughs are not born perfect.  Nothing quite new is perfect.[97]  Every new creation will have small bugs that need to be worked out.  Every solution should be refined towards perfection.  To improve any solution, start with vertical thinking to remove defects or shortfalls in a solution and move to lateral thinking for even more innovative refinement.


Tailored Solutions by Removing Causes


The first place to look for remedies to a problem is the root causes.  There are likely to be many ways to remove the root causes.   The goal is to find one that is elegant, in other words, a solution that is faster, better, and cheaper.  Apply the two methods of thinking, vertical and lateral, in devising as many different and varied approaches for eliminating the root causes as possible.  The best solutions are normally found when many solutions have been found.


If common, standardized solutions exist for a problem that has arisen in the past in a different occasion, and most problems have been seen before, include the prior solutions to the list of candidate solutions. Use models, routine, patterns, and templates to save time and avoid mistakes.[98]



 Every false solution or steps should be regarded as an opportunity to learn what can be done better and not necessarily the end of the project or solution. [99]  Even mistakes have the potential to lead to fresh ways of seeing the problem and what it takes to fix it.   


We are blessed with opportunities to move from a live that is well lived to an even better life, and also, opportunities to fix and remedy what is not so good about our life.   Most actions that we take on our or others behalf lead to the good or at betterment of a situation.   We should always be in search of ways to improve our life.   We are responsible for managing the opportunities that God has given us. Look for opportunities to positively impact our own life and that of others.  If we can so something that requires little effort but yet makes a big difference in the life of another, we are obligated to do so.  Not all opportunities are created equal; some have significantly more potential than others. 


If we focus on what is not right, we will fail to see all what is right.   The best part of our life is what lies ahead.  We are not chained to the past but are given never-ending chances to live and create a different, better future.  If we fail to do so, there is no one to blame but ourselves.  The opportunities are there.   All of life is an opportunity - an open door for us to walk through.[100]  Imagine the good things God has planned for you.[101]


Be ready for when the big opportunity arrives, it will be too late to train for it.  Look past the dingy exterior, because all opportunities come disguised as problems and hard work.   You must be able to imagine what the opportunity will look like when it is finally shaped into the potential that it contains.   If you can see the opportunity, it is likely that God has opened your eyes so that it can be seen.   Look bask our own background noise - our selfishness, failures, fears, and limitations.  If the door to opportunity is to be opened, we must open it.   God provides the door, but we to open it ourselves. [102]


Redesigning Our Life

No matter how good or how bad a life is, it can always be better.  With a little imagination and initiative, you can build a better life for yourself.  A life like your dreams and free of problems that might be plaguing you now.   The best life is one that is connects to your purpose.  Each of us has a unique life plan, a purpose that allows us to serve one another for the good of the world and ultimately ourselves. 




We can recognize a good solution when we seek it because we can’t wait to implement it as soon as we can.  We become enthusiastic and hopeful.  Our hesitations and fears evaporate.  The ideal solution is what we are all looking for, because we know that when the solution is good, God is answering.[103]  The best solutions seem to are divinely inspired and we sense a closeness to our creator when we discover them.


When there is no solution to be found, consider breaking the rules.[104]   Move to solutions outside the box when the traditional solutions don't work.  The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when they were created them.[105] Intractable problems may only be solvable by the problem-owners by adopting new values of what is important.


If a problem seems impossible, it doesn’t means that it can’t be solved.  An unsolved problem just means you haven't found the solution yet.[106] There is a solution for every problem if you would just let go of the restrictions that would make them possible.  There is a solution to every problem.[107] For every problem, there exists a solution.  However, if a solution is morally unacceptable, then it is unacceptable.  To break some rules would make a solution easy, but the temptation should be avoided God’s rules should never be broken.   There's always an easy solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong.[108]   The easy solutions are often the wrong solutions.  Don’t expect nature or others to solve your problems for you.   You have to be the solution to your own problems.  While you can seek assistance, the responsibility for solving a problem that affects only you rests with you.   Don't expect the other person to be your solution.[109]   Lasting solutions normally require struggle, because quick fixes tend to be short fixes.  


Chapter 11 - Evaluate Solutions


One many innovative solutions have been constructed for removing the root causes, the final step before implementation is to choose the best one.   The best solution is the one that achieves the desired future state and does so faster, better and cheaper.  Any solution that creates a better desired future state should receive credit for its opportunity potential. 




To evaluate solutions to a problem, you are attempting to find out which of all the contenders should be picked for implementation.  The reason for finding more than one solution is to have a choice.  Some solutions are better than others in terms of “faster, better, and cheaper”.  A solution is satisfactory if it solves the problem or either achieves the desired future state or removes the undesirable aspects of the current situation.   A solution gets extra credit if it does more than the minimum.   For example, if a dim light bulb goes out and you replace it with a higher wattage bulb, you have not only remedies the undesirable state but improved the conditions that existed before.


A good solution is both quick and cheap to implement.   Each solution will have advantages in one aspect or anther.  If you find one solution that dominated all the others on the aspects of “faster, better, and cheaper”.  Then it is the one that should be selected.  However, most solutions will be better on one attribute or another and few better on all.   What you can do at this point is to eliminate all the obviously inferior solutions.   If any solutions are dominated by other solutions, in that it is inferior in terms of faster, better and cheaper, then eliminate the inferior solutions.  


 Marginal Analysis


You can compare one solution to another by comparing each solution on each of the important considerations that you desire a solution to possess.   Normally, faster and cheaper mean the quickness and cost of implementing the solution.  However, the effectiveness of the solution in achieving the desired future state may have multiple attributes.    Each symptom of the problem might be a separate attribute, if they are independent.   You will have to use a decision making process at this point to compare the relative merits of each solutions.  


If you are lucky, you might be able to short-cut the evaluation with a marginal analysis, where you take what seems intuitively like the best solution and then compare it to all the other solutions.   With a marginal analysis method, you are comparing the first pick against all the “challengers”, one at a time.   First, compare the two potential solutions on faster, then on cheaper, and then on effectiveness.   If one or the other dominates (is better on all three categories), this solution is selected.   If there are cross-impacts, where one is better than another on one and the other is better on another, you use marginal analysis to decide how much better is the difference.  In some cases, the difference is not enough to make a difference.   If the differences are small, then ignore the differences.  If the differences are enough to make a difference, then you need to note (documented) them.    The touch part of the selection is making the trade off between the marginal differences.   You need to describe the difference in a way that will allow you to make an intelligent comparison.   In short, you will compare the relative strengths of one solution to the relative advantages of another.  Since this a choice between just two solutions, you only need to choose whichever one has the strengths that are most important to you.  One you have made a choice, the loser is discarded and the winner becomes the new defender.


You follow this process by taking a fresh solution, which now becomes the challenger, and make a direct comparison using the same marginal analysis.  Only the differences that make a difference are noted (documented).  Then, you will compare one solutions set of advantages to the other.  Each time, you must choose one of the two solutions based on which one offers the better overall set of marginal advantages.   This process is repeated until you come to the last untested solution and it goes head-to-head against the surviving defender.   If in doubt as to which of the two is better, choose in favor of the prior survivor or current defender.  The challenger should only win if you are relative certain that it is better than the defender.


Living Margin


Some people life with such a full schedule/agenda that they have little room or flexibility for opportunities or to fix problems.   Margin is the excess time that we have available in our schedule to handle anything that pops up without an appointment.  Margin is the difference between our limit and the load we bear.[110]   People who live to the limit of their resources have no reserves to give when events deviate from their plans.  Without margin, problems are going to make things very stressful, as you will then have to decide what activities on your schedule to defer in order to make room for fixing problems.  Life is easier when you build margins into you life.  If you let it activities will expand to fill the time available.  A good part of life is enjoyed in the margins, when we relax between our activities.  Build more margin into your life so that there is room for interruptions.[111] 


Stress comes from the lack of margins to handle the unplanned events that randomly erupt to demand attention.  If you are stressed now, it just means that you need to build more margins into your life: money, time, and energy. Pad your life with margin so that you have time to eat and drink and enjoy what you have earned. Create margins - prune activities, find extra time, schedule free time, live within your means, and practice giving.  Do whatever you consider to be the “have-to-dos" as quickly as possible so that you have more time to spend on the "want-to-dos".[112]




Seek leverage in doing wherever you choose to do.  With leverage, you can complete all that you choose to do quickly.  Besides leverage in action, the highest form of leverage lies in our thinking.    Some thoughts are more beneficial than others.  Optimism trumps pessimism.   Positive thinking dominates negative thinking.  Hope prevails over despair.  While all thoughts are possible, not all thoughts are beneficial.  Seek thoughts that leverage your life, and rid yourself of all others.[113]  Also, when we join forces with our creator, we become invincible. 


Simple, Obvious Solutions


If too solutions are equally effective, then we should pick the simpler of the two.  While we all want simple, obvious solutions, and there are many to be found, but we need to accept them carefully. Seek simplicity and then distrust it.[114] Sometimes, the simple solution has aspects that we don’t understand, misinterpret, or didn’t anticipate.  So, before we pick the simple we seek, we had better take a second look to see if there isn’t some angle we are missing. If you listen and watch, you're in a better position to see the obvious.[115]  If a solution is made exorbitantly complex, we run the risk of more problems developing as we attempt to implement the solution.  Those solutions will excess complexity should be simplified wherever possible.   Less is more.




As we mature through the hard-earned wisdom from solving problems, we often find confirmation of our purpose.  We often get a sense that our creator is leading us somewhere through our problems, almost like the problem was put in our path so that when we solved it, we arrive at just the place God wanted us to go.   Our creator often unveils and reveals his plan for us through the problems that He allows us to solve.    When God allows us to see a problem, it most likely means that God wants us to solve that problem.  What God reveals to us, we are responsible for doing.[116] Whatever God wants us to do, it will be revealed to us in either an opportunity or an opportunity disguised as a problem.  When our purpose is revealed to us, it then becomes up to us to do what we know we should do. 


Chapter 12 - Select Solution


The end result of evaluating all the possible solutions that have been generated to remove the root causes of a problem is to pick the best one.  The best solution is usually not known before all the candidates are evaluated.   After evaluating all solutions remaining after removing the obviously inferior ones, the best solution is selected as the solution. The runner up solutions can be retained as backup options in case the primary solution develops difficulties of implementation that were not anticipated. 




The best solution is usually the simplest and most obvious solution.  One insight is worth a thousand analyses.  Become a master of the obvious, and you will never be wrong.[117]  If you can identify the common denominator, the bottomline, the reason behind the reason, you will usually be right in diagnosing a problem.  Before you rush to implement, beware the simple but wrong solution.  Always double check for what is also obviously missing.   The too simple solution has the potential for unintended consequences just as much as the too complex solution.




Flexibility is an advantage to a good solution.  If one aspect of the solution doesn’t fit, then you could try another aspect of the solution.   Flexibility in a solution is a form of leverage in that many options exist within the same solution. To gain flexibility, focus less on the world outside and more on your values and purpose.  Spend more time, strengthening your character and broadening your perspective.[118]


One thing you should never change or allow to be flexible about are your principles.  The solutions you pick are the means for removing the undesirable aspects of a situation and they should reflect the values of the decision-maker.  How you do what you do says as much about your values as what you choose to do.  The values of the creator are timeless and never change.  Likewise, if you choose to change your values, you should only do so for good reason.  If your values were wrong to begin with, then change them, but once you get them right, keep them.  How do you know you have the right values, by the fruit that they bear.  Good values bear good fruit. 


Another aspect of flexibility is knowing when and how to bend without breaking. You become more flexible as circumstances loosens its hold on you, as your character strengthens, and as your awareness and perspective broadens. When circumstances change, you can also change by bending in the direction of change without breaking. Be flexible but committed to your values.  When you can’t move forward, change your approach.  Remain flexibility with the means but stay firm to your ends. Learn to bend without getting bent.[119]


Two major sources of problems are change and past solutions to previous problems.  Since we can’t avoid change, we can’t avoid problems.  Change is not the choice; how we handle change is the choice.  Don't let undesirable aspects of our life spoil those aspects that are desirable. Don't let what you don't have spoil your zest for living.  Don't let what isn't (the past) spoil what is and don't let what is, spoil what isn't (the future).[120]




You have been given free will to make choices.  All choices have consequences, even though some of our choices tend to blind us to their consequences.   We may come to believe that some choices only have positive benefits, so we make them, only to discover that they also have some down side consequences as well.  We tend to give a blind eye to the adverse consequences and are quick to deny that bad things can happen to good people.   All choices should be make after careful consideration of all the consequences, both the good, the bad, and the unknown.


The most important decision for the problem-solver is in deciding which problems to work on and hopefully solve.  We can’t solve every problem in our life let along those of the world.  We must actively choose what problems to remove from our life and at the same time, we actively choose what opportunities to add.[121]  We can't do everything, so we have to choose what to miss out on in life.[122]  So, we must be selective. The second most important decision is which of the good solution to select for implementation.   So make these choices carefully.[123]  When all is said and done, more is usually said than done.[124]  The result of a problem-solving effort is that pesky problems get resolved and life gets better.  Since your thoughts drive everything you will or won’t do, choose your thoughts carefully.  Let go of those that do not serve you well.[125]  Repeating bad choices allows them to take control over your life. Soon the bad habits take control and begin to make the choices for us - bad choices.[126] 


Define yourself by intentional choices related to your purpose and not by chance on a day-to-day and moment-to-moment basis.   Move from random patterns and habits to specific purposes.[127]  Our choices are not always between good and evil, but more often, the choice is between the good and the better.  Always choose the option that you know will give you better outcomes.   Most good choices are those that God would have you do.  


Satisfaction with life is a choice, just as happiness is a choice.  It is easier to be happy when there aren’t problems in your life causing dissatisfaction.  Responding positively rather than negatively in any situation can prevent most problems with other people.  For example, anger is a choice, and this behavior normally causes problems with other people that will later have to be resolved.  Anger leads to trouble, arguments, mistakes, foolish actions, and alienation. Clearly, anger is not the right choice.[128]  Since, most of our negative emotions cause problems, none of them are a wise choice.  We need to program ourselves to respond with kindness instead of anger, because kindness leads to good results.  Our decisions will normally lead to good results if they are spiritually correct. If we have motives that are not honoring to our values and prevailing spiritual virtues, then we will know in our heart that the pending action is not right and reject it.  We should never be ashamed of our motives, as this a telltale warning to go in the opposite direction.  Even though God guides us, He forces us to struggle with our decisions so that we might come to own them.[129]   It is nobler to decide for ourselves the right thing to do than to be directed.


If you reach a crisis point in trying to solve any situation, turn to your spiritual power for answers.  You can either choose to live life with or without a connection to your spiritual nature.  While you might be able to live well alone, you could live even better connected to your spiritual source.  Not only is your Higher Power a source of guidance but also a source of inspiration for endurance, persistence, and acceptance. There will come a time when everything important will boil down to a single choice - allowing God to help you overcome circumstances or be overcome by them.[130]   God's solution to your problems will be better than all any other earthly option.[131]   If you don’t know what they are they you have not yet asked.


Some of our best choices are made in the advance of need for them to be made.   Decisions based on our values are pre-made decisions, as we have decided not to take any action to violate them. Pre-determine important choices before you have to decide. Determine in advance what choices to say yes to and which to say no to.[132] There is pride in knowing that when the time comes, you have already decided to make the right choice. Intelligence and knowledge are useful, but with disciple they are to no avail.  Knowledge alone is not enough; only good deeds performed according to your purpose counts.  Knowledge puffs up, but love of purpose lifts us and fills us up with a life of significance and meaning. 



Chapter 13 - Implement and Test Solution


After a solution to a problem has been selected, the last and final step is to implement it.  If the root cause was correctly identified and if it was successfully removed by an action plan, then the problems should be solved.  If not, then the residual symptoms become the new problem.   The lack of success in solving the problem could be due to either a failed implementation or a hidden root cause that still remains. If the solution was properly implemented and the perceived root cause was removed, then a persistent problem means a contributory root cause still remains.  If you fail to implement the solution, then the means selected to eliminate the root cause failed and another method to remove the root cause must be selected.  In either case, you have more information than you had before about both root causes and methods for removing the root causes.   This information will be useful if decide to make a second attempt to solve the revised problem.


Implement Solution


All solutions for removing a root cause must be implemented before the causes of the problem can be eliminated.   The means for implementing the solution becomes a project with a set of tasks and a timeline to completion.   When the project is completed, the conditions for the root cause to be eliminated must be present.  In short, the root causes must be eliminated.  A solution that is implemented does not necessarily mean that the problem will be solved. It means that the identified root causes have been eliminated.  If there other root causes remain, then some or all the symptoms will remain. 


Test Solution


Once the solution is implemented, you will have results.  Either the symptoms of the problem were removed, and the problem was solved or it wasn’t.  All the symptoms many have been removed or just some of them.  In a worst case, some new symptoms might appear.  


Just just removing some of the causes never solves a problem.  If some of the causes remain, then some forms of the symptoms are likely to remain, and hence some portion of the problem remains.  To completely solve a problem, all the causes must be removed.  Hence, the importance of finding all the root causes and then removing them.


Proof and Verification


You will know the solution worked, once it has been implemented, if all the serious symptoms that make the problem undesirable have disappeared.   Otherwise, the problem remains partially unsolved.




Once the symptoms of the problem are eliminated, the problem can be declared solved.  The problem-solving challenge is completed.  At this point, you can shift your resources either to other problems or other opportunities.


As long as we live, there will be problems waiting for us to solve and opportunities waiting for us to conquer.   We are done with our work only after we have done all we capable of doing relative to our purpose.   Since we all pursue individual and unique purposes, handed to us by God, we need not be completion with anyone.  We are in partnerships with everyone. With God, we are all perfect.  We are not here to compete with others but to complete one another.[133] Whatever is missing in you in present in someone else.


 Knowledge and Understanding


Every time you use the problem-solving process to solve a problem, whether successful or not, you will learn something important.  To the extent that you learn and capture these lessons, they will serve you in the future.  The better you understand the lessons that life teaches you, the more prepared you are for the life coming to you in the future to both avoid problems and deal with them when they come. 


Consider every successful solution to a problem a gift from God.  Even though we think we did it our self, most solutions are divinely either inspired either in the act of solution or in the capabilities we inherited.   The highest form of knowledge is knowing God. Knowing God changes us, and we cannot escape what we know.[134]   Knowing God results in all other understandings.[135] Knowing God is the beginning of wisdom. While we cannot know what God knows, we can know what God asks of us.[136] Cannot separate knowing from doing.  When you know, then you will want to do something about what you know.[137]


The universe is infinite and we are finite.  So, we cannot know everything. The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know.  If you learn nothing else, at least know what God calls us to do. Some things can only be understood by experience. If you want to know more, get to know the one who knows. Knowledge changes us. Knowledge is the scarcest resources. The more we know of our choices and the morally right things to do, the richer and more rewarding our life can become.    Everyone knows something but few of us know the most important things.  We need to filter our information and focus on the just that part of knowledge that is God honoring.[138]


Knowledge is not power; only the application of knowledge is power. Know what needs to be known and do what needs to be done.   If we don't know who we are and our purpose, we will never become all that we could become.   If we don't know who we are we will never become all that we could become. Knowing that your knowledge comes from God gives you a superiority in your spirituality.  God's truth is better than the worldly truth.  We don't have to know everything to do something.[139]



Chapter 14 - Acceptance


You are done with problem-solving when you accept the solution as implemented.  If the solution removes all traces of the symptoms, then problem is completely resolved.  If some nagging symptoms remain, you must decide if they are bad enough to warrant another effort to remove them.  Otherwise, if you choose to accept the conditions rendered by the solution, then the problem is considered solved. 




The problem is not solved until you say it is.   If you implement a solution and it don’t give you the satisfaction you seek, then you have a follow-up decision to make.  The decision to an incompletely solved problem is whether you want to accept the results as they are or to try again.   You many be disappointed that you didn’t get the relief you sought but no solution is guaranteed.  


If the residual symptoms are minor, you might be tempted to accept the results and move on to other problems that are likely demanding attention.  If the symptoms persist as before, then the same motivation to solve the problem remains.  You might just as well give the problem one more try before moving on to the next.  After all, you have learned something from the attempted solution and implementation that is likely to make the subsequent attempt easier and more effective. Solutions to problems and plans get you started, but only works gets the plan implemented. 


Plans get you into things, but you have to work your way out.

Will Rogers


Since problems are matter of perception and only exist according to our interpretation, problems stop being a problem when you decide to accept the ‘problem”.  You can drop most of your problems if you learn to play with life instead of fight it.[140]   Life in only a contest if you believe that life is a constant struggle against external circumstances.  Life is not a contest in the eyes of God.  Life is an ongoing series of ‘now’ moments each of which is neutral except by our preferences and expectations.  We do not have to prove our worth by overcoming things that bother us.   Imperfection is a part of God's plan.[141]   Everyone in this world has imperfections that are likely to be the source of people-problems…if you let it.  All the people that you will ever love are imperfect. So, you might as well ignore their imperfections and love them anyway.


Future Problems


We will never be without problems.  Problems are healthy because they help us grow, develop character, and build resilience.  Without problems, we would never grow to become the person with an ability to solve problems.[142]


We get no choice on the problems we have except that we may limited their number by the defensive measure we take.  However, we do get to choose which problems to work on.   We will some, and some will resist our attempts.  We should not define ourselves by our failures, but in the fact that we are all problem solver who solve some problems and leave some problems for others to solve.  So, there is no reason to remain stuck in the past still trying to solve problems that resist our solutions.  We do not have to be stuck in the past, but can choose to move forward to a new future spending our time and effort on other problems that might be more amenable to our talents or to all the opportunities that surround us.  To continue working on problem we can’t solve on our own works against us because we take time away from everything else we could be doing. The past does not need to determine our future.[143]


The source of future problems is past solutions.



Anticipate the Future


The best way to prepare for the future is to anticipate it and take appropriate actions to steer the future towards a direction we would like to travel.  Even the best of preparations can shelter us from the changes wrought from external circumstances.  Remain alert for potential problems so that you can take remedial action early before the worst damage is done. 




One way to overcome our problems is to grow out of them.  “Our most important problems cannot be solved; they must be outgrown.”[144]  Sometimes, we are the source of our problems by virtue of the way we act and respond to others and certain situations.  As we grow in maturity, we learn how to handle ourselves in ways that cause fewer problems.   However, taking the waiting approach to solving a problem is passive which means that we are giving the power for change to time and not to ourselves.  One should always take charge of change and solving their problems with whatever options exist at the moment. Excused Begone by Wayne Dyer


Wherever you are in you life, just assume that you are where you are for a reason. When you find out that reason, you will know what to do next.  God has you were He wants you; be fruitful and multiply where you are.[145]  God sometimes takes away things of the past so that we may grow forward.[146]  Growth comes from confronting weaknesses and fears.   Revealing brings healing.


Remain open to suggestions for improvement.  A wise man listens more than he talks.  While your abilities may be limited, the combined abilities of others makes you powerful.  The intelligent man is open to new ideas.   Without openness, you not find new options.  One cannot grow without changing something about you.  The more you change yourself for the better, the better things will get.


  If you are cutting enough wood, take time to sharpen your ax.

Mick Ukleja


One of the best options for leveraging your time and effort is to grow your abilities. Rather than just going through the motions of life, grow your abilities.   You have untapped potential that you are unaware of.  You have abilities so that you can use them for good.  God wants to use us for good wherever we are in our lives.[147]  However, you will never grow bigger than your biggest thoughts and aspirations.  It does no harm to wish for much and dream big dreams.  Those who plan ahead plant seeds, that if cared for by man and God, will have the potential to grow into compelling visions of the greatness we humans might achieve.


Just imagine how powerful we can become in ability and wisdom if we were to dedicate ourselves to growth throughout our entire life.   We should never consider ourselves complete when more growth can make us more than we are today. Let the circumstances of your life help you grow.[148]  Growth will come at a price, because life has a cost.  One cannot be alive and grow without paying a price.  We must be fully engaged with life to learn the lessons that we must learn to grow into who we are capable of growing into.


I am more than what I was, but I am not who I am suppose to be yet.

Doyle Surratt



The significant people in our lives are always ready to inconvenience themselves for us. If we are going to change the world, it will require that we be inconvenienced. There are many people in this world who need you to be inconvenienced for them. Doyle Surratt




Maturity is the highest form of knowledge.   In mature, we learn to live with things that bother us.  We can be inconvenienced and still enjoy ourselves.   In maturity, you are able to choose between good and best.  In maturity, you place less emphasis on material things and more emphasis on impacting your world and achieving lasting significance.   Maturity is living by commitments, goals, values, dreams, and aspirations whereas immaturity is living by feelings.[149]




The best parts of life occur when we make a difference in the lives of ourselves and the people we care about.  To make the most difference, we must be mindful of our purpose, of the work that God created us to complete.  The meaning of life is to be a link in the power flowing from God to us and from us to others. In the moment, when you have done the right service in the name of God, you will know the meaning of your life.


We should live in expectation that the miracles we have done, are in progress of doing, and will do in the future are not due to us but to our link to our creator who gives us the power to perform great things.  Think of the miracles we have the power to perform. God best miracles will be done through each of us.




If a problem is to be solved and it is to be solved by us, then we must persist until we find the ultimate causes of the problem and a way to remove those causes.  The difference between winners and loser is those winners make more mistakes and have more failures. This statistic may seem counter-intuitive, as most people would expect that losers lose more often then winners. The reason winners are a winner is that they persist in making mistakes until they succeed.


You need to persevere in this life not only for yourself but also for the others you are here to impact.[150]  Persistence leads to more insightful solutions that will aid not only this problem, but can be reused for other problems that you will run into.  As you persist, ask God how you can turn your difficulties into opportunities to do something good. When perseverance is tested, we are tempted to flee and escape the duress. But those who reach greatness are not tempted to quit in the middle of their distress.


Remain calm and stable in the mist of your persistence. You will have stability in the midst of difficulties if you maintain a stable point of reference to your purpose and connectivity to the God’s source of power.




Success is not a destination but a journey. Lasting success is built on values and a purpose that lasts.   Let us define success according to the purpose we select for ourselves.  He who has a purpose and works on his purpose is a success in life.[151]   Things have a way of working out best when we work to make them better.[152]  All things work together for good. Any success we will achieve we will owe to God's willful intention for us.  Know what purpose you are about and keeping working at it and that is it takes to be successful.   God will do the rest. 


[1] Janaro and Altshuler, The Art of Being Human

[2] Robert Sternberg, Successful Intelligence

[3] Dr. Theodore Rubin

[4] Scott Alexander

[5] Charles E. Watson

[6] Patricia Wiklund

[7] Unknown

[8] Robert Sternberg, Successful Intelligence

[9] Robert Sternberg, Successful Intelligence

[10] Robert Sternberg, Successful Intelligence

[11] Blaine Lee, The Power Principle

[12] Bill O'Hanlon, Do One Thing Different

[13] Janaro & Altshuler

[14] Robert Hargrove, Mastering Art of Creative Collaboration

[15] Janaro and Altshuler, The Art of Being Human

[16] Janaro and Altshuler, The Art of Being Human

[17] Tim Story

[18] Morty Lefkoe

[19] John E. Newman

[20] Scott Thorpe

[21] Gary Smalley

[22] David Burns

[23] David Burns

[24] Henry Kaiser

[25] Denis Waitley, the Psychology of Success

[26] Victor Kaim

[27] Morty Lefkoe

[28] Robert Hargrove, Mastering Art of Creative Collaboration

[29] Charles E. Watson

[30] Oscar Wilde

[31] Bishop WC Mager

[32] Denis Waitley

[33] Ibid

[34] Doyle Surratt

[35] Thomas J. Watson

[36] Mick Ukleja

[37] Doyle Surratt

[38] Ibid

[39] Tom Morris

[40] Bob Shank

[41] Doyle Surratt

[42] Ibid

[43] Ibid

[44] Ibid

[45] Ibid

[46] Ibid

[47] Karl W. Weick

[48] Mick Ukleja

[49] Doyle Surratt

[50] Jerry Rueb

[51] Doyle Surratt

[52] George Wood

[53] Doyle Surratt

[54] Mick Ukleja

[55] Ibid

[56] Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus (Leadership)

[57] William James

[58] Janaro and Altshuler, The Art of Being Human

[59] Merrill Douglas

[60] Charles E. Watson

[61] John Sculley

[62] Bill O'Hanlon, Do One Thing Different

[63] Jerry Rueb

[64] Doyle Surratt

[65] George Woods

[66] Patricia Wiklund

[67] Ibid

[68] Doyle Surratt

[69] Melody Beattie

[70] Dennis Waitley

[71] Unknown

[72] Scott Adams

[73] Scott Thorpe

[74] Doyle Surratt

[75] George Woods

[76] Bill O'Hanlon, Do One Thing Different

 [77] Mick Ukleja

[78] Ibid

[79] Doyle Surratt

[80] Mick Ukleja

[81] Jason & McHahon, Power to Change Your Life

[82] Doyle Surratt

[83] David Burns, Feeling Good

[84] Gary Marcus, Kluge

[85] Robert Ringer

[86] Jerry Rueb

[87] Doyle Surratt

[88] Mick Ukleja

[89] Mick Ukleja

[90] Doyle Surratt

[91] Alex & Brett Harris, Do Hard Things

[92] Scott Thorpe

[93] David Burns

[94] Mick Ukleja

[95] Doyle Surratt

[96] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

[97] Cicero

[98] Mick Ukleja

[99] Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus (Leadership)

[100] George Wood

[101] Doyle Surratt

[102] Doyle Surratt

[103] Albert Einstein

[104] Scott Thorpe

[105] Albert Einstein

[106] Unknown

[107] Scott Alexander

[108] H.L.Menchken

[109] Gary Smalley

[110] Mick Ukleja

[111] Jim Dyke

[112] Bob Shank

[113] Mick Ukleja

[114] Alfred North Whitehead

[115] Al Ries & Jack Trout

[116] George Wood

[117] Scott Adams

[118] Mick Ukleja

[119] Mick Ukleja

[120] Ibid

[121] Ibid

[122] Doyle Surratt

[123] Mick Ukleja

[124] Unknown

[125] Doyle Surratt

[126] Jim Dyke

[127] Ibid

[128] Mick Ukleja

[129] Doyle Surratt

[130] Mick Ukleja

[131] Bob Shank

[132] Doyle Surratt

[133] Doyle Surratt

[134] Ibid

[135] Mick Ukleja

[136] George Wood

[137] Doyle Surratt

[138] Ibid

[139] Mick Ukleja

[140] Susan Jeffers

[141] Jim Dyke

[142] Doug Hooper, You are What You Think

[143] George Wood

[144] Carl Jung      

[145] Doyle Surratt

[146] Jim Dyke

[147] Keith King

[148] Doyle Surratt

[149] Ibid

[150] Doyle Surratt

[151] Mick Ukleja

[152] Doyle Surratt





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