They all figured out how to solve problems. As analysts we’re inherently problem solvers, investigators if you like. We have to delve into reams of data and understand what the numbers mean and that takes a special kind of person. In my humble opinion there are 4 principles you can learn from these legends of fiction, science and sport.
1) Be Humble
No-one likes working with an arse! So don’t be one. You need to get along with people or they’ll suffer you and put up with you but they won’t help you. You may be cleverer at 10 things than everyone else. Maybe you’re wired differently or had more practice.
None of it matters if you’re an arse.
It reminds me of Merlin in the movie Excalibur.
Merlin of Arthurian legend, a mystic, a healer, a man that Kings rely on for counsel. All in all a pretty clever chap.
In one scene in the movie he is focused on fishing with his hands for a Salmon, using the tickle the belly technique that lulls the fish to sleep so you can hoist it out of the water.
The fish slows down unaware that it’s in danger, lulled by the wily old hunters hand and suddenly Merlin hoists the fish out of the water and lifts it in triumph above his head.
But the fish snapped out of its lull, struggles, wriggles in Merlin’s hands causing the wizard to slip on the rocks he is standing on and fall backwards into the river dropping the fish in the process.
The wizard grumpily wrings out his soaking wet cloak muttering “always remember there’s something cleverer than yourself”.
The point? A fish knows survival in a river better than you do. No matter how good you are at what you do, the people you talk to are better at “something” than you are.
So be humble because you aren’t that great.
2) Be yourself and look after yourself!
In order to solve problems you need mental energy. Finding mental energy is easier when you’re physically in good shape. So get in reasonable shape and work to keep it that way whilst being you with all you with all your strengths and weaknesses.
You need a knowledge base outside of what you do for a living from experiences you enjoy.
If I look at the last 25 years I’ve taken a winding road.
I partied hard as a youth in Sunderland and don’t regret anything I can remember.
I danced the light fantastic with drummers till dawn at Glastonbury.
I’ve visited over 40 countries in 5 continents and gone fishing in most of them.
I’ve written 3 books.
Two and a half years ago I took up kick boxing.
You should’ve seen the look on my face the first time I went and saw a 5ft tall woman jumping around like Yoda fighting Darth Sideous in Revenge Of The Sith. I’m still not that good and never will be. But now I can keep up with her for about 20 minutes. 2 years ago I couldn’t do a press up properly. Now I see novices looking at me with the same kind of dread I had when I first went. (Only the novices mind you!)
My point? I’m CEO of an analytics and modern marketing company. Nothing I do outside of work is related to the job. You only become good at solving problems when you experience stuff that makes you feel a little uncomfortable or do something that’s a little bit difficult.
If you sit in a safe place you might never leave. That’s ok if you don’t mind staying where you are. But you’
ll never be a problem solver if you do that.
I’m not saying it’s the only thing. Fix clocks. Cars. Build websites. Draw. Play an instrument. Become a wine connoisseur, whatever you like, but get experience in things outside your field of competence. It’s where ideas and creative thinking come from whether you know it or not.
And when you commit to something do it properly.
Do. Or do not. There is no try.
You got to where you are because of who you are, not who you pretend to be or who ‘they’ say you should be.
3) Be a pirate!
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”
– Captain Jack Sparrow.
Why join the navy when you can be a pirate? Why do what ‘they’ tell you when you can look at the problem from hundreds of angles to solve it?
There are few problems that can’t be solved. Don’t be the person that says “this can’t be done”. It is most likely hard which is why other people haven’t done it. Simplify. Break down the problem. Usually problems are simply puzzles where one or more parts of the puzzle have been solved before. But because there might be 10 puzzles to connect together to solve the bigger problem the problem seems impossible.
Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.
Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion.
Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare.
Impossible is potential.
Impossible is temporary.
Impossible is nothing.
– Muhammad Ali
First work out what the problem is, then break the problem down into smaller problems.
Fix those and you can solve the bigger problem.
Yes it might take time. It might be hard. It might require resources that aren’t currently available to you but it’s unlikely to be impossible. Its more likely to be your attitude to the problem that makes it a bigger problem. So be Jack Sparrow. Be a pirate and consider what Ali said when he said impossible is nothing and survived what he survived till he was 74 years old.
4) Be curious
When was the last time you investigated anything? Why did you want to dig deeper? What drove you?
You have to be able to ask why. In fact all good scientific method has a question at its core. If you see a trend in a problem ask why it exists. If you find out why, is there something you can learn? If not why not? The secret is to never stop questioning until the answers are proven and clear.
Curiosity never killed the cat. Stupidity mistaken as curiosity probably did. When you see a sign that says “don’t press the red button” find out what happens when you press it.
Don’t just press it! Depending on who you are you could start World War 3 or turn on the sprinkler system in a garden but stupidity is just pressing the button without knowing what happens. Curiosity is finding out first then making the decision to soak your sun bathing friends in the garden and hopefully not wiping out the planet.
Albert Einstein once said “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious” and curiosity took him a very long way. He was by all reports a good scientist though not a brilliant one. However we was relentlessly curious to get to the bottom of problems and he achieved extraordinary results by asking questions no-one had ever asked.
So there you have it. If you want to solve problems and create value then be humble, be yourself, be a pirate and be curious. If you have those 4 characteristics then I’d love you to drop me a line because you’re exactly the kind of person I’m looking for.