How To Solve A Problem

It may almost seem like a joke that I am attempting this topic matter, but I am seeing a regression of problem solving skills among the world’s youth. If they experience a problem that cannot be solved with a quick google search, they descend into a fury that blames the world for ruining their lives and being singularly against them.

As some of my older readers may know, life is a series of neverending problems that you can’t always prevent. It hasn’t been stated in the Bible or any other ancient text that problems do not affect human beings, so it is rather peculiar when you see someone in a coffee shop having a meltdown because the internet is not working.

Here is basic template to solve most problems that you may encounter:

1. Welcome the problem into your reality

When the problem hits, your instinct is to panic and hope for a quick fix that ends it for all eternity, but most problems can’t be immediately solved, and expecting to solve them in such a manner will just increase the intensity of your panic. Instead, you must take a deep breath and understand that future obligations, commitments, and plans may be altered because of this new problem.

2. Collect information on the problem

Make strong efforts to gather data, which may include duplicating your problem to understand what is going wrong. Trying to solve a problem before you have all relevant information means your solution will have a lower chance of being effective. If you don’t understand what is causing the problem, seek professional advice. The more information you have, the more likely you will pick the correct solution.

3. Implement the best solution and expect it NOT to work

It may take time for the solution to work its way into the problem. While you wait for the result, determine what your next course of action will be if the solution fails. This is more for your mental sanity than practicality, because if you expect that the solution works and it doesn’t, you may succumb to panic. If you have a second solution ready to go, you will instead think, “It’s okay if the problem won’t be solved with my first attempt, because there is something else I can try that will hopefully work.”

4. Observe if the problem has been solved.

If the problem persists, and no new information has presented itself to you, apply your backup solution. If there is new information, repeat steps two through four.

Now let’s go through this process with two different problems I faced recently.

Example #1

Problem: Visitors to ROK report seeing black text on a grey background

Step 1: I understand there is no obvious reason for this to occur, and that the problem can involve the server, my WordPress installation, my custom theme, or my plugins. I mentally accept that many readers will see an ugly page and be turned off by it.

Step 2: I put a call out for people to send me information when they catch a failed page load. Thanks to their feedback, I was able to duplicate the problem. It was due to a caching plugin.

Step 3: I played with the plugin settings for a period of time, measuring their effect after each change. I figured that if I could not solve it this way, I would install a different version of the plugin.

Step 4: Reports came back that the problem was solved.

Example #2

Problem: I injured my left rotator cuff while boxing

Step 1: I understand that muscle injuries, especially to tendons and ligaments, can take a long time to heal. I will have to put aside boxing.

Step 2: Research on the internet told me to halt all shoulder activity. Once pain has subsided I could do rotator cuff exercises using light barbells.

Step 3: After three months, the injury seemed healed, and I resumed my normal shoulder workouts (but not boxing).

Step 4: I re-injured it slightly while doing a heavy press exercise. I must now go back to step two and try something different, which may include seeing a health professional.

I hope that what I’ve shared with you is common sense, but it’s apparent to me that this advice is uncommonly known for the younger generation, who aren’t equipped to solve even the basic problems that come up in life. Panicking never has solved a problem and never well, yet it seems to be the main strategy that is being used on the increasingly anxious Western world. The scientific approach I’ve described above leads to a much higher rate of resolution.

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