First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.
-- Mahatma Gandhi

 

   

The MONTHLY Motivator - July 2004

Turning problems into opportunities

You have problems? Great! In problems there are plenty of opportunities. In fact, one of the defining attributes of a successful person is the ability to turn problems into opportunities.

Imagine the problem of not being able to get gasoline for your car. For many people, that would be a serious problem. Now imagine that, not only is no gasoline available, but you live in a country which has just been defeated in a devastating war. Two major cities in your country have been virtually obliterated by nuclear bombs. Your business has been severely damaged by bombing and then completely destroyed by an earthquake. Such was the situation faced in 1946 by Soichiro Honda in Tokyo, Japan. In response to his problem of not enough gasoline for his car, Honda attached a small motor, powered by kerosene, to his bicycle. After dozens of his friends asked him to build similar motorbikes for them, he realized that there must be a huge market for his innovation. This led him to form the Honda Motor Company which is today one of the world’s major manufacturing companies.

But the story doesn’t end there. In the 1970s, steeply rising oil prices and increased environmental concerns led to a demand for automobiles with reduced emissions and increased mileage efficiency. This was considered a major problem by automobile manufacturers worldwide, but Honda recognized the huge opportunity. The company engineered and built the world’s first pollution efficient engine, the CVCC, which launched Honda into a dominant position in to automobile industry.

Two very difficult, very significant problems resulted in two huge opportunities. It almost makes you wish you had more problems!

But how do you actually go about turning problems into opportunities? It certainly does not happen automatically. Problems have only the possibility, not the certainty, of becoming opportunities. Positively focused thoughts and actions are necessary to realize those opportunities. This month we will examine some strategies for turning problems into opportunities, and for turning those opportunities into positive realities.

The nature of problems

Just the fact that something is a problem for you indicates that it has significant meaning to you. There is value in that, and there are many possibilities as well. Problems are so vexing precisely because you care so much about the situation surrounding them, and about the things, which are affected by them.

So problems come with plenty of potential energy. The key to turning problems into solutions is to redirect that energy away from exerting a negative influence and toward a more positive orientation. Problems become opportunities by virtue of the way you approach them. You can allow them to drain you or to energize you. Either way, the result will be dramatic and highly charged.

Quickly admit, recognize and face the problem

To change a problem into an opportunity, get to work on it as soon as possible. Don’t procrastinate. The sooner you address the problem, the more time you’ll have to transform it into a positive opportunity. In fact, as soon as you start taking action, the positive benefits begin.

Running away or pretending it isn’t there only makes a problem worse. A difficult problem that is avoided will not only be a problem in itself; it can also cast a negative light on everything else you do.


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—Ralph Marston