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Let’s talk about tackling tough problems…the toughest.

How often have you felt pretty good about your problem-solving skills as the problems seem to arise in stride where you can tackle them one at a time, even near keeping your team and business running effectively?  Most of the time?  Some of the time?

What if all of your challenges hit at once?  Each one with a complex nature of its own and you start to get overwhelmed.  While you are figuring out where to start, they just keep on piling up and the solutions aren’t coming as fast as you are accustomed to. It happens…maybe more for some but it is daunting for all.

I was recently reminded of how these events can hit you all at once and the feeling of becoming overwhelmed as I tried to get back on top of it all. These events didn’t happen in the workplace this time but were equally challenging in many ways. As those of you who know me are aware, my wife and I travel the USA in a vast 5th Wheel toy hauler and explore everything that makes this nation so beautiful while I simultaneously keep my second career growing.  I recently traded in our F350 for an F450.  I had some modifications made to the new truck to make it more capable of hauling the massive rig that we have.  Things started to go wrong on the most recent leg of our trip with multiple failures arising in the truck, but I didn’t know what was causing it. Then, 29 miles from the next destination one of the tires on our 5th wheel blew up and shredded part of the siding as the tire separated.  When we got to the next city, I took the truck to the dealer and discovered that the aftermarket equipment I had installed was done incorrectly and had caused damage to the truck thus all the failures.  The dealer wouldn’t cover it under warranty, and no one seemed to know who might be able to help.  Then the 5th wheel power cables started arcing due to water intrusion in the plugs (RV’ers know how expensive those cables are). Then a leak under the 5th wheel became very apparent.  The list of things going wrong was mounting fast with no end in sight and expense was mounting with it.  Pretty daunting stuff it seemed and the sensation of being overwhelmed was creeping up fast.  What to do….

In the big scheme of things, the “what to do” became pretty apparent and is what has served most of us well for years.  First, is anyone hurt?….No?  Good, let’s keep it that way!  Second, let’s divide everything up and start solving one problem at a time.  In this case, I went back to a custom shop I had talked to earlier and it turns out that they did exactly the work that I needed on the truck to get it fixed properly.  Very knowledgeable and focused on doing it right and getting us back on the road (and they worked the weekend to do it).  Check.  Tire replacement…not hard, get that done.  Check number two.  Onboard power in the 5th wheel is good until I can replace the cable…get the right equipment in place when available. Check number three.  Start the insurance process for the damage to the rig from the tire.  Check number 4.  Find out if anyone else has had a similar leak underneath their 5th wheel.  Why yes, with a description that matched our circumstances.  With a little more investigation and the exact location and what needs to be done becomes clear.  Order the part and do the work.  Check number five. And soon the challenges started resolving and the longer we kept at it the faster everything started coming together.

So what were my takeaways?  When it starts stacking up quickly with no end in sight take a deep breath and assess the components.  Start tackling the challenges one at a time. If you initially meet resistance knock out another challenge and come back to that one if you can.  Once they all are in motion, a guide when needed and keep it all in perspective.  Pretty soon the light will be at the end of the tunnel and it likely isn’t a train!  There is always a solution, it is often how you go about finding them.  Most of all, never give up!

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