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Why Every Entrepreneur Needs to Be a Creative Problem Solver

Former President Trump can teach us a thing or two about navigating turbulence to achieve a successful outcome

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Imagine the airplane you are on has reached its cruising altitude, and you are settled in with a new magazine and beverage. All of a sudden, you feel the plane jerk and then another. The captain's voice comes on over the speaker and announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing unexpected turbulence. Please take your seat and fasten your seatbelt."

Turbulence in the air is something that occurs whether you like it or not. It's not right or wrong. It's not good or bad. It's just nature.

As a passenger on the plane, you can't do much about turbulence. But the pilot can. The pilot is trained to be a problem solver, so he can slightly alter course or altitude to find smoother air. He can decide to go right through it and make sure his passengers are prepared. Or, if the turbulence becomes a safety issue, he can choose to divert the plane to another city altogether.

In life, every one of us has our own personal turbulence to deal with. The difference between the up-in-the-clouds airplane turbulence and the turbulence in your everyday life is that, in our life, you are the pilot, not the passenger. You can do something about it, and that "something" is to simply deal with it and take action.

Turbulence or problems?

Turbulence is frequently thought of as a problem, but turbulence and problems are not the same thing.

In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle describes a problem this way:

"'Problem' means that you are dwelling on a situation mentally without there being a true intention or possibility of taking action now, and that you are unconsciously making it part of your sense of self."

You and I are the ones who make something a problem. Tolle goes on to say, "The mind unconsciously loves problems because they give us an identity of sorts… [We carry] in our mind the insane burden of a hundred things that you will or may have to do in the future, instead of focusing your attention on the one thing that you can do now."

What is happening now?

Here is a question Tolle asks to make his point: "Do you have a problem now?"

At this very moment, not tomorrow or in 10 minutes, but right now do you have a problem? Unless your house is on fire, you just slipped and broke your toe, or someone is robbing you at gunpoint, for example, every problem you currently think you have is a problem in your mind that may or may not ever happen.

Dealing with the here and now

What's the point? The point is that problems do not exist, except in our minds. A problem, according to Tolle's definition, is something we dwell on mentally.

So if problems do not exist, then what does?

Tolle says,

"There are no problems. Only situations to be dealt with now or… accepted… until they change or can be dealt with."

I call these situations turbulence. Turbulence is a given. It occurs repeatedly in everyone's life. The question is: Do you deal with it or dwell on it?

When a pilot experiences turbulence, he must take action at that moment to deal with it. He cannot say, "Oh, I don't want to tackle this now. I'll handle the turbulence later." Yet, many of us do just that.

We experience turbulence that could be dealt with immediately, but instead, we put it off because we don't want to confront it in the moment. That's when we create a problem for ourselves. It could be as simple as not wanting to make a phone call we need to make. Instead of taking action now, we put it off, think about it, lose sleep over it, and after going through all that headache and worry, we still have to make the phone call.

Just take action

A reporter interviewed former President Trump shortly after he had pulled himself out of a $900-million debacle. The reporter asked, "During that time when the banks were demanding millions from you, were you worried?"

He looked at her as if she were speaking a foreign language and replied,

"Worry? What good is worrying? You either take action or you don't."

Mr. Trump definitely had a situation that was causing turbulence, but instead of worrying about it, dwelling upon everything that could go wrong, and turning it into a problem, he took action and dealt with the turbulence. His success comes from being a problem solver.

A tale of two solutions

Years ago, Mr. Trump invited Robert and me to visit him at Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles. As Mr. Trump was giving us a personal tour of the gorgeous oceanfront golf club, he stopped in front of the main ballroom and said,

“I’ve got to tell you a story.”

Some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from Mr. Trump — and other successful investors and businesspeople — are through their personal stories.

The problem

The story began with a problem: The main ballroom at Trump National had seating for a maximum of 150 people, so they could not compete with other venues for requests for parties larger than that number. The folks at Trump National began looking for a solution.

The “obvious” solution

The most apparent answer was to add an addition onto the existing ballroom. The bids started coming in. When the final numbers were tallied, the total cost of the addition, including additional chairs and tables, came to an estimated $3 million. The project would probably take six to nine months to complete. Let’s face it: $3 million and nine months is a lot of money and time.

The upside solution

One evening Donald was walking past a large party in the ballroom. He paused for a moment to observe the celebration, thinking about the problem of how to expand the ballroom to accommodate more people. He noticed an older woman struggling to get out of her chair. The ballroom chairs were very nice, but they were big and heavy. They were awkward to maneuver.

That’s when the idea struck Donald. Instead of building an addition onto the ballroom, why not get smaller chairs?

The next day his team started researching this idea. The final result? They found smaller, yet still attractive, chairs that increased the seating capacity from 150 to just over 250 people.

On top of that, they were able to sell the existing large chairs for more money than the new chairs cost! Trump National increased the capacity of their ballroom so they could now handle parties of up to 250 guests.

Instead of costing Mr. Trump $3 million, he actually made money on the deal. Now that is putting your creativity to work while adding considerable value to your property — and that’s exactly how problem solvers work.

The lesson

Successful people rarely focus solely on the “obvious” solution. While it may be true that the obvious solution can be the right one, successful people also explore many avenues that may bring much more considerable upside to a deal. In short, they think creatively and look at the world with open eyes.

The good news is that we can all think and see this way, if we make the decision to.

The next time you are cruising along and suddenly experience some unexpected turbulence, ask yourself, "What can I do about this now?" If there is something you can do about it now, then be a problem solver and take action. If there is nothing you can do about it in that moment, then accept that and take the necessary action when you can. It may look at times as if other people are causing us problems and worry when, in reality, we may be creating that strife ourselves.

Original publish date: December 19, 2013

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