Problem Solving


Scene: School parking lot, Wednesday afternoon

Parent: Mr. Pan, you’re a good problem solver!

Huei: Well, I have a lot of them…so I get plenty of practice.

Everyone has problems, but what you do to solve them is what differentiates us.

So with a “Happy Friday!” here are some strategies I use to problem solve:

1) Take care of it immediately.

If you knew that a $2 item you needed now was going to cost $30 later, wouldn’t you go ahead and buy the $2 item now? If delaying the fix will either make the problem worse or harder to remedy, just take care of it. Something that may only cost you 2 mins now may end up costing 30 mins later. Procrastination is harder for some to avoid, but those I see avoiding it seem to be getting a lot done. This does not come naturally for me, so I have to work extra hard at it.

2) Channel your inner “Beautiful Mind.”
I love the scene where Russell Crowe’s character plays out the different scenarios that will result in the pool hall depending on how the guys approach the girls who have just entered.  He sees that the first few options will lead to them all striking out, but then sees a way where they are all successful, and in the process formulates a Nobel Prize-winning economics theory.  Easy, right?  The point is, if you just stop and think, you can imagine the scenarios that may play out, and better yet, imagine what steps you can take to fix the problem.

3) Ask for help.

This is an easy and hard one. I am continually surprised at how often students will avoid coming to ask for help. When little kids ask “Can you help me?” we encourage them by saying, “You can do it!”  By the time they get into middle school or high school, getting them to ask for help is like pulling teeth! Why do we wait until we’re drowning before asking for help?  Apathy? Time?  Maybe students don’t realize their teachers want to help them.  Either way, this is a habit that often continues into adult life, and you see adults who have trouble asking for help, myself included.

To this I say, just suck it up and ask for help!  There are so many smart and highly qualified people out there who are so generous with their time and expertise.  Surround yourself with friends, colleagues, and mentors who are wiling to share their talents with you.  It will ultimately save you so much time, and you’ll be able to accomplish more than you would have on your own.

I’ll add that the two things I try my best to do before asking for help include 1) making sure I’ve personally put in the time and effort to complete what I can do on my own, so when I ask for help, I’m not wasting their time and getting right to the good stuff, and 2) offering my own help, when I can, and paying it forward, with the understanding that depositing some good into the community help-pool now will allow me to take a dip when it gets hot later!


Thanks for Reading!
I am a rabid advice consumer – other people’s experiences and perspectives are so interesting to me.  What are your go-to problem solving strategies? What kind of advice do you offer your friends?  Leave a comment below and include your best problem solving strategy.

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You can also send me a message via the contact page, or message me on your social media platform of choice. Let me know if you found this helpful, along with any additional questions you might have – thanks again!


Further readings:

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