Wednesday, July 15, 2009


A couple of days ago, I tried to fix a leaking faucet that was keeping me awake at night. I worked on this kind of faucet many times so I was confident I could fix it easily. I got the right parts, right tools and went to work.

Everything came apart without a problem. I nearly had it back together when I was stopped dead. I couldn't put the cap back on! I tried a whole bunch of times but couldn't finish the job.

Finally, I gave up and walked away in frustration and disgust - and a bit of anger. What should have been a half hour 'piece of cake' was an incomplete project. What made it even worse was that the sink was the one that Janie, my wife, uses. A bad situation! I didn't want to leave 'broken' for long.

So the next evening, I tried again. In two seconds, I realized my problem and after trying something different - putting two parts together in the opposite sequence - the thing went together like clockwork! I was done in five minutes.

It reminded me of trying to solve algebra problems in high school. I'd come to a point, get stuck and, no matter how times I tried, I couldn't solve the problem. Later, I'd come back to it will an open mind, not trying to solve it the 'old' way and solved it in a flash.

I don't do algebra anymore but the lesson is still there. Sometimes when we get struck trying to solve problems the same old way over and over, we make no progress and get frustrated. The key is step back, forget the old approach and try something new. Often that's all it takes to be successful - think about the problem with a 'fresh' approach.

That same lesson applies to other parts of our life, too. Remember the old saying "If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll end up with what you've got."

This is true in planning your life transitions whether a new job, a new career or retirement. When you are moving into a new phase of your life, the odds are that what worked in the old situation won't help in the new. Difficult as it is to do, you have to let go of what you've been doing and do something different.

You have to let go of your old assumptions, old rituals, old methods, sometimes even old relationships to move on.

What kind of change do you want to make in your life or your work? What isn't working that needs to change? Take some time, choose what you want to create, let go of what you're doing now and try something different.

The future will be different than the past. It can be a step forward if you, like me fixing the leaking faucet, try something different.


  1. Mike, what an excellent example of stepping back to take another look, and then finding the openness to change directions! You model that so well, and since it's a rather rare skill in many workplaces, it's great to see it in action!

    Reminds us of Einstein's notion that doing things the same way will rarely get you different outcomes. Your sink proves it again:-)

    On a lighter note - I "fixed" a sink once by hacking what I thought was metal, discovering it was a plastic pipe, and the saw sliced right through both joints in the bend. Long story short - the sink leaked water like Niagra Falls onto the kitchen floor until I could find the shut off valve. Called the plumber and he fixed it, but had no use for all the tools I purchased to do the job.

    You won here Mike - by all counts in your own sink attempts:-). Great post and thanks for the reminder to change directions often in the interest of growth!

  2. Thanks for your feedback, Ellen. This thinking reflects your work - which my readers can access by clicking BRAIN LEADERS AND LEADERS under my "Interesting Links." It's really 'good stuff.'