429 | The Art of Solving Problems

On today’s episode, we’re going to take a look at the art of solving problems, the mindset we need, to not just “survive” in this complicated world we live in, but what we need in order to really “thrive”. I’ll tell you right now, it’s not easy to change our mindset about problems, but if you do you’ll be better for it!

I don’t know how you feel about it, but it seems to me that problems just never go away. Right?

I mean, every day, no matter how many problems you solve, even more seem to crop up. In fact, the problems that we encounter today are likely more difficult to solve than they were before – ever more complicated! Life is like that, it’s as if it were training us for something.

Borrowing from one of our nation’s leaders over a hundred years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech with these stirring words:

What a “word in season” for that generation just about to encounter World War 1. Let’s glean wisdom from our forebears; let’s learn not to shrink back from our problems, but to run towards them, solve them, and make ourselves and our world better for it!


problems, perspective, objectivity, solve, situation, people, gain, chris, hear, brain, grow, stop, obstacle, business, question, thinking, grape, emotionally, sooner, folks


Joel Fortner, Chris LoCurto


Chris LoCurto  00:00

The lost art of problem solving, that is coming up next.


Chris LoCurto  00:14

Welcome to the Chris LoCurto show, where we discuss leadership and life, and discover that business is what you do, not who you are. Welcome to the show folks. Hope you're having a fabulous day wherever you are. 20th century philosopher of science, Karl Popper, I don't know who Carl was, but he had a great saying, a great quote that we're involving today. And that is, "All life is problem solving." Now, if you're like a whole lot of people, that's not a very happy thought. So barring from a very philosophical film that we quote around here all the time, which would be, The Princess Bride, Buttercup says "You mock my pain." Wesley says, "Life is pain Princess, anyone who says otherwise is selling something." I could have done that with British accents. "You mock my pain. Life is pain, Princess." There we go. Alright, anyways, hey, listen, life is full of pain. Life has problems. That's something that you can be sure of. But can pain and problems be something that is positive? We'll discover what possibilities problems could be presenting you right after this.


Chris LoCurto  01:32

Hey, folks, a couple years ago, I was visiting with a client. And the CEO said to me, "Chris, we're not going to hit our goal." I asked him what he meant. And he said, "We're going to miss our three year revenue goal coming out of Stratplan by a few months." I didn't realize it at first, that he was having a little fun with me by saying they were about to triple their company in less than three years. How freaking awesome is that? Folks, these are the kinds of results that businesses get by coming through our four day Stratplan event. On average, we find $2.1 million worth of revenue in the next 12 months that the company was not planning on. And this event is for all sized businesses. If you're small, medium, or large, it works for every single business, because it's not industry specific. It's about gaining all the information about all the things inside of your business that are holding you back from success, and then giving you a plan and a process on how to walk that out and be successful in your business. by discovering the things that are holding you back. It helps you get to all of those goals that you've been planning on for a long time. So if you're ready to get the perspective you need to solve what's holding you and your business back. So you can grow faster, then you need Stratplan. To learn more, go to chrislocurto.com/stratplan. That's chrislocurto.com/stratplan.


Chris LoCurto  03:09

So question for you. How do you see your problems? Do you see them as something that is good? Do you see them as something as bad? Do you see them as something that you want to get out of as fast as you possibly can? Or do you even see them as something that you try to avoid at all costs? Things to think about. Successful leaders approach problems as opportunities to unlock. Not obstacles to be avoided. Marcus Aurelius said, "The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes, the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action, advances action." Think about that. Or you just leave it sitting there right? What stands in the way becomes the way. So how do you look at your problems? Do you see a problem in front of you as something that's going to create a new action? Or do you see a problem in front of you something that's going to stop action? As Marcus Aurelius said, "The impediment to action advances action"  Right? Now he's speaking about this in the positive, he could have also said, "Or for the lazy person, it stops right there their tracks." So the person who wants to avoid it because they see problems the wrong way, it stops them in their tracks, right? So here's the deal. Let's talk about adapting our minds to being problem solving machines. But before we do that, we got to hit some basics, something that every person has to understand. Problems are inevitable.


Chris LoCurto  04:51

Listen, failure is inevitable. That's a fact. So stop trying to avoid problems. Stop sweeping them under the rug, stop trying to not look in the direction of the problems, stop trying to stop the problems, right? Problems are going to exist. The sooner you take a change of mindset, the sooner you start looking at them differently then you can actually start enjoying solving problems. Now, I'm somebody who my whole life has looked at problems and asked myself the question, "How do I fix this? How do I get around this? How do I make sure this doesn't happen again?" You hear me, it sounds a lot like the ways that we solve problems here, right? You hear me give the list of five things that we do here. So here's the second thing you need to understand. Problems have hard shells, but they have soft centers. Think of those as opportunities in disguise, right? Once we get through that hard shell, then it changes a whole lot of stuff. Another thing to understand is, problems push successful people to keep growing and think differently. Now, you do not have to be wildly successful, for you to actually grow and think differently and become more successful, right? The key is, if you allow the problem to push you, to push your thinking, to push your processing, then it will grow you to think differently. So there's a saying that we should fight the serpent and embrace the storm. Key is, you've got to know the difference. So here's your encouragement for today. Hey stop fighting the storm that you're in right now. Stop it. "Wait a second, Chris, that goes against everything that I think." No, you're not going to get through life without problems. But you aren't going to get through this storm. I promise. "Chris, how can you make that promise?" Well, pretty simple. You're still listening to me. You're able to listen to the show, I'm pretty darn sure you've had at least one or 2 million problems in your lifetime, right? And you're still here. You've made it through all of them. Right? So here's what you have to understand. For the longest time growing up-now again, I'm a believer, so I'm going to speak from the side of being a believer, but you don't have to be a believer to think this way. For the longest time, I used to pray to God that he would stop the situation I was in. "Lord, please. This bad situation hurts. This bad situation sucks. Would you just stop the situation?" And then God started to show me some things. I use the problems to grow you. I use the stress to grow you, I use the situations to grow you, how did I learn this stuff? Believe it or not, it's something we talk about, you know a lot around here. And that is the wine growing process. When I was learning decades ago about how wine grows, I fell in love with the process. It became a big part of my life, and teachings and things of being able to point out, watch what happens here. One of the big things that you learn when you're discovering viticulture, learning viticulture from somebody who's been doing it and you know, been roughing up their hands for a long time in the process is this: stress makes a more complex grape. Stress- a grape having to fight for water, makes it more complex. Makes it better, makes it taste better. Gives it better flavor, gives a better character, gives it better boldness, all of that. The same can be said about us. So as God showed that to me, I started to realize something. I need to quit asking for God to take me out of the stress and change the thing I'm asking to, "Lord help me to learn the thing you want me to learn as fast as I can. Don't stop the problem. Don't stop the pain. Don't stop the stress. Help me to learn the thing that you want me to learn, because the learning is way more valuable than the stopping." If God stops the problem, or the process, or the stress, or the obstacle and removes the obstacle-then guess what? I may not have learned. Well, this is a God principle that you can pretty much count on. If I don't learn by the obstacle, another obstacle is coming. Listen, I'm telling you, you know it, you know it's true. Somebody out there saying "Preach, preacher." Listen, if you don't learn from the obstacle, he's gonna put another obstacle in your way. Or he may keep you in that process until you get it. So don't ask God to stop the process. Ask him to teach you what it is that he wants you to know, as soon as possible. For most people, what you think, is what you feel. So it's helpful to change our thinking about the problems we're facing. So if we're going to solve the problem, or solve them, there may be multiples, and move forward, then there are three keys to change how you perceive your problems. So key number one, you have to create some level of objectivity. Now, are you going to get to complete objectivity on a situation? Maybe, maybe not, right? But you can get to some level of this, right? Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees, because we're too immersed to think clearly. So we got to get out of that process, there's a few things that we have to do. The first thing is disconnect from the problem emotionally.


Chris LoCurto  10:57

Folks, we get so emotionally handcuffed to the situation that we can't think. You've heard me say multiple times: when you freak, you freeze. If you are freaked out, I can guarantee you are no longer gaining quality perspective. Instead, you are now stuck on everything that you see right in front of you, you are now stuck on how you're going to respond to this problem. You're now stuck on what you're going to do about it, right? You've got to disconnect from the problem emotionally, as much as you possibly can. How do you do this? Well, you start saying to yourself, "This is a situation, this is a problem. This is whatever, I've got to figure this out, stop taking it so personally." "Yeah. But Chris, what if it is really personal?" I get it, I understand. But the more you are emotionally handcuffed to the problem, the more difficult it's going to be for you to think logically. Now, this is just a function of your brain. When you are stuck-and go back to the episodes that we talked about, you know, on willpower, right? Go back to a lot of the stuff you've heard me teach about how your brain operates. When you are stuck in the emotional, when you are stuck in the desire and reward center of your brain, guess where you are not stuck? In the better decision making process of the prefrontal cortex. So think about that. The more emotionally you are attached to the problem, the less you can possibly think logically, you don't get to use your brain the best you possibly can. Why? Because you're operating off of emotion. So the next thing you need to do is think from a third person point of view. Change the position, change the roles, switch it, take a look outside in, right? What does it look like from a different position? Quite often, and you've heard me say this, quite often I have people take a look at a coffee canister that I have on the table I'm teaching and I go, "What color is it?" "Well, it's black." "What if I said it was blue?" "I'd say you're stupid?" "What if I turned it around and you saw my side was blue?" "Oh, then I'd say I didn't see it from your point of view." That's exactly it. One of the things that you can do to get to objectivity is take a look from every point of view possible, get outside of you, and start asking the question, "What is the other person seeing? How do I see it from their point of view? How do I see it from that angle? How do I see it from a different angle that I'm experiencing right now?" Another thing you need to do is create a sense of urgency, not a panic, don't hear me the wrong way. I don't want you to freak out on this. I want you to create a sense of urgency to force your thinking into decision making mode. So listen, you can take this the wrong way if you hear this the wrong way. I am not saying freak out. What I'm saying is ask yourself the question, "If I had to do something about this to solve this right freaking now, right this second right now, what would I do?" It doesn't mean go with an answer. It just means it shocks your brain into thinking a different way. Now, one of the things that I do and I teach people a lot-now I am a very high S. I'm a high S, decently high I, probably about a 40 D, and about a 25 C, but my adaptive C jumps up to 40. My brain sometimes with negative self-talk-there's a thing that I have to do that I've learned to get over my own negative self-talk. And I have learned that when I go into negative self-talk to say, "Stop it. Knock it off." To shock my brain. It's amazing how many times I teach that to people that they look at me as if to say, "Well, Chris, that wouldn't work with me." Yes. Yes it will. Try it. The next time you are just crazy given yourself a hard time with negative self-talk or lies, shock your brain, right? Do something to create that sense of urgency of, 'This must stop right now.' Right? Change your thought process, come up with a decision right now. It doesn't mean that you go with it. But what it does is, by doing that, in my own head, I pull myself out of the emotional part of my brain, into the logical portion. I don't stop there, you don't just say, "Knock it off." And then that's it, everything gets better. You got to go to truth. And I can only get to the truth when I'm in that logical side. Another thing you need to do to make sure that you get to some level of objectivity. Beware of letting feelings or pre-judgments obscure the facts that are right in front of you. Oh, gosh. Folks, how many times. How many times have we allowed our feelings to override the facts that are right in front of us? How many times have we allowed our feelings or our pre-judgments of something or something that we've already set our mind on, made decisions on, how many times have we allowed that to drive not only bad decision making, but oh my gosh, bad attitudes? Come on. We've all experienced that person who refuses to gain perspective and they've already got a judgment in their mind. And they just swing this attitude as though the person in front of them is a horrible person or doing something terrible. Instead of finding out, are you even involved with this thing? Finding out, "Do you know anything about this?" There is a situation or many that we're actually going to share with you in another episode, where we'll share some situations where people lose their stuff. Because they immediately assume they know exactly what's going on. Folks, let your feelings just you know, kick him to the curb, or as my wife would say, ditch him to the curb, so that you can make some good quality decisions. If you can practice these things. If you can practice becoming less self-immersed, and more self-distanced from the emotional attachment, the emotional handcuffing, then you can get to a much better level of objectivity.


Chris LoCurto  17:30

Number 2, gain stinking perspective. I love that we had a client years ago, at the very first Next Level Leadership Live Event, I believe it was that they'd come through Stratplan. And one of the comments that-well I have this process where it doesn't happen with every event, but every now and then we'll have a process that just gets them really riled up because their communication is stinking. And they just keep making statements and giving opinions. And at some point I go, "Does anybody want to ask a freaking question?" And they'll just kind of look at me like, "That's what we're doing." No, you're making statements, you're giving opinions. And it just kind of rocks their world to go, "Oh, my gosh, we've been sitting here for a half hour. And nobody's asked a single question. We just keep telling each other what we think our opinion is." So, gain some perspective, ask a freaking question, do something, invite others into the process. You know, distance observers sometimes notice things that we don't. They have different and possibly greater perspectives. You may not have the best perspective right now. I am somebody who gets other people's opinions. I tax the collective intelligence. You've heard me talk about that. That's something I realized years ago that I have very intelligent people around me, I should tax their intelligence. Because who knows, it'll probably make me considerably smarter than I already am. So invite people in that have a different perspective than you. Maybe it's not better, but maybe it's different enough that it'll cause you to think something different. Or maybe it's considerably better than yours. So here's the deal. All the time. Every day, I'm getting perspective from my team. Always asking questions, "What do you think about this? How should we do this? What's your thoughts here?" Not because I'm looking for consensus. I'm taxing the collective intelligence. But there's a couple of times a year that I will deal with something that's like, heavy duty stressful, you know that I need more perspective. And I'll grab somebody and say, "Hey, let's go for a walk." And I'll lay out the situation. And just, "What do you see? How do you see I'm responding? What am I doing? What do you think? What are your thoughts? How would you go about this?" To gain quality perspective, right? Because it helps me to get out of the perspective that I currently have. And maybe a situation where I'm somewhat emotionally handicapped and I need somebody different perspective to maybe knock my brain. Now listen, Harvard Business Review had a article out that talked about how leaders need multiple perspectives to get a complete picture. And an effective leader will zoom in and zoom out of that picture. Zooming in and zooming out means taking into account various angles up close, you know, versus the big picture. So the more that you will do this, you will take a look at the situation from up close, over on the right hand side, go to the left hand side, go downstream, go upstream, I'm using all kinds of analogies here. One big soup. The more that you will do this, then you will gain much better perspective. So be very aware of isolating yourself versus gaining good quality input from other people. Now, don't go to people who want to harm you, hurt you, control you, manipulate you, that's not good quality perspective. That you've given somebody the opportunity to mess things up. Don't do that. Go to healthy people, gain better perspective. Alright, we'll be back right after this with a third key to changing your thinking on the problems you're facing.


Joel Fortner  18:50

Hey, it's Joel Fortner here, I'm the Vice President of leadership development on Chris's team and I oversee our Next Level Mastermind business coaching program. Most business owners and leaders lack a clear path to succeed in business. They question whether they're making the right decisions, if they're focusing on the right things to really grow their business. If this is you, you need a coach in your life. Coaches help you make better decisions, navigate uncertainty, lead more effectively, and grow your business without sacrificing your life and your family. In their first year, our clients typically see an average of 67% increase in gross revenue, and an average of 138% increase in net profit, and regained hours of time. Our clients stay in the program for three and a half years simply because of the results they get. So if you're ready to run your business at the next level and see the growth you've been wanting, then visit chrislocurto.com/mastermind. Again, chrislocurto.com/mastermind, today.


Chris LoCurto  22:16

Alright, the third key: you have to hunt for new options. Folks, if you're going to solve problems, you can't just keep doing it the same way you've done it every single time. Sometimes you've got to hunt for new options. Sometimes you've got to get out of your own way. Right? You're likely obscuring your own view, especially when you've solved the same problem multiple times the same way. Guess what? If you're continuing to have to solve the same problem, you probably didn't didn't do it the right way the first time. Right? So let's find a better way. So we're gonna hunt for new options. That's one of the things I say around here. I tell my team, my team knows, "Fail, I expect you to fail. Just figure out how not to do it the same way again." Right? So if you fail at something, fix it, don't just fix it today. How do we make sure it doesn't happen again? So first thing you got to do is explore new possibilities. Educate yourself. Ask questions, seek solutions. Don't just start with "Well, this is what I've always done." In fact, the moment, 'This is what I've always done' pops into your head, here's what I want you to say: Not good enough. Is there a better way? "Yeah. But Chris, it worked the last time." Did it really? If it worked the last time, how come it's happening again? Right. So instead, let's find a different way. Another thing you need to do is change your surroundings. A change of scenery can absolutely change the way you're thinking, it can lead to a change of mindset. So oftentimes, like I say, I just shared with you, there are times if I'm dealing with something, I'll go for a walk around the building. I'll go for a walk down the block. I want to get out, I want to go do something. For some folks it really helps for them to go drive in their car. That's good, but I enjoy driving too much and so the focus becomes on the driving. I need a way to get somewhere out of the situation where I can think. And if I'm not doing a good job thinking in the situation, then sometimes I'll just go for a walk. Go walk around the building, and talk. Talk it out loud with somebody. And many times I get to my own solution immediately. But man, once I talk and I get to hear somebody else's perspective, you know, changing the surroundings, changing the scenery many times will change my mindset. Another thing you need to do is discover. Discover, investigate, research, as if you're looking for the cure to a disease. Right? Now if the problem that's in front of you is, "Where we're going to go eat lunch today?" You probably don't need to take this approach, right? You could probably just do a heck of a lot better job than that. But what if it's something really difficult? What if it's something painful? What if it's something that's been long lasting? Right? Take the approach as if you're looking for a cure for a disease, investigate the living daylights out of what you can do to solve this, or investigate the thing itself, that might help you as well. Lastly, on hunting for new options, jumping to conclusions, and investing too little time greatly reduces options. Folks, you have to stop jumping to conclusions. Now, every single one of us has done this a bajillion times, right? But the sooner you recognize that you should gain perspective quickly, instead of jumping to a conclusion, the sooner you start to understand, you might actually save yourself from being emotionally handcuffed to the situation. Think about it. When we jump to conclusions, what percentage of the time do we immediately get emotionally handcuffed to the conclusion? Right? So if we jump in, and-what is fear? Think about fear. There's two types of fear, the legit fear, you're being chased by a lion, run-I think you're supposed to run, I don't know what you're supposed to do, pick up a rock, I don't know. That's a legit fear. What's the everything else? The fear the assumption of something that might happen, but has not happened yet. Every single time we jump to conclusions, we give ourselves a great opportunity to become emotionally handcuffed to that conclusion.


Chris LoCurto  27:00

Instead, if you don't jump to a conclusion, or back out of it, if you already did, the great thing is we can say "Hold on, I don't know that that's the actual answer. I don't know that that's what's actually going to happen. I don't know that that's the thing, I'm absolutely going to focus on my emotions." And then you can start following all the other things that I've explained to you in this episode, right? So the three things that you need to do, the three keys to changing how you perceive your problem, first thing you need to do is create objectivity. And by the way, we're going to make a download out of all three of these with all of these different options, which is like, I don't know, 12 different things I just hit something like that, I don't know it's a bunch. But we're going to create a download for you. So we will put that link in here as well. So first thing you need to do is create objectivity. Second thing, gain quality perspective, third, hunt for new options, and then all those details under each one of those pieces. So in conclusion, how you think is how you feel, right? So if you think a specific way, then that's how you're going to feel about that specific thing. If you want to feel differently about yourself or the problems that you're facing, then you've got to change something where? In your thinking. You got to change your thinking. Until you do change your thinking, you will not change the way you feel about it. Right? The great thing is you can always change your feelings. The moment you change your thinking. Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he hath thought in his soul, so is he." That's Young's literal translation. Problems are opportunities for you to learn, for you to grow, for you to discover, for you to improve, for you to change for the better. So as you're going through these problems, here's the picture I want you to have in your mind. The more stress that grape on that vine experiences, the stronger, the bolder, the more character, the more complexity it has. The best wines are made from grapes that have had to work through problems. Now, they didn't think through their problems. They didn't feel the problem. But they work through their problems, right? They experienced the stress of the problem. So you're going through some stuff, jump in, solve the problem, the sooner you fix the problem-hey, high S's and high Cs, listen to me. My fellow S's especially-quit shoving it under the rug. The sooner you get to it. The more bold the more complex, the more brilliant, the more better you taste, which just sounds strange. But anyways, problem solving is an art form that you must practice but there's gold to be gathered. The obstacle in front of you, is inviting you to a new way of thinking, acting, and being. Well, hopefully this has helped you today. Take this information, change your leadership, change your business, change your life, and join us on the next episode.

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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.