We live in an exceptional country, filled with exceptional people. I know it’s in vogue to bemoan how bad things are, how they’re progressively getting worse, how things never used to be this bad and if only everyone would just see things the same way as (insert a person you admire here), everything would be perfect.
I think that notion is silly. And worse, it’s dangerously naive. If I’ve only learned one thing in my life (and I hope I’ve learned more), it’s that there is no shortage of problems. There never has been, since the dawn of our nation. But we all suffer from the bias of immediacy, which causes us to simultaneously overemphasize the issues of today and gloss over the issues of yesterday.
So let’s agree that our country has never been perfect. And while we’re at it, let’s also agree that imperfection does not mean we’re not exceptional. What makes this an exceptional country is not a lack of problems; it’s that there have always been exceptional people who rise up to solve those problems. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan. Thankfully, the list is long and their accomplishments longer.
I don’t know if this is true for you, but when I think of great problem-solvers, I tend to think of people that could universally be thought of as leaders. I don’t tend to think of people whose main contribution is fame, talent or some remarkable feat. I think it’s important to point out the difference between personal heroes (which I’ll talk about in the next post) and people who solve problems.
The other lesson in this is that problem-problem solving is generally a competency of great leadership but leaders aren’t necessarily great problem-solvers. You can’t go a day without hearing about the failings of some leader, whether in business, politics or elsewhere.
My advice? Focus on solving problems. It’s an essential requirement for success and one of the things that will continue to ensure we live in an exceptional country.