alexchiri

3 minute read

There are a couple of concepts I learned about recently, while reading “Designing your life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. These are not part of the main idea of the book, but I found them as powerful as they are simple.

Gravity problems

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A gravity problem is a problem that is not actionable. If you see gravity as a problem and you decide to fight it, to “solve” it, you will realise sooner or later that it is unsolvable and you would be far off better with accepting it as a reality and find ways to work around it.

That means that instead of cursing into your breath and wasting energy complaining about it when you cannot just fly to work, you accept it and take the bus and get on with your life. Sure this is a rather juvenile and obvious example, but there are many people in companies getting stuck fighting gravity problems without realising. They get more frustrated and frustrated, until they quit their company and move on to another, where they soon end up more or less in the same fight. I’m not trying to suggest that people quit jobs only because of misperceived gravity problems, but I tend to believe they are more common than we would like to admit it.

What I am suggesting, in the end, is to be conscious about the problems you try to tackle or get frustrated by. Are they actionable? Can you do something about them? If not, try to accept them as they are, as part of the reality and free up energy to invest in things you can influence.

The authors of the book include in the gravity problems category also large scale issues that could be actionable, but require enormous amount of effort to be invested and there’s a good chance you would not be able to see any effects (except your despair) in a short amount of time. Like equal pay for genders or eradicating slavery. Now if everyone would’ve accepted these issues and moved on in the past, then we wouldn’t have been where we are now. That’s not what the authors suggest. Instead, they are simply advising to be conscious about the challenges you are undertaking and be honest with yourself about your expectations to progress, if you decide to attack such a problem.

Anchor problems

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With anchor problems, although they are actionable, we are anchored to a specific solution and we are stuck trying to pursue just that one, even though there are other solutions which could give similar results. When we perceive a certain solution as the only way to get out of a problem and that solution is difficult to accomplish, we become stuck.

When this happens, the first step is to be aware of it. Second step is to try to pivot, find alternative ways to solve our problem and let go of the unachievable way out. It’s very simple to dream of this shiny happy way of solving a problem, but it may be just an excuse to not really tackle it. Many times there are multiple ways to get us to our target and many times they are just one pivot away.

So next time we are stuck with a problem, we should ask: is this a gravity problem I keep hitting? Is the problem actionable? Or, am I anchored on a specific solution? Can I attack this from a different angle?

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