Saturday, November 1, 2008

Looking for Something That’s Too Simple

One of the improvements I had to make when I moved into my house involved cutting a hole in the concrete foundation. What is the right way to cut a hole in concrete? I wondered. Was there a special tool for this? My reference books did not say, and the answers I found online were vague and inconclusive, so I wondered about it for weeks.

It turns out that while there are various ways of cutting holes in concrete, the standard approach I would want to use involved bashing away with a hammer and chisel (wearing safety glasses, of course). As soon as I tried this I realized it would take only a matter of minutes to cut the hole I wanted. The obvious brute force method worked in less time than I had taken researching the question.

The answers we are looking for the hardest are simpler than we expect them to be. We often miss the answer we want the most just because when we see it, it seems too simple. I knew about chisels, but for some reason that I can’t explain now, a chisel didn’t seem like it had enough firepower to take on the foundation of a house. Holding that belief about the limits of chisels, I didn’t think to try one, even though that was all the answer I needed.

In whatever you are trying to do or wish you could do, look at the obstacles that seem to be stopping you. Imagine that you have learned that an amazingly simple solution exists. What could that solution be? Who else would know about it? When you expect simple solutions, there are not quite so many obstacles to interrupt your progress.