A phrase to keep your mindset properly tuned.
I used to have a builder I liked to work with. He’s moved away now. Last I heard he was heading north towards Darwin with the missus.
Anyway, he had this expression that I used to love. “Humanity has beaten bigger challenges than this.”
So if we were looking at a particularly tricky problem that didn’t have an obvious solution – this is what he’d come back to.
How do we open up the entertaining area without knocking down a supporting wall? How do we raise the house and build in underneath without going over council height restrictions? How do we split the house into two self-contained units, without putting a whole new plumbing system?
“Hmmmm. Well, humanity has beaten bigger challenges than this.”
Quite a few conversations ended that way. After we’d rolled the problem around for a bit, he’d say, “Might have to think about it for a bit. But she’ll be right. You know, humanity has beaten bigger problems than this.”
I used to love it.
First, I love that kind of positive attitude. It’s like that idea, “You’re never defeated if you never give up.”
He’d never get all defeatist, and say, oh it will never work. You have to give up on that silly-dream Dymphna.
(Seriously, I’ve had some builders pull that nonsense on me. They didn’t last long).
But this guy stayed positive. And he knew that if he couldn’t think of a solution, it didn’t mean there wasn’t one. All it meant was that he hadn’t thought of it.
That’s actually a special and rare kind of humility. A lot of people can’t manage that kind of grace. If they can’t think of a solution, they can’t accept the idea that they can’t think of it… They just can’t handle the idea that the problem is better than them.
If they can’t think of a solution, their pride makes them say that it must be because there isn’t one.
“Nope. Won’t work. Your idea is silly. Have you even done a renovation before?”
Grrrrrrr. That kind of pride is really hard to work with.
The other thing I loved about that statement is that it puts the problem in perspective. Sure, I might be struggling to open up an entertaining area, but compared to the challenges humanity has faced – conquering famines, putting people on the moon, constructing pyramids, it’s pretty small fry.
Humans are endlessly creative and ingenious. There’s going to be a solution somewhere.
So for me, that statement was a powerful affirmation in human creativity… and in our creativity.
It was an affirmation of total certainty that there was a solution somewhere. We just had to find it.
And you know what? There always was.
We always found one. And I think there is always a solution out there if you can stay humble and stay positive. It’s just how the world is, I reckon.
So try that one out next time a problem’s go the better of you… “Well, humanity has beaten bigger problems than this.”
See what it does for you.