27 August 2008

Most Problems Cannot Be Solved

Perhaps my favorite Peter Drucker quote is, "Most problems cannot be solved. And most problems are made irrelevant by success."

The point is, we can waste a great deal of effort in our lives trying to solve things. For instance, a business may spend a huge amount of effort to stem the erosion in market share of a product that is becoming obsolete instead of focusing that effort on creating a new product line. A person may work on correcting an annoying habit of someone they love or even to lose ten pounds rather than focus on living an extraordinary life and simply sweeping along whoever wants to come.

It's possible to put false predecessors before joy, before living life fully, before success. It might be that losing ten pounds helps you to feel happier or even to find the perfect person. It might be. It might also be that you can simply become the happier person and make the weight loss irrelevant (and perhaps even easier to attain once you are happy).

Which brings us to politics. We're facing record deficits. A huge wave of entitlement payments looms over us as baby boomers begin to retire. Wages have stagnated. It would be easy to look at the landscape spoiled by George W. and conclude that we have a great many problems to solve. But if we were to focus instead on creating new industries - industries like alternative energies, nanotechnology, teleporting, neuron manipulation for enhancing cognition, and the reinvention of education - these issues could be made irrelevant.

A commitment to become a happy adult probably doesn't involve solving all the problems of childhood.

I'm going to attempt devoting more attention at R World to painting what I see as possible, what I see as exciting. I think that our future is both more potentially exciting and positive and more potentially risky and catastrophic than most anyone seems to admit or realize. It is the possible future - a place on the far side of a great many social and technical innovations - that could be so extraordinary as to render moot the problems that so capture the attention of commentators and columnists today.

Imagine a world where our corporations have been transformed into vehicles for creating meaning and engagement at work, where abundance is a natural consequence of the design of systems that align with natural laws and personal convictions, organizations that don't dictate who we should be but, instead, facilitate the process of us defining and realizing who we could be. Imagine a world with technology that make transportation and energy issues sustainable, makes our economy less about consumption that destroys our habitat (a focus on quantity of goods) and more about engagement that defines our individuality (a focus on quality of life).

It would be unseemly for a 47 year old man to spend all his time trying to get "it" right, where "it" was being 13 and in middle school. It's best just to let some things go.

As we shake off the bad memory of the Bush years, or even many of the bad habits and issues of capitalism or even the information economy, it is best not to become too obsessed with solving the many problems that have been left to us. There is too much potential to realize, too many possibilities to explore, to let that be our focus.


Anonymous said...

I've had a similar thought about therapy.

There's a school of thought that you have to work through your problems, as if there were some benefit to reliving a horror over and over. And there may be cases where that is the best way to go.

But I think many times the best thing you can do is just walk away and make a fresh start.

texasholly said...

I recently changed my tournament poker strategy. I now peek at my cards and answer the simple question, "am I comfortable RAISING with this hand?" If not...the cards are folded. If so, then the raise is made.

I NEVER call a bet. I fold or I raise.

This puts all the power in my hands. I am not at another player's mercy. It is never THEIR decision. No one has the power to force my bet.

I think that if life was approached more in this manner, success would be in the hands of those willing to live, take the risk, and take the lead.

It isn't like the the talent, resources and potential to solve these problems don't exist. We are just sitting around waiting for someone else to bet...

Ron Davison said...

I agree that once a person understands certain things, it is often not worth dwelling there anymore. And, yes, I think that is pretty much the same thing although I had not thought of that.

That is not a comment. That is a post. Very profound. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I often say that about personal life -- not every problem can be solved. I had not thought about politics this way, though. Sometimes, I throw up my hands at the huge issues. But, you are right -- perhaps it is time to move forward instead of wringing hands.

Ron Davison said...

good to have you swing by R World. Thanks. And thanks for your thoughts.