If there is one thing we can count on in life, is that things will go wrong. We will always have problems. In our paths to success, achievement, creation, study, work, whatever it is that we are doing, we will come across some obstacles. Things are hardly ever just smooth sailing.
For some of us, our problems and obstacles are small and manageable, for others, they loom large and seemingly unsolvable. At the end of the day, what matters is our reaction and action towards them.
Do we shrink back at the first signs of trouble, giving up, burying our heads in the sand, or do we push forward and make things happen regardless?
But what if our obstacles were not merely blockages and problems to overcome? What if they were the actual tools, reasons, conditions for our success? What if we could turn our problems on their heads and transform them into advantages?
How much would that change the game?
Every negative situation contains the possibility for something positive, an opportunity. It is how you look at it that matters, your lack of resources can be an advantage, forcing you to be more inventive with the little that you have…Do not let fears make you wait for a better moment, or become conservative. If there are circumstances you cannot control, make the best of them. It is the ultimate alchemy to transform all such negatives into advantages and power.
The above quote is from one of my favourite books of all time, The 50th Law by Robert Greene & 50 Cent. It is from the preamble at the start of the 3rd chapter: Turn Shit to Sugar – Opportunism. This entire idea is also the core of Ryan Holiday’s book – The Obstacle is The Way. The idea that the things that stand in our way, can be turned into opportunities, instead of blocking us, they can actually become our way forward.
But how do you do that? Here are some key ideas you have to embrace to start developing the skill of tackling your problems and flipping them into solutions.
Control your perception
The first thing to note is that perception and framing is everything. You need to learn to look at everything that happens to you as neutral. Understand and be clear about why things happen. It might have been because of a mistake, an error or decision you made. It could be because of something someone else did. It could be just the random hand of fate and chance. But realise that nothing that happens to you is inherently bad or good, until you decide it is, until you interpret it as such.
Once we are able to hold that detachment, once we are able to delay judgement and really try to see a situation for what it really is, exploring and looking at it from all sides, then we can understand the full picture, the issues at stake, and the potential ways of resolving or flipping it.
Go on the offensive
Turning shit to sugar requires a proactive approach. You cannot allow yourself to falter, to pull back, and just lick your wounds and feel sorry for yourself. Sure, catch your breath if you need to. Pull back and analyse things to gather intel. But then move. Do something. Approach your problem actively and take your next steps. Even if you don’t feel fully ready. Being in an active stance forces your mind and senses to focus on the issue at hand fully. Instead of waiting for opportunities to appear, go out and make them for yourself. In this intense state, you are able to think far and wide, outside the box, until you find something that works.
Look on the bright side
No matter how hectic a problem is, there is always an opportunity, something good to be squeezed out of it. Losing your job might give you the time you needed to rest and recover from burnout. Perhaps it gives you the time to actually think about what you want and make the changes you need to. Not having client projects to work on could give you the space and time to come up with some of your own. Whatever the issue is, there is a bright side to it. Take note of it and embrace it.
Make the most of what you have
Sometimes our paths feel super limited. Sometimes it really feels like there’s just nothing that we can do. We might not be able to operate at the full levels we want to because we just don’t have the resources. But whatever it is that we do have right now, we must use to the fullest. We have to exhaust our present capacity and make the most of it. It is in doing so that we inch forward, that we create cracks in the obstacles, or stimulate new answers.
Keep an open mind
It is normal to get stuck, but most of the time, we remain stuck because we are too stubborn, we are too narrow minded about what we can become, and what we want to do. We fail to see the many other doors open to us, the other paths we could take. Sure they could feel like detours. They might even feel like giving up. But sometimes it is okay to let go of old goals for new ones, sometimes it is fine to explore new paths. We might even be able to get to our original goals in an different, indirect way than anticipated.
It is okay to be focused and resolute about the place we want to get to, but we should also be open minded about what paths we will take to get there.
Look for the turning of the tide
All of these previous ideas allow us to hold our nerve and stay even keeled while we deal with the assault of problems and obstacles we face. And as we work, as we do our best, making the best of what we have, embracing the good in it, suspending judgement and all of that, things move. Things happen. Either of our own cause, or just as part of the chaos of the world out there. But things can spontaneously happen. Suddenly a door opens, an opportunity presents itself, an unexpected boon drops in your lap. Keep watch for the turning of the tide. Do not be dull. be awake and ready to take action, to seize the day and flip your fortunes.
With practice and discipline. Over time, we can become adept with this skill. being confident to tackle life, knowing that no matter what the challenge is, you have the toolset to handle it, to surf the uncertain waves of life, to turn even your problems into stepping stones towards your future.