From the Braver Institute
When I was a kid I liked mazes and word search puzzles. With the advent of video games my interests changed to electronic challenges. My big sister Sorta and I would spend countless hours playing video games that involved solving puzzles more than just typical video game action.
While the action type games can be plenty of fun, they tended to wear thin after a short while if there wasn’t much thinking to be done. The need to solve a problem to move forward in the game kept it fresh and challenging.
I started working for a hardware store when I was nineteen and it is during this time that I think I became aware of my desire to solve problems.
When I was first asked by Doc (one of the owners of the hardware store and now my friend) to move from the receiving room to the sales floor I was more than a bit trepidatious. I would have to step out of a world I was comfortable with and into a world of helping customers. I could see it being a potential nightmare.
The biggest problem was that I would have to help customers with plumbing and electrical problems. I knew nothing about these two fields and I was greatly intimidated by them.
As it turned out, I found both of these areas to be rather interesting and I became quite adept at solving the problems customers had. It was a real challenge since I had to work on projects that were not right in front of me. I had to rely on the description from the customer of the project and the problem. Then I had to come up with an answer and do it in a way that I could explain to the customer. Solving these problems became fun and the ability to do so has served me well over the years.
As my parents’ house grew older the plumbing started to give them problems. It seemed that it was always looking for new places to leak and at the worst possible time—like three in the morning. Over the years I systematically replaced the plumbing as it started to fail. The puzzle with this kind of project is figuring out the best way to make the repair with the least amount of downtime for the rest of the system.
As I stepped into the role of homeowner I moved from solving plumbing and electrical problems for others to solving these problems for myself. When you are a homeowner the need to solve problems is ceaseless.
Of course I had a confidence that I didn’t have when I first started working in the hardware store all those years ago and when it came time to build a house I had no problems or fears with running the plumbing and electrical system.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I am a plumber or an electrician, that would be an insult to those who truly are. These things are not easy and what I know has taken me years to learn. Real plumbers and electricians know more than I ever will and my hat is off to them.
Anyway, I have done plumbing and electrical repairs and installations for many friends and family members over the years and I have always enjoyed the work.
Recently I was faced with an electrical problem on a type of system that I hadn’t worked with much before. A new puzzle that needed solving. After spending a fair amount of time testing circuits and making notes I came to the “a-ha” moment of solving the problem.
It occurred to me at that moment that solving this problem had the same level of satisfaction as getting through a maze did when I was a child. That reward that comes with solution is worth the frustration it takes to get there.
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