A Lesson in Ownership and Problem Solving

November 28, 2018

Children that love pets—especially cats—teach us powerful life lessons. Here’s a lesson in ownership taught me by the eight-year-old who lives across the street from me. Several years ago, this young girl said: “Mr. Wayne, have you seen the feral cat that is roaming in our neighborhood?” I replied, “No, I haven’t seen the feral cat.”

Two days later, she asked me, “Mr. Wayne, have you seen the feral black cat that hides in my shrubs?” I replied, “No, I haven’t seen the feral black cat that hides in your shrubbery.” I was glad I had asked my wife, “What is a feral cat?” Because her next question was, “Mr. Wayne, do you know what a feral cat is?” “Yes,” I answered, “a wild, homeless cat.”

The next day, the young girl said: “Have you seen Shadow?” The feral cat that had become the feral black cat now had a name, Shadow. There is a progression here, right?

Several days later, as I was getting into my car, the neighbor came running across the street shouting “Please, Mr. Wayne doesn’t back out over, My cat.” For her, the feral cat had now become her cat. She had taken ownership.

This story offers a four-step problem-solving procedure.

Problem Stage 1: The issues are vague, random and often wild (feral) in form. But something is amiss or brewing.

Action: Your challenge is to get your hands around these non-defined, often unusual occurrences and mold them into some coherent form. Problems can’t stay feral or wild.

Problem Stage 2: The vague issues are described, and they will affect me.

Action: Gather your arms around the looming problem. name it. Make the problem as visible as possible. Look for facts. Each new fact brings new knowledge. New knowledge leads to better decisions. Better decisions carry better problem resolution.

Problem Stage 3. The problem has a name, and the potential payoff is defined. 

Action: Identify the problem. Pay careful attention. What you name the problem defines what the problem is and what it is not. The more precise and more specific you are in stating the problem, the quicker you solve it. Often, in defining the problem, you reveal the solution.

Problem Stage 4. You realize that you must take ownership to resolve the problem.

Action: Take responsibility. Successful people realize that they have the power—and the responsibility—to resolve the problems that confront them. The courage to face and solve problems defines a successful person. This lesson is made crystal clear in the above story of the neighbor girl and “her” cat. Successful people take ownership of a problem.

Any problem that has the power to affect you is a problem that should have your name of ownership attached to it; look at the issue as an opportunity for exhibiting your problem-solving skills.