The Solution Is Right In Front of Me!

On our QBQ! Facebook page, I posted, “My success begins and ends with my choices.” Many folks said, “Amen!”

Except for one guy. He wrote …

“How luck and random events play into the affairs of humankind must be considered. It’s surely fortunate to be born in the U.S., have the name of Trump, be healthy, and so on—but making good choices isn’t easy when the options are opaque, incomprehensible, or too numerous to master.”


To be honest, this type of “rationale” exhausts me. Call me simple-minded, but I believe this:

My life can and will be better when I choose to make it better. Anything else is blame, procrastination, whining, and victim thinking.

So sorry if that offends—it’s simply how I choose to view the world.

The Solution Was Right In Front of Me

The Millers have an intercom system in our Colorado house, installed before we bought the home. With many levels, stairs, and steps, it’s a handy tool. Press a button in any room to locate or ask someone a question! We’ve loved it.

Until it quit. Ugh.

I knew finding a vendor would be a hassle—and costly. So I opened the main console (pictured), tinkered with the wires, surfed the web for solutions, and emailed potential suppliers. I got nowhere.

Then I remembered—I know a guy!

I contacted Brennan, a friend of our daughter, Tara’s, and an A/V expert. A week later, he drove the 20 miles to our home. What a guy.

After looking at the console, Brennan asked where our electrical wires converge. I directed him to the basement.

Joining him moments later, I found Brennan in our water heater closet, grinning out at me. With great anticipation, I exclaimed, “You fixed it?!?”

He pointed. That’s when I saw a dangling UNPLUGGED electrical cord (also pictured).

You have got to be kidding me.

Brennan then reached for the cord, inserted it into the outlet, and declared, “Problem solved!”

Believe me, we had a good laugh. As “payment,” I gave him six Flipping the Switch books for his team at work and he left. Brennan’s visit lasted … 7 minutes. 🙂

Are You a Complicator Or a Simplifier?

Problem: Intercom not working.

Solution: Plug it in.

Humans have an innate ability to overcomplicate life and exacerbate its daily challenges by not seeing and reaching for the obvious solution. Yet we’re far more apt to “live successfully” when we grab the answer right in front of us. You know, this one:

Making better choices. Taking ownership. Practicing personal accountability and responsibility.

Too simple? Maybe, but here’s my view: Life is hard enough, why make it harder by —

  • Playing the victim
  • Conjuring up excuses
  • Holding a “Pity Party of One”
  • Living with entitlement thinking
  • Engaging in “If Only” and “What If”
  • Blaming others for my results/outcomes
  • Searching for “extenuating circumstances”

Doesn’t that all just sound … draining?

It does to me.

Do you desire greater energy, focus, happiness, and personal growth? Want to solve more problems, move forward faster, and achieve bigger goals? Then un-complicate life by reaching for the solution staring each of us in the face: Personal Accountability.

It’s just as simple as that.

Oh, how did that intercom cord get unplugged? Well, that’s another story.

Are you a Complicator or a Simplifier? Comments welcome!


22 Responses

  1. My husband does IT – can’t tell you how many times the answer was “plug it in” or “turn on the switch”. Great reminder that not every solution is difficult and sometimes right in front of us!

  2. Agree with you 99% of the time, but you are a bit off on this one – sorry. It’s not as simple as that. Two people at a starting line – take one step forward if you were raised with both parents in the house, take one step forward if you live in a top 10% school district, take one step forward if you are good looking, take one step forward if you are tall, take one step forward if you are athletic or musical or extremely intelligent, take one step forward if you are thin, and another step if you are extroverted…..yes, things can be overcome, but there is a sense of entitlement about the message being that everything in life comes from 100% effort – yeah, maybe for you.

  3. We are much more in control then we think, and it starts with our mind! I know i have to train my mind not to ask those exhausting questions, and focus on simulations and what can I do…what’s done is done. Positivity and accountability can be the difference in every situation! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and positive thoughts! It really helps to keep it top of mind and re-train how I think and I control my life!

  4. Spot on again John. Life is all about choices! I grew up with divorced parents, and not a safe life before the divorce and parents that drank too much back then. Even at 11, I knew that I was my own person and whatever I came from didn’t give me an excuse. What I have never understood was the comment even back then “You don’t act like your parents are divorced!” What does that mean????

    I guess being the poster child of what playing victim COULD look like and never playing that role shocked people, even 39 years ago……

    Keep on keeping on, I appreciate your emails greatly!

    AJ Englund

  5. I would like to think that i am a Simplifier. My son and daughter-in-law used to always let their son play his electronics at the table during a meal. When they tried to take it away, their son would get upset. Well when our grandson comes to visit us, at the table he is not allowed to search games or U-Tube. Instead, grandma has been trying to instill the time at the table is called family time and we must use our manners! He’s 4 and he will listen to me. It’s draining to me all the excuses that come along with parenting. They say times have changed. I guess I am Old School and require respect! Life can be hard sometimes, however, children learn from what they see and hear. It’s time that some adults learn that message.

  6. I love the message of simple solutions. It is amazing how often they are overlooked because they seem too easy to be true. I teach Geometry, and I love showing my students “shortcuts” to problems…especially ones dealing with fractions. Every time I show them a “shortcut” their minds are blown. It is really awesome when I see them using those methods in their work.

    The reason I have shortcuts in quotes is that in Math, there really isn’t shortcuts…just different mathematical properties that can take a long problem and make it into a shorter one.

  7. Excellent post. How often we complicate things. Solutions do appear right in front of us.

    And worry can often block the view.

    Take each day, each choice, one at a time. . .

    “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Any guess as to who said that?

  8. I learned long ago to always start with the easiest answers and work towards the harder ones when working on my car, my home, any lawn equipment or my business. Does it have gas, is the battery charged, is it plugged in (could be the name of your next book…Plug It In :), have we tried unplugging and plugging it back in, did we train them properly, and so on.

    Most times, it’s the easiest answers that solve the problem. In AA we say, “keep it simple, don’t drink, and go to meetings” and it will solve the problem. We’re all simple people who often complicate things.

    I like Brennan by the way. 20 miles is probably a half hour in the car for a seven minute stay, then a half hour back. He sacrificed some of his time for you, solved your problem, had a good laugh with you, and walked away with some books. Not a bad deal considering he would have done it just because he likes you.

  9. Great insights and Yes! My word of the year for the last THREE years has been and still is SIMPLIFY.
    Stop the worrying about things that may or may not happen, make the choice to take control, take action in support of what YOU need and the rest will follow.
    Who knew that it was so hard to be simple?
    Now, I am off to take some of my own medicine, sack my manager (people leave managers, not companies) and take action in pursuit of what I need. The so-called (in my world) Indiana Jones step – take the step and the rest will follow.
    Thank you.

  10. One key point to the story is that, although you didn’t solve the problem on your own, you had the humility to realize you couldn’t. After all, we are humans, and we have a human tendency to be blind to our own mistakes or “overcomplicate” situations. Sometimes it’s best to concede to the fact that “I don’t have all of the answers” and call in an expert. The fine line that we must be careful not to cross is to quickly punt all of our problems without ever owning up to them; we must take responsibility for our problems and do our part to solve them.

  11. Amazing. I have had things like this happen to me in the past and unfortunately I did not “know a guy”. I have become a simplifier in my mature years now. I once was that one that complicated everything because I thought there has to be more to it but nope there wasn’t so life is much more simple now.

  12. Great post as usual, John!

    My only question – did this happen before or after National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation came out? Because it sounds like you and Clark had similar frustrations due to simple plugs and switches! Ha!

  13. I own a residential remodeling company. In the second half of 2017, we were responsible for damaging several entry doorways. After the first one happened, I wanted to go on a “witch hunt” for the responsible person. I had to resist this approach knowing it didn’t matter, the damage was done. In the months after, this same type of damage occurred two more times. I fell into a trap of IQ’s of “who” and “when will they” along with some whining and “why can’t the crew get this right”. While reading Flipping the Switch last weekend I suddenly had a realization. I hadn’t even talked to the crew yet I expected them to magically fix this problem that they might not even knew existed! I could solve this problem by taking some very SIMPLE actions! 1. Talk to the crew about the problem 2. Obtain more of the door jamb protection products that we use sometimes, you know the ones that are a mere $15 a pair. 3. Place “make sure the doorway is protected” on some of our checklist that we use, specifically the pre-demolition checklist. Why all the whining and complaining? Simple actions that I have control over can most likely solve this problem. It was so SIMPLE and I couldn’t believe that this solution was sitting in front of me the whole time! Thanks for the post John, and all your books!

  14. Hello John,
    I am always amazed by how many situations you have described where the answer was simple. Or as you have been accused, “nice theory but too simple”. I have to think that we have evolved as human beings to believe we need a complicated solution to everything to massage our self esteem. Or is it a sign of our culture’s decreasing accountability and look to everyone else to fix things for us? I laugh when I see “classes” put together at my workplace for problem solving. This amounts to what you and I would call good old-fashioned critical thought. As always, thanks for the read!


  15. Scott is right on with: As you have been accused, “nice theory but too simple”. I have to think that we have evolved as human beings to believe we need a complicated solution to everything to massage our self esteem.”

    Simple cannot be considered “correct” when intellectuals (those who deal in ideas) are involved. It takes too much humility, which is not a strength of intellectuals. We should only be so lucky to receive their complicated wisdom 😉

    You are only a victim if you think and act like one. Everyone on the planet could find a reason to play the victim, but some CHOOSE not to, and those are the individuals who rise above.

  16. Great story and a fine example of “start with the requirements”. I was in a job and wasn’t happy or pleased with the lack of advancement opportunity. I asked myself “what can I do to change my situation?” No one else was going to fix my problem and complaining wasn’t going to fix anything either. So I started looking and in short order I had a new job, new challenges and job satisfaction. Same level of money but a much more enjoyable job where I could help management achieve better results. I started with the requirements – What did I want? Do I have the skills to do the job? Will I be able to make a difference in the new job? Will it interest me?

  17. What a great story! In a world where we get inundated with email, I always look forward to reading yours. The world of self awareness, self responsibility, accountability, rational thought and active thinkers is slowly diminishing. It’s refreshing to read your take on the world and to hear an honest, truthful and accurate take on the events that you encounter. Thank you for sharing.
    My husband sent me the following link the other day. I thought of you John, and your work. I thought of all of us who do not dare to post it to our FB and other social media. I thought, WOW, this is so well put and it’s terrifying.

  18. I am definitely a complicator, but working on simplifying, and looking forward to more personal responsibility. I appreciate your putting out this message that is not popular in this day and age. It is amazing how often there is a simple solution to something, and even when the real solution is more complicated, being thankful and not complaining goes a long way to get it fixed. I have an accountability partner and she reminded me recently that no one wants to be a downer.

    Thank you and I look forward to more blogs and more of QBQ!
    -Elizabeth (aka Betsy)

  19. Unfortunately there are far too many complicators everywhere. This, in my view, has led to more and more entitlements.
    If we ALL took personal accountability for our everyday lives, whether “luck or random events” get in the way, we are still in charge of our lives. So are they a road block or just a speed bump? That is the choice as an individual you would have to make. Hopefully at the worst, it is a speed bump, and you get over it.

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