Annoyance and irritation are part of daily life. When we encounter unexpected difficulties, we often become emotional and raise our voice. When people oppose our plans, we question their intentions and express our discontent. However, the fact that those reactions are natural does not make them effective.
Successful living is a process of
dealing with adversity
Successful living is a process of
dealing with adversity and overcoming obstacles. If we stay alert and
adopt an entrepreneurial attitude, trouble can reveal opportunities to
improve our environment. Everybody is able to complain, but too few
individuals are motivated to analyse problems, study their causes, and
figure out solutions.
Anger and discontent may mark the steps to a
better life more effectively than conformity. Those who accept
disruption without resistance seldom come up with ideas to prevent
further perturbation. In contrast, those who hate interruptions tend to
be the ones who suggest protective measures.
Problems must be
defined before they can be solved
Problems must be
perceived as such before they can be dissected and solved. It is not a
coincidence that most inventors and entrepreneurs are independent
characters. Individuals who trust their own perception do not fear
calling things by their names. Exacerbated diplomacy can undermine
sincerity and inhibit personal initiative.
(1398-1468), to whom History credits with the invention of the printing
press, was the quintessential self-reliant entrepreneur. He was trained
as a goldsmith, plied his trade for decades in several German towns,
and it was only in his forties that he identified the business
opportunity that would transform his life.
At the turn of the
15th century, reading material was expensive and the choice of titles
severely limited. The price of a volume of three hundred pages would
exceed one hundred times what it costs today. Less than one per cent of
the population was able to read; as a result, only the clergy and
aristocracy had access to written information.
The interesting question is why so few people manage to define problems accurately
times, the cost of producing books had been proportional to the effort
it took to copy them by hand. A monk labouring at a monastery would need
two years to copy and illustrate a Bible by hand. In addition, pages of
medieval books were made of parchment, that is, prepared animal skins,
which also increased the overall cost of production.
high price of books, it was obvious that there was a growing market for
them. The interesting question is why none of the thousands of people in
Europe involved in the production of hand-written volumes had perceived
the slowness of the process as a problem. Apparently, before Johannes
Gutenberg, the established mode of operation was taken for granted.
thousands of years, goldsmiths had been using gold to make delicate
jewellery, as well as religious and ornamental figures. Gutenberg did
not conceive the idea of casting figures with molten metal, but he was
the first to realize the massive economies that could be made by casting
movable types and using them for book production.
Most people get discouraged after a few attempts to solve a problem
experiments quickly revealed the difficulties of the enterprise. What
alloy should he use to produce the types? How was he going to melt the
thousands of individual letters that are needed to produce each page of a
book? How could he increase ink density in order to produce clean
It took Gutenberg many years to master the process. By
the time he had overcome one obstacle, another one would appear. His
venture led him to incur massive debts, which he could hardly reimburse.
Finally, his attempts proved successful and a first run of books came
out of his atelier.
In 1455, Gutenberg undertook to print the
Bible. By then, he was already 57 years old and fully conscious of the
immensity of the task that he had set up for himself. Unabated, he hired
help to compose text with movable types, purchased materials, and began
to print pages. Several dozen Gutenberg Bibles have survived the
passage of time and can be admired today in museums around the world.
you able to transform problems into opportunities?
ability to acknowledge individual problems enabled him to create a book
production system that changed the course of History. He combined
existing technologies into a creative solution to a problem that few
people had perceived as acute. The printing press drove down book prices
and spread literacy to a larger segment of the population.
you also able to transform problems into opportunities? When a product
or service seems overpriced, do you try to identify the reason? Do you
make the effort to analyse disruptions? When you experience irritation,
can you name the critical elements involved?
career offers us a vivid example of an essential entrepreneurial trait:
the ability to isolate difficulties and reduce them to manageable size.
Once Gutenberg named a problem, he devised a solution, achieved
stability in that area, and moved to the next challenge.
First define your problems and priorities
who try to accomplish too much at the same time frequently feel
overwhelmed. Unless you achieve success in some area, you will grow
dispirited and might even decide to quit your endeavours altogether.
Instead, acquire the good habit of making a list of pressing
Name your problems, assess their relative
importance, and establish priorities. Deal only with the most critical
issues until you have achieved a tolerable level of stability. Once you
have improved a specific aspect, move to the next and build it from
For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book about how to be rational "The 10 Principles of Rational Living"
[Image by Alton S. under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]