There are no simple answers

I seem to be genetically unable to give a simple answer. My friends and clients and kids will tell you. Ask me a question and I dive backwards to the backstory, talk about history and building blocks and eventually, probably after your eyes glaze over, come to an answer that shows how all these thread are interconnected.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good meme as well as the next guy. I collect quotes and each week I attach a “quote of the week” to the bottom of my emails. Short, pithy and memorable tidbits of truth.

But also lies.

Because as much as I like short, simple answers to life, I have come to realize that the best answers and solutions are almost never simple, short or sweet. Life and people and situations are complex. Short simple answers are at best, patches, and at their worse, a recipe for disaster. Which does not bode well in the world we live in – an internet inspired, short term, instant answer kind of culture, a place where politicians favor slogans over solutions, and where we want instant spirituality, instant relationship fixes, instant success.

I lose a lot of clients in my opening speal. Because unlike a lot of the hype and slick ads for consultants and coaches, I don’t promise instant results. In fact, I don’t even encourage them. Instead, I tell them, it will take six months to a year to make a major difference. And for many, that is just too long. That is not an investment they are willing to make.

And so, I see some of those might have been clients years later, often nowhere near their goals, or having gone through multiple consultants and coaches, in search still of the quick fix. Some of those quick fixes meant changes that were consultant/coach driven – ideas that the consultant/coach apply in a one size fits all application.

The trouble is, of course, one size does not fit all.

Change is easy. The right change takes time. Why? Because we are all so complex, so interconnected. There are, whether we are an individual or a large corporation, so many aspects and influences to where we are now, and why, and so many considerations on how a chance will impact all these aspects and influences that if we do not take the time to dig deep, really deep, we will end up living the law of unintended consequences. And it won’t be pretty.

I find that, by the end of an engagement with a client, we’ve moved far from what they came to me to deal with, to something very different indeed. Something better, far better, but different. A place we never would have gotten to if we had not spent a lot of time asking questions, letting the answers steep a while, coming back to them for second looks, and looking beyond ourselves to the different influences and people/organizations we impact.

If a client invests the time, and that is a big if ( most don’t), we end up with something sustainable. Not a flash in the pan explosion of change, but something deeper that puts people and the companies in a place where success is a long-term constant. A place where there won’t have to be a sea change every six months or a year. Panic is reduced. Stress is reduced. And the solutions we arrive at continue to work over the long term.

Those kinds of solutions don’t come in a flash. They take time. They take commitment. The answers are not simple. Never simple. Because we don’t live in a simple world. It’s not that we can’t simplify things. In fact, there often is a lot of simplification in finding solutions or changing our lives.

But the art of simplification is really the art of understanding what is important and what is not. What matters and what matters less. How everything is connected.

And everything is connected.

As individuals, everything we do impacts family, friends, groups we are a part of, those we work with, our minds and emotions and self-images. For any path to work, all these need to be looked at and we need to understand the implications of those connections and the importance each really has for us.

As organizations, we have clients, customers, suppliers, divisions, corporate cultures, trends and a host of other things to get our head around.

And national problems and struggles? Forget simple answers. The variations and factors are crazy complex. There is no simple answer to poverty. No simple answer to the Middle East. No simple fix for the economy.

When we stop and think about it, we know this. We know things are complex and interconnected. And yet, we fall for the “All we need to do is…..” platitudes again and again. Let me tell you something. If anyone has a one paragraph answer to what ails you – run. Run fast. You are being set up for failure. We want simple answers, but if we go for the slogan as the answer we will end up with the same problem, and often made worse.

What leads us to better lives; what leads us to lasting solutions in governing, what builds the best systems, what brings peace to our souls and lifts our lives and art and business, what builds lasting success and the best companies and the best marketing campaigns, what brings us peace and joy in what we do – is complex. Sift through the complexity and you will get where you want to go. Every time.

And memes? Pithy quotes? They are great reminders once we have an answer. They help keep us on the path. But they are not the path itself. Because there are no simple answers.

Count on it.

Be well. Travel Wisely.

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