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How To Solve Unsolvable Problems

Aug 17, 2007
When Willis H. Carrier was a young man, he worked for the Buffalo Forge Company in Buffalo, New York. He remembered that one of his toughest projects was the installation of a gas-cleaning device in a plant of the Pittsburgh Glass Company at Crystal City, Missouri. While the device, designed to clean gas as it burned without damaging the engines, worked properly, it was new and had only been tried once under different conditions.

As Willis worked on this project, problems arose - because, while the device did work, it did not work properly. Stunned by his failure, Willis got nervous, upset, and physically ill, and he obsessed about the malfunctioning device to the point of insomnia.

Finally, in a fit of desperation, Willis decided to think his way out of his problem.

His first step, he decided, was to fix himself; the device could wait. Worry, he decided, had rendered him ineffective.

After much thinking, he came up with a peace-of-mind plan. His plan, he believed, would allow him to get a handle on resolving the mechanical problem. To his surprise, it worked so well that he used the plan for the next 30 years.

"I analyzed the situation fearlessly and honestly," he commented, "and figured out what was the worst that could possibly happen as a result of this failure." It was unlikely that he would be jailed, shot, or hanged. The worst that would happen is that he would be fired and be forced to look for a new job. Also, his employer would lose $20,000, which could be written off as a tax loss.

"After discovering," he concluded, "the worst that could possibly happen and reconciling myself to accepting it, if necessary, an extremely important thing happened: I immediately felt a sense of peace that I hadn't experienced in days."

After reconciling himself with his possible fate, Willis calmly devoted the rest of his time to trying to resolve the issues with the gas-cleaning device. After running several tests, he estimated that his company needed to spend another $5,000 to buy some additional equipment which would solve the problem.

The additional equipment worked and the company made a profit of $15,000.

"I probably would never have been able to do this," Willis summarized, "if I had kept on worrying because one of the worst features about worrying is that it destroys our ability to concentrate. When we worry, our minds jump here and there and everywhere, and we lose all power of decision. However, when we force ourselves to face the worst and accept it mentally, we then eliminate all these vague imaginings and put ourselves in a position in which we are able to concentrate on our problem."

The Success Principle

Willis figured a way out of his problem by first working on his own mental fog, then focusing on the problem. He thought his way to a successful attitude by imagining the worst scenario. This method alleviated his fears because he brought them out in the open and faced them. Once this was done, he moved on to exploring the problem by running tests, coming up with some empirical data, and investing more resources, time, money, and energy to fixing the problem. While his approach was somewhat paradoxical - he had to contemplate failure before he could open himself up to look at success - his method did the trick.
About the Author
Saleem Rana got his masters in psychotherapy. His articles on the internet have inspired over ten thousand people from around the world. Discover how to create a remarkable life. http://theempoweredsoul.com
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