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home : opinion : columnist September 15, 2019

8/23/2019 12:28:00 PM
Not WHAT You Know, But HOW You Think

Marty Reep, Author
Speaker, Forward-Thinker

Much of your success in this life will be based not on what you know, but HOW you think and respond. And, you are already living proof. Honestly.

Of the times that you have been the most successful in the past few years, were they because of what you knew about a particular thing? Or were they the result of how you approached the situation?

In one of my previous careers, my boss’s boss approached me about changing jobs within the organization. When I asked him to explain what he meant, here’s part of what he said: “You have a unique way of looking at things. I need to change up a few things across the whole organization, and I need somebody who has your way of looking at situations and programs, to do that. Ultimately, I’d like you to teach the rest of the organization how you approach things and how you break complex issues into their stand alone, sub-components.” I smiled and accepted the challenge.

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Finally, I was talking with somebody high enough up who could make a decision and make it stick. As an added bonus, he verbalized that he appreciated my mind for more than just solving simple problems or editing papers.

It’s not what you know, but how you think.

When you’re in a challenging situation, what do you see? How do you look at it? How do you approach solving it? Do you see a solution? Do you see doom? Do you want to run and hide? Do you want to dive in and fix it?

You may know all of the technical information about the topic or situation, but if you can’t put it together in such a way that you create a solution or resolution, then that information isn’t as valuable as it could be. But, if you can look at a situation with a different perspective that provides a solution, then everybody wins!

Years ago, my dad told me the story of a semi-truck that was driving slowly through a small town in Georgia and got stuck under a bridge that had really low clearance. After realizing what happened, the driver tried backing up. No movement. He tried pulling forward, again. Still no movement. He got out and sized up the situation, trying to figure his options.

Traffic was stopped, so the local police, a tow truck, and the fire department all showed to help. As a crowd of local people started gathering, everybody was discussing the size of the truck, the height of the bridge, and the amount of force it would potentially take to pull the semi-truck free from the bridge. Everything they were saying was correct, but none of it helped.

After a little while, a kid walked over toward the truck and pointed at the tires. He said, “Let some air out.”

“Come again?” asked one of the police officers.

“If you let some air out of the tires, the truck will be lower, and it’ll go under the bridge.”

The police officer and the truck driver looked at the kid in surprise, looked at the tires, up at the bridge, at each other, and finally back at the kid. They smiled and gave it a try. Lo and behold, it worked!

The kid didn’t know all of the technical data in the situation, but he used his mind to come up with a solution. HOW he thought was far more important than WHAT he knew. His ability to try something outside of the boundaries of a standard approach was what helped the situation.

So, WHAT do you know? HOW do you think? …And what do you do to connect the two?

Have a great week!

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