It’s easy to acknowledge that a problem exists:

Our users are churning.

This business process is broken.

Our partnership isn’t as successful as we thought it would be.

The thing is, merely saying “there’s a problem” doesn’t bring you any closer to a solution. It’s a declarative statement with zero momentum. You can effectively say these things from your couch.

Instead, add “and” at the end:

Our users are churning, AND here’s how we can stop it.

This business process is broken, AND here’s a better one.

Our partnership isn’t as successful as we thought it’d be, AND here’s how we can improve it.

And is an invitation to look for a path forward.

Making things better isn’t just about investing time in finding problems but also in coming up with ideas and solutions.

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.” — Clarke’s second law

There’s a profound difference between impossible and undiscovered.

Impossible means it can’t happen.

Undiscovered means it hasn’t happened yet.

The default for undiscovered things is to masquerade as impossible:

Marvelous things like flying through space, light bulbs, and capturing solar energy were all thought to be impossible until we figured out how to make them happen. At which point, they were exposed for what they really were: merely things undiscovered.

If you’re facing a challenge that seems impossible, the more likely reality is that it’s simply awaiting discovery by someone who is sufficiently curious, audacious, resourceful, and persistent.

Perhaps that person is you.

It’s normal to sometimes be overwhelmed by the amount of information and potential courses of action in front of you.

Having just started a new job recently and experiencing this right now, I’ve started to pose a question to myself every morning to help anchor the day’s activities: “what’s the one thing I should ship today?”.

This isn’t to suggest that I can only do one thing each day — of course not. But by posing this question, I am effectively forcing myself to a) identify early on what the most impactful and useful thing to do is and b) make sure it’s a priority.

Whether it’s with work or other areas of your life, asking yourself this question can help transition you from feeling overwhelmed to feeling focused, reassured, and able to move forward.

William Liao

William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)