Decisions Are Made. Problems Are Solved.

Man looking at board


Decisions are made. Problems are solved.

That is a phrase my team is tired of hearing. Over the years I have reiterated it a number of times – so many in fact that most of the team can finish it for me. But what does it mean?

Recently I had an opportunity to teach a class on practical problem-solving skills. The first class I taught was on that phrase.

Decisions are made. Problems are solved.

After writing it on the whiteboard, I turned to the participants and asked them to define a decision. One person volunteered that a decision is an action. She was correct, but that is only part of the answer.
Another person said a decision is a state of mind. The two of them together had the answer. A decision, in basic terms, is a state of mind that you act on.

A state of mind that you don’t act on is just an idea. If having ideas determined our level of success we’d each be successful beyond imagination. But ideas aren’t solid and don’t have legs.
Ideas require actions. And when we follow them through, we’re evidencing a decision.

After talking about what a decision was, I shared with them where I got the phrase. A good friend in Lancaster, Ohio shared it with me and he used this illustration.

“What if I said I needed to paint my cathedral ceilings? If the first thing I say is that my arms aren’t long enough, or I don’t have a paintbrush, or I don’t have paint, I will only focus on the problems. But if the first thing I say is, I am going to paint my ceiling, then the next step is to solve the problems. I get a ladder, a paint roller, the paint, and I start painting.”

We make a decision by acting on our idea, then we follow through with it by solving each problem as it presents itself.

We often have good ideas:
“I want to be a manager at my place of work”,
“I want to start my own business”,
“I want to invest in my marriage”, or
“I want to spend more time with my kids”.
But those ideas never seem to become a decision.

Usually, it is because the first thing we do is start listing all of the reasons why we can’t:
“I don’t have the education I need”,
“I don’t have enough money”,
“I don’t have enough time”, or
“I don’t have enough energy”.
Focusing on problems crowds out our ability to make a decision.

When we make a decision we need to solve problems. We can proceed to our goal if we don’t solve them. But if we haven’t made a decision, then we don’t need to solve any of the problems. And the idea remains just that, an idea.

I stand as the beneficiary of a family lineage where two decisions, made over 60 years ago, have benefited me. Dean White, my paternal grandfather, grew up in a dirt floor house as the son of a sharecropper. If the definition of dirt poor was ever embodied, it was his childhood. During his last week of high school (which was an accomplishment in and of itself), he was told by his vocational agriculture teacher that he could become a Vo. Ag. teacher if he wanted.

Before that time he had never considered anything after high school. He asked the teacher how he would even afford it. It so happened that, just that week, one of the wealthy families in the community had set up a $400 scholarship for Vo. Ag. students to attend college.

At that moment he decided to apply and ran right over to the guidance counselors office. To his surprise, he received the scholarship and was headed to Arkansas State, where after a number of remedial classes he transferred to the University of Arkansas. He met his wife there and graduated in 1956. Following graduation, he heard that Ohio had jobs and that they were paying more than jobs in Arkansas.

On that unverified information, he packed his pregnant wife and a 50-pound bag of potatoes into the car and left his home and family for Ohio, not knowing if there were truly opportunities or not. Upon arriving in Ohio, as he was going up the steps of the state board of education, a man asked him if he was looking for a job. By days end he had three interviews lined up and chose one in Western Ohio to start his career.

His decisions were made before he had answers to several very big problems.
What if he didn’t know enough to go to college?
What if he couldn’t afford school after he was in?
What if there weren’t jobs in Ohio?
What if he couldn’t provide for his wife and unborn child?
What if he failed?
He made the decisions and then solved the problems.
Every problem he overcame because he needed to.

Because of his decisions and willingness to solve the problems, his sons had an opportunity to decide to go to vet school and law school. And because of all of those decisions I had an opportunity to lead a growing firm serving 24 counties in Ohio.

That is the power of making a decision.
The benefits can be reaped for generations.

When we first look to our problems, we become stuck and keep kicking the can down the road. But when we first seek to make a well thought out decision, we do what we have to do to solve the problems that present themselves.


Christopher M. White

Managing Partner

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