Solve Any Problem

Do you struggle with strategic thinking?  Are you rubbish at solving your own problems? Don't despair, I'm with you there!

After discovering how to use my intuition to make good decisions, my next task as an aspiring entrepreneur was to find out how to solve my numerous and seemingly insurmountable problems logically.

I’d discovered that even the best mentors can’t help you with that one, because the way they would solve your problems is not necessarily the way you would want to solve them.

One example of this was after my wealth creation training and mentoring business (the business that should not be named) had to close in January 2010.  I went for lunch with one of my successful business friends (I still recall the exact location and occasion, even where we sat!) and said to him despairingly…

‘But what can I do now? What should I do to make money or build a business again?’  

‘Well, I can tell you what I would do, but I suspect it’s not something you would ever want to do!’

‘What’s that then?’ I asked, thinking that he would tell me and I would bloody well go and do it. That would show him!

‘I would go and knock on the door of every business in Shoreham and offer to create, update, improve their website and do their social media for them. If I didn’t get enough customers like that,, I’d start on Brighton or Worthing next.’

He was right, I wouldn’t ever want to do that.

I’m a confident introvert and I had spent the last twelve years making money showing people how to become wealthier, part of that being starting an online business and using ATTRACTION marketing, not door-to-door sales.  I'd always used ATTRACTION marketing myself, with a bit of networking thrown in.

Luckily for me, I’d invested in several high-level mentoring programmes offered by Rich Schefren during the years of business success.

One of them had gone into quite some depth about the Theory of Constraints and 3-Cloud Thinking and I remembered a neat little exercise using several coloured post-it notes, aimed at busting through any obstacle or solving any problem.

I dug mine out (which I remember using last to help my daughter solve a problem when at school!) and got to work on the nearest window, whiteboard or white wall.

Pro-Tip:  If you are sick of your post-its curling up and falling off whatever you stick it to, simply peel from left to right (or vice versa) or pull them towards you rather than pulling them away from you.

The first step for me was to start at the top, to think big picture and then work down but I knew that, as all marketers know, the ultimate goal is happiness so I skipped a couple of levels down to focus on one of the things that was making me unhappy at the moment.

My biggest problem.  Which was…

No business, no assets and barely any income.

So I got to work with my Post-it notes and wrote in big numbers my desired income per year then stuck that Post-it note to the wall.

This was my main goal for the exercise today.

The next step was to work out what the Prerequisites were, for achieving my goal.  I usually find that 3-5 is the optimum number as I’m always seeking to limit overwhelm.

(When you get overwhelmed, you feel despair, get demotivated and are unable to take any action beyond putting the kettle on and eating a whole packet of Hobnobs)

Now, I could have written three separate post-its here; a high-paying job, a flourishing solopreneur business or a full-on startup business.  

However, a job was never an option (although I did consider it in the dead of night sometimes) and I was a bit burned out from working with other people so just wanted a solopreneur business for now.

I then brainstormed my Prerequisites for achieving my income goal with a solopreneur business and noted each on a different Post-it note, arranging them horizontally on the wall under my goal with plenty of space inbetween.

They were:

  1. A hungry crowd
  2. A great product or service
  3. Something I’m passionate about 
  4. Robust online marketing funnel
  5. Simple systems

Under the Hungry Crowd Post-it I added the following sub-Prerequisites

  1. The larger the crowd the better
  2. Feeling the pain
  3. Clearly defined problem
  4. Easily reached
  5. Paying for alternative but inferior solutions
  6. Can afford my solution
  7. Making their own buying decisions (I never sell to corporates!)

Working my way along, under the ‘Great Product Or Service’ post-it I added post-its with the following Prerequisites.

  1. Existing skillset or
  2. Easily outsourced
  3. Clearly defined
  4. Maximum of three products or service levels
  5. Moat can be built around it via community, support, or personal access

When it came to passion, that narrowed the field down dramatically as, quite frankly, if I’m not interested in it, I can’t make myself do it.  

Damn shame really, because I’m sure I could have become more successful in business, years before, if I’d just been able to follow someone else’s system. I exchanged a website build once for a license to trade as a cleaning company in my postcode, but I had to sell that business very quickly as I just couldn’t make myself do it well.  That’s being a Creative for you, unless I’m creating I’m not happy.

Anyway, back to showing you how to solve your problems!

The things I was passionate about at that time were digital marketing, working with entrepreneurs and small business owners and working from home, with flexibility in my schedule.  And earning a decent living at the same time of course.  Ideally from lots of people paying me a little bit.  We were in the middle of the Global Financial Crisis after all.

Creating both a robust online marketing funnel and simple systems was easy, by that time I’d done both successfully for both ‘The Business That Shall Not Be Named’ and my boutique hotel ‘The Acacia’.  I went through the motions nonetheless, in case anything had changed.

OK, so now I had my Goal, which was an income level, itself a Prerequisite for my ultimate goal of happiness, and I had the five Prerequisites for the Income Goal to be achieved.

Time for some obstacle-identifying and busting!  But first, pay attention chaps and wake up at the back there.  It does get more exciting and this system can be used to solve ANY problem at all!

Each Prerequisite has some Necessary Conditions that have to exist in order for the Prerequisite to exist.

I looked at each of the Prerequisites and brainstormed the Necessary Conditions each needed, in order for the Prerequisties to exist.

For example, here are just some of the Necessary Conditions for a Robust Marketing Funnel.

  1. Professional looking website
  2. Ethical Bribe for opt-in
  3. Clear customer journey
  4. Low-cost initial product
  5. Content marketing strategy
  6. Social media calendar for sharing that content

Then you look at each of those Post-its and you get another colour and brainstorm all the obstacles around each of those Necessary Conditions, situating those Post-its vertically under its Necessary Condition.

This is what it should look like by now.

This is where you can start by the way, if you know your Goal, it’s Prerequisites, the Necessary Conditions but you have a big problem or obstacle.  

A problem or obstacle is a symptom of a Necessary Condition not being met. 

You should try and focus on only one Obstacle at a time. This is why you need a big wall or window!

Now you look at each Obstacle in turn and, using a different colour Post-it, write the exact opposite of the Obstacle.  What the Obstacle would look like if it were completely solved.

You don’t need to know how to do that at this stage, you just have to know what it would look like 100% solved.

For example, one of the Obstacles to your Necessary Condition of having a Clear Customer Journey might be…

‘I don’t know what a Clear Customer Journey should look like.’

The Opposite would be

‘I have a Clear Customer Journey that moves prospects through a simple enjoyable process which turns 5% of the people who opt-in for my Ethical Bribe into Sales Consultation Calls.’


‘I have a Clear Customer Journey that moves prospects through a simple enjoyable process which turns 10% of the people who opt-in for my Ethical Bribe into paying customers buying my introductory product.’

As I say, you don’t need to know how to do that at this stage, you just have to grab another colour Post-It Note to brainstorm ideas around how to find out what a Clear Customer Journey looks like.

PRO HINT:  Go and look at the website of someone who you admire or have bought a similar product or service from recently.

Right, are you ready for the really fun bit?

As soon as you have a list of potential ways to achieve the Opposites of the Obstacles, you can tear the Obstacle Post-it notes off the wall or window, screw them up and violently throw them in the bin!

Now you have a list of actions!

Once you have worked through all the Obstacles and Opposites and brainstormed actions…Now you have a Strategic Plan!

That’s a very fancy name for a set of Short Term Goals or 'to-do actions' to move you forward.

If you feel any sense of reluctance or of being blocked around any of the Actions, simply repeat the Obstacle > Opposite process until you have a set of Actions you feel happy with.

Then think about transferring all of this into a Document, Spreadsheet or Mindmap, then enter your Short Term Actions into a Trello board or Moleskine Diary.  I suppose you could do the whole thing in Trello but I prefer to draw it out in my Moleskine, as it enables my brain to slow down enough to have more ideas.

But do capture it, even if it's just taking a photo on your phone.

Those Post-It Notes won’t stay on that wall forever, no matter which way you peeled them off the pad.

Photo by Rivage on Unsplash


brainstorming, goal, goals, logical thinking, necessary conditions, obstacle, prerequisite, problem, problem solving, rich schefren, solve a problem, solving problems, strategic thinking, theory of constraints

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