When I was three years old, my dad worked at Safeway, and one day was involved in an altercation (over beer) with a would-be shoplifter. This would-be shoplifter basically destroyed one of my dad’s knees.
When he got home from the hospital, my dad was stuck in bed basically all the time. I went in with my mom to visit with him and made some request–I have no idea what the request was–and the answer was no. So I did what any three-year-old does: I threw a tantrum. I threw my head back and hit my dad. In the knee. The same knee.
My mom removed me from the room (which probably saved my life) and twenty years later, my dad finally got that knee completely replaced.
The reason I bring up this whole dreary tale is that this was one of my most important formative moments. This is where I started asking people, “why aren’t you helping me?” and telling them “go away–leave me alone!” The moment after I hit my dad in the knee, I knew I’d screwed up, and as much as I resisted the notion, I knew that I couldn’t take it back.
We’ve all had moments like this. Dropping something and watching it break, or getting into a car accident, or saying something stupid. As soon as it’s done you know it’s a mistake and as much as you want to–and you really, really want to–you can’t hit ctrl-z and take it back. The bell has been rung. The toothpaste is out of the tube.
So I realized a couple of weeks ago that this event in my life had another consequence that had gone unnoticed. I have been, and continue to be, someone who is driven to solve problems, to fix things, and to improve everything. It’s even become a joke with some of my friends: they’ll show me something cool, and take bets on how long it takes for me to start talking about how I’d build a better one.
The funny part is that as soon as I realized how driven I am to solve problems and fix things, I started relating to my problem-solving and thing-fixing drive as a problem to solve and a thing to fix. And I’m still doing it.
So I’ve got a problem, which is that I screwed up and can’t fix it. So I’m driven to solve problems and fix things. And when I see that I’m driven, I try to solve and fix being driven. And then I see that I’m trying to solve and fix my attempt to solve and fix being a problem-solver and thing-fixer.
I’m giving up fixing and solving and improving right now, just for right now. Nothing is wrong here and everything is just the way it is and I am OK.
That worked. Thank you.