Tag Archive for: problem solving

When we were boys, my pal, Jerry, and I built a motorcycle one night. Somehow Jerry had gotten his hands on a motorcycle.  But it was in pieces scattered on the floor of his room. There were no instructions. Only a frame, a motor, gears, cables and hundreds of nuts and bolts. We had screwdrivers and wrenches. And we were young and insane with the possibilities of where that motorcycle could take us if we got it working.

We worked all night on that machine. We built it wrong, tore it down, bolt by bolt, and started over many times that night. We probably built a dozen motorcycles before we got it right.

By morning, we had a motorcycle. It didn’t look like much, but to us it was worth its weight in gold. We took it out for a test drive. That’s when we discovered a major design flaw. At the first stop sign, you had to disengage the clutch with one foot, and press the brake with the other foot at the same time, so there was no foot to put on the ground and hold the contraption upright.

That motorcycle taught me a lot about problem solving.  You have to keep working on it, all night long, if necessary.  This requires patience and persistence, focus and concentration.  You may have to tear down the solution and rebuild it several times to get it right.  Even then you may have to go back to the drawing board in the morning.  I’ve lost many night’s sleep solving chemical engineering problems, briefing cases in law school, and studying tax law. And now I’m solving problems in marriages, divorces and separations.  It’s as complicated as building a motorcycle.

“You got done in an afternoon what the others couldn’t get done in the previous 30 days.” – A Happy Client

Here is what I did:

1. picked up the phone and called the other lawyer.

2. listened carefully to the other side’s position and what they wanted.

3. broke the problem down into two separate issues.

4. problem solved one issue at a time.

5. picked up the phone and told my client what the other side wanted, item by item.

6. pointed out to both sides that their interests were the same.

7. gave them win/win options.

8.  didn’t just argue my client’s position.

Phone calls are better than letters and emails to get things done because you have the opportunity to ask questions, clarify misunderstanding, explore options and give feedback.