A new lens for problem solving

In 1950, Sam Walton has 4 kids and is facing imminent failure.

His retail stores are being force-sold, “stolen” from him by his landlord. He failed to add a clause that allowed him to renew his leases, and the landlord wanted his businesses.

There was literally no where else to go in town, no other buildings capable of handling the inventory or the volume. So he sold the businesses to his landlord at liquidation prices, rather than getting stuck in bankruptcy with inventory he could not sell.

No idea how to make ends meet or what to do next, he recalls the experience:

I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. It really was like a nightmare. I had built the best variety store in the whole region and worked hard in the community, done everything right, and now I was being kicked out of town. It didn’t seem fair.

Abraham Lincoln failed 10 times more than he succeeded.

  • 1832 defeated for legislature
  • 1833 failed in a second business
  • 1836 suffered traumatic mental breakdown
  • 1838 defeated for speaker
  • 1840 defeated for elector
  • 1843 defeated for congressional nomination
  • 1846 elected to Congress
  • 1848 defeated for Congress
  • 1855 defeated for Senate
  • 1856 defeated for Vice President
  • 1859 defeated for Senate
  • 1860 elected POTUS

Your failure is not permanent.

I call this process “re-lensing.”

To reframe something is to give it new meaning. The common, but true, cliche “nothing is happening TO you, it’s happening FOR you,” is a reframe.

You take what would normally unsettle you, give it new meaning, and then you power through.

To re-lens is to change the perspective.

Like putting on a new pair of glasses, you see the situation completely differently. Reframing changes the meaning in the middle, re-lensing changes the vantage point and oftentimes removes the middle.

When I compare my current problems with what Sam Walton was facing in 1950, I’m not sure it compares. My kids have always had plenty of food. My family is not being forced to relocate cities. There is a lot of power that comes from being able to re-lens appropriately.

Whatever you expect to happen from a situation, you are likely to get. This is why reframing is important. Changing the meaning changes the expectations you have from it.

There is a whole circus of people who believe their lives are unbearable and the country, world, their company – etcetera – is getting worse and worse and worse. The truth is, life is moving forward. You cannot stop in the middle or you might never get back on the train.

If you can’t reframe it, re-lens it.

Someone else had it worse.

You are not Frankl, awaiting death in a concentration camp, focusing on the only thing you can control (your thinking) — but even if you are, he made it and through his pain he made a difference — and so will you.

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