Have you ever played solitaire?
If you have not, do so to learn an important lesson about management and life in general. This exercise is especially valuable if you are a Type E personality.
In this game, you start with a deck of cards separated into seven stacks and set facedown. You open one stack at a time and flip over one card at a time. Move the cards to stack them in order from King to two, alternating red and black cards. Then, stack the cards in a separate pile, ordering the cards from Ace to King.
Often, the cards before you offer no solution. You cannot find a way to stack them in the right order (black-red-black, etc.). You check and recheck your options, but still you find no solution. What do you do?
You start another game. You do not get mad; it is a game, and every turn is not supposed to end in success.
Can you think of your life this same way? Not every problem is solvable. Let go. Start a new game.
The fact that you could not resolve the problem is nothing to be upset about, because in life, like in the game of solitaire, not every problem has a solution. In life, sometimes you draw bad cards. Life is not what you want it to be, but instead, what it is.
When you hit rock—i.e., when, in spite of your best efforts, nothing is working—stop digging. Do not stop only when you have hit oil (when you have succeeded), but also have the strength of character to stop when your digging is hopeless. Stop digging. Control this ego of yours that wants to solve the problem even though you have hit rock—the more you dig into the granite, the more you are breaking down your rig. By digging into granite, you are destroying your life.
This same idea applies to managing companies and handling your personal life. I have come across companies where the leaders will spend more and more money on a lost cause because they are not willing to accept that it is a lost cause. They will throw good money down the drain. This same idea can apply to a marriage.
But there is more to learn from the game of solitaire.
As you play, you might come to a point when you believe that there are no more moves you can make. You think that is it. You are stuck, but this is not true.
Go take a break. You will identify moves which somehow escaped you before.
Our brain, like a computer, has a certain capacity. When we use our brain to its maximum capacity, it does not react anymore. When you look at the problem fresh after some rest, you see new possibilities.
How does this idea apply to business?
If you have worked too long on a certain problem and are exhausted by it, take a break. You will notice how, all at once, new possibilities emerge that you did not perceive before.
This same idea applies to your personal life. Take a break. Go to sleep—yes, go to sleep in spite of having an unresolved problem. When you wake up the next morning (or in the middle of the night), the solution will be in front of you.
The game of solitaire offers a third learning experience. While observing someone playing solitaire, I notice that I can think of moves to make that are better than those of the person playing. This is not necessarily because I am a better player. The same often happens in a chess game.
Not being in the hot seat gives you an advantage: you have more energy than the person competing because you are not responsible for the outcome.
So, when discussing a situation that has emotional consequences for you, let someone else lead the problem-solving process. You do not release the authority to decide. You just step back from leading the discussion. Notice how much better you understand the problem when you observe it rather than manage it. By implementing this technique, you can make better decisions.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes