I am a super optimist. I believe there are solutions for impossible things. Whenever there is a seemingly insurmountable challenge, I like to find a way.
Whenever I sprain my ankle, the first thing I think is: thank goodness I didn't break my ankle. Whenever I lose a bidding war on a house I want, I think to myself: there will always be another one. Whenever someone says something terrible about me online, I think to myself: at least someone is reading.
Perhaps perpetual failure is the reason why I'm so optimistic. Without optimism, I'd probably end up a complete failure after getting into so much trouble in grade school.
There will come a point in your life where you'll face a difficult situation that feels impossible to solve. Instead of giving up, I encourage you to think things through. The better your problem solving skills, the more coveted you will be as an employee and the more successful you'll be as an entrepreneur. You'll also gain more confidence, which should lead to a happier life.
Let me share with you three unrelated examples of problems that were solved with some good old fashion brainstorming. If these examples don't get you pumped, I don't know what will.
Solutions For Impossible Things
Here are some examples of solutions for impossible things.
Problem #1: Low household water pressure
Who doesn't love strong water pressure at home? It feels very satisfying to be able to spray gunk off your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
Unfortunately, my home's water pressure isn't very strong. To conserve water, the SF Water Utility Commission purposefully throttles water pressure around the city. That's fine, since we were in a drought. Even after changing my main water pipe from 3/4 inch to 1 inch in diameter when I built my master bathroom, the water pressure still remained mediocre.
I called the utility company to see if they could turn up the pressure and they laughed in my face. Then I had a lightbulb moment. Because I have rain showers in my master bathroom, the water pressure feels stronger than my normal shower head upstairs protruding from the side wall. Gravity gave my downstairs shower an extra oomph.
I didn't install a rain shower head to experience more water pressure. I just thought it would be nice to feel like I was taking a shower under a waterfall every time I stepped inside. And of course, for the sake of fun and equality, I installed a second rain shower and a hand shower.
The Kitchen Faucet
When I remodeled my kitchen, I told my friend to pick up any nice looking stainless steel faucet he could find. I was already in charge of picking out the tiles, countertops, cabinets, fixtures, dishwasher, range, microwave, and floors. I wasn't too concerned about the faucet.
My friend ended up getting a stainless steel “look” faucet that was really made of plastic. It had an unpleasant cheap sound whenever you'd tap it with your fingernails. The handle wiggled while turning it off and on. Finally, the water pressure was annoyingly low. It was a piece of crap.
After three years of kitchen use, I've come to realize the kitchen faucet is a focal point that can either delight or disappoint the user. Every time I used my wiggly plastic kitchen faucet it bummed me out. So I decided to go shopping.
One faucet caught my eye, a 15″ tall Hansgrohe Talis C faucet with a large pull out nozzle and a beautiful stainless steel finish. I had seen similar types of faucets in nicely remodeled homes, and knew this was the one. I also hypothesized that the height and curve of the faucet would help increase the water pressure.
The Hansgrohe faucet cost $450 compared to my original Moen faucet for just $150. But I didn't care. I bought two! One for me, and one for my rental house, which I'm considering selling to simplify. It was just too embarrassing to have a cheap faucet in a rental that commands $8,000+/month. Realtors always pointed out the need to change the faucet when they walked through.
Not only do I now have two fantastic looking kitchen faucets, the water pressure in both my home and my rental are now at least 30% stronger thanks to the long curved neck. The 15″ height helps create a build up of pressure until the water gets forced down. And more likely, it's the valve cartridge inside that's making the pressure better. Every time I go to spray down the dirty dishes or wash my hands, I feel ecstatic!
The Cheaper Fix
If you don't want to change your faucet completely like I did, check to see if there are small pieces of sediment or some other debris that has clogged a passageway within the valve cartridge. Also check the tiny orifices within the aerator and or a flow restrictor.
Debris will build up after a while. In my case, the faucet was only three years old, cheap, and the valve cartridge was too small to provide good water pressure. Changing the cartridge wouldn't have done me any good. Talk to your faucet retailer and see if a new faucet might just do the trick! Ah, solutions for impossible things.
2. Getting an athletic scholarship as an un-athletic person.
One of the best ways to get into a prestigious university is to be a great athlete. After spending the season coaching high school tennis and getting to know the athletic director very well, I've learned how big of a boost a kid can get with his or her athletic potential.
Most high school athletes won't get a scholarship to play for a Division I school. But some athletes can increase their chances of getting into a great Division III school like Amherst with the help of sports.
Colleges like Amherst and Williams have 14% or lower acceptance rates, but are considered academically on par with the top universities in the country. Given 99% of college athletes do not become pro athletes, the real emphasis is on getting into the best school possible to give yourself as many career choices as possible.
Overcoming Physical Limitations
Because I'm of average height (5'10”) and my wife is of below average height (<5'5″), we're likely not going to be producing any Shaquille O'Neals or Maria Sharapovas any time soon. You can definitely succeed in athletics being shorter when being taller is a benefit like Isaiah Thomas from the Celtics (5'9″ all-star) and Kei Nishikori (5'10”, top 5 tennis player). It's just harder, all things being equal.
I got to talking to 26 year old female named Lisa one day about the benefits of public versus private high school. She went to a public high school and ended up at Stanford with a lot of grants that made attending cheaper than attending a public university.
She didn't feel the public high school held her back, especially since she was the valedictorian. But she did say her rowing definitely helped her get in. Her high school won the state rowing championships back-to-back.
Lisa is around 5'7″ and I could tell she definitely was strong. She told me something interesting. Her Stanford crew team only had three scholarships. Despite being one of the best rowers, she wasn't one of the recipients. But the coxswain was!
Finding A Way To Use Your Body To Your Advantage
For those who don't know, the coxswain is the person who navigates, motivates, and strategizes the rowers to victory. No rowing is required. As a coxswain, the lighter and smaller you are, the less weight your crew has to row!
So for those of you who aren't super tall or physically gifted, don't worry. To take advantage of your small stature, you could be a coxswain or a fencer or a gymnast. There are a number of sports where being small is a great advantage.
If you're a 5'1″, 100 lbs female, you could very well be the most sought after coxswain on the planet if you just practice. Note: regatta rules require coxswain to meet minimum weights. If they don't, the difference is made up in sandbags. More solutions for impossible things.
3. Returning a lost wallet to an international visitor.
On May 17th I went for a nice afternoon walk in the SF Botanical Gardens. As a nature lover, it's one of my favorite free things to do as an early retiree. Some of my most popular posts have come after long walks in the park. Thismy favorite solutions for impossible things examples.
As I was leaving the park, I noticed a brown Pierre Cardin wallet on the ground. Inside the wallet was a guy's B1/B2 Border Crossing Card, a United baggage check claim from LAX, and $213. Holy crap! Without his Card, Martin wouldn't be allowed back into Mexico!
I was panicking for Martin because it was 6:45pm and the park attendees had already left at 6pm (last entry is 6pm and you can leave whenever you want). I stayed back for 30 minutes, hoping he'd return, but he didn't. Since I had ordered some takeout food 45 minutes earlier, I needed to pick up the food and also drop off my friend, who had a dinner appointment.
What to do?! Think. Think. Think. Losing your wallet is the worst. Got it!
I pulled out a business card from my car's center console, wrote a message for Martin to contact me if he found it, placed the card near where I found his wallet, and put a nickel on it so my card wouldn't fly away.
I drove about 10 feet, stopped the car, and got back out because I feared my card would be blown away by the wind. It's kind of like when you leave the house and go back because you fear you may have left the stove on. I replaced the nickel with a heavy rock.
I picked up my food, dropped off my friend who was already late for dinner, and began to eat my yummy soy sauce fried chicken wings from Manna restaurant. I couldn't stop thinking about how to get Martin's wallet back to him so I sent out a tweet, hoping maybe the internet gods would connect us. I also sent an e-mail to the one vendor's business card in his wallet.
Reaching Out For Help
After eating another two chicken wings, I decided to call 311 (information) and ask what I should do. They suggested I drop off Martin's wallet at the closest police station. If Martin went to any police station, he'd be able to locate his wallet because the report would be in the system.
Sadly, the first thing I thought about when the operator told me to go to the police was not to go to the police.
I kept thinking I'd encounter some young, racist, power-tripping police officer who'd just take all of Martin's cash and throw his ID in the dumpster because he was from Mexico.
Then I had images of ICE officers busting into people's homes and dragging away in handcuffs illegal immigrant children.
The media had completely warping my judgement of the people who are supposed to protect and serve.
Before driving to the police station, I saw in my Twitter feed a random person called @Chukunu saying he was Martin! Could it be true? It had only been an hour since I found his wallet. Was some random guy screwing with me so he could beat me up and steal Martin's wallet? Hmm. Not if this kung fu blogger has anything to say about it!
Thankfully, @chukunu was Martin. He shot me an e-mail in addition to his Twitter response, and I told him I'd be over in 15 minutes.
Found Him Patiently Waiting
When I pulled up, he and his buddy were sitting on the bench waiting. I wasn't entirely sure it was him through my tinted windows, but I could see his glee when he leaped off the bench.
It turns out Martin had dropped his wallet while waiting for an Uber with his friend. It was only after he'd gotten across town to the Mission District 25 minutes away when he realized it was missing.
They took an Uber all the way back, noticed my card under the rock, and immediately sent an e-mail and checked Twitter. HOORAY!
We hugged it out and I asked him about his adventures so far.
He said this was his first visit to San Francisco and thanked me profusely. He said he was so lucky because somebody else could have taken his wallet and ran.
His joy was my joy. I had been on a mission to get back his wallet no matter what so he could safely return to LAX and then Mexico City. I would. He confirmed that without his Border Crossing ID, it would be impossible to return home.
I also contacted United Airlines and was going to speak to the Parks & Recreation department first thing the next morning. Worst case, I was hoping Martin would get to SF International Airport, United would tell him to contact me, I'd come meet him, and away he'd go.
Is this not the happiest person you've seen in your life?! Maybe US / Mexico relations will flourish after all.
There's Always A Solution For Impossible Things
If there is a problem, be determined to find a solution. Don't just give up. Never give up! Yes, we'll have some Dunning-Kruger moments where we don't realize our delusions until we're deep in a hole. But if you develop a solution-oriented mindset, you'll naturally start making a positive difference in your life and in the lives of others.
Here are some other examples of problems many people don't believe are solvable, which I've addressed:
* Negotiating a severance package from a job you dislike.
* Saving over $100,000 a year pre-tax in your retirement accounts.
* Retiring early and never having to work again.
The list goes on and on because I'm focused on solving some of our most vexing problems. Always remember there are solutions for impossible things.
I hope these three examples give you some motivation to keep on going through difficult times. It often seems like the world is conspiring against us. Just know that with a little bit of grit and creativity, you'll have a better chance of living your best life.
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Change Your Perspective To Increase Your Happiness
Readers, please share with me some examples of solutions for impossible things that you overcame with creativity and hustle.
53 thoughts on “Solutions For Impossible Things: Let Nothing Stand In Your Way”
That is a really uplifting story. Having the time to notice these things and the desire to help is pretty stellar.
This is why you are my favorite blogger. It’s never “how these circumstances created me” it’s “how do I take these circumstances and make them work to everyone’s advantage”. That is what it means to be human and what defines success. Either you create your own destiny or you destiny is created for you….and how boring is having your destiny created for you?
Our kitchen faucet started to leak 2 months after we moved in and flooded the kitchen floor. We had no idea what had happened until after we dropped $200 on a plumber.
We decided to buy a $250 faucet that has a 5-year warranty. Sometimes it’s just worth it to spend extra money on a good item that will last a long time and prevent costly problems.
Returning the wallet was a very nice gesture from your part!
I’ve had a similar experience when going for an evening walk with my other half. We found a cell phone on the ground and wanted to return it. Since we had no idea how to unlock it to call someone from the agenda, we went to the police.
Sadly…. the police didn’t give a rats ass about the person missing their phone. How disappointing!
We did return the phone in the end, but it wasn’t thanks to the authorities.
I lost my iphone 2 weekends ago and couldnt find it despite having Find My iphone app turned on.
Someone took it and turned the phone off
Your optimism is the best asset you have. I am the optimist, but in some cases I lose it, but I immediately try regaining it. But you are the real inspiration for me to show how can a person be optimistic in all cases, even in small things.
I have found that every break that I thought was unlucky at first? Best things that ever happened to me. Divorce? Better wife. Job sucks? New one in Alaska. At your low point – that’s where things all start looking up.
Wow! I love the lost wallet story. The world needs more kind, thoughtful people like you.
Also, how cool is it that you can speak in Spanish! We spent some time in Mexico and have just started learning Spanish. Surprisingly easy to learn and very practical language (unlike English which has so many silent letters, I love how Spanish reads exactly as it’s spelt).
Kudos to you for reuniting Martin with his wallet and proving that there are good people in this world! Bien hecho!
Great Story Martin! One time I lost my wallet and was lucky enough to have someone find it. Unfortunately, when he returned it, all of my cash was gone. I don’t think he stole it since he was so kind to return my wallet and I was super excited to not have to cancel all of my cards and deal with getting new ones. Thanks for sharing!
So THAT is why I didn’t get into Amherst – no sports in high school! I did JV bowling and had the crummy luck to go to a school that annihilated every other school in bowling – at any other school everyone on our JV team would have made varsity. (Beyond bowling, my school was devoid of athleticism, and so was I.)
I thought I had learned a hack from my older cousin – he is unathletic but lettered in fencing – but I wasn’t good enough.
At least you have mad bowling skills! I love bowling and even went to get my own ball, shoes and wrist brace.
I wish there were more people like you that would go through all the due diligence to make sure the wallet reaches its rightful owner. I’m sure you and Martin will remember the moment of joy for many many years. These are the types of things money CAN’T buy. It’s inspiration for me to pay it forward by helping someone….
Thanks for being an awesome US American ambassador. He was fortunate to have you find it. Never would have thought to post on twitter.
What do you think he searched to find your post?
What a great story about the wallet and great job on getting it back to Martin! You’re right…losing your wallet sucks, but losing your border crossing card (especially in today’s climate) would be many times worse.
I know optimism is not my strong suit but i’m getting better. Maybe its the FIRE community and their great outlook on life. :)
and lots of spreadsheets to prove things are going to be awesome ;)