I once heard my friend Dennis Peacocke say “power is surrounded by problems.” I give him the credit for the phrase, but as Augustine said (paraphrase), “Truth belongs to all in common, but he who utters what is false utters what is his alone.” Here is what Dennis meant.
Every day we are confronted with problems that must be solved. In fact, if you think about it, regardless of what your job is, most of what you do can be explained as problem-solving.
Those who are better at solving problems are given more authority–expanded job responsibilities, promotions, new job offers–so they can solve bigger problems. That’s why successful people are busy people. The better you are at solving problems the more problems people give you to solve and the more power they give you to solve them.
Jesus made the same point in a story he told about some guys whose boss gave them investment capital. They had to solve the problem of how to turn the money into more money. The most successful man obtained a tenfold return on the money. When the boss returned and saw what he’d done he said, “Well done…you have been faithful in a very little thing, be in authority over ten cities.” The man who obtained a five-fold return was put in authority over five cities, and the one who obtained no return–i.e., he had not solved the problem–had to give up what he’d initially been given. See Luke 19:12-27.
Learning this was liberating for me. When I began see my daily tasks at work as problems to be solved rather than trials to be endured it changed my attitude and the way I approached them. I began to see obstacles as opportunities and problems as a means to promotion in my field.
Bottom line: If you want more authority, if you want more power, start solving problems. GS