One question to ask when you meet any challenge.
I was at a wedding the other day, and I got stuck looking after my niece’s 3y.o girl, while she went off with the bridal party to get photos done.
It’s been a while since I’ve had to entertain a toddler. I was actually a little nervous.
“Tell me a knock-knock joke.”
Oh gawd. Knock knock jokes? I haven’t thought about them in years.
Ummm… Ok. Knock knock.
Bob down I can’t see the television.
Ha hahahahaha. Tell me another one.
Oh. Um… Knock knock.
A man to fix the television.
Hahahahaha. Tell me another one….
This went on for ages – or what felt like ages. And I was seriously bending my head trying to remember knock knock jokes, or even invent them in my mind on the fly.
Eventually her mother came back. What have you been doing?
Telling knock knock jokes.
Oh yeah, she’s obsessed with them right now.
Yeah, I was struggling to come up with the goods. It was a lot of pressure.
Oh really? You shouldn’t have bothered. She doesn’t get them.
Watch. Knock Knock
Rabbits have who
Rabbits have fluffy tails on their bum.
Yeah, she doesn’t get that the first bit has to be a name or anything. I don’t actually know what she finds funny. It’s just breaking up sentences in funny ways I guess.
I felt a bit silly.
And it’s not that I’m in a tux telling knock knock jokes to a three year old. It’s that I forgot one of my own golden rules – always check to make sure that the easiest road is closed first.
We have this idea in life that nothing comes for nothing. If you want something, you have to work for it.
Go to school, you won’t get results unless you put in the work. Get a job, you want get a raise unless you put in the work.
Play a game, get on a computer – you won’t get the points unless you do the hard yards.
This is a cultural mindset. It’s useful, because sometimes things do require hard work, so it’s good to be ready to put the shoulder in when you need to.
However, it’s a kind of human idea, and maybe a modern one.
I mean, ask a bird if he ever gets something for nothing.
He’d say, all the time. I wander around the garden, and there’s worms and bugs all over the place. I just go over and eat them.
Or ask the worms. Do I have to work? Nah, I just wriggle about the place and eat whatever I come across. It’s pretty easy really.
And so I’ve found it useful to remember that the great majority of things in existence enjoying something for nothing all the time.
It’s only humans who have invented a concept of work – of having to push really hard to achieve great things.
And so with that in mind, I try to remember that whenever I meet a challenge, there might actually be an easy way through it.
For a long time, when I met a challenge, my first instinct was to start steeling my spirit. C’mon Jon. You’ve got this. Put your head down and push on through. You can do it.
But I was doing that without checking whether the challenge was actually a challenge at all – without making sure that there wasn’t an easy option available to me already.
Because if you’re not looking for it, you often won’t see it.
So take the knock knock incident. If I had stopped for a moment and thought, is there an easy way out here? I might have then checked whether that little girl really understood to complex nuances of knock-knock jokes, or whether she just wanted a bit of adult attention.
But because I didn’t do that, and because I was already steeling my spirit for a challenge, I made the whole encounter 100 times harder than it ever needed to be.
I’ve found that this sort of thing comes up in life a lot. A great many challenges in life actually have really simple solutions if we take the time to look for them.
It’s the taking the time that matters.
So it’s great if you have that capacity to steel your spirit, harden up, push on through.
That will take you a long way in life.
But recognise that that’s not what’s required every time.
Sometime, there’s a simple solution right under your nose.
So always ask yourself, ‘is there an easy solution here?’
Check yourself before you wreck yourself.