Become a Problem Solver Like MacGyver


Did you ever watch the old TV detective show “MacGyver”?

From 1985-1992, Richard Dean Anderson starred as secret agent Angus MacGyver who would foil criminal plots week in and week out. What made MacGyver special though was that he never seemed to have access to the high tech tools he needed. He would always be forced to fashion whatever he required from things he found in his surroundings.

When MacGyver needed plasticine, he used bubble gum. If he needed to light something on fire, he used the sun and a magnifying glass or a pair of glasses. There was never a quick or easy solution to his predicament, but he always found a way to get the job done.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but MacGyver taught me a valuable lesson about resilience – the importance of being a great problem solver. It seems that today we are focused on eliminating problems from our lives at all costs. Companies and scientists are always working on the next development to make our lives easier and more convenient. That’s fine. But I wonder if we aren’t losing something valuable in the process. We are subconsciously being taught that a better life means an easier life; that the ultimate end is to create a completely friction free existence of total ease. I believe that’s a recipe for disaster.

The fact is that we get most of our enjoyment in life from journeying through problems and challenges. We may fantasize in the midst of our struggles that if all of our problems went away our lives would be better, but the truth is we more likely just be bored. What if instead of trying to avoid problems and make them all go away, we learned how to enjoy solving them?

If you’ve ever put a puzzle together, made a big meal or built something, you know that sense of accomplishment that comes from tackling a problem, finding a solution and solving the problem. Maybe that’s why we loved watching MacIver so much, he was just like us.

So instead of giving you tips on how to avoid all of life’s problems today, I want to share

3 tips from MacIver to help you be a better problem solver:

1. Start From a Premise of Success: No matter how dire the situation, MacIver always maintained a can-do attitude. You knew as a viewer that no matter what predicament he found himself in, MacIver would find a way out of it. He always maintained the problem-solver state of mind. There was a solution to be found to every problem if he just worked hard enough. How much better would your life be if you operated from that mindset?

2. Knowledge: Knowledge is more than information, knowledge is our understanding of information. MacGyver was very smart, but what made him fun to watch was how we was able to understand and apply the information he had. He was able to take the information he was gathering from his surroundings, combine it with the knowledge he had from his training, and find the solution to any problem.

If you want to be resilient you must always be learning. Our world is changing at such a quick pace that what he knew 5 years ago may no longer be true today. Those who aren’t learning continuously risk being left behind.

3. Resourcefulness: In my lifetime we have progressed from the industrial age to the information age. I believe we’ve now moved into the resourcefulness age. It’s no longer critical to have a lot of knowledge stored in your brain, as it is important to know how to find an answer when you need it. With Google and Siri, I don’t need to hold all of the useful information I need in my head, I just need to be proficient at accessing that information when I need it quickly.

MacGyver was very smart, but his greatest skill was his resourcefulness. When he was locked in a warehouse and needed to get out, being able to craft a bomb from the things he found laying around was his most valuable asset. In order to be our most resilient, our resourcefulness is our greatest skill.

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