Almost as notorious as my Tulip Suit is my disdain for a 19 mile highway on the southside of Grand Rapids, M6. I’ve been vocal about the western-most 5 miles of the highway which had fallen into a horrible state of disrepair. Some news reports had measured gaps in the road over a foot wide. It got to a point where I would be chatting with someone via bluetooth on my commute and would have to groan “Let me call you back in 5 minutes.” and would return to the call after I cleared the mess called a “highway”. I would be stopped in church just to talk about how horrible M6 was. Cousins who I hadn’t seen in-person in years were in the mitten state visiting and the first thing they said to me was “I see exactly what you mean!” But then…. I fixed it! You’re welcome.
Okay truth be told I didn’t actually fix M6. However, I had a brilliant plan that I developed over a year ago for a site called FixM6.org. I had bumper stickers in mind that said:
- Keep Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon and FixM6.org
- Putting chiropractors out of business since 1997. FixM6.org
- Life is a highway, Death is M6. FixM6.org
The logo was the M6 sign (like the M22 signs) fit snuggly inside the X of Fix. It was brilliant! And the best part of all was that all of the proceeds of the sales were going to go to actually fixing M6! But I never did anything beyond check whether the domain FixM6.org was available for purchase, and it was.
But, complaining about the problem was far easier than being a part of the solution.
Then one day I was complaining to a customer about M6 and how I was just starting to get the feeling back in my toes when one of my employees had reached a tipping point. After listening to me complain about it for a year he said “Why don’t you do something about it?”
So that very morning I purchased the domain FixM6.org. Exactly an hour later my bride sent me a text “THEY ARE FIXING M6!!!” At first I was impressed at what must have been my magical power, and then my disappointment set in as I realized I had the magical power a year ago and I didn’t do a thing about it. Here’s what I learned in not fixing M6:
Complaining Causes Cracks
Have you every had someone complain about something to you and after a short time you found yourself not only agreeing with their comments, but replaying the comments over and over in your head? So often, you can complain about something to someone else and all it does is makes you both more disdainful of the item of your complaint. You replay your complaint over and over in your daily mind commute and soon you have huge cracks because your complaints are driving your disdain further and further into your brain.
There’s no I in team, but there are three I’s in Initiate
Initiating a solution to a problem doesn’t require a team it only requires one person. It may end up needing a team to get to the ultimate solution, but only one person is needed to initiate the solution.
‘Hows’ are hazardous
If you are getting caught up in the “how” before you start to solve the problem you’ll never find out how to solve the problem. Hazards are on every road but the solution to getting from point A to point B isn’t to simply not drive on the road, it’s to know there will be hazards and you’ll deal with them when you get there. you don’t have to know every how to get started now.
Action stops dissatisfaction
When you know you are working towards a solution you no longer feel the need to complain about the problem. If you had a goal of losing weight and you exercised in the morning, you’re going to make a better choice on your meal come lunch than if you decided not to exercise. Your actions reframe the way you are thinking about the problem and the solution.
This fix of M6 will cost $9.5 million. That would have taken a lot of bumper sticker & t-shirt sales, or would it have? Maybe after enough of our state officials passed cars with bumper stickers pointing out the need for repairs of the highway we might have had a swift solution to the broken thread of our beautiful mitten.
What’s a problem you’ve been complaining about while secretly harboring a solution? Maybe you can’t get people to show up to work on time, or simply smile while they’re working. I confidently can say complaining about “your people” in front of “your people” certainly won’t make you a smooth operator in the long run, and actually provides unnecessary wear and tear to the vehicle of your joy, purpose and momentum in your workplace.
Today I drove on east-bound M6 for the third time since its repair, and for the third time I was both beaming from ear-to-ear as it was gloriously smooth, but also felt a twinge of sadness as I knew I wasn’t a part of the solution.