Falling in love with a problem

This is a love story.

This is a love story.

This is you

Work is made up of problems.

If you didn’t have any problems then it wouldn’t be work, it would be fun. Problems make work work.

Here’s your problem with problems, you are too possessive. That’s right, you and your problems are straight out of an episode of the OC. If you don’t know what show that is, fuck you, I am thirty and you are likely much younger than me, or, much older and wiser. #blessup

You can’t have Marissa Cooper all to yourself, you can’t cage that kind of love. Ryan tried, and see how it turned out.

Ryan carries Marissa’s corpse from a burning wreckage. Spoilers.

You need to treat your problems like the 60s man, you need to get all hippie on them and share them around. Let other people taste them, let other people love them.

Every problem belongs to everyone else.
If you were born before 1985 this is another reference you won’t get, fuck you again.

Sell your problems and they will get solved. Hoard your problems and you will get ants.

How do you sell a problem?

It’s easy.

Step 1: Define it really clearly.

Step 2: Tie it to a metric that is important for you or your business.

Step 3: Prove it.

Step 4: Propose some ideas on how to solve it to start a conversation.

Step 5, this is the really important one, convince your buyer that this is the problem for them. That this problem will appreciate in value, that they are buying this problem at the rock bottom. That you have insider knowledge that a really smart woman (you) are going to working on this problem soon and that it’s value will increase. Sell your problem until your fingers bleed or your voice is hoarse.

A few examples

In life, let’s say you need to lose weight but your house is full of crap. You can decide to will yourself to never eat crap again but you will likely fail. I have said that at least 10 times this week alone yet here I am 13 chocolate almonds deep, fuck you Costco.

Or, you can sell your problem.

Sell your problem to your partner, or your cat if you don’t have a partner. Show them that if they come with you on this journey of no more crap that not only will you live a longer and healthy life, but they will too.

Or if you are a woman of industry and your company needs to grow. You happen upon information that shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that your team can unlock a new level of growth but it won’t be easy. You have Rick, Sally, and Barb in your way. You have two choices:

  1. Spite them and go it alone
  2. Sell them your problem

If you don’t know the answer is 2) then your chances for acing the exam at the end of this essay is slim. You should consider CMD-W right now.

This is simple but you don’t do it. I like pointing out simple things that you don’t do because guess what, I don’t do them either. The act of writing this has illuminated several examples in my life where I am trying to brute force myself to victory, when instead I should be taking a step back and selling my problem.

Your homework, think of a something that needs to change: profits, waist lines, pool water level, etc and turn it into a clear and concise problem statement. Examples:

The water level in the pool is so low that Marc fractured his leg when he jumped in.

Users are not coming back to our application fast enough

We need to grow 20% without spending more than $50,000 next quarter.

Then, once it’s super clearly articulated, tie it to a business objective or metric.

If we are going to have a pool, people should be able to jump in it.

Retention rate should be close to 40% and it’s 5%

Signups should grow at 15% while costs should decrease 5% MoM

Then build up some evidence that reduces the leaps of faith someone needs to take.

See attached photo of pool and Marc’s leg

On average only 5% of users in our weekly activation cohorts are coming back and this has been happening since last March.

We spent $400,000 last week and only 17 people download the application.

Then propose some ideas to solve the problem

We could put a hose in the pool.

We could create a retargeting campaign.

We could invest in organic social, pr stunts, and organic search to drive incremental compounding growth.

Then, go sell it!

Get other people in your house, your company or your life to help you solve this problem. Not because it’s good for you, but because it’s good for them too. Empathize with your seller, and make sure that you truly understand them and their desires and needs. If you problem still fits, sell it them in good conscious.

This works especially well when they are in different time zones, because then they can be working while you be sleeping :)