Find A Third Way Home

Matt Jankowski

The lesson for day two in my twenty five part series is find a third way home. As promised, this is a vague metaphor and I’ll now provide very little explanation for it.

Often when you’re working on a large project or even on a smaller specific problem you run into situations where everyone involved in the decision-making process feels pigeon-holed into making a black and white decision and neither perceived choice is very appealing. It’s common to get frustrated, churn your wheels for days, re-iterate the pluses and minuses of the two choices (and believe me, the minuses always seem more bad than the pluses seem good), get bogged down in meetings where everyone defers making a decision, and so on.

It’s at times like these where one of the following is probably true. First, maybe you really do have something that’s a genuinely hard problem with no good solution. The world is full of these. Try breaking it down into many smaller problems and see if you can feel good about solving any of them. If not, repeat until you can. Secondly - and I believe this is very common - you may have fallen victim to setting up a set of alternatives which do not exhaust the set of ways to solve your problem. Maybe there’s a third way. Maybe there’s a fourth way. Maybe you can take the good half of each solution and create a safe solution that way.

As an example - I was in a chinese restaurant ordering dinner earlier tonight, and I couldn’t decide which soup to order. The egg drop has a bizarre yet satisfying texture to it - but generally tastes weird. The wonton is delicious partially because I don’t know quite what a wonton is - but is served in a broth unworthy of praise. As it turns out, you can get wonton egg drop soup.

The details can’t be generalized, but the pattern can. Look for a third way home.