It was one of my more brilliant parenting moments (and I promise there are plenty less than brilliant ones to make up for it). When my oldest was about 2, he started to show a tendency to get frustrated with himself very easily. If he was playing with something and it wasn't doing exactly what he wanted or something broke or got stuck, he would start to huff and puff and get closer to a fit. One time I reminded him he had two options - fix it, or ask for help. The huffing and puffing did nothing to get rid of his problem.
It became a refrain in our family. As he got older, he would even (begrudgingly) say it when we asked him what his choices were. Action figure keeps tipping over? Fix it or ask for help. Shoe won't stay on? Fix it or ask for help. In adult language, take charge and do something to move the issue forward. It does no good to stay in a place of frustration and expect results to magically change. That one sentence stopped more fits in their tracks than anything else we did. It's also one of the better life lessons we've managed to reinforce.
Now that our second is two, we're starting to use the phrase again and it made me think about the issues I see pop up in my business and in the businesses of my clients. We go through all sorts of complicated problem solving and discussion points, but I have been thinking that it really boils down to the advice my seven year old could give from lots of good experience: Fix it or ask for help.
Here are the two major lessons I've been pulling out of that simple sentence lately:
Fix it can mean a lot of different things
Whatever your issue, the solution can vary significantly.
- Get more information - You can do this by finding new data that gives you the ability to make better choices. You can learn new skills. You can gather clues from other people's past experiences. You can find a resource or widget that makes everything so much easier.
- Pros - You build your toolbox. Next time a similar problem pops up, you're more likely to tackle it effectively and efficiently.
- Cons - This is the biggest liar of all the options. Procrastination hides here. Self doubt uses this as a cover. Business owners will pop up a tent and camp out so that they can feel productive without having to hold themselves accountable for actual results or changes. It's the best spot to hold on to your fear and hunker down for the long haul. Which means no progress, no solution, and no money.
- Ignore it - I'm being very, very serious here. We decide things are a problem that we can often just pass over. If you can just decide that it really doesn't matter, the problem goes away.
- Pros - The absolute minimum amount of time and frustration spent to solve the problem. This is how I handled my Twitter dilemma. I couldn't put my finger on how to engage meaningfully with my ideal clients on that platform. When I realized my time was better spent elsewhere, the problem vanished, along with the stress and guilt.
- Cons - Sometimes things just really do matter. Business owners will do this and claim with bravado that they don't let the little things bother them or that's [insert issue like monitoring cash flow or marketing analytics] is just not their strength so they don't bother....except business doesn't care if you stink at something important by nature of omission. The consequences are still coming for you. Make sure they're worth it before you decide to let whatever it is fall by the wayside.
- Brainstorm, tweak, and try again - You may be close and just need to adjust. If you think you have the info and skills you need, take the time to step back and analyze and then try again.
- Pros - Most solutions don't happen the first time. Perseverance is a necessity in business and using time and patience to look at what's worked and what you could change is a skill worth developing.
- Cons - It can create a downward spiral. If you're too stubborn to admit you don't have the necessary data points to find where you need to make changes, you'll get stuck here, get even more frustrated, and keep throwing more and more desperate solutions at the problem. This is the easiest way to let the "sunk costs" hang up hold you back and drain your bank account or patience to zero while pushing the income making solution further and further away.
Asking for help can look very different, too.
Once you've tried fix it for a while or in a couple different ways, you need to realize that it's likely not going to change without help. If you haven't figured X, Y, or Z out so far, why is the next time going to be any different? That's when you need to make a call to ask for help.
- Find someone who has gone through it - You may just be missing a little insight or a few ideas of what worked for them. This is why good, skilled, like minded business buddies are so essential for a wedding business owner who wants to continually grow and be happy about it. (Like our Facebook groups for wedding businesses or indie bridal designers)
- Bring in a coach - Coaches are different than buddies. If a buddy's advice makes sense but you still aren't seeing results, you need the clarity, expertise, and accountability of a coach to push you forward and help you apply solutions in a way that exactly fit you, your business, and your needed results for the current problem.
- Bring on an expert - For certain problems, you may be better off paying someone to handle it. It's not my go-to solution, but it's an essential one. If your Facebook ads just aren't making it and you would rather delegate than have a Facebook Ad coach show you how to rock them yourself, hire an Ad manager. You can't tackle everything and you shouldn't try. The trick is identifying when you're needed in the solution and when you're better off handing it over and moving on to where your focus is more valuable.
So whatever is popping up in your daily life or business that has you up against the wall or ready to kick your feet in frustration, take the time to sit back and settle on your next move. Will you fix it? Or do you need to ask for help? Both move you or your business forward.