As a young kid, I always enjoyed playing hide and seek. Partly because I was half decent at it, and partly because it was a game that I could express my creativity with. My strategy was unlike the other kids that I would play with. Where most would simply find the furthest or most obscure place to hide and stay, stand, lie or crouch quietly waiting to not be found, I did the opposite.
I would make sure that I was in earshot of the seeker, the kid who was responsible for searching for the rest of us, and pay attention to their movements. My strategy involved changing my hiding location quietly and continuously. It was as if I was seeking the seeker. This strategy worked particularly well, as it was of course unexpected. The seeker would not think to search places he or she had already searched.
Inevitably though, where the strategy consistently failed was that it was also unexpected for the other kids who were in the game. Some of them, who had already been found, would get confused when they would see me moving and innocently begin talking to me and asking me questions. My cover would then be blown and the seeker would find me.
Similar to the playing hide and seek, in the game of life, I am seeking solutions to many problems.
All of the issues, challenges, obstacles and discomforts that I feel are problems that I am seeking solutions for. These could be personal problems, business problems or more recently, societal problems. I am the seeker and the solutions are the other kids who are hiding from me. My role is to find them.
One of the questions I have often received as an entrepreneur is, “how does it feel to work for yourself?”, to which I respond, “I don’t know”. I don’t know what it feels like to work for myself, because I genuinely feel that I work for everyone around me. I work for and feel accountable to my team, my clients, my shareholders, my industry and more. The hundreds of people that I feel responsible to means that their problems, at least as it relates to my business or industry, in part become my problems.
This year has brought to the surface many societal problems that have existed for sometime and introduced new ones. In short, there is no shortage of problems for any of us.
Now in the face of a problem without an obvious solution, I sometimes find myself taking the traditional approach to the game of hide and seek. As the one seeking, I begin to look in all of the usual places for a solution. As a kid would search all over the house for the other kids, as an adult, I am searching all over my mind, sorting through my thoughts and possibly the thoughts of others, looking for a solution. This takes time and can be exhausting.
Upon realizing that the solution cannot be easily found, I begin to change my approach. Instead of seeking and searching, and instead of giving up, I decide to wait. Patience becomes a virtue as inevitably, the solution shows itself. Similar to how as a kid playing hide and seek I would constantly change my location but be eventually found, what I have learned is that the solution will be eventually found. Not always from me seeking it though, but by it showing itself.
Everything changes, I just don’t know how, when or even sometimes, why.
However there is nothing that is permanent in life. My work is to learn how to be with the change. How to welcome it, not to be upset with it or resent it for not showing up how or when I expect it to. With space, everything changes, including the problems that I face and the problems that I see.
The many problems that the pandemic introduced earlier this Spring are examples of where I found myself not seeking solutions but rather giving space for them to appear.
What to do with our offices? Although we left our spaces in early March, it was not until two months later that it became clear that we would not be going back. We then decided to commit to Work From Anywhere on a long-term basis. That solution was not visible to me in March but it was in May, once I gave it space.
In January, our business plan was to invest in and launch several new product lines this year. In March, we hit pause on these plans and it was only a few months later that we decided to double-down on our existing product lines, for our existing clients, as their needs had changed. Again, the solution became clear with space.
I left New York and flew back to Canada with only a carry-on suitcase in March. In the weeks to follow, I felt confused as to what to do with my apartment in New York, which was not cheap to keep. Again with space, the solution became clear a little while later and I decided to not go back.
When deciding if I want to hire a specific candidate to join my team, how to manage a client negotiation or decide product priorities, giving myself space from the decisions at hand has proven to be highly effective as a strategy to find a solution. I would describe it as creating the space to deliberately not think about it. It is a form of restraint from the impulse to try and solve everything immediately. The Empty Spaces is another term, which I wrote about recently, to describe this act of making space.
It is in these moments of not actively trying to solve a problem that the solution to the problem becomes clear.
Yoga philosophy describes this as the process of accessing our inner wisdom, which is beyond intellect or knowledge. It is a part of ourselves where deep knowing and insight resides. Again, it is beyond our mind and thoughts.
The path to access this part of myself is counterintuitive at first. To try to cultivate wisdom would be the equivalent of the seeker who is searching for solutions in the obvious places. I can only search in the places that I know exist. The work for me here instead is to create the space so that what is already there, deep within myself, can come to the surface and enter into my consciousness.
I have developed the belief that the solution is usually hiding within me. What’s left is for it to rise into my awareness, which can only happen if there is space for it to do so.