Because thereís an answer

 

Whatís the largest value of U.S. coins you could have in your pocket and not be able to make exact change for a dollar?

Thereís an obstacle that many of us never get past. Might be a word problem. Could be life overall. And, the main reason is because many of us donít even know itís there. It just so happens that a riddle or a brain teaser provides quite possibly the best example.

The obstacle? People will respond to many challenges by saying they have no idea, and then wait for you to provide an answer. They give up. They donít even try, and worse yet, they seem oblivious to the idea that they gave up.

Iíve found, every so often when a conversation turns to such material, that it never really occurs to many people that there is a solution. They toss their hands in the airóan act of I canít do this defiance, of sortsóand step away. I would contend that often, the first hurdle in any dilemma is very simple: understand that there is an answer. It should be a natural reaction. And, if it was, then instead of giving up our first steps would actually be to move toward solutions.

Are you going to find the answer for everything? No, of course not. None of us could. There are challenges beyond any of our skills and abilities. We may need help. But the sheer volume of people that give up before even taking a step is staggering.

I donít want this to take too serious of a turn, but Iíll ask. How often do you feel a bit helpless? The reason Iím asking, and what Iím wondering, goes back to my obstacle observation.

Thereís an old stereotype about men. Donít like to ask for directions when lost. Would rather drive around for a few hours, miss an event entirely, rather than admit they are having problems. And that is kind of where Iím going.

I heard someone ask the question about coins the other day, and it got me thinking. I happen to love brain teasers. Got rather good at them. When I was younger, I learned a funny lesson about them that helped. I canít recall exactly when or where it happened, but I realized that the question never changed because I complained about it. All the complaining did was slow me down, occupy my thoughts, cloud my work, to a point where I was moving in circles and not toward an answer. Once I obtained that knowledgeókind of an act now, get mad later approachóthings seemed to get a bit better. Suddenly, by understanding that the reason the question was asked was in part because a solution existed, an appreciation for puzzles took hold.

I think thatís something all of us need to appreciate at times. Whatever issues are around, we do have a choice. Complain or get moving, so to speak. The issues donít change just because we want to curse and scream about them. What happens in those cases is the issues remain issues, but slide into the unaddressed issues category.

Iím not trying to oversimplify things. Not trying to say that some situations arenít so incredible that there really arenít any solutions for the problems being faced. Absolutely, there are serious issues all of us contend with, and I encourage you to find support and help when you need it.

What I am saying is that there is often a moment, in the very beginning, where the idea has to be accepted that you are moving. And you need to decide how you intend to move. In circles or toward a finish.

For instance, the question we began with? The answer is $1.19. The best example is three quarters, four dimes and four pennies. Those coins provide the greatest value you could have while also not being able to make exact change for one dollar. There are actually examples using a half-dollar, or more dimes, or less quarters. But no matter how you begin combing the coins, the value remains the same. $1.19. In the spirit of the essay, Iíll leave alternative combinations for you to figure out.

 

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com