“God saw everything he had created: it was supremely good.” Genesis 1:31a
I pastor a struggling church. I sit on a couple of non-profit boards and community agencies. I live in a community that has double-digit unemployment, a decaying downtown, and a negative reputation across the state. All that to say that I understand there are problems, big problems. I do I have always prided myself in being able to evaluate a situation and come up with a few (or a lot) of possible solutions. Sometimes the solutions have been half-baked or not well thought out, but since I learn more from failure than success, I’d get back up, brush myself off, and start all over again. Some days I think my spiritual gift is just the willingness to get back up again, once I’ve been knocked down.
We all have problems. We have difficulty in our personal lives, in our business lives, and (hard though it is to believe) in our lives of faith. The issue is not whether we have problems, but how we confront those problems. I’ve found in my work that there are three ways people approach problems. There are creators, who come up with possible solutions. There are consumers, these folks benefit from the solutions offered by the creators. There are complainers, these folks spend all their energy complaining about the problem and finding fault with any possible solution.
My friend Jennifer often says that if you can get out of bed and get dressed, you are creative. Oh, sure, some people are more artistic, and some have a better sense of timing than others, but we are all “made in the image of God,” and God, is by nature, Creator, so we are naturally creative. Creators see a problem or obstacle and choose to view it as an opportunity. It becomes a chance to engage in solution generating, creative thinking. Some of the solutions may be absurd, but eventually one or more of them will be brilliant. Creators understand the value of tenacity and the importance to keep trying even after multiple failures. Failures are just the chance to realize what doesn’t work, and it eliminates those options in favor of solutions that will solve the problem. The reason most people quit is that it is easy to forget that solution is often spelled W-O-R-K. We like easy and simple solutions, but in our complex world, rarely is any real solution easy and simple. Creators believe the solution is worth the effort. Organizations that nurture creators are fun and flexible. The embrace failure as part of the learning journey, and are always willing to try a new solution.
Consumers benefit from the solutions the creators generate. Consumers see the world as their shopping center and have a rather narcissistic view of the problems as interruptions to their lives. Consumers consume. When they encounter a problem they begin to look around to see who has a solution that they can afford. Then the decision becomes is the benefit worth the cost? Can I buy my way out of this problem? They want the best, and believe that they deserve the best, that their money, or effort, or attendance can “buy.” They see the solutions as products on life’s endless buffet of options that are designed to serve them. Consumers desire maximum solution with minimal effort. Consumers reject the idea of taking responsibility for the problem and fail to take the initiative to create solutions. One more thing, consumers have loyalty to an organization or solution only so long as it is the “best value.” They are usually led away by promises of the “new and improved” solution. Organizations filled with consumers are always stressed, looking for the “next best thing,” and always worried that the consumers will be attracted away by it.
Complainers see both the problem and the creative solutions offered and spend their time both whining about the problem and dissecting and destroying the possible solutions. We all know these people, they suck the air out of the room as soon as they enter. You can just feel positivity evaporate in their presence. Another interesting characteristic I’ve noticed about complainers is that they tend to flock. Like attracts like so complainers tend to feed on each other’s misery. An environment that nurtures complainers usually repels creators because who wants to hang around and be constantly criticized for trying to find solutions?
Just to be clear, I am not saying we do not need to critically evaluate and assess the value of the solutions. Assessment and adjustment are the keys to creating an environment of continual improvement. Creators understand the value of evaluation, but evaluation isn’t complaining, it is a process of improvement.
Here is the good news: you get to choose how you are going to approach a problem. You can choose to be a creator and be part of a creative team that seeks solutions when you come against a problem. You can choose to be a consumer, and let others do the “heavy lifting” and then simply pay as little as possible to purchase the solution. Or you can choose to be a complainer and spend your energy finding fault with the problems and potential solutions without ever bringing an alterative to the table. You get to choose. As one who strives to serve God, whose very first act was one of creation, I hope I always choose to be a creative. The world already has far too many consumers and complainers, what it needs now is those who seek to create solutions.
Get out there and create!