Problem-solving 101

I’ve been thinking. And it’s amazing that problems that you felt were life-changing as they occurred seem so…trivial in retrospect, isn’t it? As if hindsight adjusts the scale back to normal. And I was wondering, maybe it’s not because the problem is gone that it feels unimportant, it’s because you’re not “IN the maze” anymore, so to speak.

Digressing a bit, apparently, rear-view mirror in French is retroviseur [thanks Julian Barnes!]. Sounds infinitely cooler doesn’t it?

Problems in general are the currency of life. Ever wondered why there seems to be absence/dearth of literature/historical text from civilisations that were supposedly utopian? Olof Rudbeck concluded “history is the chronology of conflict” and if there was peace and harmony, there was nothing to write about cos people were too busy having fun. Well I don’t know if I agree with that completely, but there’s an element of truth in everything right?

I mean, regardless of the problem, there’s always a way to solve it or in the case of game thory problems, a way to do damage control. O’er here in S’pore, we have lessons to TEACH creativity and problem-solving…I have no further comments. So you have all the different brainstorming methods brought up and different ideal methods to solve various kinds of problems depending on scope/scale and amount of effort required. Fishbone diagrams, WITS, mind maps and all sorts of arcane modern-day runes pop up in my mind as we speak. Hell there are even formulated methods to solve Rubik’s cubes and Reversi [that I’m not really in a hurry to learn.]

And yet, when faced with a problem, the typical reaction phases are as follows. Surprise, disbelief, shock/panic, denial, and acceptance: responsibility/fatalism. The sooner you reach the acceptance and subsequent taking-responsibility phase, the better. Depending on the scale of the problem [which I’ve already noted as being unrealistically bloated at the time of occurrence], this takes exponentially longer. And even then it’s more likely we’ll choose to resign if we feel there was nothing we did wrong in the first place. Two words: Murphy’s law [Finagle’s law of dynamic negatives].

When I was in NS [BMT], there was this friend who was older than the rest of us due to frequent childhood school transfers; he finished his A levels 2years after the normal guys do. Anyway, maybe it was because he was older [and we assume age brings maturity, don’t we?] he never seemed to be bogged down by any of the issues, punishments or even general mind-numbing incidents not worth even mentioning.
Of course, there could’ve been a number of other reasons for this; say, maybe he didn’t have NS as a priority that he wanted to work hard at or maybe he just didn’t care as long as there was no physical harm. I’m just saying he was like that [during BMT at least, and later I found out he was finicky like everyone else] and I always imagined him as being “on the walls of the maze” and hence, not really flustered. He knew where to go, he knew how to get there, and he knew it wasn’t really a problem at all.

Point is, he was IN the moment; he wasn’t not flustered because the problems had passed, but maybe he was seeing them without the magnifying glass. So it’s not really about getting smarter/wiser AFTER the incident. I wanna be like that. Cool and collected, poised to take on anything anytime. Never defeated, not ever. When there’s a will, there’s a way. Murphy’s law was meant to be broken, so to speak.

Come to think of it, the [possible] evidence of it everywhere. Ever noticed how, be it a sport or a game, the audience always has a better idea of what to do? I used to think it was irritating; of course they thought they knew better! They weren’t in the rut with me. And I realised I was right about them being outside of the problem; I just didn’t realise that was the better position to be in.
As I mentioned earlier, past problems looks trivial and too easy, regardless of how affected we were at that time.

I think it’s the stress. The burden of having to choose what to do in a short period of time. The need you feel to do the right and preferable thing. The disappointment that things aren’t going your way [as usual I suppose]. The simultaneous anger and frustration that you didn’t foresee and take preventative measures. It’s possible these things are the culprits responsible for warping our perception.

Perception is relative, I was once told. If we have free will at all, then we ARE able to choose how to react to anything external. If there’s a problem, instead of wasting time trying to figure out who to blame, deal with it. Once you do that, it’s done and dealt with; so there’s still no need at all for any melodrama. At best, figure out why and prevent future errors.

Speaking of hindsight and foresight, watching Fight Science, there was an ep that discussed how early martial arts masters were said to have powers of foresight as a result of their skill and discipline, and could predict exactly what moves the opponent would make and would counter it even as it was being executed. Then it was found that a trained martial artist was able to react much faster to visual/aural stimuli than a layperson, due to trained and therefore enhanced reflexes.
If reflexes are short-term speedy counters, then instincts are the long-term variation. If reflexes can be trained, so can instinct. Experience trains instinct [that is generally true. YMMV]. But there’s got to be a faster, more artificial way. Any ideas?

Regardless, if stress causes the blunders, I say we remove it! Play as if my life depended on it? Pah! I’m more underachieving than that! I’ll give my 80% and see how things pan out. There’s really no point overextending yourself. Best course of action is to reserve some grit in case lightning strikes the same spot twice. And the way I see it, I think I’d play a whole lot better that way than burning myself out at full speed.

I used to think out loud, how bad can it get? What’s the worst-case scenario? You die? Once you think dying’s not so bad, most things lose their relative importance. And yet, it’s not like I’m living everyday like it’s my last. I’m not that far gone; just being melancholic.
Of course, now I realise there are worse fates than dying, like dying in the most painful manner among others. So it’s not always that easy to see through the veils of the Matrix, in that sense. But do try to not try so hard! A healthy [moderate] dose of Fukitol everyday never hurt anyone.


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