The opportunity of a problem

"Feed your opportunities and starve your problems" - this is one advice which Peter Drucker, the management Guru, often gave in his writings. He was speaking in a management context, but I think it applies to life in general. But what does he mean? Is he asking us to ignore our problems completely? How can we stop working on our problems when they are bothering us? Strengths and opportunities are fine, but how can we rely just on them?

These were some of the questions inside me when I thought about his advice. It did not make much sense to me. After spending sometime thinking about it, I happened to find an explanation. I am not sure if Drucker meant this when he gave the advice but this is what I understood - "He is not referring to different things when he said "problem" and "opportunity". In the same thing that we call a problem, he is asking us to find an opportunity". Now this is still not a very clear statement. Let us decipher it.

You missed your daily office shuttle. It is comfortable to travel in an AC cab to the office. Now you have to walk half a kilometer and get an auto. This is definitely a problem, though small. What is the opportunity? After a long time you get to walk, get some exercise. An auto ride, though it costs you, is a different experience to cherish. The other option is to regret your laziness and curse yourself for a bad start and spoil your entire day. Which one will you choose? Strangely, most of the time we happen to choose the later option and get buried in regrets. No, I am not asking you to miss your cab daily. When you wake-up you have the opportunity to be on time and travel in an AC cab. You must grab this opportunity. What I am just saying is, if you happen to miss it, don't worry, there is still another opportunity, only if you see it.

The above example may look simplistic but I think you got the point. If you focus on the problem at hand, it gets you no where. It fills you with negativity and prevents you from taking action. But opportunity forces you to act. It challenges you to find a better way, find a better solution. Most scientific inventions are responses to the challenge of an opportunity. In the darkness of the night, Edison saw an opportunity and we got the electric bulb.

You may think all this is just a re-wording of the old wisdom. I agree, it is just a matter of attitude to look at something as an opportunity instead as a problem. But it is an attitude that will make a huge difference to your productivity. It makes you to achieve more things in life. The philosophers have said that the problem is not different from the solution and in understanding the former you get the later. It is time to embrace opportunities hidden in a problem.


Nice post... that walking that half a kilometer for auto, cursing oneself and not realizing the oppurtunity presented, it was as if I was talking to myself. Keep writing. :)
Phanindra said…

Thanks for the comment. Everyone faces the same situations. It is not that since I wrote this, I always interpret anything as an opportunity. Often I too get irritated and frustrated. Guess we all know how to react positively but we forget and don't use this knowledge. This article is more of a remainder to myself, to imprint this point better in my mind.

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