Email circa 2031: My dear sons, beware “The Toxic 12” – #3 The Chronic Problem-solvers

My dear sons

Hope you’re having a great week so far.

I’m writing this while waiting for my doctor’s appointment at the clinic. No worries; it’s just my annual check-up. As you always say Jaedon, Daddy looks younger and fitter than many ‘uncles’ you know *wink*.

I hope by now you’ve taken on board some of the tips I offered with regards to the top two most toxic types of people in this world – the hypocrites and the perfect people. If not, please review my previous emails again ok?.

Now let’s talk about the third category. I call them the Chronic Problem-solvers (CPS).

Now with a label like “Problem-solver”, you might be wondering why on earth I would call them toxic. After all, aren’t we all solving problems big and small daily? Does that mean we are all toxic?

By all means problem-solve, but…

Photo: Sebastian Herrman/unsplash

First of all, I know it’s politically incorrect to say anyone who attempts to solve problems is toxic. After all, we’re solving problems big and small from the moment we wake up (eg what to wear/eat, who to date, etc?) to the moment our heads return to the pillow (eg where’s my night shade, what will I tell my kids/wife/colleagues, etc tomorrow about _______?).

So in no way am I accusing everyone and their grandma of being toxic, just because they are doing what needs doing to get through each day of their lives.

That would be silly and hurtful to say the least.

However, you do need to watch out for CPS. Unlike the first two categories of toxic people, this third category are more typically found in those who hold positions of authority and responsibility.

These would include country and company leaders, and even head of households like err hum yours truly.

Now it is understandable that people in these positions have a duty of care to their charges. This typically includes ensuring that issues/challenges are met with appropriate and timely remedies, in order to keep things humming along.

However, life’s harsh reality is that not every problem can be quickly and easily solved, like a band-aid to a superficial wound on your skin.

From obvious large-scale examples like poverty and climate change, to smaller-scale (but no less impactful) ones such as winning a difficult but lucrative business deal, and deciding which college programme to enrol in.

The list is endless.

None of these are easily resolved with just a quick-fix plan. Rather, they require careful thinking and much deliberation. All of which requires time, commitment and effort, not to mention effective team work, since rarely can you find any single individual holding all the cards to the winning draw.

…please don’t go all ballistic if solutions don’t appear right away

Photo: Kurt Cotoaga/unsplash

Unfortunately, the CPS can’t bear that.

These folks want a solution fast, preferably yesterday! Otherwise, they lose it bad. And, often, loud. Like ballistic missiles.

They want their charges to come to them not just with the problem, but with the best solution carefully planned out and ready to roll right away. All that’s missing is the boss’ rubber stamp of approval.

That’s in the working world.

Closer to home, parents short on time, patience and temper can typically be heard yelling at their kids to “solve your own problem”. As I write this, I sincerely hope I’ve not been that kind of parent to you both.

Have I? (*nervous laugh*)

Anyway, you will recognise these ballistic and chronic problem-solvers easily. They go about daily touting the now oft-repeated maxim found in a 1968 speech by Leroy Eldridge Cleaver: “You’re either part of the solution, or part of the problem.”

Decades later, you still find many a CPS leader brandishing this accusation about like it’s a baby pacifier, to plug their charges from mouthing problems without air-tight solutions. They create a toxic force field around them, preventing anyone without a full-proof solution to come near.

Yet real-world problems are dynamic and not always solvable using cookie-cutter methods. The willingness to wander for a bit in the wilderness til a solution emerges can not only resolve the issue, but also birth new and stereotype-shattering perspectives for a better outcome.

But that can’t happen if CPS continue to rocket-blast their way through the process helter-skelter, “suffering no fools” along the way.

So why are chronic problem-solvers like that?

Photo: Andre Hunter/unsplash

Thankfully, more thoughtful folks than your dear old dad have already dissected the psyche of these ‘problematic’ people, so I strongly encourage you to take some time to check out articles like this and this.

But let me answer the question quickly before the nurse calls me (I think I’m next in line).

There are three possible reasons why CPS are the way they are:

1. They are insecure and fear failure.

No one would ever openly admit to this, least of all persons in authority. But the truth is, if you aren’t comfortable sitting in the middle of a crisis or situation with no clear exit in sight, then chances are you have been playing it safe for most of your life.

Which means that you lack the skills, experience and even the inclination necessary to face the possibility of failure. Which is sad but not surprising, since the world often looks down on failures with common chastisements like “Show me a good and gracious loser, and I’ll show you a failure.” (Knute Kenneth Rockne, 1888-1931)

Pity, because you would know by now that we actually learn more from failures than successes. Just ask Thomas Edison, who famously said that he did not fail, but found (on his quest to design the world’s first light bulb) 10,000 ways that didn’t work.

2. They lack patience and are poor listeners.

This reason should come as no big surprise and is pretty self-explanatory.

Yet you need to be careful – many CPS will slyly put up a semblance of wanting to hear out the problem being presented to them. As far as the world can see, they appear to be patient at first, displaying all the right body language: leaning forward, making eye contact and nodding their heads at all the right moments as the problem is being unpacked.

But make no mistake. The attention won’t last. By the time the problem has been fully unveiled (or not, in some cases!), the CPS would be ready with some stinging comeback about why this problem wasn’t pre-empted, or why the presenter didn’t do this or that before bothering the CPS.

They may even go so far as to distort or escalate the problem, making an already tense situation even more so, and proving that they weren’t even listening carefully in the first place.

In short, the CPS just wants you to take yourself and the problem out of their sight!

3. They disdain the “journey” and care only for the “destination”.

As I’ve taught you boys for many years now, the journey can be almost as important as the destination; sometimes even more so. Like a chrysalis before becoming a butterfly; short-circuit that process and the butterfly may well die.

CPS however don’t embrace this truism. Instead, they just want to get to the end point in the shortest possible time so they can swiftly distance themselves from the ‘pain’ and the bother problems “create” for them.

So if you try to drag them into the problem for longer than it takes to explain the problem, prepare to be shredded in return!

Okay, my number’s just been called. Gotta go. Just remember: when faced with a challenging problem, steer clear of CPS and seek out patient, compassionate leaders instead.

Cheers boys and see you soon! Next email I’ll talk about a prime example of CPS. They distinguish themselves so stoically, even forcefully, they warrant their own category!

Who, you ask?

Stay tuned *grin*



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