Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Circular Solutions

Posted October 10, 2006

How do you solve a big problem? What is your technique? When you're facing a major project with many elements how do you prioritize and get your arms around “the bear?” I would like to hear your thoughts. Yesterday when confronted with one of those multi dimensional projects I took the advice of two of my heroes: I walked around the problem...literally. I hiked my favorite trail at Hemlock Bluffs in Cary three times. By the third time around solutions started to come into focus. Dr. Martin Luther King and professor/author Joseph Campbell both recommended a long circular walk when approaching a major problem or task. Dr. King drew inspiration from the biblical story of Jericho. If you walk around a problem long enough then the walls of that problem will come tumbling down. Dr. Campbell also saw the powerful symbolic imagery of circles. Throughout history circles have been symbolic of wholeness. Personally, I do better problem solving while walking and better creative thinking while running. A good run will sometimes generate missing lyrics to a song or a fresh melody for a CD project. I used to have an autumn ritual of solo mountain hiking for a week to help clear the cobwebs and fire up the soul. Parenting and the busyness of life have taken me away from that. I would like to get back to it. I miss the silence and the wisdom that comes from it. When you say someone is “going in circles,” there is usually a negative connotation about aimless travel with no destination. But in many ways the best answers emerge when we shut down the ego, travel round and round a problem and wait for solutions.

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Bill Leslie