Why MOST smart people are better at solving other people’s problems…

And, not their own problems.

I am sure you have seen them and may be you are one of them. Smart people who can solve other people’s problems very easily but they can’t solve their own problems. As my friend Stuart Scott would say, most people have brilliant “outsight” and all they lack is some “insight.”

What is it that makes it hard to solve one’s own problems. It is one thing if they don’t have capacity to solve those problems – we are not talking about that category of people. We are talking about people who have demonstrated that they can solve those problems when they are presented by other people. The mystery is what happens when these problems show up in their own lives.

The dilemma above was the quest of my ongoing mini-research. Finally I think I have some findings that might shed some light on the topic.

First some background information:

Problems are part of life. In fact, in some way, they are life. It is how you look at those problems that makes a difference. Sometimes not getting that first sale is a problem. The same problem can be looked at as a challenge or even an opportunity to grow and learn. Whatever way you look at it, to overcome what you are faced with, you need a few things. To start with you need the skillsets to handle it, you need to resources like time to handle it and sometimes you need a lot of people who are willing to help you overcome it.

What is also common is that every problem comes with constraints that put some boundaries on how you can handle the problem.

Now, let us look at the two scenarios:

1. Smart person solving other’s problems

When a problem gets presented, not all the constraints associated with that problem get presented. May be the person having the problem has a confidence or a self-esteem problem. May be he has a family member that’s not doing that well. May be he has a knee pain. But when he presents the problem at hand, he may not list out all the constraints that surround him or the problem. So the smart person listening to this problem has a larger canvas to paint a solution. The smart person operates sees less number of constraints than the person who is facing the problem – makes the problem look a bit easier.

2. Smart person solving his or her own problem

When a problem shows up in the life of a smart person, he does not see just that problem but a problem and himself/herself surrounded by all the constraints that he or she is operating with. The problem looks way more complicated when presented with all the constraints than as a standalone problem. The smart person has the same canvas to paint a solution but the canvas is torn in places ( constraints ) and is dirty in a few other places (more constraints) – suddenly making the problem way more complicated to handle.

So, now comes to some solutions for this dilemma.

If you are a smart person who is facing this problem, what can you do?

Here are some places to start:

1. Stop over-analyzing your constraints: Most constraints grow bigger than natural in your mind. Your confidence problem may not be as big as you think and your public speaking skills may not be as bad as you think.

2. Get help: Yes, you know that if you think long and hard, you can solve the problem yourself but if you can be humble and go to someone that you trust, they will see the problems without all the baggage that you are carrying. Even if it means paying that expert, it is well worth it to get that solved.

3. Change your relationship with failure: Smart people rarely want to fail. If you have a chronic fear of failure, you may end up not taking ANY action. Excellence sometimes requires you to be on the edge and edges are not very safe.

You may also be interested in other mini-research outcomes:

1. Why some smart people are reluctant to share? (Dec 26, 2009)

2. Why nice people will win BIG TIME in the long run? (Jan 15, 2010)

3. Why some people work hard but don’t get appreciated for that work? (Feb 22, 2010)

4. Why some smart people don’t take action? (Mar 14, 2010)

5. Why many smart people are taken for granted? (Mar 28, 2010)

6. 9 Reasons why MANY smart people go nowhere (Mar 29, 2010)

7. Why MANY smart people take shortcuts and how you can avoid that trap ( May 3, 2010 )

8. 7 Reasons why MANY smart people have trouble communicating their ideas (May 5, 2010)

9. 7 Reasons why some smart people criticize others ( May 30, 2010 )