Today, I have a very straightforward message for you. And it starts with a question: Are you a success?

How do we determine who in life is a success and who isn’t? The word has several definitions, but my favourite is the one my father taught me: “Success is the ability to solve problems”.

Now, if this is true, then we should very easily determine who is a success and who isn’t, based on their ability to solve problems. 

Are you able to solve problems? I believe you are. I believe you have a strong history of consistently solving problems. As humans, that is all we do: we solve one problem after another from the moment we wake up until the second we fall asleep.

You open your eyes in the morning; you yawn and catch a whiff of your own morning breath. That is a problem. You solve it by brushing your teeth. You solve your hunger problem by eating. You have bills to pay, so you go to work. Your hair needs attention; you visit the barber/hairdresser. You’re gaining weight, you go to the gym. You don’t understand? You ask a question. You’re not sure of the answer given, you go to Google. You want to know what’s happening in the world, you turn on a radio. You need to get from A to B, you get in a car. All day long, you solve problem after problem after problem. It is the basic purpose of your existence.

I agree that most of the problems we solve do not seem like problems, but that is because we have solved them several times before, so we already have the solutions – all we have to do is implement them, the same way we have in the past. It’s called experience: the application of solutions you know to problems you know. With experience, it becomes easy to simply repeat our own success daily. 

The tricky bit comes when you face first-time problems. You have never been in business before, but you need to raise capital. Your spouse wakes up one day and wants a divorce. Your car breaks down two weeks from payday. Your customers are going elsewhere because you never have power. Your employers suddenly make you redundant after fifteen years of loyal service. You are diagnosed with cancer.

These are not everyday problems, and very often, they happen to people who have never experienced them before. These are the obstacles that often lead to failure.

But here’s the good news. No matter what new problems you face today, trust me, they are old problems to someone else. There is not much that can happen to you under the sun that hasn’t happened to someone else before. Whichever first-time problem you’re grappling with today, someone somewhere has solved it before. So it’s simple: whenever you can’t, get with those who can. Use the experience of others when you have none of your own. 

Sometimes, you don’t even need to meet those who have the solutions you need. You just need to read about their lives, examine the lessons they learnt from solving the problems you are grappling with. Take those lessons and apply them in your life. We give up too often in the face of new problems without talking to someone about them. Too many of us consider “obstacle” to be a synonym for “dead end”. 

Today, my simple message to you is this: you may have started on your own steam, but you  might need someone else’s steam to help keep you going. Find that someone. Find that example. Find that template. And follow it over, under or through your obstacles. 

My name is Kojo Yankson, and no one  knows everything, but everyone knows something. 


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