Don't See Problems, See Solutions: 6 Ways Troubles At Work Can Become Opportunities

Every place I’ve ever worked had its own problems. Sometimes it was a difficult person, sometimes it was being understaffed and sometimes it was outdated technology that made things less efficient than they should be.

I realized that a job free of problems doesn’t exist, so I started looking at problems in a different light. After a while, I embraced problems instead of running from them.

My whole outlook on the world changed when I began to see problems as opportunities to shine. Here are six reasons why you should start embracing problems on the job:

1. You have a chance to use your creativity

Many people don’t realize that work environments filled with problems represent a chance to use creative thinking.

In one job I had, work would pile up and it became overwhelming. We needed an additional employee or new software, but both of these cost money and carry other hidden costs.

Without going into a lot of detail, I was able to automate a lot of things using Excel and another free program.

Was it an optimal solution? Not even close. But it was better than what I had before and saved me time and lots of headache. It also felt darn good to figure everything out on my own.

2. The problem is the job description

When I first learned to drive, my dad showed me how to change a tire on a car. We were in a garage and everything was easy.

However, the only time in real life I had to change a tire on a car was on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. The ground was uneven and some dirt spots were soft so the jack would just push into the ground instead of hoisting up the car.

I had to push the car to the most level ground available and improvise from there to change the tire.

No matter what your skill set is, everything will require a little improvisation outside the classroom. Most job descriptions list responsibilities and skills needed, but it’s the ability to do those things in the face of problems that makes you a truly valuable employee.

3. It makes you stronger

Being in the middle of a crisis is an awful feeling. I’ve been there; many times I’ve wanted to just curl up in the corner of the room and hope that everything would just take care of itself.

But by sticking through things, I became mentally tougher. When things get tough, think of it as an exercise where you’re building muscle so you can be more resilient in the future.

4. You’ll have good stories for later

As a writer, I have an affinity towards chaos. I say to myself, “Well, at least it gives me something to write about later.”

But good stories are useful even if you’re not a writer. Stories make you a great communicator; humans are wired to listen to stories.

For example, dealing with problems gives you good material for stories that you can use in job interviews.

Candidate A says, “I majored in blah, blah, blah. I’d be good because I’m a hard worker and I’m proactive blah, blah, blah…”

Candidate B, on the other hand, says, “Putting out fires is what I do. Let me tell you about a time I stopped the company’s databases from going down and saved them $3 million in the process.”

Which one sounds more interesting? Candidate B is showing rather than telling and it’s more engaging for the listener. Once you get some good stories, you can do the same.

5. You have a chance to be the hero and save the day

Batman isn’t merely a hero because of his gizmos. It’s because of villains -- or problems -- that he’s able to save the day and be a hero.

No matter what your job is or how menial it seems, you can save the day for people. I was driving around a gated resort once and the signs weren’t the best. I was running late, so I stopped to ask a random service worker for directions and he pointed me to where I needed to go.

If it weren’t for him, I might have been late. He saved the day for me because of the problem of poor signs and directions in the complex.

6. You have the chance to become the best

Whether it’s a new job, a new venture or a new hobby, just about everything is fun at first. Then problems arise and you’ll wonder whether it’s worth pursuing.

Seth Godin calls it “the dip.” Sometimes quitting is the best decision when nothing will get better no matter what. But other times, working through “the dip” is worth it. If you can stick it out through the part where others quit, you can set yourself apart and reap all the rewards.

I used to dream that I’d solve a problem and then arrive in a place where I could coast along. Now, I actively look for problems.

They’re the best opportunities you’ll come by.

Photo Courtesy: Netflix/House of Cards