Those of you that grew up in a small town may be able to relate to this experience. I bet all of you country kids did this at one time or another. The rest of you need to understand that we sometimes had our own ways of passing time and making fun for ourselves. Sometimes it was at our own house, sometimes at a friend’s house, or maybe it was at my grandpa’s. We would go out to the farm pond and try to catch frogs. We were often successful, especially with the little ones. We didn’t hurt them. We just held them, played with them for a minute and then turned them loose on the bank next to the water.
Thinking of that reminded me of a “research” story about frogs. I doubt that it is true, but it is a good story. Here goes. A scientist took a frog and tied its back right leg up to the rest of his body, got behind the frog and yelled, “Jump frog jump”. And the frog jumped, albeit not far and kind of sideways. So the scientist wrote that down in his log book. Next, the scientist tied the frog’s two front legs up to its body, got behind the frog and again yelled, “Jump frog jump”. The frog jumped ever so slightly. Finally, the scientist tied up the last leg. So now with all four legs tied up to its body, he set the frog down and yelled, “Jump frog jump”. Nothing. So he yelled again, this time louder. Again, nothing. So the scientist writes down in his log…….frog with all four legs tied up cannot hear.
We all have problems that arise daily in our work life or personal life. That’s part of life. Most of us are juggling several of them at once. Some problems we perceive as important, others more trivial. Maybe we have them in the right category and maybe not, but we’re often moving too fast to figure it out for sure. In fact, we may not give any of them much thought or time because we need to hurry on to the next one. And sometimes we may not have even figured out what the real problem was, but we start solving anyway. Sometimes what we think was the problem was not really the problem at all. Sometimes there isn’t even really a problem. But we quickly make a decision and move forward to implement the solution with the hope that it fixes the situation. Sometimes we don’t really fix anything because we were trying to fix the wrong thing.
I’ve read before that perception is reality. I used to believe it. But just because my perception of the frog’s predicament is that he didn’t move because he can’t hear, I’m still wrong. Just because I think it doesn’t make it real. Just because I think I know what the problem is doesn’t make it the problem. Just because I think I have solved a problem doesn’t necessarily make it so. Did I listen, consider all the information, contemplate possible solutions, and be as certain as I can be that I understand the situation as it really is? Sometimes we forget to ask ourselves a most important question….Does it make sense?
As a supervisor, I once had to have a conversation with an employee that had recently been late for work several times. I saw him drive into the parking lot in an older beat-up looking car and immediately determined that he was having car trouble. When I called him into my office I started the conversation by talking about the car; what might be wrong with it, when he could get it fixed, where he could take it, etc. I was sure I knew what the problem was and being the empathetic person I thought I was, immediately started helping him solve his tardiness problem. When I finally stopped giving advice, he explained to me that he was a parent of two young children, his wife was out of town for a period of time for her work, and their babysitter had just quit. His sister was temporarily watching the kids, and she lived across town. And since time management was not his strong suit anyway, he was having a difficult time with his newly-changed situation. He didn’t need his car fixed, he needed to get better organized. And he needed a new babysitter. And he needed his wife to get home from her business trip.
Whether it’s with ourselves or our desire to help others, are we working on the right problem? Do we have all the information we need to make an informed decision? Are we drawing the right conclusions? Are we making things better or making them worse?