Years ago, I was talking with a friend – a firefighter named, John. He was called out to a home as a first responder to an… “emergency”. A child of 8 or 9 had tried to squeeze himself through the railing of the back porch at home, and got his head stuck.
The family had spent a considerable amount of time trying to get the child out. They were unsuccessful, so they called in the emergency help – the people that could safely cut someone out of a wrecked and crumpled vehicle – to help get their son out of the railing.
My Head Is Too Big!
After nearly an hour of trying and failing, the first responders were ready to get the saw and cut the rails. It was dangerous, as they could injure the boy, but they couldn’t see any other possible solution.
It was then – just before they were ready to cut – that my friend, John, had that “aha!” moment.
He turned to the crew of first responders – firefighters and and EMT / paramedics – and with confidence and says, “$20 from each of you says I can safely get him out in the next 10 seconds… without cutting or bending or otherwise damaging anything.”
The crew laughs.
There’s no way this is going to happen, so they agree – each thinking about how they are going to spend their easily earned $20.
John turns to the boy and calmly says, “Ok. I have to try one more thing before we start cutting the rails. But first, I need you to turn your body sideways and step back through the rails so you won’t be in the way.”
The boy turns his body sideways, steps between the same two rails that have his head caught… and John collected $20 from every one of the first responders on the site.
The “Obvious” Answer
The entire crew of first responders were trying to figure out how to get the boy’s head out. They pulled. The pushed. They kept pulling. They put oil on his head. They tried to pry the rails so they would flex a little. They turned the kid’s head sideways and pulled on him some more. None of it worked.
John, though… he knew something wasn’t right. He kept thinking and questioning, not “how can we get him out?” but, “how did he get in there?”
It was this question – this change in perspective – that led him to the answer.
A boy of that age is all head, no body. He must have come from the other side of the rails and put his body through first. Then, in his panic at not being able to get his head through, he lost the ability to think about how he got there. He only knew he was stuck.
It’s Obvious… When You Already Know The Answer
When you don’t know the answer, it’s not obvious at all.
It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. It’s headache inducing, punch unicorn in the face maddening! And it’s often made worse by the shear simplicity of the answers, once you find it.
The hours of headaches, the struggle and the frustration, often come down to that one single moment and that one line of code where you smack your own forehead and scream in anger at how obvious the answer is… the answer that eluded you for so long.
A New Perspective
Sometimes you just need a different perspective on the situation. You need to step back and look at what got you there, instead of trying to find a way out.
Often, we can change our own perspective by working through the problem for ourselves. But, it can also prevent us from solving the real problem.
It’s easy to use brute force to cut the rails when the problem seems impossible – even when the answer is just stepping back through to the other side.
That’s where WatchMeCode comes in.
With a monthly subscription to this screencast service – and a new episode every week – you’re sure to find the perspective you need to solve the problems you’re facing.