“Every solution to every problem is simple. It’s the distance between the two where the mystery lies.”— Derek Landy

My brother Paul stared at the broken grain conveyor belt. I was almost a teenager, and I watched him with awe. He always seemed to come up with crazy ideas on how to fix things.

This one would be a tough challenge.

The conveyor belt itself was like the sandpaper on a belt sander. It went over the top of the conveyor and then through the dark tunnel underneath to be a complete circle. The circle had snapped. The belt had ejected, and all 200 feet of it was outside the system.

The trick was going to be how to thread the belt through that long, dark unaccessible tunnel. After that, it would be easy to reconnect it.

My brother stared at the problem and followed the process my best clients use.

Consider what the problem is.
The cows need feeding. We did not want to shovel tons of feed when the conveyor could do it in 20 minutes. The belt needed to get through the tunnel.

Consider solutions and quickly reject the ones that don’t work.
We could take apart the equipment and put the belt in and put it all back together. No, that would take until the next day.

We could call the vendor. No, that would also take until the next day.

We tried pushing the belt into the tunnel. We kept pushing – for five minutes. That will never work. Next idea?

Consider why those solutions didn’t work and come up with a crazy idea that just might work.

My brother suddenly left me standing there and ran to one of the equipment sheds. He came back with a compound bow and a long rope tied to an arrow.

I said, “Ah!” I ran and grabbed a bale of hay and put it on the opposite end of the conveyor.

Paul breathed lightly and pulled the bow back aiming directly into the 10 inch opening of the tunnel. He held steady just like he did on the archery range. I held my breath. He released. The arrow traveled flawlessly over 100 feet without touching the sides of the tunnel. THWACK the arrow embedded in the hay bale with the rope still attached.

After that, the fix was easy.

We fed the cows. We got to our own supper on time as well.

And I learned the importance of the process of finding solutions that fit the narrow parameters of success. We called the process “aim for the crazy”.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

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