The problem, of course, is obvious

The problem, of course, is obvious

I’ll never forget those words he said to me.

We were flying in to Salt Lake on a lay over on our way in to Seattle. I remember looking out the window, mountain ranges in the distance, sprawling expanse of the dry lake bed below – the plane was beating us to death.

Up. Down. Jerk left. Jerk left then right. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but for all my consternation with the rough ride down, I couldn’t figure out “Why?!”. Why on earth did it feel like we were coming down in a thunderstorm when there were no visual indications that would say otherwise?

After one particularly stomach-turning sudden drop, I nudged my business partner, David, who happened to be sitting next to me (and who also happens to be a seasoned pilot) and said, “What is the deal!?”.

He slowly leaned across my chair until his eyes were level with the tiny window on this RJ, lifted his hand and pointed out the window. “You see those giant things there out in the distance?”

He was of course sarcastically referring to the mountains I had mentioned earlier.

“Yeah?” I said.

“Laminar flows”, he replied confidently as he sat back in his chair sipping his coffee. No more, no less. Just, “Laminar flows.”

Of course! “Laminar Flows”!. It all made sense now!

Not really of course. I’m not a pilot, and I don’t know much about things meteorological or otherwise flight related.

But, there was a perfectly obvious answer that explained why the ride was so terribly rough on the way down even though to my limited perspective, there was no obvious answer.

As silly and simple as this situation is, it really touches on a broader and much more important idea: Our biggest problems in business (and in life) are typically caused by the obvious answers that we’re staring at but don’t see. We lack perspective.

Yet time and time again, it seems that I find myself realizing that the problem we’re trying to over come in our business is the result of an answer that should have been obvious – sometimes so painfully obvious in retrospect it makes me feel like a bloody idiot that I didn’t see it before.

But that’s learning, and that’s life!

The challenge is to learn how to gain the critical insight needed to really look at the landscape out the tiny windows of the thin-metal tube that’s hurling us through life and try, ever so diligently, to think broader, think critically, think honestly, and persistently be educating ourselves.

If we do that, and if we’re lucky, maybe we can stretch the window we see this world through just a little larger – a little wider and a little taller – so that in times of crisis or challenges, we can see with educated eyes the problem at hand, find the solution, and more quickly work towards a successful future.


  1. Probably true in more than just business. The “right” solution often seems to be the obvious one. Perhaps that’s a good initial test of a solution, does it seem obvious now that we see it? If it does, then it probably really fits.

    Also, I am really surprised that you didn’t realize it was laminar flows. Just kidding. I still have no idea what that means.

  2. “Also, I am really surprised that you didn’t realize it was laminar flows. Just kidding. I still have no idea what that means.” haha

  3. From now on “Laminar Flows” has definition to me! I can see this being a catch-all phrase…
    Thanks Wes (and Dave)

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