Oswald Letter

The answers are easy!

by Dan Oswald

Have you ever faced a problem at work that seemed so overwhelming, so insurmountable that you struggled to even know how to begin to resolve it? And the more you studied the problem, the more convinced you became that the solution must be equally as complex. Your exercise in problem solving became a downward spiral until you were more confused by the answer you came up with than you were with the original problem.

You may think I’m exaggerating here, but I’m not. I see it all the time. People are faced with a difficult problem, and they look for answers that are equally tough. In our world of immense data, they come up with complex algorithms to resolve their complicated question. A very wise man once said, “Sometimes the questions are complicated but the answers are simple.” That’s advice I think we all should heed.

Just because the question is perplexing doesn’t mean it requires a complicated answer. Often, in our pursuit of an answer that matches the difficulty of the question, we chase complex solutions and overlook the easy and obvious. We buy into the idea that the answer can’t be that easy—the problem is too difficult! All of our solutions begin to resemble the Rube Goldberg machines we had to build for science class as kids. And everyone knows how reliable they were.

So who is this genius who encourages us to look for the easy answer? Einstein? Edison? No, it isn’t either. The quote came from Theodor Seuss Geisel. You may know him as a man who made a living keeping it simple, the famed author of children’s books such as The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss. And that, I believe, is quite appropriate. The advice comes from a man who spent a lifetime providing great counsel to the youth of the world through his simple, rhyming books.

What if I told you that Dr. Seuss’ books are full of wonderfully simplistic advice that all of us—even adults—can use in our daily lives? They are. Take a look at his books. You’ll find lessons everyone can use—even at work—all from a man who once said about writing for adults, “Adults are just obsolete children.”

Here are a few lessons from Dr. Seuss’ books that you can put in play at work.

On doing what you say you’ll do: “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful—one hundred percent.” Horton Hatches the Egg

The importance of everyone no matter their role or position: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Horton Hears a Who!

On perseverance and the benefits of a group coming together for a common purpose: “Don’t give up! I believe in you all. A person’s a person, no matter how small! And you very small persons will not have to die if you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!” Horton Hears a Who!

Remembering where you came from and the importance of everyone in the organization: “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom we, too, should have rights.” Yertle the Turtle

On enjoying your work: “If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.” One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

On effecting change: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” The Lorax

Appreciating who you are and what you have: “You oughta be thankful, a whole heaping lot, for the people and places you’re lucky you’re not.” Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

On career advancement: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

On choices and achievement: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

You see, Dr. Seuss isn’t just for kids. There are many lessons in his books that can guide us each and every day at work. So when he says, “Sometimes the questions are complicated but the answers are simple,” maybe we ought to listen. How about today we look for the easy answers and not make things so complicated?