This I Believe

Phoebe - Altadena, California
Entered on June 5, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: work

I believe that monumental problems can be solved with tenacious resolve and with small incremental steps if need be. Humans face monumental problems of enormous complexity. The challenges often seem insurmountable. Yet I have learned throughout my life that working on problems with patience and dogged tenacity over time solves seemingly unattainable challenges.

I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. My parents were both professional people with daytime jobs so my sister and I did a lot of the farm work. We had quite a few horses and a lot of chores. By the time I was in high school we had stopped farming crops and making hay so that we had to buy hay. It would be delivered on a full size tractor-trailer truck. Our barn was back a long narrow drive with a sharp right turn into a paddock area. The road was dirt with a little stone mixed in for traction. It had been raining for weeks and the ground was very soft. The truck arrived one morning and my sister and I were there to help the truck driver unload the hay into the barn loft. As we finished and the truck began to pull away it got stuck, then more and more stuck to the point it looked absolutely impossible to extract from the mud. The truck driver set right about solving the problem. It took hours trying this strategy and then that one. With patience, tenacity, and clear thought he worked the problem over and over making one small change with each attempt until he finally succeeded. He never lost his resolve or his confidence that there was a solution.

I left the farm to study music in the city and have spent all of my adult life as a professional musician. Music is loaded with problem solving challenges such as developing a new skill that requires a high degree of precision or, finding that elusive interpretation or color that your ear tells you exists though the mechanical means of producing it seems unattainable. My steps are small, incremental, determined, adjusting for small failures, only changing one small thing each time until all the steps result in a solution. These problem solving skills have influenced everything I do: how I raise my children, how I teach, how I work on community projects, how I discuss societal problems and politics with my friends and colleagues. I believe monumental problems can be solved with tenacity and determination, adjusting along the way for small failures, and in small incremental steps if need be. I believe in setting right to work on the problem but remaining flexible enough to make adjustments along the way.