Jun 292009

I was pushing hard to finish a project at work tonight.  I doubted that I could put it all the way to bed before I left, but if possible, I wanted to face just housekeeping (cleaning up unused files, that kind of thing) when I went in tomorrow morning.

Well, it didn’t work out that way.  Best laid plans, and all that.  About 20 minutes before I was planning to leave, my project threw me a curve.  I wasn’t happy about it, but it didn’t upset me to nearly the degree it would have ten years ago.  Tonight, I recognized it as something that I didn’t know how to solve immediately, but for which a solution would emerge.

And indeed, I’ve got it now, barely an hour later.  I know exactly what I’m going to do with it when I go in tomorrow.  The best part is that I didn’t have to do anything but see it as that kind of problem—one that my subconscious would nibble at until I got it, rather than one that would respond to primary mental horsepower.

No one taught me to do that, and I didn’t explicitly teach myself to do that.  I don’t know how I could if I wanted to, really.  It’s just something that has come with age and experience.  It’s having a taste of a problem, realizing that it’s that certain flavor, and walking away from it.  It’s one of the things that keeps me from saying I’d like to go back in time and relive childhood or young adulthood when those questions pop up on pass-arounds.

Apart from the obvious things, like watching my boys grow, it’s also the kind of thing that makes me think the best years really are ahead.

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 Posted by at 7:06 pm

  3 Responses to “Knowing when to walk away”

  1. First to post on the mobile theme!

  2. Reminds me of a story my grad school buddy KK used to tell. He was working with an old contractor and another guy named Curtis and they had an old truck filled with lumber parked at the top of a hill. The parking brake gave way and the truck started down the hill. KK said Curtis was an excitable fellow and started to chase after the truck. The old contractor held him back to keep him from the careening deathtrap that tumbled down the hill. “Let it go, Curtis. Let it go.”

    I quote that quite a bit now.

  3. I read an interesting article (i’ll search for it later) recently that talked about a part of the brain actively involved in problem solving, but only when the conscious mind isn’t occupied with the same problem. It’s the part of the brain responsible for those “eureka” moments when the solution to a problem magically appears as if out of nowhere. I tend to have a most of those kinds of moments in the shower, which isn’t surprising since the article stated that relaxation and a clear head were most conducive to this kind of of problemn solving.

    The moral: Have a vexing problem you can’t seem to find a solution for? Forget about it!

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