The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Mark Twain

One way to improve your ability to solve problems, and to trigger your creativity, is for you to think on paper. Take a few moments to ask, “What exactly is the problem?” Then write the answer down in such a form that it describes the problem exactly.

You can then ask, “What else is the problem?” You should beware of any problem for which there is only one definition. The worst thing you can do is to solve the wrong problem. The more different ways that you can state a problem, the more amenable it becomes to a solution.

Whatever difficulties, obstacles, challenges, or factors that are hindering you or holding you back in any way, define them clearly in writing. As they say in medicine, “Accurate diagnosis is half the cure.”

Sometimes, when you begin to define a problem, you will find that it is actually a “cluster problem.” That is, it is a single large problem surrounded by several smaller problems. Most problems you deal with will be composed of several smaller problems. Often in a difficult situation, there is one large problem that must be solved before any of the smaller problems can be solved.

The best approach to this type of situation is for you to determine the main problem and then define the individual parts of the problem separately. You identify the core problem that must first be solved and then deal with the smaller problems in order. Sometimes solving one part of the problem leads to the resolution of the entire situation.

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