In many ways, one thing you can never anticipate is the quagmire of logistical and psychological problems that may confront you when you set out to find your own North Star.  It’s hard for me to write about your particular real world dilemmas, since everyone’s life is unique and conditions are changing so quickly that many of the problems that you are experiencing today probably didn’t exist five years ago.  (How do I reclaim my twitter account after it’s been hijacked in an identity theft?)

    That’s why I’ve been studying ways in which some of the world’s smartest people solve unprecedented problems.  I’m especially enjoying the work of Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, two Yale professors whose book Why Not: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small has handed me more aha moments than I usually get in a month of Sundays.

    I highly recommend this book, and I’m looking forward to implementing the authors’ ideas in this month’s telecourse “Brilliant Ideas and How to Create Them.”  Try this: think of an annoying dilemma you’ll face today, one that makes you think “someone should do something about this.”  Then try something Ayes and Nalebuff call the “Croesus solution”: if you had infinite financial resources how would you address the problem?  Once you’ve thought of at least one answer, switch to “the look for less” strategy.  See if you can apply a similar solution for less money.

    For example, suppose there’s someone very needy in your life who constantly demands caretaking.  If you were filthy rich you might:
    1.  Hire a doe-eyed college sophomore to gaze adoringly at him while he whines.
    2.  Put armed guards throughout his house to threaten his life if he makes a sound.
    3.  Pay Dr. Phil to spend quality time with him (why not, he’d do it for Brittany?)

    To get this effect for less you could:
    1.  Pay a psychology graduate student to do an hour of reflective listening.
    2.  Buy a bow and arrow and threaten his life yourself (this avoids the inconvenient delay necessitated by a firearms background check.)
    3.  Rent a boxed set of the Dr. Phil show on DVD and insist that the complainer watch every episode before you speak to him again.

    Would these necessarily work?  No, but just by thinking of them, your paralysis around this issue will begin to soften and brilliant solutions to the problem will begin percolating over from the right side of your brain into conscious awareness.  If you’re having trouble coming up with Croesus solutions, jump in and brainstorm with us during our telecourse on September 23rd and 30th.

    Enjoy Why Not. And write and tell us about the brilliant solutions that come to your mind as you read it.