We have a 20 foot flag pole at our house that has been flagless for the last 6 months or so. The rope on the pole broke last fall and I have not fixed it, quite frankly because I couldn’t figure out how to get up to there to string a new rope through the little pulley at the top. I have a ladder that might be tall enough, but leaning it on a round pole that is only an inch or two in diameter would be foolhardy. I thought about calling our electric company to see if they could do it with a cherry picker truck, but I didn’t think they would do it. And if they did I didn’t want to pay for whatever it might cost.
On Easter Sunday my brother-in-law who is very creative at fixing things and solving mechanical problems was at our house for lunch. We were asking his advice about some home maintenance issues which didn’t include the flag pole. But when we happened to walk by it I was reminded of that issue and asked Don, almost as an afterthought, if he had any ideas about how to get a rope to the top of the pole. He took one look and asked me if I had a step ladder. I said, “Yes, but it’s only 6 feet tall.” He asked me to get it anyway, put it by the pole and climbed up where he proceeded to reach up and remove the top section of the pole and lower it to me so I could put a new rope on it; and then he replaced it.
I was both relieved to have a problem solved and embarrassed that such an obvious solution had never occurred to me. After all I’m the guy who installed that pole several years ago and should have remembered it was in 3 parts that can obviously be easily separated for repairing a broken rope. Don solved a problem in 6 minutes that had stymied me for 6 months.
My problem was that I had only been seeing the big problem without ever looking closely to see how that problem could be solved by breaking it down into smaller parts. I wonder how many other of life’s big problems could be solved by such a wonderfully simple strategy?