To Solve Your Problems, Start

Shinra Kusakabe is a firefighter. But not any firefighter. He fights both with and against fire. In the world of Special Fire Force Company 8, humans spontaneously combust — and while some learn to control their flames, others succumb to them and must be, well, put out.

Shinra hopes to be in the former category, and while the young hothead’s fiery feet have already proven powerful, he must tame them if he is to ever stand up to his biggest enemies. During one training session, Shinra tries to bundle and concentrate the flames shooting from his heels while hovering in the air — and promptly falls on his ass. He briefly reflects on his mistakes, but then Shinra concludes: “Hmm, thinking won’t get me anywhere. Just don’t give up. Best I try again right away!”

Shinra’s colleague, the scientist Viktor Licht, watches him from the sidelines. Living up to his last name, he enlightens a fellow observer: “He’s clever. Most problems are solved solely by the decision whether you’ll do something about them or not. At first, you simply have to start and experiment. Otherwise you’ll never find out what you really need to think about. Solving problems is hard because you need to try lots of different things.”

If a challenge has been staring you in the face for quite some time, chances are, you no longer need to wait for lightning to strike. You already know you don’t know the answer. So for better or worse, you’ll just have to get going. It’s courage, not cleverness, that’s required.

Once you start throwing ideas and effort at a problem, it’s tough skin begins to soften. Sooner or later, it will show a crack. That’s what you’re really looking for: the solution you can’t know about until you’ve tried all the ones that won’t work.

A firefighter can’t think about how to best extinguish a blazing inferno when he’s standing right in front of it. He’ll just have to grab his gear, run towards the flames, and try. Don’t overthink what can’t be accomplished with thinking at all. If you truly want to solve your problems, start.