Why you want more business challenges, not fewer


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For business owners, it feels like problems lie around every corner. Days are spent fighting fires and managing difficult situations. It would be natural to wish for a problem-free existence, but in fact the opposite is true: too many problems on your plate could be an indicator that a business breakthrough is about to happen.

“I wish my life could be like a fairy tale, where all my problems disappear with the wave of a wand”, said the Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

Fortunately for the Lion, he only had the Yellow Brick Road to deal with. If he’d merrily been following State Highway 2 on a Monday morning, he might not have had such a rose-tinted view of his problems.

Here in the real world, we can’t just wave a magic wand and hope our problems disappear. In fact, many business owners would love to have the luxury of time and headspace to even begin tackling their problems, because right now, everything is focused on stopping the bleeding and surviving.

So why would anyone want yet more problems? It sounds like a self-sabotaging paradox, but if you embrace the concept, you will be able to reach higher levels of performance.

Duck and cover

“We’re just going to keep our heads down, get through 2024 and then look at moving forward in 2025.”

Those were the inspirational words from a leader at one of Tauranga’s business networking groups. The message was simple: Leaders are struggling with too many issues right now.

Talent escaping; Time running out; Blockages in the supply chain; Economic Squeezing; Population expanding; Roads congesting; Ships dumping; Climate changing.

It’s like playing a game of problematic whack-a-mole: You hammer away at one particular issue, and just when it disappears, another pops up to take its place. No wonder business owners are tempted to pull the handbrake on 2024 and hope for a clear path to growth in 2025.

But this would be a mistake. Playing it safe and avoiding problems is not the way to go, because seeking out and embracing problems is the only way to grow.

The problematic myth

There is a myth that our problems will disappear when we find success. We tell ourselves that once we get the promotion, or open the second office, or a certain number appears in our bank account, then all our problems vanish quicker than a politician’s promise.

When this doesn’t happen, we take one of two options:

We take a lesson from a 1980s leadership manual and tell ourselves to ‘outwork our problems’.

Or, we decide to hide from our problems, distracting ourselves with alcohol, Netflix, junk food and … work.

Either way, this isn’t the path paved with gold that you want to follow. It only leads to exhaustion and overwhelming stress.

Instead, we have an opportunity to reframe our problems.

What if your problems were not a sign that you were failing, but an indicator that you were succeeding?

Pushing the limits

Peak performance psychology describes four levels of performance: incompetence, competence, excellence and genius.

Usually, we try to avoid the things we’re incompetent at, struggle through the tasks we’re competent at, and aim to hang around in the ‘excellence’ zone of performance as much as possible.

For example, I am incompetent at payroll and taxes, so I get someone to do these tasks for me. Running workshops is in my zone of excellence, so I try to do as much of this as possible.

But we all have a zone of genius, and this is where things get interesting. Because when we move into the upper limits of our performance – shifting from a zone of excellence to a zone of genius – we encounter ‘Upper Limit Problems’ (ULPs).

ULPs are the resistance we face when trying to do something we haven’t done before. ULPs include procrastination, perfectionism, poor attention to detail, lethargy and impulsive behaviours.

Ever thought you just couldn’t be bothered to send off a contract for a massive deal? ULP.

Ever sat down to create a really important proposal and then said, “I’ll just have a quick coffee / snack / cigarette, and then I’ll get started”? ULP.

Ever got promoted and then made a really basic screw-up that ‘you’ wouldn’t make? ULP.
And this is the powerful paradox of problems: as you grow in your business and career, the problems aren’t showing up to hold you back, they are appearing as a signpost to push you forward.

Be a problem-seeker

You have a choice: you can hide from your problems and hope and pray that someone will click their heels and give you some courage.

Or you can take action and embrace problems as they arise. Problems force you to be better. They push you to innovate. They compel you to tap into creativity. They hold up the mirror to remind you that – like the Lion in Oz – you had the courage you were seeking all along.

A business problem should be considered the same as a six-figure tax bill: Yes, it’s not exactly a pleasant experience, but the fact it has appeared means you’re doing something right.

Stop hiding and hoping. Maybe things will get better in 2025, but why wait? There’s no point living in scarcity, after all, it’s called the Bay of Plenty, not the Bay of Problems.

Time to embrace the problems that are thrown at you and use them as an opportunity to prove what you’re capable of. After all, if you want to fix the world’s problems, first you must fix your own.

Related: The power of dreaming big in a small world

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Freddie Bennett
Freddie Bennett
Guinness World Record Holder, podcast host and bestselling author, Freddie is known as ‘The Profit Hunter’. He helps business owners enjoy more time, money and freedom by discovering and extracting hidden profits in their companies. Freddie@conqueryourmedia.com

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