The joy of problem solving

Preparing for college was a blur. There isn’t much I remember from that period, other than maybe a mad rush of packing. But in the moments I had left with my father, one stands out for its lasting impact on my life and my tech career.

My dad was helping me solve a math problem that I was stuck on. Nothing seemed to be working — I was frustrated at the lack of progress and took a timeout for a drink of water. I may have been a little distracted in my irritation and veered off into the living room to check out what was on the TV.

A full 15 minutes later, I started and realized that I was supposed to be helping dad, who was hard at work on MY problem. How mad was he going to be? I sprinted back to our workspace where dad was totally absorbed. He didn’t even notice I was missing. Instead, he took the time to explain his thought process carefully. He described how the obvious choice wasn’t the best approach to solving the challenges particular to this problem.

Instantly, I was engaged. This was intriguing! We attacked the problem together, working through all the less-obvious but still viable solutions. In the end, we solved it together, but we accomplished so much more than that. I didn’t just solve that one problem. My dad helped me discover the rush and joy of problem-solving.

Today, I get my best ideas in the wee hours of the morning. My mind and body are refreshed, and there are no distractions. The dark and quiet is when I think most clearly. I don’t even get up from the bed. Anyone watching me would assume I am still asleep. But inside my head, the gears are turning.

I approach problem-solving with the excitement and the determination that I saw in my dad. And even today, when I come up with a solution or an idea, I still feel the same rush, the same joy that I felt all those years back.

The joy of problem-solving is for everyone.

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