Making problems manageable

by. Taylor W. Wells

No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element in thinking.
– J.P. Morgan, American financier and corporate titan

Several years ago I read an excellent book by John Steele Gordon, An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power. During a recent business trip I took my copy down from the bookshelf and began to re-read it. As with many favorite reads, dusting off this gem was like coffee with an old friend.

I was particularly struck with its depiction of finance and business icon J.P. Morgan. Morgan, among many other feats, was responsible for the creation of General Electric and United States Steel Corporation. He is also recognized as one of the pioneers of management techniques. Amongst his successes, Morgan was also beset by many failures. History, however, canonizes Morgan far more for his successes than his setbacks.

As the above quote testifies, Morgan was a firm believer in breaking down seemingly insurmountable challenges into smaller, easier-to-tackle portions. Some of you may recognize the following familiar adage in the guise of Morgan’s original wisdom: When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.

When life tosses problems our way, at home or at work, an easier way to deal with them can be found in Morgan’s words. As leaders at your financial institutions, your fellow employees and management team will look to you for guidance and inspiration in times of adversity.

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