The Martian

Last week John and I saw the movie “The Martian.” Now, I need to warn you that there is some foul language in this movie, so, I cannot recommend it to everyone. But, get rid of those words (not used all of the time) and the movie is fun. (It will be a great flick when it makes it to TV and the bad words are rubbed out.)

My husband is an engineer and I have a liberal arts background. No one should be surprised that we approach problems differently. Those approaches reflect our individual histories and training.

And, the main character in “The Martian” and I have very little in common. He, like John, can do things that I have absolutely no clue how to do. Technology and science involve skills and training that have never been part of my life.

So, why did I enjoy the movie so much? One reason: the movie celebrates smart people doing smart things – they solve problems.

  • They don’t talk about solving a problem.
  • They don’t complain that having the problem is unfair.
  • They don’t automatically assume that the problem is too tough for them.
  • They don’t even debate who caused the problem.

They solve the problem.

To me, every one of us is smart in certain areas. And, that “intelligence” often has little to do with our IQ. I have known too many “smart” people who were pretty “dumb” or “lazy” in making contributions that mattered. And, I have known many others who did amazing things but were never the “A” students in school.

My mom taught me a lesson about problem solving when I was preparing to move to Florida many years ago. I had been packing up my house for a couple of weeks when she stopped by. She knew that I was flustered and frustrated. I just couldn’t seem to finish one area; there were half-filled boxes in every room with junk everywhere. Mom looked over the house and looked at me and then she carefully asked if I needed her to help (knowing that sometimes I pulled out my “I can do this myself” routine). I was overwhelmed and tired and was very thankful for her generous offer.

She took a box and went into a corner of a room and started working. Unlike me, she was not distracted by my junk; where I had struggled she seemed to use little effort as she sorted and packed box after box. As I watched, her quick but careful actions had a vacuum cleaner effect. In front of her was a mess, but behind her the room was empty. I have always thought about her packing that day as like a cloud of locusts overwhelming a field. She just kept pushing forward, getting the job done.  She taught me how to solve the packing problem – pack.  (Seriously, that is the secret.)

Have some problems in front of you?  Just like eating an elephant, you have to attack them one bite at a time.

  • Have some challenging days ahead? Stop being overwhelmed with the number of tasks and simply do one thing at a time.
  • Worried about the couple of pounds you put on over the Thanksgiving holiday?  Well, weight loss, or weight gain, involves thousands and thousands of individual decisions over many days. (It really isn’t that single brownie or salad.) Weight loss is just solving one problem and then the next one and then the next one. Start with that next bite.
  • Got too many gifts to wrap? Do one and then another one.  Now you have two fewer than you did before you started – that’s great news.
  • Frustrated with no time for family this holiday season? Carve out one 15-minute popcorn snack and enjoy that time together. Rather than obsessing about the number of minutes you want, focus on the time that you do have.  Solve the problem one giggle, one hug, one football pass at a time.
  • Worried that the cash on hand isn’t going to cover the Christmas gift wants? Rather than creating a new problem (like a huge credit card bill), set a per-gift dollar limit and buy one gift at a time, sticking to your limit.

Got a problem this holiday season? Time to put a fork into that elephant and get started. I’ll pass the barbeque sauce to you after I put some more on my plate!

Romans 12:12 says “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Great advice!!

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