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What's Holding You Back?

If traditional methods aren’t working for you, change your perception.

I noticed the training wheels on my son's bike were no longer touching the ground. He was riding without them. "Let's take those off," I said.

"No Daddy, I'm not ready."

"Sure you are; let's give it a try."

After I removed them, he got on the bike, but couldn't get enough momentum to stay up and fell right over.

"See Daddy, I can't do it. Put them back on."

"Let's try it again, this time I'll push." I grabbed the back of the seat and started pushing him. He was pedaling and riding perfectly, and I was having to run as fast as I could to continue holding the seat. "You're doing it!" I cried. "I'm going to let go now."

"No Daddy, don't let go. I can't do it."

I let go, and he stopped pedaling. The bike rolled a few more feet, began to wobble, then fell over.

"I can't do it. Daddy, please put the training wheels back on."

He couldn't see what I saw: that he was already riding without them. He was like a circus elephant tied to a stake in the ground. That elephant is strong enough to push over a tree, yet because she was tied to a stake as a baby - when she wasn't strong enough to pull it up - she continues to believe it can't be done.

Greek Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, observed in the first century: "Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them." I'd like to rephrase that, "We are held back by our perception of things."

When we encounter challenges in life, we attempt to resolve them with what we know to be true. When that doesn't work we're stumped. Today in business we're stumped by recession, international competition, high taxes and government regulation. We're boxed in. We need to follow the advice of Albert Gyorgyi, the Nobel Prize winning scientist, who discovered vitamin C, "Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."

Easier said than done. The trick to "thinking what nobody has thought," begins with changing our perception. Again, easier said than done. The trick to changing your perception can be accomplished by changing your perspective... changing the view which you take of things.

In the classic motion picture, The Dead Poet's Society, an English teacher has his students stand on their desks to change their perspective. He says, "we must constantly look at things in different ways."

You can read a dozen books on how to think creatively, and each of the techniques you learn will be to accomplish just one thing: changing the way you look at the problem. By looking at it from a different perspective, you will begin to see different solutions.

With my son, I continued to push the bike and run as fast as I could. After falling down a few more times, he finally got it, and was able to ride on his own. I would have given anything to spare him the pain and the tears.

Someone else, much more creative than me, saw the problem from a different perspective and came up with a better solution. It is called the "balance bike." Seeing that children became dependent on training wheels, this unknown person asked the question, "What if, I didn't have training wheels?"

The solution was to take the pedals off, and let children learn to balance on the bike first by walking it along. As the children's skills improve, they will lengthen their strides until they can lift their feet off the ground and coast. Once this is accomplished, the pedals can be put back on the bike, and the problem of becoming dependent on training wheels is eliminated.

It is human nature to constantly improve the way we do things. If the traditional way of doing things isn't working for you, then change your perception. Ask yourself what you would do if the current solution did not exist. Now you're looking at it from a different perspective. You'll be amazed with what you will come up with!

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an author, humorist and innovation consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. Robert is also the author of the humorous children's book The Annoying Ghost Kid. For more information on Robert, please visit

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