If you find yourself wondering if you can do something, maybe you should add a little how.
Cars, Cake, and Tape
According to Napoleon Hill, when Henry Ford said he wanted a V8 engine for new cars, his engineers told him it couldn’t be done. For months they went on believing it impossible and for months he pressed them. After a year there was no change, but he pressed them. They tried various plans but were convinced it was impossible. And yet, despite their protests, the engineers were eventually able to find the solution and the V8 was born. Ford knew how to add a little how, just like Pillsbury did with cake mixes.
When cake mixes first hit the market all you had to do was add water. Despite the ease, sales were dismal. A man named Ernest Dichter did some analysis and found that the simplicity made homemakers at the time feel like they weren’t contributing enough to the process. The manufacturers changed the formula to require eggs to be added and sales took off. Determining a customer’s need made for a wildly successful product, something that 3M salesman Richard Drew discovered.
As Drew was selling sandpaper to mechanics he found that painting cars would often require touching up the job. The tape they used to protect certain areas would tear off the paint. He worked for years and was rebuffed by his boss who told him to focus on his sales. Drew worked on the problem in his spare time and eventually created masking tape. After just a few years, it became the number one product sold at 3M. Drew transformed the company because he knew to add a little how.
The Wrong Question
In all of these cases, many people would have quit. They would have tried something and stopped because they didn’t get the results they wanted. All of these products went on to become wildly successful, and yet these people could have missed out on it. But they didn’t because they knew how to add a little how.
Most people ask the question “will this work?” What a terrible question. It automatically assumes an impossibility. It says that it’s possible that this isn’t possible. Had Ford or Pillsbury or Drew asked that question we would have missed out on a great many things.
Instead, fix the question: add a little how.
Don’t ask “will this work?” Ask “how will this work?” Don’t find out if it can be done. Assume it can be and ask how to make it so. It may be difficult or even seem insurmountable, but it’s better to know what it will take regardless of how challenging it is than to just assume it can’t be done.
If you want to live the life of adventure you should have, you need to ask questions this way. It may not change the result, but it’s a better way to maximize your life.
For instance, if you want to start your own business, don’t say “will this work?” Instead ask “how will this work?” It may be that you find you have to have five million dollars and be willing to work 16 hours a day for the rest of your life. That may not be an option you want to take. But at least you are making a decision instead of the question making it for you.
And it will improve your critical thinking skills. You will see more opportunity and more possibility. You may realize that the five million you thought you needed was really for something that could be done a different way for pennies on the dollar. And you may find that you would then be able to hire two people instead of working the rest of your life away.
There is adventure out there. There is an exciting life waiting for you. If you want to live it to the fullest, when life gives you opportunities, add a little how. You may find that life is easier than you thought.