HARVEY MACKAY: Resourcefulness a great resource

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A firm needed a researcher. Applicants were a scientist, an engineer and an economist. Each was given a stone, a piece of string and a stopwatch and told to determine a certain building’s height. The scientist went to the rooftop, tied the stone to the string and lowered it to the ground. Then he swung it, timing each swing with the watch. With this pendulum, he estimated the height at 200 feet, give or take 12 inches.

The engineer threw away the string, dropped the stone from the roof, timing its fall with the watch. Applying the laws of gravity, he estimated the height at 200 feet, give or take 6 inches.

The economist, ignoring the string and stone, entered the building but soon returned to report the height at exactly 200 feet. How did he know? He gave the janitor the watch in exchange for the building plans. He got the job.

Of all the skills I admire, being resourceful is among the most important. I don’t want to be surrounded by ordinary thinkers. Rather, I want to be with people who, if they don’t know an answer, know how to get it. Or if we have a problem, know how to solve it.

Resourceful people think outside the box and visualize all the possible ways to achieve things. They are scrappy, inventive and driven to find a way to get what they need and want.

As one of my very favorite authors, Napoleon Hill, said: “A resourceful person will always make the opportunity fit his or her needs.”

Here are some characteristics I look for when determining a person’s resourcefulness:

• Open-mindedness. Know what is and isn’t possible. Embrace different possibilities, people and views to broaden your perspective. Expand your comfort zone by trying different things.

• Self-confidence. Believe that you can handle any problem you encounter and that there is a solution to it. Visualize yourself overcoming any obstacle.

• Innovation. Resourcefulness is about optimizing what you have to work with. A fun example is the old TV show “MacGyver,” starring Richard Dean Anderson. There wasn’t any situation that MacGyver couldn’t handle, any problem he couldn’t fix, be it with his Swiss Army knife, a roll of duct tape or both. Thinking is the hardest, most valuable task any person can perform.

• Adaptability. Don’t box yourself into doing things a certain way. Experiment.

• Persistence. Try many different things until you succeed. Never give up. Many things can get in your way, but don’t let them until you get what you want or achieve your goal. Practice until you get it right.

• Optimistic. If you have the right attitude, the solution is easier to find. You must believe that you can get through any issue and come out better and stronger.

All these things are crucial in anticipating problems and being prepared. I understand that you can’t predict everything, but I’m a big believer in asking what can go wrong in any situation.

Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”

A story shared by Vladimir Karapetoff provides a perfect illustration. When St. Petersburg was laid out in the early 18th century, many large rocks had to be removed. One especially large piece of granite was lying in the way of a main road. Bids for its removal submitted by contractors were exorbitantly high because there were no mechanical means for removal, no hard steel for drilling or cracking the stone and no explosives except inferior black powder.

Lo and behold, an insignificant-looking peasant appeared and offered to remove the boulder for a fraction of the other bids. Since the government ran no risks, he was authorized to try his luck.

He assembled many other peasants with spades and timbers, and they began digging a deep hole next to the rock. The rock was propped up to prevent its rolling into the hole. When the hole was deep enough, they removed the props and the boulder dropped into the hole, where it rests to this day below the street level. The rock was covered with dirt, and the rest of the earth was carted away. Since he could not remove the rock above the ground, he put it underground.

Mackay’s Moral: Mine your natural resources for uncommon results.

• • •

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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