Most of Life’s Problems are like this Door

I find myself in front on a huge pile of metal keys. Gold keys, iron keys, silver keys, copper keys; Old keys, new keys; Clean keys, dirty keys, rusty keys. A large imposing door is locked behind the pile. I feel a need to open the door and step into the room beyond. I look at the keys. I think: “Which key opens this door?”.

The Big Yellow Door
photo credit: Ray-they

Many of life’s problems are of a similar nature to this locked door. How can I open the door? There are thousands of keys on the ground. Maybe not a single one works? How can I know? I could ask someone. There is nobody around to ask. I pick up a key. I walk to the door. I try the key in the lock. It doesn’t fit. I throw it into another pile and pick another key. It doesn’t fit. I throw it into another pile and pick another key.

This process goes on for hours. Night comes. I rest. I wake. I continue.

Midway through the following day I feel that this is going nowhere. I have tried hundreds of keys. Maybe none of them work. Why am I wasting my effort? I should give up.

I have lunch. I continue.

As night sets I pick up a heavy iron key. It fits snugly into the lock. The key turns easily. The door slides open. I step through to the other side.

An old man is sitting on a bench. He stands as I step through the door. A look of curiosity comes over his face.

“How did you know which key to use?”

“I didn’t know which key to use. I just started trying keys. One at a time. If it didn’t work, I put it on another pile. Eventually one key worked.”

My biggest concern when taking a decision was “what if I look stupid?” “what if I do this wrong?”.

To open the door, the only way was to try keys. I failed to open the door hundreds of times in order to succeed in opening the door. The cynics would have loved that. They would have sat there watching and cheering as I failed again and again. They would have said “sit with us. Why are you doing this? You will never open the door.”

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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