by Niall Doherty

For several weeks, I thought there was something wrong with my iPhone. It was stuck on the slower Edge network. It would take ages to find someone in my contacts list. The maps application barely worked at all. None of that bothered me too much though. I’d had the phone for almost two years. I was thinking maybe it was just getting old, wearing out. These things happen.

Then I took a few minutes one day to think about the problem.

When did the applications start running slowly? I realized it was about the time I last updated the software. Hmm. So maybe there was a bug in that software update and I should try update it again to see if Apple had a fix. Sure enough, they did. After another update the phone was back loading applications good and zippy.

But I was still stuck on the Edge network. I first noticed that particular problem when I returned from Italy in June. Initially I assumed that there was just something wrong with the coverage in the New Orleans area, but then no other iPhone user I talked to seemed to have the same issue. I took a weekend trip to Las Vegas in July and my phone still couldn’t pick up the faster 3G network there.

Eventually I had to admit that I alone must be doing something wrong, so I took a few minutes to Google “iPhone stuck on Edge network” and found some advice about checking if the Enable 3G option was turned on in the network settings. Sure enough, that option had been disabled for me all that time. I must have turned it off as an extra precaution to avoid crazy roaming charges when I went to Italy.

Take the time

So now my iPhone is back working as good as new. I was the problem the whole time. I kept making excuses, telling myself it wasn’t a big deal, assuming everyone else was in the same boat and it wasn’t just something I was doing wrong. It was only when I accepted responsibility and took the time to stop and think that I was able to get the issue resolved in a matter of minutes.

Sure, this was just a dumb problem with a glorified gadget, but I’ve come to believe many problems can be solved by slowing down, taking the time to look and listen. We miss out on obvious solutions when we rush or are too eager to escape a situation.

Try not to get frustrated with a problem. Accept it, then study it for a while without doing anything.

Patience > Smarts

Another example:

Just yesterday I was at Whole Foods, and a middle-aged guy in front of me struggled separating two small carts for a few seconds before giving up and opting for a bigger one. With people walking past and looking at him, he felt embarrassed not being able to separate the small carts, so he didn’t take that extra moment he needed to see what was keeping them stuck. After he moved on, I took one good hard look at the carts, saw how they were attached, and was able to separate them before middle-aged dude had even pulled out his bigger cart. He looked at me and remarked, “Ah, it takes a smart person, I guess.”

But smarts had nothing to do with it. I just took an extra couple of seconds to analyze the problem.

Design/programming problems

This slow-down approach often serves me well in my work as a web designer. Trying to solve design or programming problems by brute force rarely works. You can sit there and hammer away on the computer for hours, trying a million wrong solutions, only to think of the right one as you’re walking home that evening or taking a shower the next morning. Letting your mind relax for a while does the trick.

Slow down to get ahead

Einstein said that problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. Since most problems are created in a rush, it makes sense that slowing down will help us solve them.

Where have you been rushing and struggling? Slow down for a bit and let the solution come to you.