Same Old Story

Sometimes our problems aren't as complex as they seem to be.

The leader of an executive business management group once proposed the following thesis: “There aren’t a hundred or a thousand problems in business. There are really about 12.”

I wish I had asked him to write them down because I’m sure he’s right. So many issues – malicious compliance, process inefficiencies, unhealthy culture – crop up similarly in companies from nearly every sector. Business, then, as nuanced as it can be, is also deceptively simple.


If your blood pressure has spiked waiting for a delinquent check (or employee), or due to fearing a much-threatened lawsuit, then you have experienced the complexities of business, too. These burdens, of course, tend to be driven by emotion.

It’s terrible to terminate a staffer. It’s wearisome to slog through conversations that disappoint, confront or challenge others. Little wonder, then, that when your company’s success is at stake, it’s hard to see a problem clearly. Everything feels unique to that person, that situation.

Literary experts have posited that, like these business quandaries, there are only so many types of stories. Whether the narrative is the proverbial hero’s journey, Christopher Booker’s seven basic plots or the handful of precursors to these two theories, it’s clear that certain themes just keep coming up.

This certainty hasn’t stopped us from falling headfirst into summer blockbusters, fiction podcasts and campfire tales. And it won’t stop you from descending into a mental spin cycle about the latest #$%& moment at work. 

It helps to have others to process these issues with. Not because they’ll have the answers, but so they can strip away the fixations and frustrations that are keeping you from recognizing that once upon a time, in a land far, far away, the problem wasn’t as complex as it seemed.

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