Turning Problems into Opportunities… Even a Smashed Toe!

Yesterday morning I woke up super early to prepare for a lecture I was scheduled to give at Stanford Faculty Club at 8 AM. It was dark at 5:30 AM, and I could hardly see a thing. Trying to be as quiet as possible, I slid out of bed and made my way to the bedroom door...

BANG! I smashed my toe.

The pain running through my body was just as palpable as my frustration… I had planned to exercise while doing final prep work on my talk. Now, I would be spending the time icing my toe.

I hobbled downstairs to the kitchen and found a bag of frozen peas. While I tended to my toe, which was already turning a lovely shade of purple, my husband walked in. He turned to me and said, “Remember, every problem is an opportunity.” These are words I frequently use, and they were not funny in this situation… Clearly, this was not an opportunity!

After a few minutes, I hobbled upstairs to take a shower. While there, I started thinking, “OK, how do I turn a smashed toe into an opportunity?” An idea came to me, and took shape as I washed my hair… I was going to use this to start in my talk!

So, here is what I said:

I don’t usually give lectures wearing sneakers. But, this morning I got up and smashed my toe. While nursing this injury, my husband reminded me that all problems are opportunities. I sneered at him and hobbled upstairs… While in the shower, I realized that he was right! Smashing my toe allowed me to wear comfortable shoes, the purple color matches my glasses, and this accident is a stark reminder of the power of paying attention. Had I been paying careful attention, I wouldn’t have injured myself… In fact, paying attention is one of the most valuable tools for innovators and entrepreneurs. By paying attention, you see opportunities that others don’t, and solutions hidden in plain view... So, let’s use this as an opportunity to explore other things that innovators and entrepreneurs do to increase their chances for success…

Then, I launched the talk that I had already planned about the Invention Cycle. It was amazing how much energy this story generated in the room, and in me. It created a hook that I returned to throughout the lecture, and helped build a rapport with the audience… This turned into one of the most successful talks I’ve given, measured in lots of ways, including book sales, invitations to speak, and follow up messages.

The moral of the story:

Problems really are opportunities, even if they don’t look like it at the outset. Every “smashed toe” is actually a foot in the door to a room full of possibilities.