Turn The Problem Over

You are looking at the wrong side. Just turn it over, that is all you ever have to do, just turn it over.

Nero Wolfe’s personal chef Fritz Brenner to detective right hand man Archie Goodwin in Please Pass the Guilt by Rex Stout

Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe character was the exact opposite of his contemporary Earle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason. Overweight, New York City, pompous and arrogant versus handsome, urbane, action-prone. I’ve read the entire series of each several times.

Here, the words of genius come not from the “genius” himself (Wolfe), but from the Swiss chef that clues Archie in on where to look to solve the murder mystery.

I was reading the same week Effortless by Greg McKeown. He quotes German mathematician Carl Jacobi, “One must always invert. Turn the problem around to the other side. Assume the opposite–then what?”

Do you have a personal problem you are trying to solve? Perhaps looking at it from another point of view. Perhaps take the other person’s point of view and study they problem if it’s a relationship thing.

You are studying some spiritual writing–perhaps John or Luke or Paul or some quote of Jesus in the Christian Bible. Or perhaps an ancient or modern writer like Augustine or Max Lucado. You are stuck. “What did they mean?” you wonder.

Perhaps just pause and then change your point of view. Assume they meant the opposite of what you were thinking. Then consider it.

Sometimes I wonder if understanding Jesus and his interpreters you need to be less read in theology and more read in studies of the world–psychology, farming, geography, history.

Just change your thinking. Reading widely in a number of genres helps. That, by the way, is the path to creativity.

Note: I also like the Robert Van Gulik series of 7th Century China, the Judge Dee mysteries. He was the Dutch ambassador to China before World War II and a China scholar. More contemporary, I enjoyed the “alphabet” series about Kinsey Milhone by Sue Grafton.

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