Home Thinking Aloud How Do Top Businesspeople, Athletes, and Artists Solve Problems? They Use These...

How Do Top Businesspeople, Athletes, and Artists Solve Problems? They Use These 6 Steps


by Paola Knecht, author of “The Success Mindset: Take Back The Leadership Of Your Mind

We admire leaders because we believe they possess an outstanding capability to solve problems. So it’s no wonder that confronting and solving problems is one of the most rewarded activities in our modern world. The bigger the problem you have to solve, the bigger the reward and recognition.

But how do successful people like top managers, elite athletes, and highly regarded artists tend to approach problem-solving? What’s the magic formula that places them at the top of their game?

Successful leaders primarily follow six simple yet powerful steps — and this is what sets them apart from the rest.

Step 1: They focus on the positive first.

When facing a difficult issue, most people focus on the problem first: the negative aspects of the situation, the potential risks, the losses, and the tragedies. But why not start the other way around and focus on the good that remains? The problem is already there, so what’s still good about the matter?

When you set your mindset in a positive state, you start with good energy and the willingness to explore the situation further.

Step 2: They visualize the desired outcome in their minds.

Successful people imagine different scenarios where they visualize their achievements in detail. Take Michael Phelps, one of the most talented swimmers of all time and the winner of 28 Olympic medals, who vocally credits visualization for his success. As U.S. Olympic men’s swimming coach Bob Bowman explains:

For months before a race, Michael gets into a relaxed state. He mentally rehearses for two hours a day in the pool. He sees himself winning. He smells the air, tastes the water, hears the sounds, sees the clock.

“If you can form a strong mental picture and visualize yourself doing it,” Bowman advises, “your brain will immediately find ways to get you there.”

Step 3: They generate as many ideas as possible to improve the current situation.

Most people don’t dedicate enough time to brainstorming about all the possible ideas that could solve a problem; they choose the first or second option that comes to mind. But if you really want to untap your creativity and ability to solve problems, you must dive deeper, question yourself, and explore every approach.

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, understood the power of this process when he said:

I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice—constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.

Step 4: They record their ideas without judgment.

Successful leaders try to keep all possible scenarios open before making a decision. As Apple founder Steve Jobs famously said: 

When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can oftentimes arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions.

Record all the ideas that come to your mind. Don’t limit yourself or pass judgment. Stick with the problem, so you can come up with simpler and more innovative solutions that will set you apart.

Step 5: They reevaluate their ideas and lay out a plan.

Having many potential solutions is a great achievement, but this alone doesn’t solve the problem. You still need to create a plan that triggers a willingness to act as soon as possible.

No one knows this better than Bob Iger, chairman and former CEO of The Walt Disney Company. Iger is famously known for bringing Disney back to life after a long period of stagnation. After laying out a bold vision, he managed to turn the company around and achieve incredible results, including increasing the company’s net income by over 400% under his leadership. How did he do it?

Iger admits that even if he likes to dream big, when it comes to making his visions come true, he develops business plan strategies that are based on a reduced number of priorities: “If leaders don’t articulate their priorities clearly, then the people around them don’t know what their own priorities should be.”

Step 6: They set three priorities and act on them immediately.

Successful people know that nothing really happens unless they engage in immediate action. The best way to go from an idea to reality is to act immediately on the first steps. Normally, this involves manageable tasks, like making a call, writing an email, or clicking “send” on that work application.

In short: Don’t let big problems intimidate you. Start with a positive mental state, get creative in imagining the desired goal, generate as many ideas as you can to make it happen, select the best ones, and move immediately into action!

“I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream.” — Vincent Van Gogh


Paola Knecht is a certified leadership, transformational, and self-development coach and author of “The Success Mindset: Take Back The Leadership Of Your Mind“. Learn more at my-mindpower.com.