Edwin Land was on vacation with his family in the late 1940s. He took a lot of photographs to record their adventures. His young children were excited and wanted to see them. He reassured them that they’ll be able to see the photographs within a week. Today we can take digital pictures and share them immediately. Not so in the middle of the twentieth century. Exposed photographic film had to be developed in darkrooms, which took about a week to do. One of Land’s children asked: “Why do we have to wait a week, Dad?”

We could dismiss such childish questions or we could pay attention to them. Edwin Land was an entrepreneur and had learned to be curious about ordinary questions. He took his child’s question seriously. That question led him to develop the Polaroid Land Camera, which developed photographs in sixty seconds.

Entrepreneurs see life differently than the rest of us. Many of us see problems and wish they’d go away; entrepreneurs see problems and turn them into opportunities. In fact, success in any entrepreneurial business depends on identifying people’s unmet needs (problems) and finding ways to help them meet those needs. Entrepreneurs predict these unmet needs to make people’s lives better.

Entrepreneurs ask ‘opportunity questions’ such as: “How might I…?” ‘Opportunity questions’ stimulate the creative process. A great exercise we can do is notice problems, complaints, or frustrations in people’s lives and record them in a book. Doing this will give us ideas for starting a business to create products or services that help meet people’s needs.

We can apply the entrepreneurial mindset to our own climbing and lives. We can notice unmet needs that cause problems, cause us to complain, or to get frustrated. We can begin seeing the types of things that bother us and how we might change our perspective.

Let’s say we have a problem of continually falling off the crux on our project route. We get frustrated and complain about our level of strength, the conditions, or ineffective training. The entrepreneurial mindset shifts our attention from problem to opportunity. It allows us to ask an opportunity question: “How might I complete the crux and not fall off?” Immediately, complaining and frustration disappear. This shifts our attention, allowing us to become curious, which automatically helps us think of options:

  • I may need to change my pacing on the route to conserve energy.
  • I may need to do different physical training that targets this specific crux.
  • I may need to stay longer at rest stances to recover energy.
  • I may need to move more quickly to conserve energy.
  • I may need to practice falling to diminish that fear.
  • I may need to change the sequence I’m using for the crux.

None of these options may solve the problem. However, we’ll make quicker progress toward the solution with the entrepreneurial mindset. Finding the solution may require working through all the options we’ve listed and additional options we’ll discover until we find it. A big benefit, though, is we engage the whole process with curiosity, which not only solves the problem quicker, but we also have more fun doing it.

Changing our perspective about our unmet needs changes our lives. Entrepreneurs turn complaints into compliments, frustrations into curiosities, and problems into opportunities. The entrepreneurial mindset makes our lives better. We may not develop the next technological gadget, but we’ll be more engaged and enjoy the problems we solve to get our unmet need met.

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