Thoughts + Articles

Let the Experts Teach You How to Solve Your Problems

Dale Carnegie: “Galen Litchfield-a man I have known for several years; one of the most successful American business men in the Far East. Mr. Litchfield was in China in 1942, when the Japanese invaded Shanghai. And here is his story as he told it to me while a guest in my home:”

“Shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor”, Galen Litchfield began, “they came swarming into Shanghai. I was the manager of the Asia Life Insurance Company in Shanghai. They sent us an ‘army liquidator’-he was really an admiral- and gave me orders to assist this man in liquidating our assets. I didn’t have any choice in the matter. I could cooperate-or else. And the ‘or else’ was certain death.”

“I went through the motions of doing what I was told, because I had no alternative. But there was one block of securities, worth $750,000, which I left off the list I gave to the admiral. I left that block of securities off the list because they belonged to our Hong Kong organization and had nothing to do with the Shanghai assets. All the same, I feared I might be in hot water if the Japanese found out what I had done. And they soon found out.”

“I wasn’t in the office when the discovery was made, but my head accountant was there. He told me that the Japanese admiral flew into a rage, and stamped and swore, and called me a thief and a traitor! I had defied the Japanese Army! I knew what that meant. I would be thrown into the Bridge house!”

“The Bridge House! The torture chamber of the Japanese Gestapo! I had had personal friends who had killed themselves rather than be taken to that prison. I had had other friends who had died in that place after ten days of questioning and torture. Now I was slated for the Bridge house myself!”

“What did I do? I heard the news on Sunday afternoon. I suppose I should have been terrified. And I would have been terrified if I hadn’t had a definite technique for solving my problems. For years, whenever I was worried I had always gone to my typewriter and written down two questions-and the answers to these questions: “  

“1. What am I worrying about?”       

“2. What can I do about it?” 

“I used to try to answer those questions without writing them down. But I stopped that years ago. I found that writing down both the questions and the answers clarifies my thinking.  So, that Sunday afternoon, I went directly to my room at the Shanghai Y.M.C.A. and got out my typewriter. 

I wrote: 

1. What am I worrying about? 

“I am afraid I will be thrown into the Bridge house tomorrow morning.”

Then I typed out the second question:     

2. “What can I do about it?”

“I spent hours thinking out and writing down the four courses of action I could take-and what the probable consequence of each action would be.”

“1. I can try to explain to the Japanese admiral. But he doesn’t speak English. If I try to explain to him through an interpreter, I may stir him up again. That might mean death, for he is cruel, would rather dump me in the Bridge house than bother talking about it.”

“2. I can try to escape. Impossible. They keep track of me all the time. I have to check in and out of my room at the YMCA. If I try to escape, I’ll probably be captured and shot.” 

“3. I can stay here in my room and not go near the office again. If I do, the Japanese admiral will be suspicious, will probably send soldiers to get me and throw me into the Bridge-house without giving me a chance to say a word.” 

“4. I can go down to the office as usual on Monday morning. If I do, there is a chance that the Japanese admiral may be so busy that he will not think of what I did. Even if he does think of it, he may have cooled off and may not bother me. If this happens, I am all right. Even if he does bother me, I’ll still have a chance to try to explain to him. So, going down to the office as usual on Monday morning, and acting as if nothing had gone wrong gives me two chances to escape the Bridge-house.”

“As soon as I thought it all out and decided to accept the fourth plan-to go down to the office as usual on Monday morning-I felt immensely relieved.”

“When I entered the office the next morning, the Japanese admiral sat there with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He glared at me as he always did; and said nothing. Six weeks later-thank God-he went back to Tokyo and my worries were over.” 

 “As I have already said, I probably saved my life by sitting down that Sunday afternoon and writing out all the various steps I could take and then writing down the probable consequences of each step and calmly coming to a decision. If I hadn’t done that, I might have floundered and hesitated and done the wrong thing on the spur of the moment. If I hadn’t thought out my problem and come to a decision, I would have been frantic with worry all Sunday afternoon. I wouldn’t have slept that night. I would have gone down to the office Monday morning with a harassed and worried look; and that alone might have aroused the suspicion of the Japanese admiral and spurred him to act.”

“Experience has proved to me, time after time, the enormous value of arriving at a decision. It is the failure to arrive at a fixed purpose, the inability to stop going round and round in maddening circles, that drives men to nervous breakdowns and living hells. I find that fifty percent of my worries vanish once I arrive at a clear, definite decision; and another forty per cent usually vanishes once I start to carry out that decision. “

“So, I banish about 90% of my worries by taking these four steps:” 

“1. Writing down precisely what I am worrying about.”     

“2. Writing down what I can do about it.”     

“3. Deciding what to do.”       

“4. Starting immediately to carry out that decision.” 

Dale Carnegie: “Galen Litchfield became the Far Eastern Director for Starr, Park and Freeman, Inc., representing large insurance and financial interests. This made him one of the most important American businessmen in Asia; and he confesses to me that he owes a large part of his success to this method of analyzing worry and meeting it head-on.” 

Dale Carnegie: “Why is his method so superb? Because it is efficient, concrete, and goes directly to the heart of the problem. On top of all that, it is climaxed by the third and indispensable rule: Do something about it.   Unless we carry out our action, all our fact-finding and analysis is whistling upwind-it’s a sheer waste of energy. “ (From Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, pp.37-40.)

Elon Musk in 2002 “began his quest to send the first rocket to Mars.” (Space X) The cost of purchasing a Rocket was 55 Million dollars.

Elon Musk used First principle thinking to solve this cost problem. 

First Principle:

“Identify the problem. Break things down into smaller parts.  Then look at each part individually, each component. Look outside your product category for a part or piece that can be imported. Combine the parts to create something new according to desired outcome. First Principle thinking.” (Story from Darren Hardy.)

Elon Musk: “What’s a rocket made of?”

“Aerospace – grade aluminum alloys, plus some titanium, copper, and carbon fiber.”

“Then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the materials cost of a rocket was around two percent of the typical price.”

Step by step he built his own rocket better and cheaper.

When evaluating an entire project, the costs may seem like they are set in stone, however, when you break things down into bite-sized pieces, they can be more manageable. 

For example: 

Problem: My car makes a grinding sound when braking. 

Total solution: replacing brakes, pads, rotors, whole assembly. Cost: $1000. 

Individual solution: 

Most times replacing brake pads is sufficient. Cost $200. 

Reducing challenges into bite-sized chunks is not only a great recipe for cost reduction; it is a fantastic way to remove friction from your customer experience. 

 By asking himself questions he solved his problem and built a new rocket from the ground up.  

How do you solve your problems?

What steps do you take?

What are the 4 steps experts Galen Litchfield, Dale Carnegie, and Elon Musk use to solve their problems?

1) Calm down. Then clearly write down the problem. Charles Kettering,  American inventor, engineer, and businessman said, “A problem well stated is a problem half solved.”

2) Write down in order “all the facts”.

3) “Analyze them and interpret them”.

4) ”Then make a decision and take action.”

By following these four steps you will be able to solve your problems.

Madeline Frank, Ph.D., is an Best Selling Author, speaker, business owner, teacher, concert artist, and parent. She helps businesses and organizations “Tune Up their Business”. Her observations show you the blue prints necessary to improve and keep your business successful. Her latest book “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget” is available everywhere books are sold. If you need a speaker or virtual speaker contact Madeline at:

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 15th, 2022 at 9:52 pm and is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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