Address Problems Early

There is a story for children, There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon, that gets mentioned in Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life. The story, as he tells it, goes like this:

“It is about a small boy, Billy Bixbee, who spies a dragon sitting on his bed one morning. It’s about the size of a house cat, and friendly. He tells his mother about it, but she tells him that there is no such thing as a dragon. So, it starts to grow. It eats all of Billy’s pancakes. Soon it fills the whole house. Mom tried to vacuum, but she has to go in and out of the house through the windows because of the dragon everywhere. It takes her forever. Then, the dragon runs off with the house. Billy’s dad comes home – and there is just an empty space, where he used to live. The mailman tells him where the house went. He chases after it, climbs up the dragon’s head and neck and rejoins his wife and son. Mom still insists that the dragon does not exist, but Billy, who’s pretty much had it by now, insists, “There is a dragon, Mom.” Once she acknowledges this the dragon instantly starts to shrink. Soon, it is cat-sized again. Everyone agrees that dragons of that size exist, and are preferable to their gigantic counterparts. Mom, eyes reluctantly opened by this point, asks somewhat plaintively why it had to get so big. Billy quietly suggests: maybe it wanted to be noticed.”

This story emphasizes how dangerous sins of omission can be. The longer we wait to address something that should be addressed the bigger the problem becomes. That is a trap I have found myself in the past as I tried to exercise Stoicism in different areas of my life. I had mistaken enduring hardship with not facing the problem.

One resource that I found to be particularly helpful with this is “The One Minute Manager.” In the book they talk about “reprimands” and elements that make them successful. These elements can be applied to discussions with your teammates, subordinates, or even relationships. Here is what they recommend:

  • Talk as soon as you notice something is wrong
  • Specify exactly what they did wrong
  • Do not attack the person, only the behavior

This post is about addressing problems early, but do not forget that rewarding good behavior is even more important! If there is a problem you have put off addressing, do it now, the dragon will only get larger.


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