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Put Your Pain Under the Microscope

Put your pain under the microscope and find the real causes

I’ve had a problem with my left knee for a while. It hitches when I walk, and complains when I go up and down the stairs. I just figured that getting older has its price. When I did give it some thought, I’d wonder “what the heck is wrong with my knee?”

As it turns out, I was asking the wrong question. There was nothing at all wrong with my knee, though if I’d ignored it any longer, there probably would have been some lasting damage. No, the thing that was in need of repair was the muscle below my knee, my extensor digitorum longus. Once I addressed the problem with that muscle, the pain in my knee went away. Completely. I feel 10 years younger.

Something similar happens in business all the time. There’s a pain somewhere — a quality problem, an unhappy customer, an inability to meet deadlines — and we think, “that’s just part of the pain of doing business. Things go wrong sometimes.” Every once in a while, when the pain is suddenly sharper, we turn our attention to the pain and try to solve it.

But pain is not a problem; it’s a symptom. The true problem is lurking below the pain, like that deep-tissue muscle in my leg.

If you are experiencing a persistent pain in your business, don’t let it slide. Sure, business has its challenges, but there’s no negative outcome that’s just “part of the pain of doing business.” Negative outcomes are either core problems themselves, or symptoms of a core problem — and usually the latter.

Take time to consider all the things that could cause the pain you are experiencing. Write them down, evaluate them, and look for deeper issues that could be responsible. In the case of my leg, I don’t know a lot about anatomy. But I found a diagram of all the muscles and tendons that connect to or affect the knee. Then I poked my fingers into each one, until I found a profoundly painful little lump — a trigger point — that was the source of my problems. I worked out the lump (it still hurts thinking about it), and the rest of that part of my anatomy breathed a big sigh of relief.

Pain is never just pain. It’s a symptom. Find the source of your pain, each and every time, and your business will consistently improve.

Andrea Hill

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