Are you a Goal Achiever or a Problem Solver?

I believe the answer to this question is monumental in advancing your career, legacy, family relationships, and overall sanity and comfort in life. I must give Kudos to Bob Biehl for the first clear articulation of this insight. Here’s what you really need to know:

1. Goal Achievers love to accomplish steps on the way to a desired result

2. Problem Solvers love to solve problems on the way to a desired result

Of course, Goal Achievers can solve problems and Problem Solvers can take steps to reach goals. However, the question is “What motivates you?

Are you like my brother who has had a successful career in financial planning? He LOVES to count down by steps and dates to anything he accomplishes. In high school he announced how many days left until ‘graduation’. Nowadays he is doing the same for ‘retirement’ (a few years still remain). He loves to have a plan and work on the first step…then the second…then the third. He also love to run in marathons, which is also a step-after-step effort.

Or, are you like me? I LOVE problems. Crisis is awesome. Relaxing sort of stresses me out. Everything that fascinates me is a puzzle. How do we do this? How can we do it easier? Can I make this go away in one step? Problems mean challenge to me…and they have mystery in them. Running a marathon jazzes my brother, but it just sounds too ‘known’ to me. Frankly, if you keep moving one foot in front of the other won’t you finish? And yet, that is so crazy fun for him and others.

Now, I know from one of my greatest mentors, Robert Fritz, that problem solving can lead to a pattern of not solving problems, He describes it something like this:

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While I think he is on target, the same can happen with the Creative Process too:

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In the Creative Process there is a striving to create the desired result. As one gets closer (relieves the creative tension), he can easily back off working on the goal. Or, in other scenarios, people get discouraged and change the goal (or lie to themselves about the current situation). It is a common experience of writers to lose interest in writing their stories once they have told the story to someone else.

None of this is hard and fast, but it is pretty simple to understand why this tendencies happen. It’s really all about the Desired Result.

Goal Reachers tend to fail when they have in mind to ‘TRY to accomplish the goal’

Problem Solvers tend to fail when they have in mind to ‘RELIEVE THE PAIN this problem is causing’

The solution for both is a clear enough vision of the desired result so they (a) will be able to organize actions for success, and (b) will know when they actually arrive at success. In some form or another, it will look like this:

Goal Reachers succeed by pursuing an end result that can nicely fit into the statement, “I want ___________________.” Sometimes we are too vague (I call these ‘do better’ goals) so we might ask, “How will I know if I’ve succeeded?”

Problem Solvers succeed by pursuing an end result that means the problem no longer exists. Again, a similar question helps the Problem Solver who asks, “How will I know if the problem is truly solved?”


The steps involved in succeeding are a little different for each. Goal Reachers have a more straightforward process than Problem Solvers. Both are clearly effective, and it could be argued that the differences are a matter of symantics.

Goal Reachers design steps that are simply moving progressively closer to the desired end result

Problem Solvers design steps that are simply removing the obstacles between where they are and the desired end result

If the obstacles (problems) between what you have and what you want are removed, then you will have what you want. If you follow a sequence of steps that lead to your goal, then you’ll have your goal.


When working with teams, or in your own personal venue, it is best to to keep in mind you’ll find you need both processes to be in play. I think of it is being right-handed but needing the support of the left hand. My son, Tripp, has mild cerebral palsy and was taught by his therapists that his hand that didn’t function as well was his ‘helping’ hand. That is a nice way to consider it. If you are a Problem Solver, then I’d suggest you take on removing the obstacles between what you have and what you want. However, don’t forget that you also may need to set a good-old-goal (with steps and all) in order to see the results you want. If you are a Goal Reacher, then I’d suggest you set your steps and get after it! However, don’t miss out by avoiding the need you may have to simply solve a few problems on the way.

Isaac Newton essentially invented his version of calculus to ‘remove an obstacle’ in order to work with the principles he had uncovered in physics. He needed a language for physics, so he invented one.


If you are interested in learning more, especially about my own training in how to Craft Solutions, then click below for the details:


(coming soon)

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Mental Models and Creativity

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“I discovered that the best innovation is sometimes the company, the way you organize a company. The whole notion of how you build a company is fascinating. When I got the chance to come back to Apple, I realized that I would be useless without the company, and that’s why I decided to stay and rebuild it.”

-Steve Jobs (from Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs)

Can You Really Think Crooked and Walk Straight?

The above question is about the most fundamental and transformational tool we humans have discovered for creating results—Knowledge + Communication…often seen in the Mental Models we use in our creating. Too often we make the great mistake of attempting to deal with behavior before we sort out the thinking. Frankly, if we still thought the earth was the center of the solar system, we wouldn’t have made it to the moon.

I’m confident your challenges are just a clear thought or two away from a fresh step towards a solution.

I am Dr. Fred Lybrand, a co-founder of TrimTab Solutions (a Coaching and Consulting firm, especially in the Energy Leadership sector and have been speaking publicly since I was 14 years old…stumping for my dad who was a State Senator in Alabama during the George Wallace era.
My background in law, business, education, systems dynamics, and non-profit organizational leadership uniquely qualifies me to address the challenges and opportunities most organizations and individuals in the midst of change consistently face.

I’ve lived in Texas since 1983, and as an entrepreneur, private school co-founder, author, and a father of five (still married after 29 years :-), I am pretty sure I can address the audience with Southern humor, values, and vision.

In Coaching I have three forte’s that seem to consistently help others:

1. Getting Unstuck (unraveling your mis-beliefs)

2. Becoming Clear & Confident about an Important Decision

3. Fresh Solutions to Stale Problems

…BUT…Fundamentally these issues are about Communication. They are about communication with yourself. It is quite a curiousity to see people admit that they are not great talking with others, or are worse talking with audiences…but they assume talking to themselves is easy!

THE SOLUTION: Play the game of looking at your problem / challenge as someone else. How would Rocky Balboa solve your problem? What about Steve Jobs? What would Madonna suggest? How about Einstein? I find that the most powerful thing to do for someone else is to simply share my thoughts from where our sit…it’s like it shakes up the world and allows a new way to think. Seriously, a quick path to the mental models we use in creating is to ask and answer the following:

What’s Your Problem?

What would your hero when you were growing up tell you about it?

My recent focus is in unravelling the challenges related to implementing a High Performance Management System (see Richard Palermo, HPMS, Do the Right Things Right, Strategic Triangle). I’m also convinced that we have consistently missed the ball in dividing Managers from Leaders. Please accept this gift of an interview my partner (Hermann Eben) and I just completed (Click):

How to Grow a Manager into a Leader

Fred Ray Lybrand
P.S. This video below isn’t perfect quality, but it does underscore our challenge with how we think about things. This was at a large high school assembly talking to kids about what makes real relationships work. Relationships are not much different than anything else… they are all about how we think and the systems we employ.

Wake Up Leroy

“I know what I mean, but I just don’t know how to say it?”

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Are people right when they say, “I know what I mean, but I just don’t know how to say it?”

Frankly, I’m going to have to say, “NO, with a maybe.”

Here’s what I’m getting at— First, when talking about emotions, then YES, one can definitely not know how to say it. Love is like a red, red, rose is about the best we can do. Emotions are given to the vagaries of feelings, not the specifics of language. Love is not a thought, therefore it can’t be described in words.

Thoughts, in fact any thought, can absolutely be conveyed with words.

Here’s a little Your Brain 101:

* We have two basic processing systems in our cerebral cortex:

1. We process or think in pictures.

2. We process or think in words.

It is helpful to know this because we can use our brains properly. If you are trying to understand anything structurally (or something given to being pictured in any way), then using the canvas of your mind is huge. In fact, in recalling information nothing is more helpful. A picture is indeed worth a thousand (or ten thousand) words.

Thoughts themselves, however, are really for the domain of words. Verba Sunt Indices Animi, which means “words are the indicators of the mind or thought.” This points out that we basically think in words…and that…words tell us what we are thinking.

Words are the stuff thoughts are made of. The common chatter is that we think in pictures…but the chatter is a myth because it is clearly half false.

All you need to do to appreciate this point is to speak to someone who has been blind since birth. I’m sure they can picture something, somehow; but, really it is words they use to form their thoughts and communicate their understanding and insights.


What this comes down to is that it is really not possible to have clear thoughts and poor communication. Since the thoughts themselves are dependent on words, the thoughts must be clear enough (in words) in our own heads. I know this sounds mildly complex, but consider it this way—

When someone communicates and doesn’t make sense, you are most likely seeing a very clear communication of muddle thoughts, rather than a muddle communication of clear thoughts.

I mean really—How can someone have crystal clear thoughts, but have no ability to share outwardly the same words she thinks these thoughts with?


If you grasp this distinction in a deeper way, you will see the clear implication that you need only clear up your thoughts to become a far more effective communicator. If people aren’t quickly grasping what you are saying, the FIRST place to look is your own mind. It’s easy enough just to ask a couple of questions:

1. Is my audience (or the other person) getting what I’m saying?

2. Can I explain it to myself in a way that is crystal clear?

That get’s you a long way down the road as a communicator.


Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

The Surprising Way We Grow Confident Writers

The Surprising Way We Grow Confident Writers

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