Connect with us

Success Advice

Problem-Solving Secrets From World Class Athletes

Once mastered, it’s a game-changing skill for turning industries on their head.



Image Credit: Midjourney

Top innovators are those mavericks who are exceptionally good at reframing problems. The world of outdoor sports, where practitioners are always pushing the edge of what’s possible, provides a case in point.

Pioneers and legends in extreme outdoor sports often attain their lofty heights because of their stellar problem-solving abilities. In particular, they redefine their sports by tackling problems their contemporaries have overlooked.  

Here are three legendary outdoorsmen who transformed the sports world through ingenious problem definition. 

Laird Hamilton

Hamilton is a professional surfer who has conquered the biggest waves in the world. Wherever there is a wave that others fear, Hamilton makes camp and figures out how to surf it.  

Teahupo’o is such a wave. Notorious for its size and ferocity — reaching heights of 70 feet and crashing into the shallow, rough barrier reefs of Tahiti — anyone who attempted to surf it was risking their life. Unlike a normal wave in which a surfer could paddle into the swell and time a ride, the size of Teahupo’o made it nearly impossible to reach the apex. 

Why did Hamilton think he was capable of doing what other professionals thought was impossible? The answer lies in how he thinks. While other surfers were trying to figure out how to surf Teahupoo with traditional methods, Hamilton knew a better technique was needed. 

After much thought, he redefined the Teahupo’o challenge from “How might I surf the wave?” to “How might I get to the top of the wave so that I can surf it?”  

From that problem definition, he developed the revolutionary method of tow-in surfing, in which another person on a jet ski pulls the surfer into the cresting wave. This technique eliminates paddling into the wave, which is an impossible task.  

The solution put him in position to do what no other surfer had done before: Surf Teahupo’o! It’s still extremely risky, but the technique has enabled him to come safely through some of the most death-defying rides in the sport’s history.  

Hamilton’s ingenuity is further demonstrated in some of his other innovations in the sport, such as the paddleboard and foil board. He’s always looking for the next problem he can solve that will keep him on the forefront of the surfing world.

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your two ears.” – Laird Hamilton

Yvon Chouinard

Rock climbing is particularly fitting for expert problem solvers. Climbing a rock face requires nonstop decision-making to determine what route to follow, to find the next hand or foothold, and to decide what maneuver will propel the body upward. In fact, the complex challenges on a climb are why rock climbers call routes “problems.”  

Yvon Chouinard was an extremely good climber in the 1960s who was always looking for the next big challenge to conquer. He had climbed some of the world’s most challenging rock faces, like the North America Wall in Yosemite National Park, but he realized he could scale even greater mountains if he had better equipment.  

Mountain climbing require “pitons” — pegs driven into rock cracks that secure a safety rope. Chouinard was climbing the toughest routes and therefore needed more dependable pitons than those made of soft iron, but there was nothing on the market to meet his requirements. He explored the question: “How might a piton withstand the trials I put it through?”  

He bought a second-hand coal-fired forge and began making his own hardened steel pitons. They withstood his tests, and other climbers began buying them from him. This was the start of Chouinard Equipment — later to become Black Diamond Equipment. Eventually, he stopped making pitons because they were damaging iconic climbs, and instead, created chocks — which were removable. 

Being the innovator he was, Chouinard turned his attention to new sets of problems in his outdoor quests. For example, unhappy with outdoor apparel, he formed the clothing company Patagonia and began selling rugged technical apparel with great success. Patagonia continues to grow today, but Chouinard now channels his problem-solving genius on environmental issues so that he can protect the mountains he loves.  

John Collins

Not many people have heard of John Collins, but they have heard of the endurance challenge he created in 1978. The Ironman Triathlon is an extreme endurance event in which athletes must swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run a 26.2-mile marathon in under 17 hours.  

Collins was a Navy Commander who loved endurance competitions. As a member of the sports scene in Hawaii, he wondered, “Could athletes combine the disparate skills needed for swimming, cycling, and running in an endurance race?” To find out, he formulated a challenge that, in February 1978, drew 15 athletes to compete. 

The contest rules ended by stating, “Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life.” Twelve finished the race, and the winner was declared an Ironman.  

Sports Illustrated covered the first Ironman race, which spurred more entries the following year. Collins eventually sold the race rights to two local Nautilus Fitness Center owners, and over the years ownership has transferred to different parties. The Ironman Company is now an international organization with thousands of competitors entering races all over the world.  

Those who have played a role in redefining the outdoor sports industry ask themselves the question: “Why? What’s stopping me?” This problem-solving technique allows them to look at situations in a new light. Once mastered, it’s a game-changing skill for turning industries on their head.

Michael Goldsby is Stoops Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship and Chief Entrepreneurship Officer at Ball State University. Min Basadur is Professor Emeritus of Innovation at McMaster University, Canada, and founder of Basadur Applied Creativity. Rob Mathews is Executive Director of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute at Ball University. Their new book, Design-Centered Entrepreneurship, Second Edition (Routledge, 2022), provides a research-driven, step-by-step approach to creative problem-solving. Learn more at

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Success Advice

How Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success

Your life is dictated by beliefs and biases that drive your thinking, behaviors, and decisions



Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success (1)
Image Credit: Midjourney

Pause for a moment and ponder two pandemic-era beliefs: First, closing schools will control the spread of a serious virus. Second, the consequences of such school closures—particularly social interruption and the prevention of immunity—are worse than becoming sick with the virus. (more…)

Continue Reading

Success Advice

How to Break the Cycles of Mediocrity and Manifest Your Greatness

There is no greatness without becoming and there is no becoming with authenticity



Image Credit: Midjourney

In just a few weeks, we will be wrapping up 2023. Can you believe it? This year has been absolutely incredible for me.

I have seen amazing doors opened, new relationships formed and I am seeing dreams realized in my life. While this seems like the hallmarks of a great year, this has also been the most challenging year of my life. With all of the change happening in my life, I have been forced out of my comfort zone and challenged to grow in every area of my life.

I can truly say that I have made the most of my moments this year and I have used everything as a catalyst for maximizing my greatest potential.

As a revolutionary leader, I have the pleasure of consulting and advising leaders around the world to fulfill purpose, realize their greatest potential and make an impact.

I want to share some insights with you that will help you to break cycles of mediocrity and manifest your greatness

Everything legal must come through the matrix

I am sure that some of you are wondering why I am using the term matrix. However, what you have to understand is that I am trying to make a highly complex spiritual principle practical to understand.

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, every life has an origin and I believe that origin is divine and begins with eternity. You are birthed from eternity and into time to fulfill a unique purpose and assignment in your lifetime and generation.

The matrix is simply the portal or vehicle that brings something out of the invisible realm and into tangible form. The problem with much of the teaching today is that it excludes the matrix. We are told to believe that success is instantaneous and overnight.

Nobody talks about how a dream progresses through stages beginning with visualization and ultimately culminating in manifestation. Without a matrix or portal then everything that you attempt to birth and build will be illegal.

The matrix not only makes you legal but it gives you the authority and power to function as the greatest expression of who you were created to be. 

Every matrix has an incubation process

While many people admire and respect me today, I remember a time when nobody knew who I was or the significance of my message. How did I get to where I am today? I got here through an incubation process.

In other words, everything that has been destined for your life is incubating and awaiting a set time of manifestation. The problem is that most people live their entire lives idle and never initiate the incubation process.

What do I meany by that? Most people are living reckless and very few people are living intentionally. I am amazed at the number of people I have conversations with that have no vision, goals or strategies for their lives. They show great promise and they have undeniable potential.

However, without development they will die with their dreams still in them.

Everything that has been destined for your life must be incubated and converted to become realities born to time. 

“Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin to build.” – Robert Collier

You must give expression to that which is not yet born to time

When you think about a matrix or a prophetic incubation process, you have to understand that potential is often unrealized and untapped. In other words, your potential is in raw form and your potential cannot serve you as long as it is untapped.

The thing that makes me valuable is that I have the ability to convert potential into power. I have done it in my own life and I have empowered leaders around the world to do the same. How do you convert potential into power?

First, it is important to note that you have to perceive potential. If you cannot perceive your potential then you can never cultivate your potential. In addition, you must take the time to cultivate your potential. We often get excited about our capabilities; however, we never expand our capacity in order to realize our greatest potential.

In other words, the strength of your potential is only discovered through your willingness to stretch. The more we are challenged the more we are empowered to expand our capacity for greatness. Most of all, you must begin to express your potential. The expression of potential is different for every person.

For example, the expression of my potential is best demonstrated through the thoughts, ideas, products, services, books, etc.

For another person the expression of potential may look like a screenplay, artwork, sports, scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, etc.

Regardless of the form of expression, I know that you will live empty and unfulfilled until you make the decision to express your potential. The expression of your potential gives voice to your dreams, life to your vision, significance to your moments and activates your true power.

You must manifest your greatness

As a revolutionary thinker and leader, my work has impacted people around the world. I am grateful that my life is a source of empowerment to so many people. However, before anyone could ever benefit from my life, I had to make a non-negotiable decision to become who I was born to be.

I wish I could tell you that this journey is easy and that you will get there overnight. However, in a world that celebrates us for doing we are often criticized for being. As a result, I wasted a lot of time trying to be who other people wanted me to be instead of being who I was born to be.

There is no greatness without becoming and there is no becoming with authenticity. It is through our bravery to be vulnerable that we ultimately manifest our greatness. We do not bless the world by being a duplicate. We bless the world when we honor our difference. When you honor your difference you honor your potential.

Ultimately, your difference is how you manifest your greatness.

When you present anything but your authentic self to the world, you are playing small and you are robbing the world of your significance. Manifesting your greatness requires you to master your gifts.

Continue Reading

Success Advice

Here’s a Young Man’s Antidote for the Uncertainty of the Modern World

Why do a lot of young guys lack confidence in today’s world? 



How to boost your confidence
Image Credit: Midjourney

We all have been told that confidence is a key factor in achieving success and happiness in life. But what is it exactly? (more…)

Continue Reading

Success Advice

Toxic Leadership: 5 Ways to Identify a Bad Leader

if you have a leader who displays any of the toxic traits, it’s time to move on to greener pastures.



Toxic leadership
Image Credit: Midjourney

Let’s be honest, we’ve all crossed paths with a toxic leader in our careers at some point. Unfortunately, while some toxic leaders don’t even bother to hide their behaviour, some know very well how to conceal their true selves behind a strong-built facade. The latter is the most dangerous of the two. (more…)

Continue Reading