From the Founder

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How I Approach The ‘No-Win’ Scenario

By: Ivan Misner, Ph.D
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    From the Founder

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    Ivan Misner, Ph.D

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In business, we are often confronted with problems that seem to be a no-win situation.  While I acknowledge that they sometimes exist, I believe that there are almost always alternatives that can be explored to find a good result.  I recently thought back to where this started in my life and realized that it was when I was a university student.

When I was an undergraduate in college, I needed to take one more “lab class” (a course that gives hands on experience related to the topic).  I’d taken lab classes in science and the only lab courses left according to my counselor was a lab class in mathematics.  Now, I did fine with basic mathematics but the higher-level courses in Algebra and Geometry were just not my passion.  OK, full disclosure, I hated those courses.   So, when my counselor said that was the only choice left – I went on a quest, a quest to go through every single page of the course catalog for every single department throughout the university (except the Math department), to find any other class with a lab that I hadn’t already taken. 

After a painstaking search through the huge catalog, I found one course that fit the bill.  It was a course in the Hotel and Restaurant Management School at the university.  The course was in Enology (the study of wines).  The lab part was – wine tasting!  Now, you might think that I was excited at first but the truth is – I hated wine.  I really didn’t like it.  The only thing is, I hated math more than I hated wine so – Enology it was!

I took this revelation to my department counselor and he said – “No! you can’t take that as your lab!”  I said “Why not?  It is a lab and it meets all the university requirements for me to complete my degree?”  He said, “because it’s unheard of to use that as a lab in this department.”  I then said, “But is it prohibited?  Where in the department requirements does it say that it can’t be used?”  He cocked his head and looked at me over the top of his glasses and said, “alright Misner, give me the paper, I’ll sign it and get out of here.”  I smiled and said, “Thank you very much professor,” and walked out with the paperwork to complete my Enology wine lab.

At that moment, I had no idea that the course I was taking would become a life-long passion (remember – I didn’t really like wine back then).  The course was much more difficult than students thought it would be.  We had an almost 40% drop out rate for the class because it wasn’t just about “tasting” wines, it was about the wine industry and wine regulations so the tests were pretty tough. The tasting was only a part of the class. Today, it is a passion for me.  I built out a cellar at my home in Austin (pictured here) that will hold 1,600 bottles (it’s not full – yet but I’m working on it) and I just started working on a Sommelier Certification just for fun.  This path all began because I didn’t believe in the “No-Win scenario” as the only possibility relating to a challenge.

I share this story with you because I truly believe that there are ‘almost’ always options to a no-win situation if you work hard to find alternative solutions (maybe even push the envelope a bit).  For the Star Trek nerds out there – I’d like to think I’d pass the Kobayashi Maru simulation (the no-win scenario mentioned several times Star Trek).

What no-win situation have you been confronted with and how did you find a solution?  I’d love for you to share it here.

Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author.  He is also the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of BNI (www.bni.com), the world’s largest business networking organization.  His new book, Networking for Success (2nd Edition),  is available at bookstores and at Amazon.com.