Problem Solved - How my blind spots keep me from finding solutions.

The latch on my back gate had not been working for a few months. Okay, maybe a year. The gate closed and opened just fine. It’s a little squeaky, but I kind of like being alerted to the comings and goings from anywhere in the house. The problem was that the latch no longer latched properly. If I really leaned on it hard, I could get the metal rod to engage with the hook part, and if I had both hands free, I could sometimes get it to latch. Which essentially meant that I hadn’t properly latched the back gate in months.

Not a huge problem. But an annoying one for sure.

The dog had only gotten out a few times. The wind blew the gate open once or twice this spring, but we survived. A minor inconvenience, and a bit of a head-scratcher as well. I looked at it a few times to see if I could make the repair myself. I have tools. I’ve built a few houses. But I couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t latch. Which is why it stayed broken.

The other day I was out back chatting with my neighbor Tomas (he happens to be married to Jessie the snake wrangler and yes, they are the best neighbors ever). We built our houses together five years ago so it’s not uncommon to swap stories in the parking lot about maintenance and improvements. I mentioned my gate latch and asked him if his had the same problem. We walked over to look at it together. We pushed and pulled on it a few times and couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t latch. It was as though the gate itself had slid an inch or so to the left. As I was pulling on the gate and inspecting the tension cables, Tomas said he’d be right back and disappeared into his house. He reappeared with a drill and proceeded to back the screws holding the latch in place out of the fence post.

That’s when I got it. The lightbulb went off for me, as it had for Tomas. In under a minute, the latch was moved half an inch to the left and the gate was fixed, for now. I’m aware that there is clearly another issue, but not concerned enough to look further.

Until I saw Tomas backing out those screws, I could not for the life of me figure out how this problem could be solved. Because of this blind spot, I ignored the issue, was mildly inconvenienced and adjusted my life to a broken latch. My need to understand the nature of the problem kept me from seeing possible solutions. This got me thinking about the other places this limited thinking shows up in my life. Where else am I so fixated on one aspect of a problem that I am blind to a logical solution?

Now don’t get too excited. I don’t have any life-changing revelations about this just yet. I’m not a therapist. I’m a copywriter after all. But I’ll be thinking about blind spots, the resourcefulness of neighbors and the simple solutions that may lie just out of reach, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted.