We are continuously faced with opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.
When returning from a long hike in the woods it is common to discover that your clothes have carried home little pieces of nature—those prickly, sticky, terribly hard-to-get-off things called burrs. They are anything but a delight and are clearly an annoyance—unless you are George de Mestral.
On a hunting trip, George and his dog returned from the woods covered in burrs. He was curious about how these annoying things were able to cling so effectively to his clothes and his dog’s fur. He examined one of them under a microscope and discovered hooks that clung to the tiny loops of the fabric of his clothes. He was struck by the idea that he could mimic this hook and loop approach to create a new type of fastener.
His idea was not taken seriously by most. In fact, he was often laughed at as he tried to find support for his idea. But he knew his idea had potential, so he persisted.
He was able to convince a French weaver to help him develop a process that imitated the hook and loop style of the burr. Using a cotton fabric, they developed a two-part fastener. On one side were hooks and on the other side loops. It worked quite well except for one problem—the fabric wore out too quickly.
He was discouraged and ridiculed, but George de Mestral did not give up. Years passed and he still had not discovered a fabric that would hold up to the constant pull he needed to duplicate the tenacity of the burr. Finally, after treating nylon with infrared light, he had his fabric.
Mass production was the next step. By diligent research and effort, and with the help of his weaver friend, the answers were found and production began. After a decade of work and persistent effort, a revolutionary type of fastener was now available. Combining the words “velvet” and “crochet” formed the name of his new product—you know what it is. Think of all the uses it has in your life.
We are continuously faced with opportunities disguised as insoluble problems. Whether we view them as opportunities or challenges is our choice. Just as George de Mestral found good qualities in an annoyance, let’s open our minds and look for windows of opportunity.
Here are some points for reflection:
- Ponder some of the annoyances you face. See if you can break them down to better understand them. What ideas emerge as you identify the smaller parts?
- Notice the patient persistence that George employed to finally succeed in the production of his product.
- When pursuing a dream, it is rare to go it alone. George de Mestral sought help from someone who had expertise he lacked. What help do you need in order to resolve your challenge? Who is best qualified to help you?