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2+2=3 How to Find What’s Missing to Solve the Equation


In my practice of law, I have learned that it is crucial to focus on the unknowns. 

The missing pieces.  The holes that don’t appear to exist. Why is this important? Because 2+2 might equal 3, not 4. How is this possible? I can explain, in less than 60 seconds of your time…

1.     Focus on the missing words first. 

When I look at a contract, my first concern is not whether the words that already exist are the correct words (although this is important). When I first look at a contract, I focus on the words that are missing. What deal points did the parties discuss that failed to reach pen and paper? What necessary provisions does the document fail to contain? The missing words are often more important than the ones that already exist.   

2.      Never accept facts as true

I frequently receive calls from business owners, realtors and individuals with urgent problems that need to be solved. Every problem starts with a set of facts that outlines how the problem arose. It would be easy to takes the facts, as given by my client, and begin to identify a solution. BAD IDEA! My job is to first verify that the facts given to me are true, objective and not given in a way that unintentionally points me in the wrong direction. Does this mean I call my client a liar? NO! This means I take into (quiet) consideration that my client’s facts are probably not objective. They are probably skewed a bit in their favor. This does not mean they are incorrect facts. This does not mean my client is wrong. This just means I must trust, but verify. Verifying facts can look different in every situation. It may mean asking the right follow up questions to flesh out the issue. It may mean reviewing a document to determine whether my client’s interpretation is legally accurate. Asking the RIGHT questions is just as important as finding the missing words. 

3.      2+2=3. 

So how does 2 + 2 equal 3? In mathematics, 2 + 2 is always going to equal 4. But in real life the outcome might be different. First, we need to determine what is missing. Second, we should never accept the facts as true. So, what’s missing in this equation? Let’s say we are dealing with 2 “widgets” – well, are the widgets entire widgets? Are we dealing with half widgets? Are we dealing with quarter widgets? What’s the definition of a whole widget? Have we lost a widget from the time the problem started to the time we are discussing the solution? Do we still have all the original widgets? Obviously, 2+2 does not equal 3, but it is a good reminder that we need to be careful about what we do not know and always verify that the facts presented to us are objectively accurate. By identifying the missing words and asking the right questions, you can better determine (and execute) the necessary solution.