The following essay was written on Saturday, October 30, 2011. If you live in Connecticut you have a pretty good idea as to why it is only getting posted now.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

What the Man from Apple Taught Us about Onions

“When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions.” — Steve Jobs, 2006

It is difficult to assess just how much Steve Jobs’ vision and brilliant contributions changed our world. From his words we get a glimpse into how a genius thinks and works. Consider the above quote on how we all approach the problems and challenges of our lives. We often come at it full throttle, head on and then feel overwhelmed, inept and hopeless. So, we simply turn away feeling defeated. Or in a desire to move past our discomfort quickly, we may in a rush of impatience, act impulsively.

Thinking of any problem as an onion that needs to be peeled is an apt metaphor. Problems, like onions themselves, often make us cry thus blurring our reason and judgment. Stepping away for a moment to wipe our eyes and collect our thoughts is always a wise thing to do before proceeding. Peeling off layers results in our having to slow down and take our time. In doing so, we develop patience and increasing awareness–of both ourselves and the problem at hand.

When we approach “our onion” as a single unit, it appears dense and endless, but when we tackle it layer by layer, we find ourselves dealing with something far more manageable. Broken down into smaller pieces, we transform the problem into flexible, simpler and almost translucent elements.  Then the path we need to take can come into focus easier. At this point, we are ready to move forward in a steadier rhythm, feeling more confident and less overwhelmed.

Life changing decisions or events often present themselves as insurmountable. Whether you are dealing with divorce, moving, changing jobs or any other significant life transition, it is good to remember “The Onion”. Dismantle the problem, layer by layer, taking time for the tears to come and to pass. Then return to the issue at hand, knowing that the solution often reveals itself simply in the process of taking your time, holding steadfast to your vision, applying some patience, and implementing a bit of distance for perspective. While the layers may feel endless, with every layer you remove, the original problem is constantly shrinking.

It is true, we may not experience the external successes of Steve Jobs, but we all have access to the experience of empowerment that comes from finding  those “simple and elegant solutions that arrive” when we mindfully  deal with those onions that show up in our lives.


I finished putting the final touches on the above blog at 2:30 PM last Saturday. Then at 3:20 PM the power went out, leaving me with half of my hair blown dry and the other half lanky and wet. I was not prepared for the Big Whopping Onion that had just rolled into Connecticut. I am not sure any of us imagined a storm of such jaw-dropping devastating magnitude. As I write this, one week later, I still do not have power.  Neighboring communities are back on line, so later this morning I will find a Wi-Fi connection and get this posted.

Whether you have your power back or are still wishing for that magic moment, we can all begin to reflect on the layers of this Collective Onion. I ask you to consider the following and share them (my answers are in the parenthesis):

  1. Did you experience creative responses to the storm? (I saw a house with a power strip connected to their generator  with a sign “free cell phone charge”. A neighbor with a natural gas powering the water heater filled empty plastic bottles with hot water and tucked them deep into the blankets to keep the bed warm and toasty).
  2. What will be the first thing you will do (or did) when your power returns?( Laundry)
  3. What did you miss the least? (Television)
  4. Were there any pluses to being without power? (Multi-tasking  was impossible. I “powered down”, too)

Those of us in Connecticut have just shared a Great Onion which we will, no doubt, be talking about for a long time. None of us are immune to onions! They are opportunities to grow as they challenge our own strength, humor and problem solving abilities. I believe even Steve Jobs would have been impressed with our fortitude, determination and creativity!





  1. CJ Golden on the 06. Nov, 2011 remarked #

    I so love the metaphor of the onion – had not heard nor read it before and I am so thankful, Donna, that you brought it to us. And, of course, that you made it so real and relevant to our lives.
    Yes, the onions are there in our lives always (power outages and all).
    Just keep peeling!

  2. msesq on the 06. Nov, 2011 remarked #

    Great metaphor, we all got creative this week trying to stay warm. First thing I did when the power was restored is to thank those who provided comfort during the dark cold days. I missed heat the most, it was uncomfortable sleeping in the cold, then hot showers. I do have to find a battery powered blow dryer, someone must make one!

    • admin on the 06. Nov, 2011 remarked #

      If you find a battery operated hair dryer, let me know!

  3. Stacy on the 06. Nov, 2011 remarked #

    What an experience!! I have never been without power for that much time and it certainly put all of my coping strategies into play and taught me many lessons as well. Moments throughout the week I would start to become angry b/c I could not use my house or my shower or sleep in my own bed – my life seemed so out of control. On top of that my 3 boys were bouncing off the walls and behaving as badly as they could. It required all of my patience and energy to get through each day. Now that we have our power back (last night was like Christmas around here) I can reflect on this and what really helped me get through it was when I would return to gratitiude and remind myself how lucky I was that we were all OK and together. There is so much to be thankful for and only when it’s gone can we realize how good we have it. This storm pushed me to a greater level of patience and sense of appreciation for what I do have and although I don’t want to go through it ever again, I’m now grateful that it happened. Oh…your questions…first thing I did was clean the house, what I missed the least was lights, and there were definite pluses to no power – with no where to go and lots of extra free time, we were forced to slow down and just be in the moment. Thanks Donna – I hope you get power soon!

  4. maria on the 06. Nov, 2011 remarked #

    As of today 11/6 my household is still without power. I am currently staying warm at my sisters house and using her computer. With a well for water I don’t even have the luxury of being able to run water or flush the toilet. I placed all my empty wastebaskets under the roof edges to catch melting snow so that we could flush the toilet once per day.I’ve even perfected the art of fireplace cooking and made many meals on my gas grill including pizza. My kids and I are a bit cold but we are surviving.Hopefully our electricity will be restored soon!!!

  5. Marilyn on the 07. Nov, 2011 remarked #

    The onion certainly makes us SLOW DOWN. We have to go at things with more thought when we are peeling layers. We can’t take layers off on automatic gear as we will miss an important message

  6. Jan on the 08. Nov, 2011 remarked #

    Seven days without power and just getting back into a “normal” routine. What I found interesting was how much time it takes to try to keep relatively comfortable and clean and to try to eat healthy when there is no electricity.

    First thing I did when power was restored was to run my garbage disposal –there were onions in there and I could not get them all out after the power went out. Yuk. Also was thrilled to see the light! By Day 7, I truly understood the meaning of the phrase”on my last nerve”! Donna, I hope you have power soon!!! And, yes, I would love to learn if there are battery-powered hair dryers!

    • admin on the 08. Nov, 2011 remarked #

      I checked into battery operated hair dryers. Apparently they take so much power that the battery would need to be the size of a car battery. Maybe a generator is the answer!

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