All Problems Are The Same Problem

by Dan Walsh


Humans have this wacky trait that makes it hard for us to take our experience from one context and apply it to another context. I don’t know what it’s called, but it exists. Generalization requires a layer of abstraction. It’s only by removing the details that the general form can be observed. Lose the trees so you can see the forest, so to speak.

Earlier this year I wondered, “If generalizing one layer up can help solve similar problems, could generalizing two layers up solve all problems?” I think it can. Or, at least it provides a framework – a starting point – which I’ve often observed to be the most daunting part of a new challenge. I’ve kept this framework close to my chest for the better part of a year as I ran it through it’s paces. It holds up, at least for me. I’m confident that all problems are the same problem, and they can be solved using the following formula.

You + X = Goal

Looks too simple? Let’s break it down.


You is constant. You have a problem. You feel a challenge. You want something. No matter what the problem is, you are a major part of it. You cannot escape it. If you could, then you wouldn’t have a problem.


Goal is the reason you have a problem in the first place. You’re trying to attain something, or solve something. Whatever it is, you’re not there yet. If you were, again, you wouldn’t have a problem.


No matter what your goal is, you are missing the thing that would make it possible. That’s X. It is always a lack of something that gets in the way of resolving a problem. Lack of money. Lack of confidence. Lack of knowledge.

Something. Is. Missing.

Solve for X.

Always solve for X.