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There are 4 types of problems

July 16, 2010

Do not mistake my simplistic reduction for hyperbole. There are only four types of problems in the world.  I’ll spare us all further preambling.

The Four Types of Problems (examples follow):

1. Want, Don’t Have

2. Have, Don’t Want

3. Want to Keep, About to Lose

4. Don’t Want, About to Get



1. Want, Don’t Have … I want the feeling of a united country in which the people have commonality of values and principles, and share a perspective of our nation’s noble (though periodically flawed) history and vision for our future.  I vividly remember the night of September 11, 2001.  My wife and I had met up with another couple at a tavern in Syracuse, NY.  I was heading back from the bar with a few glasses of beer and was stopped in my path as the television on the bar’s wall showed Congress singing “God Bless America” on the Capitol’s steps.  Because my hands were full I could not wipe the tears off my cheeks before returning to the rest of my party sitting outside on the pub’s deck.

2. Have, Don’t Want … I have a sense of a fracturing amongst my countrymen, with wedges crafted and fitted by both the good and ill-intentioned.  From my vantage, we are in the early stages of such dissociation.  The vanguard of our splintering unity, I’m saddened to think, are none but our highest elected officials who have been called upon by the electorate to provide leadership of both thought and action.

3. Want to Keep, About to Lose … I want to keep the liberties that our country’s founders enshrined as coming from God.  I’ve long thought that it would be logical for even the staunchest atheist to embrace the notion that our fundamental liberties are derived from our Creator.  Because, if so, then no man can subvert, diminish, or ultimately recall them.  I’ve reasoned with myself that if one did not believe or trust in God, how could that person place their faith in men far removed from their condition.

4. Don’t Want, About to Get … I don’t want myself or future generations to be subjected to an oppressive and authoritarian form of government.  A reversion to such type of rule first manifests itself in the form of excessive and ever-increasing taxation, regulation, and bureaucracy.  While each of these facets of government are absolutely necessary, it is the vector of such disciplines that can be antithetical to many basic human liberties and, collectively, what are uniquely American values.


As you can see, I have problems.  Next, we’ll look at some solutions.



Note:  I first learned of this concept of framing problems into one (or more) of four classifications many years ago by a very bright man whom I regard as one of my favorite teachers.  The subject of my study then was (and currently is) technical problem solving and solution engineering.  In this area, Fred Nickols is a preeminent thinker and I have learned much from his articles that are applicable well beyond the object of his expertise.

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