Problems or symptoms?

For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.

-Henry David Thoreau

Are you working on the right problem?

It's a question I'm constantly asking myself. At work I like to say I'm working on the problem of poverty, but in actuality, that's not true.

After studying the problem of poverty, I found that it splinters into a subset of other problems such as:

  • poor information
  • lack of organization
  • poor lifestyle choices
  • lack of access to resources
  • unproductive network of people and cultural influences

It seems that poverty isn't the real problem at all - it's merely a symptom.

Let's explore one bullet on this list - poor information, and see where it leads.

Poor information

Information is fundamentally neutral, but there's no doubting information's influence on my thought process, and how I behave in the world.

If we take a closer look at the word, we see the word broken down as:

in - form - ation

in = what's happening inside | form = to shape

Why is information so important? Because it is shaping who we are INSIDE, and whatever's inside will eventually see the light of day outside.

In fact, physicists say that information is a basic property of the universe and is literally shaping reality from moment to moment.

Good or bad. Complete or incomplete. Information is the backbone of the decisions I make on a moment to moment basis.

How? Decisions are being made based on the number of choices available to me at any given moment.

The number of choices available to me, and the quality of those choices, are a result of the information I have acquired during my lifetime.

So we must go to the source.

Two worlds

We live in two worlds simultaneously. An invisible and a visible world. The visible world has its roots in the invisible world.

See this illustration of the tree?


This is a useful metaphor. The roots of the tree are invisible to our eyes, and the trunk, branches, and leaves of the tree are visible.

But the trunk, branches, and leaves CANNOT exist without the roots.

Without the roots, you can't have any fruits.

The basic information of the tree determines whether the tree produces apples, oranges, or almonds. Since information is a building block of the universe and all living things, then it's critical that we acquire the 'right' information so that we can shape reality and our lives in a way that is suitable to us.

Whether you're conscious of the information you receive on a daily basis or not, this is an ongoing process that is ALWAYS influencing you, and every living and non-living thing.

Humans, squirrels, apple trees, and rocks all have their basic nature, BUT humans can create, shape their worlds in unimaginable ways that animals and nature could NEVER do. Well, maybe apes can, too.

Without quality information, quality behaviors and results cannot manifest. Regardless, whether the quality of information is good or poor, information is always present in our lives and will find its way to the surface. Just look at your results.

From their fruits ye shall know them; do men gather from thorns, grapes? or from thistles, figs?

- Jesus

Problems or symptoms

Poor information is a root problem that manifests as a symptom (poverty, violent behavior, obesity, etc.).

If your tree's roots are rotting, which is causing the leaves to be brown (brown leaves are a symptom) instead of green, then you have to deal with the REAL problem, not the symptoms.

Real problems are mostly invisible: poor information, habits, beliefs, thoughts, emotions and feelings, self-image, self-esteem, confidence, etc.

Symptoms are in the realm of the 5 senses: obesity, poverty, abuse of any kind, a sluggish economy, corrupt governments, emotional outbursts, stress, unhappiness, cancer, etc.

Here's the billion dollar question: are you working on the REAL problem, or are you dancing around symptoms?

Ex: your headache is caused by lack of water, so you're dehydrated. You're not aware of this, so you take an aspirin. The same problem comes up 3 days later. You take another aspirin. All this time, your body is crying for water - the real problem.

This is why information is so vital, and affects every aspect of your life. Not just whether you're rich or poor, but ALL areas of your life. The quality of relationships, your health, whether you have a growth or fixed mindset, and your ability to organize for maximum productivity.


  • The visible world ALWAYS comes from the invisible world. Never forget that.
  • Every REAL problem in the entire universe lies beyond the 5 senses. Go there for long-lasting solutions.
  • Ask: what's the real problem here? What caused this? What caused that? Keep going until you've clearly identified and defined the problem.
  • Problems are a part of life, and there's wisdom and intelligence in this, but destructive problems that are harmful to others deserve to have their roots taken out.
  • Transformation is elusive until real problems are confronted, not symptoms. Sure, you may make some symptoms go away temporarily, but they'll be back, sometimes much tougher than before.
  • It's ok to take some ibuprofen from time to time, but if it's a recurring issue, then it's time to deal with some roots. Stop being lazy about chronic issues.

Find the real problems - in your job, organization, or your business - and solve them. Watch how life transforms for everybody involved.


p.s. remember the quote from Thoreau? Next time you're working on a big problem, make sure you're the ONE who's striking at the root.