The Trickster is stealing your potential

David Engwich
August 23, 2019

There are three thieves sneaking around your neural pathways ransacking your potential. We meet the first in this blog: The Trickster who is stealing your potential by getting you to waste vast amounts of energy trying to solve the wrong problem. Let’s unmask him and reclaim what he has stolen. 


Most of us suspect that we are not living to our fullest potential. There is a nagging thought in the back of our mind that we will get to the end of our life and look back with regret that our potential remains locked up and unlived.

The fact that we are not creating the best version of ourselves possible is no accident. There are villains stealing our potential.

And here is the bad news.

It’s an inside job!

The good news? Once you have identified the culprits you can banish them and reclaim what is rightfully yours.




Einstein said that if he had a problem to solve in one hour, and his life depended on finding a solution, he would spend the first 55 minutes defining the problem and the last five minutes finding the solution – because if you define the problem correctly, finding the solution is relatively easy.

Let me illustrate. A group of residents are sick of people speeding in their street. So they assume that speed bumps (or some other traffic device) is the solution. They expend large amounts of energy trying to twist city hall’s arm to install the speed bumps. They write lots of letters. Organise public meetings. Lobby decision makers. Sit on a Steering Committee and attend endless meetings.

But THE TRICKSTER has them working on the wrong problem… wasting their energy.

So let’s imagine these residents take Einstein’s advice and spend 55 minutes (or longer) interrogating the presenting problem, which they assume is drivers speeding past their home.

In my book, Your New Wings, I share a simple technique for drilling down to what I call ‘the base need’. It requires you to ask, ‘But why?’ over and over until you uncover the real issue.


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So let’s imagine how this ‘but why?’ conversation may go for these residents. I’ve jumped in part way though the dialogue.

‘You say the problem is people going too fast down your street. But why are these people speeding past your house?’

‘Because they are in a hurry to get somewhere.’

‘But why didn’t they just leave a couple minutes earlier, and then they wouldn’t have needed to go so fast?’

‘I guess because they knew they could make up time on our street.’

‘But why do they think it is OK to do that on your street? I mean in the old-days people went much slower on your street – in fact, everyone’s street.’

‘Yeah, but back then people drove slow because there were kids playing in the street and lots of social activity happening.’

‘But why did you stop these activities and surrender your street to the drivers?’

‘I guess it was a slow process we didn’t even see happening. We told the kids not to play in the street but to play on the footpath. I guess this encouraged the traffic to go faster, so we told them not to play on the footpath but to play in the yard. So the traffic went even faster. It became a vicious cycle of us retreating from the street more and more. Some of us even built high fences, completely shutting ourselves off from what was once our street.’

What these residents would discover through this dialogue is that one of the core problems they are dealing with is their psychological retreat from their street. The first parent who told their child not to play in the street invited the traffic to go faster. The more they gave up their street as part of their home territory, the faster the traffic went. The underlying problem is not speeding traffic. Speed bumps will not automatically result in them getting back what they have lost – their street as a community-building space. In fact it might do the exact opposite – make their street look even more like a traffic corridor rather than their outdoor living room.

If the problem is defined as ‘speeding traffic’, there are a few technical solutions, all of which are outside the ability of these residents to implement. Their definition of the problem has disempowered them.

But if the problem is defined as ‘our psychological retreat from our street’, then there are dozens of potential solutions, all of which are within the residents’ power to implement. For example, they may decide to have a block party once a month, or take down their front fences and put seats in their front yard.

Alternatively, they may discover through the ‘But why’ conversation that the problem is a ‘loss of civility and mutual respect’. They would immediately see that they are part of this problem. While they hate people speeding in their street, they are guilty of speeding in other people’s streets. Again, this is within the resident’s power to address. They could sign a treaty with all the adjoining neighbourhoods declaring that they will not speed in their streets – then encourage these neighbourhoods to ‘pay it forward’.



The Trickster gets us to assume we know what the problem is and then to assume we know the solution to this assumed problem. He gets us to then define the problem as, ‘How do I overcome the obstacles stopping me from implementing my assumed solution?’

And more often than not your assumed solution will either be totally or partially outside your control.

I have seen individuals, communities, cities and entire nations waste vast amounts of energy trying to implement a ‘solution’ to an mis-defined problem.



Make a list of the things you are focused on at the moment and putting energy into: getting a promotion, earning a qualification, doing a course, a workplace restructure, finding a partner, selling more of your product, buying a house, getting speed bumps installed in your street, or stopping something you don’t like.

Everything on this list is a solution to some assumed problem. The Trickster has you convinced that if only you can activate this solution, you will have solved a problem. What he is absolutely intent on, is making sure you don’t go digging into the true nature of the problem.

So it’s time to rip off his mask.

Pick the thing you are putting most energy into. For the residents in the story above, this would be lobbying city hall for speed bumps.

Name what you have assumed is the problem. For the residents this is ‘people speeding in our street’.

Now hold a ‘But why?’ conversation and drill down to the base need or problem. There may be several, as I demonstrated with the residents’ story. You can do this as a conversation you write down, or a role-play with one or more friends or colleagues.

Once you have identified the base need or problem, make a list of all the assets you have, the things you control. Your gifts, talents, possessions, relationships, etc.

Now brainstorm how you can potentially meet the base need or problem, using only your current assets.

That is how you take back your power and stop THE TRICKSTER from stealing it.

OK, I can’t wait to expose thief number two – MR PICKPOCKET. After that I rip the mask from THE BIG CON.

I have created a Creative Solutions Generator – a one page canvass that helps you think outside the box. Holding a ‘But Why’ conversation is step one. For a limited time I am offering a free 5X5 minute mini-course on how to use this simple tool. Learn more here.

Free mini-course!

The Creative Solutions Generator

Amaze yourself as you generate creative solutions, time after time, with this simple tool.

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Become the hero in your own story

Tap into the ‘creativity factory’ inside your head, transforming the mundane of everyday living into an extraordinary life.

Buy the book