Do you often find yourself getting hung up on finding simple solutions to problems in your business?
It’s an easy trap to get caught in. We care too much that we overthink, and that only makes things worse.
Here’s the thing: the solutions are often so simple that, invariably, we waste a whole lot of time before they become clear.
A perfect example is the legend of the Gordian knot.
In the early days of the Phrygian civilisation, the people were without a king. That is, they were until Gordias, a mere farmer, entered the capital city on an ox-cart.
As the citizens caught sight of this modest peasant, an an eagle swooped down and landed on his cart. The arrival of the bird was seen as a sign from the gods, and Gordias was instantly crowned king.
In honour of the occasion, Gordias’ son, Midas, tied the cart to a post with an intricate set of “several knots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened”.
Years after Gordias’ death, it was prophecised that whoever could unbind the knots that held his cart in place would become the ruler of Asia.
Many tried to pick apart the intricate threads, but none were successful.
Centuries later, the mighty Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great arrived in the city. He too had heard the rumours, and was eager to give the test a try.
After struggling for some time, Alexander was struck by an ingenious idea!
“It makes no difference how they are loosed,” he cried.
Brandishing his sword, he cut the knot clean in half with a single strike! In that moment, thunder and lightning were said to crash across the sky, heralding the arrival of the prophecised king of Asia.
In modern times, the metaphor of the Gordian Knot has come to represent ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, after first appearing in Shakespeare’s Henry V:
“Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter.”
Yet there is more to it than that. Alexander’s action was not simply ‘out-of-the-box’. It was bold!
Such method may have drawn upon him the wrath of the citizens, whose way of thinking may have resulted in them seeing the cutting of the cords as blasphemy. But Alexander’s goal was more important to him than following tradition.
There is a lot to learn in that. Rather than focus on the problem, we must focus on the solution. We must be considerate, not reactive, and recognise that the answer to our problems is often closer than we think.
So the next time you find yourself in a knot of trouble, don’t look to unravel each thread individually until you’re left cursing with bleeding hands. Instead, just slice right through, and carry on with boldness and pride.