Slice the Gordian Knot

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I have a coaching client that is like myself in many ways: grew up having to work for what he wanted, played competitive sports to learn lessons and as an outlet, and has built an extremely successful business by applying the mindsets and lessons from these two areas.  And like many of us that have built successful businesses, he spoils his spouse and kids.  They have never known the hunger that drives this guy, and they never will because as a good spouse and parent he has made sure they want for nothing, with the advantages and disadvantages thereof.  (As an aside, check out David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell on how disadvantages such as growing up poor or dyslexia can become incredible advantages as “desirable difficulties”).

T (as we will call him) was complaining because once again someone had used up the toilet paper and not replaced the roll.  In that bathroom there is no cabinet so no place to hide a backup (like I do because my hooligans always forget, hence this writing).  His spouse doesn’t want a little rack in the room as it would mess up the aesthetics (again something T and I agree on as a “who cares what the thing looks like, does it work?” blue collar kid attitude).  So an impasse, with a dependency on flawed human beings to remember to take an action (check before going to bathroom, in a moment of panic potentially, to ensure you have what you need at the last second) under emotional duress and time constraints.  At best a highly flawed and inconsistent patchjob solution that is reflective of how too many people in our industry operate in their everyday business: last second chaos and confusion instead of a plan and smooth operations because of preplanning and process.  The process ensures superior results.

And then while listening to some Iron Maiden on my run (long songs and historical stories, great for cranking out endurance workouts): I had a eureka moment: slice the Gordian Knot.  For those not familiar with the tale: in Ancient Greece the Phrygian’s lacked a king and the Oracle declared the next man driving an ox cart into the city would rule.  A hard working peasant farmer named Gordia did so, and became king.  His son tied the cart to a post with vines and dedicated it to Zeus.  Over the years the vines grew impossibly intricate, and the Oracle declared whomever could undo the knot would rule the lands after Gordia (hence the Gordian Knot).  Centuries passed, Phrygia fell into disarray and became a vassal state of the Persian Empire.  Alexander the Great in his early days of conquest knew of the prophesy and came to Phrygia.  Gazing upon the Knot and with a fire and desire that would take him all the way to India in his conquest he contemplated this barrier, this lock sealing the treasure of Asia.  Drawing his sword and with one mighty swing, Alexander cleft the Knot in half, a non-linear thinking resolution to the problem.  He then conquered most of the known world, spreading Hellenic culture and securing his place in history.

Old problems require new thinking to be resolved, or else like the Gordian Knot they will keep you out of the promised land of success.

In the twenty-third century, there was a test all that wished to be a Captain had to undergo.  A test of will and resolve in the face of impossible odds.  It was a test designed to fail everyone, so that they would have to face their own death and that of all their shipmates, to fail and grow from it.  I talk of course about the Kobayashi Maru, the Star Trek leadership test where all command cadets lose their ship and must come face to face with the reality of failure and death and the burden of command.  It was foolproof, designed to be unwinnable.

Until James T Kirk beat it.

He changed the rules to beat the unbeatable.

He looked at the unsolvable problem in a different way and found a solution.

Mathematics teaches us that any problem can have only three potential outputs: no solution, a single, unique answer, or an infinite number of correct answers.  As an optimist I refuse the first, nihilistic attitude towards real world issues.  We need to look with more than our eyes and think in a higher dimension to alter the outcome and innovate an answer.  And my rebellious streak pushed me towards the last, infinite solution set because we can always take a different path to the destination.  This is what education is really about: finding new ideas and ways to think to solve problems.  It is what Kirk will do (in the 23rd Century), it is what I do, and it is what Alexander did.  Think differently than you have in the past if you want different results in the future, to paraphrase Einstein.

So T?  He needs to get a bidet and never have to worry about toilet paper.  A better solution to a crappy situation.

Think differently.  Think non-linearly and non-traditionally.  Cut the Gordian Knot, and conquer your world.

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