Solving the Gordian Knot. What the path to success looks like.

Alexander Cutting the Gordian Knot (1767) by Jean-Fran├žois Godefroy
Alexander Cutting the Gordian Knot (1767) by Jean-Fran├žois Godefroy
The legend of the Gordian knot

According to ancient Greek legend, a poor peasant named Gordius arrived in Phrygia riding an ox cart. Before his arrival, an oracle had proclaimed that the next man to entered the kingdom on a wagon would be made king, and so Gordius was crowned. To thank the gods, Gordius dedicated his cart to the Phrygian god Sabazios, tying it to a post in the most intricately known knot. It was so intricate that the oracle claimed that whoever unraveled it would be the next ruler of all of Asia. Thousands of men tried but all failed.

It was not until the 4th century BC, when Alexander the Great arrived at the city and learned of the knot. He struggled with it for a bit then out of frustration drew his sword and cut the knot in a single blow.

What this tells us about success.

What’s interesting about Alexander’s solution is how simple it is. Why had no one thought of it sooner?

All those before Alexander looked at the problem in terms of unraveling the knot. They thought in terms of figuring out the best way to push or pull or yank or twist the knot so the rope would loosen. They remained stuck, too focused on a single set of tools rather than defining their own terms. To them it was a puzzle. The means mattered more than the ends.

Alexander reframed the problem. Rather than looking at the knot as impossible to solve he realized he would need to frame the problem in his own terms. He realized that the means didn’t matter. It was not a test of strength or even intelligence. It was simply about breaking the cart free.

When you believe something is impossible, you’ll be inclined to look for proof that that thing is impossible. When you’re free of this thought, or even a bit naive, you will be more open and free to see things for what they are.

The point is to have the courage and belief that difficult problems can be solved. That you re the one who is destined to solve them. That if you’re not the one who solves it then no one will.

Doing otherwise would be denying your right to the riches that awaits.