On July 20th, 356 BC, King Phillip II of Macedon and Olympias of Epirus give birth to a son near Pella. The boy, Alexander, becomes the star pupil of Aristotle absorbing as much ancient wisdom as he can before he turns sixteen. He ascends to the throne as Alexander II in 336 BC after Phillip’s murder by one of his bodyguards, which has spawned conspiracy theories for ages. Phillip’s killer, the soldier Pausanias, had a grudge against his King for not punishing a man who had taken advantage of him in more ways than one. But it is surmised that he was also doing the bidding of Alexander and his mother in their campaign to make Alexander great.
For Alexander, greatness required a trip to the town of Gordium in modern Turkey. For a few hundred years, an old ox cart had been intricately tied to the palace. According to tradition, the future King of Asia would be the only one capable of undoing the knot. Alexander, to the astonishment of the locals, simply swung his sword and watched as the knot and his enemies unraveled before him. The legend of the Gordian Knot is said to represent bold action or “outside the box” thinking to solve a difficult problem. The fact that the knot sat for generations demonstrates the psychological concept of Functional Fixation. Functional Fixation is what keeps us from finding creative or novel solutions to problems. It is the grumpy old man of cognitive biases, wearing black knee-high socks with white tennis shoes and saying things like “back in my day, we never did it that way.” Avoid it and you might just find new ways to reach your goals. Greatness, it seems, requires flexibility in the face of problems new and old.
Don't wait for history to happen...