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A Knot of a Problem

December 28, 2006 11:11 PM 1
Total Posts: 35
Join Date: November 25, 2006
Rank: Executive
Post Date: January 1, 1970
Posts: 35
Location: United States

A Knot of a Problem

The galley had been sailing the seas of Greece for two weeks when a terrible storm blew up.

No one in living memory could remember having seen such a grim and foreboding sky-black as ebony, heavy as lead and threatening like the army of Erinyes, the God of Wind.

This was the period when navigating against the wind was unknown. One could only navigate with the wind astern.

The sails curved and inflated and were driven by the furious Wind God.

Armatios, the captain, tried to keep calm: he wanted to be everywhere at once: at the bow to motivate the sailors, at the foot of the mast to oversee the lowering of the heavy sail a little; but he had to remain at the stern to keep the vessel on course with the heavy rudder.

He shouted his orders but these were lost in the wind and tumbled into the rolling sea.

Suddenly the fury of the elements caused one of the ropes holding the sail to slip.

"Captain! captain! the sail has come adrift, what shall we do? We will be crushed on the submerged reefs if we can't get back on course... !"

Armatios, standing as always at the helm, shouted:

"I cannot leave the steering, one of you must grab the rope and tie it securely so that it cannot get loose again. Whoever can secure the rope and steady the vessel will be rewarded".

The sailors looked at each other and one of them said: "Let me do it, I know the triple bowline knot by heart".

He caught the rope and started to tie the knot but his efforts were interrupted by a strong gust of wind and he was forced to let it go.

The ship ran dangerously close to the rocks.

A second sailor caught the madly flailing rope and said;

"My turn! I know better than all of you how to do the quadruple bowline knot!" But the wind snatched the rope from his careless hands when he was about to tie the fourth knot... time was getting very short - the galley was getting nearer and nearer to the rocks.

Then a third sailor caught hold of the rope.

He was confident that he could secure the rope with a round turn and two half itches. But again failure! Before the second half hitch was tied a stronger wave than all the others, submerged the deck and knocked the sailors down.

The galley was hardly a cable length away from the shore bristling with rocks.

It was then that Armatios, exasperated by the incompetence and boasting of his crew, handed over the steering to another sailor and went to tackle the rope himself. In a trice he had knotted the rope and brought the galley to an even keel, which stabilised the vessel in spite of the furious weather.

The courage and strength of the captain made the sailors silent and over the din of the wind and the waves, Armatios shouted these words:

"You incompetent people! Do you know why I am your captain? Not because I am stronger or cleverer! I do not know more knotting techniques than you, but I do know which knot is the most suitable in a certain situation.

I did not ask you to demonstrate your expertise, I simply asked that one of you tie a strong knot."

Though the words of Armatios were quite brutal, they were none the less true.

In the course of life, in a professional situation, each time you are asked to solve a problem swiftly and competently, the person making this request is not interested in a demonstration of your expertise.

He is interested in the application of this expertise to identify and to find a solution to his problem.

"Experience is a candle which lightens the person who carries it." Confucius