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Some Kidding Aside – Option X Thinking

Option X: the answer that’s not on the test paper. The answer that isn’t obvious.

One of history’s most prominent examples of Option X thinking is found in the legend of the Gordian Knot. The legend goes that an oracle in ancient Phrygia foretold that whoever was able to untie a certain intricate knot tied by Gordius, their king, would be their new ruler.

gordian-knot-Seven Powers

Years and years went by as many people tried untying the knot, but all were unsuccessful until about a hundred years later when Alexander the Great visited the city. Alexander was in dire need of an omen to validate his mission to conquer the known world. At the ripe old age of 23, he was yet undefeated militarily, but neither had he scored any decisive victory at that point in his career.

In one version of the legend, Alexander studies the knot as a curious group of spectators forms. Becoming frustrated in his attempts, Alexander is said to have asked, “Does it matter how I do it?”. Receiving no definitive answer, Alexander then pulls his sword and cuts through the knot.

A lot of speculation surrounds the legend. Some think that Alexander deduced that the puzzle was unsolvable—that the ends of the rope had been spliced together—so that untying it was an impossibility. Some think he didn’t cut the rope at all but instead pulled its anchor pins out revealing the loose ends of the rope. But nobody argues against the decisive creativity with which he solved the problem.

Personally, I think he found success because he was more focused on solving his problem than he was on solving a rope puzzle. His problem was figuring out how to conquer the known world; therefore the rope puzzle was merely a minor obstacle in the path of his objective. He was clear in his Power of Vision. He knew what he wanted and where he wanted to go. Then, he exercised his Power of Mind, finding a way to navigate around the roadblock of omen fulfillment.

Excerpted from The Seven Powers of Success; Unlock Your Strengths, Unleash Your Dreams.  © 2013 Charles Marshall

Charles Marshall is a nationally known humorous motivational speaker and author. Visit his Web site at or contact him via e-mail at

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