When I was about eight years old, I was given an Enid Blyton book by an aunt who didn’t understand. It was called

Mr. Galliano’s Circus

, and at a crucial point in the plot the heroine – Lotta, who rode zebras – was captured by the Bad Man and kept tied up in his caravan. As she lay struggling with the problem of how to get out of her predicament, she rememberewd a conversation she’d had with the escapologist: she’d asked him how he escaped when he was tied and bound and about to be buried alive or dropped into burning oil. This is what he said:

‘You test all the knots. There’s always one knot that’s less well-tied than the others, and that’s where you start.’

Years later, when I started my consultancy work, I recalled this saying. When we’re confronted with an apparently unfathomable knot of problems, start by tackling the easiest one. With any luck, it’ll happen as it does with a ball of string, and easing one knot will free up a few more. If you’re working in a team, your easy knot may be someone else’s difficult one, and vice-versa. Don’t shy away from an apparently impossible tangle – look for the easiest knot first.

Go well, stay well,

Valerie

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