top of page

The Falcon And The Branch

I want to begin by sharing the old story of The Falcon And The Branch with you, as I believe it'll be as inspiring and instructive for you as it was for me. Here goes..

The King was excited. He had recently received a gift of two peregrine falcons from the head of one of his vassal states. Though they were still quite young, they were beautiful specimens, having been groomed for keeping in his court specifically. The head falconer had been working with them for days, and it was on this morning that the King was set to see them in flight, as promised.

When the King emerged onto his balcony however, he saw that only one had taken to the sky. Odd. His falconer was one of the best in the land, his talents widely lauded by all who knew him. "I've never encountered a bird this stubborn before", the falconer complained. "And I've worked with them all! But this one...there's something off with this one". He went on to describe how the creature had ignored, refused and stubbornly lashed out at every attempt he and his assistants had made to work with it. "It just won't fly".

The King assured him that it would be fine, and that he had faith in his abilities. He told the trainer to take as long as he needed. After a week had passed however, the falconer was exasperated. "I just can't do it anymore. This bird is hopeless! And the aviary is falling apart. The other birds are being neglected. I'm sorry, but you'll have to bring someone else in".

Frustrated, the King had a shaman summoned from overseas, at considerable expense, who was said to have a particular way with animals. "I will work with the bird" he assured the King. "Do not worry, I speak their language". Yet the old sorcerer failed to get the falcon into the sky, even after days of trying. Every attempt to get the creature to leave its perch was met with the same treatment the trainer and his team had received. The bird refused to fly.

Finally, after nearly a month had passed, it occurred to the King to bring in a layman. Someone more familiar with the workings of the countryside. After a short period of deliberation, the layman decided to have a local farmer, chosen at random, brought in to work with the bird. It took less than an hour and the falcon was in flight.

Having not witnessed the feat himself, the King had the farmer brought before him. The man knelt before the great ruler with obvious humility and reverence, holding his cap against his chest, his head bowed. "I would like to know your secret" the King said. "Tell me, how did you, a humble cropsman, achieve what the most highly trained, intuitive and wise amongst us could not? How did you make the falcon fly?"

The farmer peered up from beneath his brow: "It was actually quite simple. I just cut the branch on which the bird was perched".

So the moral of the story is KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid!

How often have you unnecessarily complicated a situation by overthinking it? I know I have. I've also been known to overrule the first solution to come into my head as too simple and obvious. WTF? Too simple and obvious? Does it really matter, as long as it's a functional and effective solution? I've obviously caught myself on and no longer think like this. Now all I'm interested in is the solution, I don't care if it's pretty, clever or spectacular - just as long as it does the do.

This calls to mind another well known fact/urban myth. The Americans spent millions of dollars, over many years, trying to develop a pen that would function in zero gravity. Do you know what the Russians used? Pencils.

It doesn't need to be ingenious, fabulous or glamorous. Leave your ego at the door. Does the solution you've come up with do what it needs to do? Then do it. Don't over-engineer everything to its nth. Conserve your time and energy for the truly confounding puzzles in life, like your kids' algebra homework (just me?), or trying to work out how the man who drives the snow plough gets to work in the morning.

PS: Also, never judge books by covers or people by appearances. We're all good at different things and we are all equally valuable, so you'll be shortchanging yourself if you take the King's "just a humble cropsman" position to those with more modest circumstances than you. The humble cropsman had a degree of ability and clarity that had eluded the King, the falconer and the esteemed shaman. Only look down if you're helping someone else to get up.


bottom of page