The Labours of Hercules: New Light on an Old Myth

You know the story – Hercules was set twelve supposedly impossible tasks, with the reward of immortality if he achieved them.

The fifth was to clean the stables of King Augeas. These contained 30,000 cattle and had not been cleaned for 30 years, yet Hercules had 24 hours. Hercules did it, by diverting two rivers through the stables and washing all the dung away.

A recently discovered manuscript, however, adds an interesting detail. While Hercules was working in the rivers, building the dams and cutting the channels that would enable him to achieve his impossible task, he was regularly distracted by passers-by making comments like “Hey Hercules, why are you wasting time in the river? You only have 24 hours – you need to be in those stables shovelling shit.”

OK, I made that last bit up,  but you see the  point. My little fiction illustrates one of the key challenges of the truly creative person. If you want exceptional results you need to use unusual means, and you will need to become good at ignoring people who are convinced that you are doing it “wrong.”  You will also, if you work in any sort of organisation, need to carve out a space which enables you to do apparently “crazy” things in pursuit of the supposedly impossible. Otherwise, you will just spend your days shovelling shit to no avail.

And if you are the boss of a Hercules, you need to give them that space. Interfere with them and you won’t enjoy the fruits of their brilliance. In fact, you won’t probably have them around for that long.