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Ancient Greek Legend

An ancient Greek legend tells of the Sphinx that terrorized the city of Thebes. This ferocious creature—part lion and part human—positioned himself on the main road leading in and out of the city. To anyone wishing to gain entrance to the city of Thebes, the Sphinx would pose a riddle. If they gave the correct answer, they would be allowed to pass. If not, the Sphinx would devour them. The riddle was simply this: “What walks on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon and on three legs in the evening?” For months, no traveler could successfully solve the riddle, and all those who attempted perished.

Enter the hero Oedipus. When he journeyed to Thebes and encountered the Sphinx, he boldly declared the answer. “Man,” he said. “in the early days of his life he crawls on all fours, at the apex of his youth and vigor he walks on two legs, and in the twilight of old age he must walk with the use of a stick.”

Man has always been a riddle, and the solution to the complexity of humanity has not been so easily solved as the Sphinx’s conundrum. Modern business experts observe, for example, that successful corporations must balance only three components: ideas, things, and people. But successfully dealing with people—whether employees or customers—will easily occupy 80 percent of your time, energy and resources.

Daniel Lockwood, Multnomah Message, September 1997