Sometimes when we agree to complete a job at work, we don’t have good ideas of how we will accomplish the task. Or, we agree to do a favor for a friend and later we fear that we won’t have resources to meet this commitment. We may have committed because it’s difficult to say “no” to our boss. Or, with our friend, we may want to help, so we say, “yes” without forethought. Although we don’t have a clear vision of how we will meet our commitments, we start our work and trust that we will receive direction and resources we need.
An ancient Greek myth that describes a journey without certainty of direction or resources is the story of Perseus. In the tale of Perseus, a hero of mortal birth, he accepts a job from his King. Perseus wanted to please the King because the ruler planned to marry his mother. As a trophy for the King, Perseus agreed to travel to an unknown land to sever the head of a monster named Medusa. Perseus knew this job would be difficult because he didn’t know where to find Medusa and the creature was a Gorgon. A combination of human and beast, Gorgons have snakes for hair and body scales that can deflect a mortal’s weapon. One gaze at Medusa’s face turns anyone into stone.
Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom, responded. She gave Perseus her shield to block his view of Medusa. If Perseus gazed at the Gorgon’s reflection in the highly polished surface, he could sever Medusa’s head by viewing the reflection of the beast rather than observing the monster directly.
Further en route, Perseus met Hermes, god of guidance. Hermes offered Perseus his sword, a god’s blade that could cut through Medusa’s scales. Hermes accompanied Perseus for the remainder of his journey. Perseus trusted Hermes’ guidance and believed he would fulfill his commitment to the King.
After months of travel and adventures, Perseus’ trust was rewarded with three gifts that were necessary to complete his mission. The first was winged sandals to fly Perseus to Medusa’s island. The second gift was a magic cap to make Perseus invisible to mount surprise attack on the Gorgon. The third reward was a silver wallet to hide the severed head and transport it back to the King.
A metaphorical meaning of these gifts concerns the importance of starting our journey even when we don’t know where we are going and what we will need to complete our work. Once we begin, we continue despite setbacks. And, we trust that we will receive resources en route to meet our commitment.
The first gift of winged sandals represents how we may approach our work. With special footwear, Perseus could fly over the ocean to get to his task. In the case of the job for our boss, sandals could be a metaphor for how we may navigate around obstacles at work that prevent completion of our job.
The second gift of the magic cap asks us, “Who do we need to be to complete our assignments?” Perseus needed to be invisible to surprise Medusa. Regarding the favor for a friend, we may need to be attentive or supportive instead of invisible. Who we need to be, of course, depends on our circumstances.
A meaning of the third gift of the silver wallet may include what do we need to do to make the result of our job (our efforts) acceptable to others. Perseus covered the Gorgon’s head to protect the King from turning to stone. Our concern might be how to present our report to the boss. Or, we may consider how could we deliver the favor for our friend. Will we use a silver wallet, to protect our friend so that our work may be appreciated as a trophy rather than for the details of the job itself?
Here are some questions to consider when you make a commitment. Could you begin your journey if your destination is unclear? What monsters might you need to slay to reach your goals? Could you trust that the resources you will need will be provided along the way? What do you need to gain that trust?
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg is a coach, musician, photographer, and former business leader who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.