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One Simple Secret to Solving Difficult Problems

It was the year 1316. In Delhi, a Hindu conman pretending to be a Muslim holy man had gained such favor with the sultan that he was appointed at a senior rank in the court. By the year 1320 he had conspired to turn the courtiers against the sultan. He proceeded to kill the sultan before declaring himself the new ruler of Delhi. He captured the sultan's wife, mother and sister and distributed them among his Hindu henchmen who had accepted him as king. He then had coins minted in his title of Nasiruddin Khusraw Khan. Although he continued to pretend to be a Muslim, he replaced Muslim state officials with his co-religionist hindus.

As the months wore on, the people of Delhi longed for deliverance. They sent word to several governors in the provinces to come to their aid but those governors couldn't do much. Delhi was built to be impenetrable and Khusraw controlled the treasury and the capital's armed forces. According to some reports he felt so strong that he publicly declared his Hinduism while ruling as the sultan of Delhi.

Coins minted by Khusraw Khan in his own name

Let’s say your boss asked you to solve a very difficult problem. It is so big and so complex that that no one in the company had been able to solve it for the previous 5 years. What will go through your mind as you butt your head against this wall? In fact, what would you do if you were an official in the Delhi Sultanate? Would you try to solve this problem or be the docile yes-man who cares more for job stability than getting the job done?

Ghazi Malik was the governor at Dipalpur (close to Okara in modern-day Pakistan) a small-time province with limited military resources. He heeded the call of the nobles and led his small force to Delhi. Despite his bravery the odds were stacked against him (Ten to 1, he was going to lose his head). However, as history demonstrated, Ghazi Malik had a positive way of thinking. He believed that the winner in any conflicts is the one who persists.

Ghazi tried repeatedly to penetrate Delhi’s defenses. With depleting supplies and hard-pressed forces, he eventually got through in September 1320. Khusraw’s guards were pushed all the way to the Hauz-e-Khas complex where they finally gave in. "Khusraw Khan" was captured and executed.

Anyone trying to solve a problem will face the natural order to things. Their resolve will be tested and they will only succeed if they overcome. Here is proof from our own time:

  • Of the 28 attempts NASA made to send rockets into space, 20 were failures. Their eventual success is an historical feat.

  • Dr. Seuss became a phenomenon in children’s literacy. Did you know that his first book was rejected by 27 publishers before the 28th publisher accepted it?

  • Henry Ford’s early businesses failed and left him broke 5 times before he founded Ford Motor Company.

  • Thomas Edison made 1,000 attempts to refine the light bulb until he got it right.

In the absence of any other ruler, the emirs of Delhi gave their allegiance to Ghazi Malik. He then sat on the throne of Delhi as the ruler Ghiyathuddin Tughlaq. This was the founder of the famous Tughlaq dynasty.

Remains of the Tughlaqabad Fort built by Ghazi Malik

Dripping water can carve a stone, if it drips persistently. The way you think about difficult problems determines how you react to them. When you are asked to solve a problem, remember:

  1. Any problem can be solved with persistent effort

  2. Difficult challenges are necessary companions on the road to success

  3. Beware of holy men!

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