An Ax, a Razor, a Scissor, and a Knife Taught Me Four Problem Solving Techniques

These analogies might help you too

Massùod Hemmat
Feb 20 · 6 min read
Image by Author via PhotoFunia

We use an ax (also written as ‘axe’) to cut the woods and trees. A knife is one of the oldest tools human beings use. Who doesn’t know when to use a razor? And the scissor? It’s one of those essential household items.

What if we shift their roles? Can one cut a tree with a knife? Can one trim the beard with a scissor? It may or may not be possible, but my goal is not to talk about this stuff. I use some analogies to portray some life lessons — especially problem-solving techniques.

In the following paragraphs, I discuss four analogies I made using these four tools. They might help you gain some new perspectives on problems vs. solution narratives.

1. The ‘Ax-and-Hair’ Analogy

Premise: You cannot cut your hair with an ax

An ax might be a hundred times sharper and powerful than the scissor, but it cannot help you cut the hair. It is identical to our view of the problems. One has to identify the problem and find a solution through the lens of the problem.

One has to know that all problems are not alike, and their solutions need different analysis dimensions. You’ve to understand the roots of the problem to know what works best to tackle it. An ax is a solution for the tree, and a scissor is a solution to the hair.

When you have a problem, remember this ‘ax-and-hair analogy.’ Is your solution like the ax is to the hair, or is it something that can help you cut your hair?

Example:

If you face any problem, you have to go to the right expert. You’ve to know the level and dimension of your problem. That’s because you need to find the right solutions. Sometimes when you go to the doctor, she or he might not know about your illness. If you tell your symptoms and help a bit, they’re going to distinguish it in the blink of an eye.

But if you suffer from stomach acid, they shouldn’t give you the medicine for curing depression. Maybe, you have got some anxiety, but that doesn’t mean you’re depressed. They have to check up your stomach. It would help if you didn’t tell them your symptoms.

Lesson #1: You’ve to know the nature and size of the problem. If you don’t, your solution might not be a good fit for the problem.

2. The ‘Scissor-and-Tree’ Analogy

Premise: You cannot cut a tree with a household scissor

It is not that the scissor is small and cannot cut the tree. It might take a few days. With the ax, it takes fewer efforts and less time to cut a tree.

The problem is that you are not searching for solutions at the scale of an ax. Your answers are at the scale of a scissor. Instead of looking outside the problem, you confine yourself within the box. You’re searching for big scissors and sharp ones.

You can only get rid of it when you forget about the scissor and buy an ax or a tool as powerful and sharp as an ax.

If your problem is bigger, you need to break the box and think outside it. See it through the ‘scissor-and-tree’ analogy to help you think outside the box.

Example:

You studied computer science in 2002. Now, things have changed much. You cannot master this field as it is like a giant tree and your 20 years old knowledge is like a scissor. To make use of it, you’ve to enrich your knowledge of modern technology. You cannot apply those skills now.

Lesson #2: Your solution might be present outside the problem. For this reason, you’ve to think both within and outside the box.

3. The ‘Knife-and-Beard’ Analogy

Premise: You cannot trim your beard with a knife.

The knife is for mono-cutting. That’s to say, if there is a rope, a banana, a carrot, or a loaf of bread, it is easy to cut it with a knife. But if one tries to use the knife for trimming the mustaches, beard, or body hair, it might be difficult and painful.

It might be possible, but they didn’t make the knife for trimming beards. In the same way, you’ve to avoid solutions that you know they’re uncomfortable.

Some people’s pieces of advice are like this. They might say, “this is sharp, and I cut so many things with it.” The moment you say, “I want to cut…,” they tell you about the knife. They don’t know that you’re trimming your beard — and it is impossible.

Some solutions seem to work, and others assure you too, but it is different when it comes to its real application. Make sure to see your solution through the lens of the ‘knife-and-beard analogy.’ If trimming the beard is your need or problem, you’ve to find a knife-free solution.

Example:

If you’re a renowned writer and do not get noticed, it is time to leave the pen and paper and make great use of technology to grow more. You cannot grow your fame the way Rumi or Shakespeare did with pen and paper.

Lesson #3: You’ve to equip yourself with the right tools to identify suitable solutions. Otherwise, solutions might be short-lived and also time-consuming.

4. The ‘Watermelon-and-Razor’ Analogy

Premise: You cannot cut a watermelon with a razor.

What would you do if someone tells you to cut the watermelon in two? Do you go for an ax or a razor? None. You might go for a knife.

You have no other choice but to buy a knife if you don’t have one. If you can’t afford to buy a knife, how would you be able to buy an ax or a razor — even if you’re that naive.

Of course, you can squash a watermelon into pieces, as the guy in TikTok might do it — with his head, or ax or anything. It’s okay for one or two times. That’s how people get lucky and find money one or two times, either through the lottery or through random luck. You know that you will have watermelons for a lifetime. For this reason, you’ve to have a knife.

Think of your problems as watermelons. Think of their solutions as knives. If you want to cut the watermelons, you have to have a knife. To avoid such issues, you need to think about the ‘watermelon-razor analogy.’

Example:

What would you do if you’re jobless? Do you go and party with friends, or sleep? None. You go and look for jobs. Using a razor or an ax is identical to partying with friends or sleeping days and nights — when you don’t have any job. You can only eat the watermelon when you cut it properly. In the same way, you can only earn money if you get up and do something.

Lesson #4: No matter how many solutions you find for the problem, you’ve to stick to the most efficient one. That’s because the more your solution is efficient, the more the problem becomes deficient.

Final Thoughts

One cannot cut the hair with an ax. The problem and solutions are from two different boxes and two different scenarios. You’ve to know the nature and size of the problem.

One cannot cut a tree with a scissor. It would help if you found the exact tools — you can’t do with the tools you only have. You’ve to think outside the box of the problem.

One cannot trim his beard with a knife. You have to look for convenient solutions. You’ve to equip yourself with the right tools to identify suitable solutions.

One cannot cut a watermelon with a razor. When you need a small solution, why should you look for bigger solutions irrelevant to the present scenario? You’ve to stick to the most efficient solution.

You can use these four analogies to find the right solutions for your emerging or old problems easily.

All in all, you’ve to know that:

Neither a sharp razor blade cuts the watermelon or tree, nor a strong ax can cut the hair. Neither a sharp knife can trim the beard, nor a mighty scissor can cut a tree.

Everything is essential according to its own unique attributes.

ILLUMINATION-Curated

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Massùod Hemmat

Written by

Writer (Thinker), S. Entrepreneur, CEO, Web/Tech Consultant, IR Expert, Polymath, & Global citizen — ”I write because it isn’t there.” LinkedIn.com/in/mhemmat

ILLUMINATION-Curated

Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

Massùod Hemmat

Written by

Writer (Thinker), S. Entrepreneur, CEO, Web/Tech Consultant, IR Expert, Polymath, & Global citizen — ”I write because it isn’t there.” LinkedIn.com/in/mhemmat

ILLUMINATION-Curated

Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

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