What can a man with a knife hand teach us about business? Get ready for the weirdest professional post you’ll read all week.


Allow me to give some background info: In the late 20th, archaeologists found an unusual skeleton in Northern Italy from the 6th-8th centuries AD. It appeared to show a man who had a knife-hand prosthesis.


I first heard of this story on the Ridiculous History podcast. They nicknamed this man “ol’ knife-hand.” I think that’s an appropriate moniker.


As I read this story, I realized there are some tips ol’ knife-hand could provide business leaders in the 21st century. Here’s what I came up with.


1. Don’t quit because of a loss


In a report discussing the finding of ol’ knife-hand, researchers determined blunt force trauma caused the amputation.


How his hand was removed is up for debate: It could have been the result of a battle, a punishment, or a disease that required amputation.


Regardless, this man suffered a serious loss. But instead of letting that stop him, he created a prosthetic out of leather and metal and kept going about his life.


As business owners, we’re going to have setbacks. A client may leave you unexpectedly. An employee may quit in the middle of a project. Or you may find that no one wants to buy a product you just launched. But, as ol’ knife-hand shows us, you’re only out for the count if you give up.


2. Find the opportunities in the losses


Losing a hand wasn’t a great thing for ol’ knife-hand. But he was able to turn that stump into something useful. Because sometimes losses can be opportunities.


If you lose a client, an employee quits, or a product bombs, what are the lessons you could learn from that experience? I won’t bore you with trite explanations of how you could find the silver lining in the darkest of storms. You get the idea.


When life hands you a stump, make a knife-hand!


3. Be willing to adjust your processes


The man appears to have tightened the leather strap around the buckle of the prosthesis using his teeth. And whether he was unable or unwilling to change this tightening process, he stuck with it—so much to the point that it wore down his teeth and infected his jaw.


This one’s more of a warning not to be like ol’ knife-hand.


If you have processes that are doing more harm than good (such as putting unneeded stress on you or your team), be willing to change. Your company will be better off in the long run.


4. Surround yourself with good people


The researchers suggest that ol’ knife-hand likely had help from his community to create this bio-mechanical device.


Like this man, we need help from the folks around us. So, listen to your team if you have one. And if you have a spouse, be sure to listen to them. They may not know your business, but they know you. And they can offer a lot of wisdom that you can apply to your work.


5. Be willing to embrace unconventional ideas


The researchers speculate that ol’ knife-hand had the prosthesis to protect his stump. His solution was unconventional, but he appears to have embraced it.


Is there an idea that you wanted to try, but you were afraid to do so because it seemed a little too unconventional? It may be worth reconsidering why you put that idea aside in the first place. Sometimes the strangest-sounding ideas are the ones people will be discussing centuries later.

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