Choosing the Right [K]not

rope-1333314_640As a Boy Scout, you learn many useful things. From day one, you are taught a variety of skills from first aid, to cooking, to outdoor survival. With over 100 merit badges available, the amount of knowledge you can acquire is overwhelming. And a common thread through many of these pursuits is the use of knots.

Knot tying is a core scout skill. Whether it’s setting up a tent, or securing a load to your backpack, understanding how knots work (and what they’re used for) goes a long way toward making life easier and more productive. Of course knots are extremely helpful in non-scouting pursuits as well. Still, it’s important to understand which knots to use and which ones to avoid in a given scenario.

For instance, the square knot (or reef knot if you’re a sailor) is the most basic of knots. It’s used to tie the ends of a single rope together securely. It comes in handy when tying down a bundle of objects as it doesn’t slip.

The bowline is a knot that creates a fixed loop in one end of a rope. It is also easy to tie and can be used in a number of situations. One of the most common uses is in first aid recovery scenarios. The loop can be positioned under an injured party’s arms and used to pull them out of a hairy situation. The bowline is perfect for this application because the knot won’t slip and tighten uncomfortably around the person’s chest.

The taught-line hitch is slightly more complicated, but just as useful. This is an adjustable loop knot designed to maintain tension. When you need to set up an awning or tent, this knot can be slid up or down to increase or decrease tension on the rope in order to keep your structure upright and in place.

There are many other useful knots available to use, and any of them could be perfect under the right circumstances. However, there are two nots that I feel should be avoided at all costs. These nots provide little, if any, value and can actually be counterproductive if used. Unfortunately, most of us tend to fall back on them far too often.

The first of these is the “cannot.” I hear this one pretty often. Unfortunately, I also use this one quite bit myself. That’s because it’s such a readily available option. When a task appears difficult, it’s easy to say “I can’t do that.” When policies or procedures present obstacles, “I cannot” quickly slips past our lips. But relying on “cannot” represents a victim mentality. It means we’ve accepted a lack of control and initiative. That’s not the scouting way, and it shouldn’t be ours either.

The “cannot” is often used as a cover for the “will not.” We often rely on “will nots” when personal preferences and biases get in the way. You also see them used when pride and resentment are part of the mix. When I don’t like something or someone, the tendency is to let “will not” be my default response. When I feel like I’ve been wronged, left out, or ignored then “will nots” start dominating my approach to other people.

It’s easy to see how overuse of these two nots can be detrimental. There are times when saying “I cannot” or “I will not” is the right move; but if these become our go-to tools, we’re probably not very successful. Those who “cannot” or “will not,” typically “do not.”

There’s another not that I’d like to suggest using in place of “cannots” and “will nots.” It’s called the “why not.” Why not try something you don’t think you can accomplish? Why not look for a way around that obstacle? Why not prove the naysayers wrong? Why not risk looking foolish? Why not go for the win? Why not practice the “why not” today?