Sometimes inspiration for writing comes at the oddest times. As we were putting together a puzzle as a family for the holidays, I was struck with how much this was a powerful metaphor for life, leadership, and education. Forrest Gump so famously said, “Life is like a box of choc-o-lates” but I think he had it wrong. I think life is like a box of puz-zles pie-ces. (you can fill in the Forrest Gump accent on your own, don’t pretend like you weren’t already)
All of those pieces! Whoa, overwhelming! They all somehow appear so similar and yet so different at the same time. Where do we even begin? Think how important it is to look at the box to see the image you are recreating. Consider how important that this vision of the end result is. Sure, theoretically you could make the puzzle without it, but why would you?
Find the side pieces and start lining them up to provide a larger context for the rest of the pieces. If you have trouble beginning a puzzle, it’s most likely because you didn’t give yourself the structure or framework needed to complete it.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes there are certain images in the puzzle that seem to fall together quickly yet other images in the puzzle don’t make sense until the end? Consider that every little image in the puzzle is a small win. Put enough of those small wins together and “boom!” the puzzle is done. Consider the importance of these types of small wins in your puzzle and the need for all of the group to feel that success early on as motivation to keep pushing through to the end.
There are some pieces in the puzzle that I swear go in a specific, exact spot, but I…can’t…figure…out…where…ugh! Sometimes that’s how puzzles work. You have an idea of how things go together, but for some reason or another, the pieces don’t fall in place yet. Patience and determination will help you work through that section of the puzzle by finding the other pieces first.
If you look closely, you’ll see that this one piece is a little chewed up. No matter how hard you try to make the puzzle look perfect, all it takes is a distraction to come by and mess up something you are working on. (In this case, it was our new puppy!) Don’t fret! Life is messy. Keep going and by the end you will barely notice that mess.
It’s ok to ask for help and work together. How many times have you sat there looking at the puzzle in confusion and then someone walks in the room, picks up the piece right in front of you, and then plops it right in the exact spot as if it were so easy? A different perspective is what you may need at times to find how the pieces fit together.
If you keep picking up the pieces, checking to see if they fit, and finding just one at a time, eventually you will complete the puzzle! Don’t be afraid to fail, but have the confidence that if you keep at it, you will finish the puzzle to completion no matter how difficult! One piece at a time!
Small caveat – If it’s one of those insane 3-D puzzles, it’s ok to give up. They’re impossible to build anyways! Sometimes it’s ok to quit while you’re ahead!