My mom opened up the box and dumped 1000 pieces out onto the table. We spread out the pieces, and sorted by color and shape. Soon, we had several piles: frame pieces, blue, fence pieces, face pieces, sidewalk, grass.
All three of my daughters circled the table. Soon, our ten hands got tangled on the table, reaching across the table to grab the pieces we needed.
At the start, Maggie, 6, seemed to be able to find and fit pieces together easily. While I sat sifting, she saw parts of the puzzle come together.
We’re not a puzzle family; this is the first time I remember working on a big puzzle with my mother. (My girls have done puzzles growing up, but none this complex or difficult.)
Over the ten days of my visit to my mom’s lake house, we returned to the puzzle in fits and starts. The girls lost interest and had to be bribed back to the table.
One night, fueled by momentum of seeing parts of the whole come together, my mom and I, who are early birds and early to bed, stayed up until 11:30, finishing the frame and finally believing that we could eventually see the whole puzzle come together.
We created a system of trial and error and focused on one section of the puzzle at a time. We persisted. We finished!
If I could work my business like a puzzle, I would celebrate early wins. I would celebrate every win. Because our puzzle was so difficult, my mom and I did that: we called out every time we saw another piece fit into place.
If I could work my business like a puzzle, I would keep looking at the big picture. The box cover served as an important guide, holding clues to help us see how all the smaller bits fit into the whole. After staring at a pile of blue pieces, I could see variations. Whenever I felt stuck, I would take another peek at the picture to look for anything that would help differentiate the sections of the puzzle.
If I could work my business like a puzzle, I would use a deadline for motivation. I’m headed home tomorrow. Determined to finish the puzzle, I sat down at the table last night right after dinner, tackling the most difficult (and only remaining) section: the blue water of the pool. With my home-going as a hard stop, I rallied my family to join me in working together to finish.
If I could work my business like a puzzle, I would take breaks and step away. I would cultivate patience.
If I could work my business like a puzzle, I would remind myself that momentum motivates and look for opportunities to use momentum to motivate myself and others.
If I could work my business like a puzzle, I would not quit when I face a setback. When we were about two-thirds done with the puzzle, we finished a large section or red and yellow, discovering one piece missing. We searched the house, dug through a vacuum cleaner bag, and came up empty. While we could have quit, we did not allow that one missing piece to derail the rest of our effort.
If I could work my business like a puzzle, I would persist. I would keep trying, one piece at a time, looking at issues this way and that until landing on the perfect fit.
If I could work my business like a puzzle, I would involve others at the finish. When we had about 10 pieces remaining in the puzzle, I called my daughters back to the table. Cami jumped in to help. At first, I felt irritated — her arms blocked my view. And then I realized: my hard work set her up for success. If I would get out of the way and step back, she could shine. Far better to let someone else place that last piece of the puzzle. Far better to let someone else triumph.
If I could work my business like a puzzle, I would concentrate on the 999 pieces that came together, not the one we never found.