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The First Piece of the Puzzle

As I sat on the floor doing a jigsaw puzzle with Noah yesterday, he said something that made me pause and think for a moment. After separating the edge pieces from the interior pieces, he found a corner piece and placed it into the corner of the wooden box-top where the puzzle would be built. It was the first piece he added, and as he laid it down he emphatically stated “this puzzle is looking good, huh Dad.”

At first I laughed. It sounded silly to think that the puzzle was looking good when only that single piece was staring back at us. I told him it was looking good and then I got to thinking about how profound his statement was. “This puzzle is looking good, huh Dad.”

That puzzle piece was indeed part of the puzzle, even if the rest of the picture wasn’t easily seen or even close to intact. That piece of the puzzle was just as much a piece of the puzzle as any other piece. That piece of the puzzle had just as much weight and importance to the finished product as all the others. That piece was crucial.

And I got to thinking. Isn’t that how life is? We have these challenges, these projects, and these hurdles that we are constantly deciding to tackle and take on. Some are as easy as putting together 25 piece puzzles where the outlines are engraved for you, and others are more like 10,000 piece puzzles.

And, just like with the jigsaw puzzle, every problem or challenge we face will need to be overcome or conquered, and every time we start, we do so by laying down that single piece of the puzzle.

When we’re first starting, there’s an entire box of pieces to sort through. Each piece is shaped and cut differently. Any piece we choose as our starting piece will lead us down an entirely different path of completing our puzzle than any other piece will. And, any piece we start with is as much a crucial part of that final work of art as any other piece. Including the final piece.

How often do we look at that one piece we’ve laid on the table, and feel like it was insignificant or didn’t matter? How often do we throw it back in the box and dig around for another piece to start?

How often do we look at that first piece and feel like we’ve actually gotten closer to our ultimate goal? Closer to completing our task? Closer to finishing the puzzle? If you’re like me, not very often.

I tend to look at the first piece and if I can’t immediately see the end of the process and the beauty of the finished product, I toss it back and look for another. Sometimes I throw a lot of pieces back before I finally buckle down and move forward with it.

The truth is, it really doesn’t matter what piece you start with when building a puzzle. You can reach into the box with your eyes closed, pull out a completely random piece, place it on the table, and start building. You can do it because every piece of the puzzle matters, every piece eventually connects, and in the end… the finished product will be exactly what it should be. Every single time.

Yet so often we get stuck on doing things certain ways. We get stuck doing things the way we know they need to be done. We get stuck doing things the way our parents, our family members, or our friends have always told us we need to do them. We lay the corners, we lay the edges, and then we start building toward the middle. Yet, too often we fail; we grow bored; we doubt the progress we’ve made; and we backtrack.

I wonder how much more success we’d all find in so many areas of life if instead of building our puzzles methodically, and instead of forgetting that every piece really is a beautiful and individual piece of a larger going-to-eventually-connect puzzle, we reached into the box of life, pulled out a random piece, and just… started.

It would be interesting, for sure. It would go against what my brain often feels is right or will work, for double sure. But it would also… work. And it might be a lot more fun getting there. Just sayin’.

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

 PS. What do you think? Are there any areas of life that you could apply this to? I purposefully didn’t think of the many scenarios I could apply it to because I wanted to leave the discussion open to anything, any scenario, any flavor. I’d love your comments today.

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61 comments
Alana
Alana

this one's really helpful to me TODAY.  Thank you, glad I dropped by.

Erica Sumner
Erica Sumner

I really needed that quote today... thank you

Erica Sumner
Erica Sumner

What a wonderful blog post, Dan. This is now my favorite :)

Diane Phillips Thurston
Diane Phillips Thurston

Wow, thanks! I've got a new "life puzzle" and have been struggling to find all the edge pieces instead of enjoying each piece as it comes. :)

AnJo Beckers
AnJo Beckers

My mom should read this, because according to her I do this life thing all wrong...

Adrian Resa Jones
Adrian Resa Jones

Henry Ford, the author of vast amounts of anti-Semitic screeds? That Henry Ford?

Brenda Hardie
Brenda Hardie

Thank you for this...I'm at a place in my life where I feel like I'm "starting a new puzzle" so am dealing with the decisions of going through the steps methodically or "winging it"..trying something new and see where it leads. Times are tough right now though so perhaps a conservative approach is necessary....time will tell I guess.

Robyn Moore
Robyn Moore

This actually came at a good time - my daughter just moved out, and I'm looking at the "next stage of my life" puzzle. Picking a piece and going with it seems like a more productive path than agonizing over picking just the right piece.

Megan Vardiman
Megan Vardiman

As a new parent I feel this is absolutely correct. Everyone tells you all these things you have to do to build this being but what's the correct first step? Is it breastfeeding? Tummy time? My Baby Can Read? So many people overlook the simplest but most profound first step is just loving them and every little tiny piece of them :-)

Kristine Alene
Kristine Alene

thank you so much for this post...I've been struggling with the many pieces that are my life right now and this helps give me a place to start <3

Mary
Mary

I will be printing this and sharing with my parents during this school year!

Amy
Amy

This applied to me one day in 2010, when I finally said "I'm going to grad school". I didn't know how long it would take, that day I didn't even know where I would go, I didn't see any end result yet, but I got going. Yes, the pieces fit together rather methodically, as they do when you sign up for something like that, but I just wanted to GO. It is something I had been wanting to do for years, but was waiting for all of the "edge pieces"....when the kids are older, when we have more money, when we have ___________. It was time to just sign up and go. Now, nearly 18 months later, I have 7 weeks to go and I will have a Master's degree. I am so thrilled that I can see the end. The puzzle has not been easy to complete, but it has been worth it.

Diane via SDL's Facebook Page
Diane via SDL's Facebook Page

Wow, thanks! I've got a new "life puzzle" and have been struggling to find all the edge pieces instead of enjoying each piece as it comes. :)

Erin
Erin

Excellent analogy for work. Of any sort. The end result is the goal. The rest is just steps. The importance of the first step is to take it. Just start. The rest will fall into place. (even if my boss usually doesn't think it will unless I do it his way). :) Noah is a prodigy to be sure. I (along with many others it seems) needed to read this today. Thank you.

Desirée
Desirée

Thanks for that =) I just started this semester of college and I'm already feeling the stress of all the work I've got to do. For me, college is that first piece of my puzzle, or at least one of the first pieces. And as difficult as it's been and will be to go to college while raising my daughter, looking for a house, and looking for a job, this one part of my life is going pretty well.

Rhonda
Rhonda

This is SUCH a great metaphor, and way to go Noah for that just out of the gate positivity!
The new page looks great!

Mowriting
Mowriting

LOVE the new look of your blog! :)

As for todays topic ... Great way to look at things! As a parent of a child with special needs, I often find myself saying this exact thing as a kind of matra. My daughter often does things in her own way and on her own time schedule. Often times, it does not jive with what I had in mind. But, it does always get to the correct end result. I need to be more tolerant of anyone who chooses to do the puzzle differently!

Leanne
Leanne

Dan that brought me to tears, so beautifully written. So appropriate in my life right now... and yes it can be applied in every aspect of my life. I shall store it in my memory and apply it when my jigsaw pieces seem insignificant.

Thank you! :o)

Jenn
Jenn

So stunningly true. Great analogy for why our lives get so messy--we give up on one piece, throw it back, and then wonder why we can't make any progress. In my twenties I was psychiatrically hospitalized for a total of eleven months over 2 1/2 years. I would do puzzles in my room, and more than one nurse/counselor made the analogy of my life being a puzzle and my frustration at not being able to see what the end result would be.
Life is an interesting puzzle--and I agree with you that if we all looked at our circumstances, events, challenges, etc., in light of the bigger picture of Life, there'd be a lot less negativity and despair.
Great post. Thanks for helping me remember.

Mickie
Mickie

Just wondering how to tactfully forward this to a control freak I know who can't seem to accept the fact that her way is not the only correct way to do things. There are many ways to get to successful completion of almost every task at hand, so don't be so stubborn and egotistical that you think your way is the only way.

Robyn via SDL's Facebook Page
Robyn via SDL's Facebook Page

This actually came at a good time - my daughter just moved out, and I'm looking at the "next stage of my life" puzzle. Picking a piece and going with it seems like a more productive path than agonizing over picking just the right piece.

Lupe
Lupe

Life can be compared to puzzles. But it's the person's take on puzzles that really make a difference. I love putting puzzles together. Even doing other kinds of puzzles whether they are riddles, word puzzles, etc. I find the challenges fun and stimulating. I hate the boring and mundane parts of life.
But some people can't stand puzzles. They can't stand the mental energy it takes to come out ahead when problems come our way.
I would take puzzles over, let's say TV, any day.

Brenda via SDL's Facebook Page
Brenda via SDL's Facebook Page

Thank you for this...I'm at a place in my life where I feel like I'm "starting a new puzzle" so am dealing with the decisions of going through the steps methodically or "winging it"..trying something new and see where it leads. Times are tough right now though so perhaps a conservative approach is necessary....time will tell I guess.

John
John

I read this and instantly wanted to share it with a few people I know that could possibly benefit from reading it right now......am I just blind or did the easy 'share on Facebook' button go away?

Kimberly
Kimberly

I really enjoyed this post. I sometimes think it is very hard for people to "think outside the box." Sometime in my mid-twenties I found great freedom in finding out that there IS more than one "right" way and that people and situations are so much greater for the variety.

I would have to say this gets my vote as one of your top ten!

Kristine via SDL's Facebook Page
Kristine via SDL's Facebook Page

thank you so much for this post...I've been struggling with the many pieces that are my life right now and this helps give me a place to start

Megan via SDL's Facebook Page
Megan via SDL's Facebook Page

As a new parent I feel this is absolutely correct. Everyone tells you all these things you have to do to build this being but what's the correct first step? Is it breastfeeding? Tummy time? My Baby Can Read? So many people overlook the simplest but most profound first step is just loving them and every little tiny piece of them :-)

Dan Pearce
Dan Pearce

Thanks Michelle! It's got a little tweaking to do but I'm *almost* there!

Dan Pearce
Dan Pearce

Hey John, they'll be back up soon. I have been having some issues during the setup of this blog.

John
John

Awesome! I also notice that it takes longer to load the pages...but that could be the fact that as a single dad trying to scrape by on student loans for now, all I can afford is Bridgemaxx internet which is absolutely horrible service!

John
John

Sweet. Keep up the good work!

Dan Pearce
Dan Pearce

Haha. Yeah, that'll speed up in the next couple of days. I'm moving to a VPS server. This shared server is SLOW. :)