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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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Dan Pearce is an American born writer, photographer, and artist. His books include "The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man" and "The Real Dad Rules." He is best known for his blog (and supporting Facebook page) "Single Dad Laughing," with 2 million followers as of 2018.