Financial lessons can often be found in the most peculiar of places. Often, we expect them to come from talking heads - advisors, influencers, and journalists - but the most important nuggets of wisdom may lie right in front of you.
This was the case for me this past weekend. As my wife and I try to spend time together when our 8 month old daughter sleeps. This week’s activity was to complete a puzzle. Ashamedly, I must admit that when she mentioned completing a puzzle, I was only half as excited as I normally am for the activity of the week which selection we typically rotate between the two of us.
Puzzles, as they were introduced to me, were always something to keep me occupied, quietly in one place, in school or daycare. Boring! At that age, I’d rather be playing in the mud and getting my hands dirty. Now, I’d rather be cuddled up, unapologetically binge-watching our favorite show. Yet, on that night, I found myself closing my mouth, throwing away the key and in front of a 300 piece puzzle.
We tackled the puzzle together, her on the left and I on the right. We swapped pieces, reached across each other, talked strategy aloud and laughed along the way. In many moments, we found ourselves lost in the complexity of each piece - not speaking to each other - giving our undivided attention to the curves and the shapes that we mismatched until we found the right fit.
I loved every moment and it did not take long for me to correct my former perspective on puzzles and to take a few lessons as we tried to connect all 300 pieces. Here are the 7 lessons that I learned from completing a puzzle:
A big help for me was being able to refer to the details of the puzzle on the box. It gave me an idea of what the puzzle should look like and the image allowed me to look at the pieces in front of me and find matches. I immediately began to group pieces with similar details such as color, shape and edges together and tried to fit them with one another.
You see, no one can help you bring your goals to life if you don’t have an idea - even scantly - of what those goals look like. Only then, after having an idea of what you want to accomplish, can a professional help you with the pieces in front of you. Better stated, only then can you help yourself with the pieces that you have in front of you.
I urge you to ponder on this question: what does the picture of your ideal life look like?
When you open up the puzzle box and dump all of the pieces on the table, you have what you see: pieces. There is no order, no directions or instructional manual.
What I hear often is that people defer starting until they feel like they have all of the pieces. Often, that feeling never arrives. The best place to start is where you are, and who you are in this present moment is good enough to connect the pieces that you have.
All it takes is a few connecting pieces to build momentum, and when you have momentum only you can get in your way.
It took us three days to finish the puzzle (before you make your attempt to crack your jokes - which I welcome - we have an infant daughter. Sleep matters.) If I would have set out to do this by myself, I’m certain that it would have taken longer.
It helped to have my wife alongside me to share energy, swap pieces and talk through the vision of the puzzle that we saw on the box.
Who’s on your team? Is it a spouse? Significant other or friend? Is it a professional that you trust? Is it all of the above? Whoever it is, having a team is imperative to your success. As the old African proverb states, “alone we can go fast, but together we go far.”
As I mentioned above, it took us three nights to finish this puzzle. I could write something clever here, but I won’t. Rest is a non-negotiable when trying to make your life’s puzzle pieces come together.
Make sure that you are giving yourself enough rest to come back to your tasks with fresh eyes.
You have to expect challenges as you tinker with the pieces in front of you. At one point, our dog had a healthy chew session with a couple of pieces that found their way on the floor. Another instance found one of the last three pieces hidden under a binder on the table next to us.
It goes without saying that things will happen. It’s okay. With your team, rest, and patience you can always figure out the causes for disruption, opportunities and solutions to make your picture come to life.
I’ve grown far more patient as I’ve gotten older. Yet, it is completely normal to want something so badly that you want it now. It’s important to remind yourself that anything good takes time and if you give it time it can be great.
We often assign negative connotations to the “end” of things. In this context, the end doesn’t have to mean death or something catastrophic. The end is simply when a goal is realized and you find yourself ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor, or when you are preparing to shift into a new adventure.
The “end” gives you restored confidence in your capabilities, finishing something can positively impact your identity and give you solace in the journey to come.
I hope you enjoyed some of the financial lessons that I learned from this routine date night. I look forward to being on your team as you set out to make your life’s puzzle pieces come together.
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