Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Missing Piece - How to Solve a Puzzle

Terry Walsh stood at the easel at the center of the hallway (which served as a makeshift meeting room). On the easel sat a large blank sheet of crisp white paper. 18 pairs of captivated, curious eyes stared at the Hockey Master, Walsh, waiting for him to reveal yet another secret, magical, and simple key to sporting success.

Terry paused, in the dramatic way of a stage performer, inhaling deeply – his lips curling together in confirmation of the potency of the information he was about to disclose. He exhaled, and just as we thought that he was about to reveal his magical wisdom, he held the silence a moment longer.

We held our breaths, daring not to break the growing suspense of the silence. Then, Terry turned his back from us, moved his pen to the paper, and wrote one word boldly across the paper’s face.

Stepping back from the easel, Terry whispered his magical word . . . CONFIDENCE.

A shiver rushed down my spine. This was the missing piece.

The missing piece to puzzle started long ago.

Here’s the lesson, in the form of an analogy.

Imagine our journey as a process of building a puzzle. How does the puzzle-building process begin? When does it begin?

It starts in the store, before you even purchase the puzzle, before you open the box, before you see the individual pieces. It starts with image of what you want to achieve – the final construct. It starts with the inspiration derived from the vision of the achievement.

It is only once you have been motivated by this vision that you decide to purchase the puzzle. So you check out of Target, go home and you open the box with your mind wrapped around the concept of where you intend to go. And when you open the lid, abandoning the image of the achievement, you see one thousand tiny, unconnected, individual, intimidating puzzle pieces.

If you are anything like me, you ask yourself, where do I even begin? You feel overwhelmed by the intricacy of the puzzle, of the minute details that depend on you to find their place.

Its moments like these, when I put the lid back on the box, glance at image, smile and just shake the box. Making a little music, I dance to the jingle of unconnected pieces, and embrace the process that stands before me.

With this relaxed relief and regained composure, I develop my plan. Step number one: sort the pieces based on simple distinguishing characteristics – color, shape etc. This step is essential to providing me a structural, compartmentalized view of the puzzle – a way of accomplishing the task section by section; separating the big task into a bunch of small manageable tasks.

Next, I chose to focus on one section of the puzzle. Usually I decide based on which part I feel is most essential, and easiest to begin with. I decide to start simple, build a foundation from which further growth can occur. This decision, I hope will give me a framework for progress.

Slowly, but surely, the sections begin to evolve, until eventually I see how the different sections will fit together. The picture, little by little, detail by detail, begins to form.

At this moment in puzzle building, I usually get really, really excited. I can see the finish the line. My adrenaline starts to rush, and I am ready to give it a final heave and sprint to the end.

So I decide to truck forward with such ambitious intensity and enthusiastic vigor that I lose a bit of my perspective. The finish line isn’t as close as I thought. And this is when adversity strikes. My mind says, “We are in the homestretch, the puzzle is nearly complete, all should be easy smooth puzzling at this point.”

Reality tells me otherwise. I cannot find the proper fit for a few silly pieces - the explicative pieces that would complete the puzzle.

So the impatient competitor in me gets frustrated. She wants to throw in the towel; she wants to give up, call the task impossible, she wants to quit.

But the voice of the resolute, wise achiever tames the driven competitor. Be patient. Stay strong. Persist. Persist. Persist.

And so the achiever takes a step away. She breathes. She smiles. She envisions herself toiling with her task, persisting through the adversity, and ultimately achieving her mission. She allows her creativity and passion to flow back to her. She rests; she stops forcing the issue. She relents, and decides to trust herself, and her abilities.

In this relaxed, poised state she discovers a new openness in her mind, a new dimension of her abilities, a new limit to her mental capacity. She feels as though she has expanded toward a new boundary of potential, expanding her achievement threshold.

Through this growth, she discovers a peculiar sense of self-belief – a belief and trust in her abilities to overcome adversity and to accomplish her task.

She seizes the empowerment of the lessons of her journey. Enlightenment descends upon her, and intuitively she knows how to complete the puzzle. She finds the solution sitting inside her mind. She feels it growing inside her soul, pulsing inside her heart.

She finds the fit of the final piece. She finds her CONFIDENCE.

So, she completes the puzzle. She admires the achievement, frames it, and hangs it on the wall to collect dust.

Then, she goes back to Target to get inspired again.

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