Success Is Like a Jigsaw Puzzle

I have never had the patience to do jigsaw puzzles. Why would you spend hours hunched over a table sticking together hundreds of tiny pieces in a tedious trial and error process only to recreate a picture that is already right there on the front of the box? To me, the entire endeavour has always seemed utterly pointless — until now.

You see, as a 22-year-old grad starting out in the big bad world, I’m starting to see the value in the process. Just like when you tip out all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, you’re faced with a huge, messy pile of options and it’s all a bit overwhelming. You almost can’t quite bring yourself to start, because you know that the process is going to be long and hard, and that there are going to be so many points at which you’re tempted to just give up. But you force yourself plunge in anyway because there’s got to be a way of making sense of it all and finding that one thing that makes all the hard work worth the while.

So you find the corner pieces and then you start to piece together the edges and you think that maybe this won’t be so bad after all — it might even be easy. But then you have to jump out from the edge and start putting together the middle, and that’s when things really start to get tough. You pick up piece after piece and you try to make them fit, and maybe a couple of them do, but then you can’t figure out how to connect your new bundle of pieces to the edges and everything starts to feel a bit lost. You’ve put six pieces together over there and 12 together pieces over there and there are three pieces floating around in the middle, and they all matter and they’re all the start of something but you can’t quite figure out how to join them all together. You pick up another piece but it just won’t fit. You start to feel like you’re back at the drawing board.

But you’re not — now you know that piece doesn’t fit, you can put it aside and move onto the next one. Slowly but surely, you work through the pieces, adding to your little floating piles as you go along, and eventually you find the piece you need. You celebrate, pat yourself on the back — you’re that little bit closer. But you can’t stop there. You have to hunch your back, refocus, and start combing through the pieces again. There are moments when you seriously consider giving up. It’s starting to feel like you’re never going to get there. You might even get up from the table and do something else for a while. But the unfinished puzzle niggles at you. The beautiful picture on the front of the box entices you. Eventually, you find yourself hunched back over the table because yes, it’s frustrating and long and difficult, but you’re invested now, and you can’t quite bring yourself to let it lie.

And that may be a trait in yourself that you don’t quite understand. Because what will you have when you’ve finished the puzzle? You’ll have the picture that was right there in front of you all along. But it’ll be different. It’ll be better. Why? Because your finished puzzle will be a beautiful piece of art that you put together yourself. You’ll have built an incredible picture with your own two hands. Sure, you’ll have had some guidance from the front of the box, but finding the pieces and spending hours trying, failing and eventually managing to arrange them in the right order will have been all you. And that’s going to feel amazing.

So don’t give up. Keep trying, keep failing — and eventually, you will succeed.

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