One of the women in my mums’ group began a 1500-piece jigsaw puzzle at the start of summer. Together with her step-daughter, she’s been plugging away at it each night after the baby is in bed and, two nights ago – they knew they were on the home straight.
They planned to take it to the framers once it was done. Except! Gah! When they finally got to the end, there was one piece missing!
Frantically, they searched the house – rifled through the baby’s toys, upturned the dog’s basket – even ferreted through the vacuum cleaner bag – to no avail. Claire took a photo of the now 1499-piece puzzle and posted it in our Facebook group while venting her frustration about ‘all that work for nothing’ – which is when a funny thing happened.
‘That’s a great photo!’ someone said.
‘Forget the puzzle – you should blow up that picture and have it framed!’
She admitted that she’d had an interest in photography for years – and perhaps she could take a course …
Sometimes, what looks like a missing piece is really a window into something new. Find the right lever, they say, and you can move the world.
How often do we let a situation beat us, and leave us feeling ‘stuck’ after trying the same, flawed approach, over and over again?
It’s as much about looking for a new perspective as it is about persistence:
- J.K. Rowling’s first book in the Harry Potter series was rejected by twelve publishers.
- Winston Churchill failed sixth grade.
- Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas’.
- Beethoven’s teacher called him ‘hopeless as a composer’
Faced with criticism like this, what would you have done?
The first time I submitted a book proposal to a publisher – for a ‘how to guide’ for working mums – the editor liked the idea and wanted the unwritten manuscript delivered within three months. Working full time, with two kids under five, I knew I couldn’t do it.
I was crushed. Being published was my dream, and I had to say ‘no’…
Or did I?
On a whim, I sent the editor an email explaining that, while I couldn’t deliver that manuscript in their timeframe, I did have about 60,000-words in emails I’d written to my friends over the previous couple of years about the chaos of parenting. It wasn’t ‘how to’ – more ‘how not to’ – and would they be interested?
Several months later, as I opened a delivery from the publishers, I was shaking. Twenty copies of the book – my book – were inside. I recalled the last-minute fluke of an idea to submit this material, which had grown out of an apparent failure. My jigsaw puzzle had become a photo.
Thomas Edison, when questioned about the number of times he failed while inventing the light bulb is reputed to have said ‘I didn’t fail 1000 times – inventing the light bulb took 1000 steps.’
What are you trying to shift in your world at the moment? A few kilos? A new career direction? A better relationship?
If it’s not working yet – pull a different lever.
- Slogging through a new exercise regime and hating it? Switch zumba for jogging.
- Repeated knock-backs at job interviews? Re-train, seek feedback and have some interview coaching.
- Driven wild by your partner’s irritating habits? Look for ways to appreciate and acknowledge the good.
Einstein said insanity was ‘doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results’. It’s insane – and also frustrating.
As the festive season fades and the routine of ‘normal life’ looms large, there can be a deflating sense of ‘here we go again’. We can either accept a year of ‘blah’, or make some choices about how we might approach things differently and cause a better outcome.
- Identify places in your life where you’ve been wasting time pulling the wrong levers.
- Have another look at the gaps, the holes – the missing pieces in the puzzle – and look for any hidden opportunities there.
- If something means a lot to you and you’ve hit a stumbling block – think about how persistent you’ve been and whether you’re tackling the challenge from the right perspective.
This January, make a choice:
Sit back with a big tub of popcorn and watch the stage-play of your life unfold – or get up and direct the show.
Emma Grey is the author of Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum (Lothian, 2005) and director of the life-balance company, WorkLifeBliss.
Read more on her blog at www.emmacatherinegrey.blogspot.com