Puzzles and Pivots

Last week I received a jigsaw puzzle in the mail. I didn’t order one, and I certainly wasn’t expecting one from Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business.

On any other day, I would have set it aside for another time. Life was already puzzling enough.

But the swag appeared on my doorstep at lunchtime. So my daughter and I opened the puzzle up and spent a few minutes of our lunch piecing it together.

It was an oasis of delight in my highly scheduled day.

A tight schedule suits me. There’s psychological comfort in planning out where you’re going and what you are doing. It gives you something soft to bump up against: the known, not the cold unknown.

And yet, too much structure can be, well, too much. There’s a rigidity that creates a lost opportunity to give your brain a workout as you learn how to innovate and adapt.

I still remember a conversation I had with my colleagues in Brazil nearly fifteen years ago. They told me about an acquaintance who was traveling in Europe, met a stranger, and instantly recognized a golden opportunity. In a moment, their colleague tore up his itinerary and took off with the stranger in pursuit of what he believed was a better option.

While most of us probably can’t cancel all our bookings, I wonder if we could leave a little more slack in our schedule to have moments— great or small—of fascination and joy.

I experienced that in two of my recent speaking engagements. One was good, but the other was great. What was the difference? It was having guardrails but leaving space for the unexpected.

I had that experience again when I interviewed John Tesh for the Disrupt Yourself podcast. Tesh is a former host of Entertainment Tonight, now a celebrated composer and host of a nationally syndicated radio show in the U.S. We left time for the unexpected, and our conversation took several pivots of surprise and delight.

If you are so scheduled that there’s no chance for play, disrupt yourself. I’m not saying you need to launch to a radically different S Curve. Of course, that could be wonderful, but if a towering new S Curve isn’t in the cards, start small.

You could talk to a stranger, learn the name of a flower, do a jigsaw puzzle. Talking to a stranger could be the first step in taking your life in a new and better direction. (Where was your life partner when you met? Odds are, it wasn’t Google Calendar.) Doing an unexpected midday puzzle with your child could be a bonding moment the two of you won’t forget. Leave some wiggle room, mentally and emotionally, for a surprise.

An opportunity to put the pieces of your life together, childlike wonder included.

As always, thank you for being here––and thanks to the many of you who surprise and delight with your lovely notes.

My best,

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