Michael's Maxims 1: Taking the Time
When I was a child I adored my grandfather, he was my childhood hero, he still looms large in my thoughts and I still hear his words. He used to like to bring me little brain teaser puzzles to figure out. I really enjoyed them, usually. But this one time he brought me these 4 little puzzles sealed in a clear plastic box. The first three puzzles I looked at and I knew the solution immediately, I didn't find the movements required too intricate and I completed them quickly. I felt quite pleased, and what child wouldn't? the fourth one though required a lot more precise movement and the puzzle was significantly harder than the others. I did not like that, I had come to expect that I would look at the puzzles, know and then complete them. My irritation must have been written on my face, because I put it down, or maybe I put it down forcefully. My grandfather asked me,
'what's wrong?" I told him I didn't know what to do with this puzzle and I couldn't figure it out. He let out a short chuckle, "did you think every puzzle you work on would be solved in seconds?" "Ummmm, yeah, of course I did, that's what I expect of myself!" - that, by the way, is not what I said, nor would I have dared because my sense he was going to teach me something was strong, and if my hero was teaching I was learning. "I guess so, yeah." His smile was slightly amused but his eyes were full of love, and not for the last time he told me something that has stuck with me ever since, "Michael, you can figure out almost anything if you're just willing to take the time to think about it." I got it. It was wrong to expect to solve every problem at a glance, and it was wrong to get irritated when something forces me to really think.
The idea that I could figure out almost anything if I will just take the time has been critically important in my life's path. Puzzles are part of everyday life. I have deadlines for installations, material shipment schedules, site work schedules and a slew of problems to solve. It is easy to throw money at any of these problems, but if you run a business like that you may just become acquainted with poverty. It can also be difficult to wait and mull a problem and plan out possible solutions.
It is easy at first to toss up our hands, put down the puzzle and pout, beg for help, pretend you're specially afflicted with difficulty and you're justified in just throwing in the towel. Learned helplessness resonates with the pettiness we all carry inside of us. I know I have always enjoyed the things I am good at, I like the things I get at first look. The things that are hard require me to make a decision that I am going to try to conquer them, that I am going to try to figure them out. Making that decision is an act of the will that has to begin with hope. When I decide things are futile from the jump I seldom succeed in that task without a major attitude change.
Several times a week I hear my grandfather telling me, "Michael, you can figure out almost anything if you just take the time." I stop. I breathe, I get to thinking, and I would like to close this blog out by recommending that you tell yourself the same thing so often you believe it.