Lessons from Liberty Puzzles

by Scott Love - Partner

How are you managing stress? The world today is forcing all of us into having to adopt new habits, accommodate new stresses, and, in the face of both a pandemic and impending recession, worry about our jobs and businesses.

It’s a tough time.

I had an insight this morning I thought I’d share — that rest and one’s ability to manage these stresses is as important as all the other directives to wash hands, keep one’s distance, and reduce exposure to Covid-19.

Managing Stress

Lots of guides are out there that discuss the benefits of sleep, of wellness, of exercise, and so on. Forgive me for exploring an obvious topic, but my experience this morning was telling.

I love jigsaw puzzles. They remind my of my grandmother (who loved and introduced them to me). They’re meditative: they require just enough thought to draw my attention away from other worries, without taxing my mind. They provide a pleasant dopamine-driven sense of accomplishment. They’re binary: a piece either fits or it doesn’t, a puzzle (a project, if you will) is unambiguously complete – and successful – at its end. They’re pretty and often introduce me to artists and paintings. They’re tactile.

This week, while sequestered by social distancing, I began a new puzzle. It’s a challenging one. The colors are similar and the shapes complex. In other words, it’s perfect.

This one happens to be from Liberty Puzzles — a company here in Boulder, Colorado that creates laser-cut wood puzzles in the tradition of the original antiques. If you have any interest in the hobby, you owe it to yourself to investigate one of these wonderfully-crafted puzzles. I can’t more strongly recommend them.

Putting The Pieces Together 

Last night I got stuck on a particular patch — it’s often this way with puzzles. You see a pattern, go for a burst of success, and then can hit a lull in one’s progress. (Very much like software development, in my experience.)

Today, shortly after waking, I stood at my puzzle table, sipping a steaming mug coffee with the aroma of roasted beans in the air, enjoying the early quiet and soft light of morning sun streaming through at an angle.

And saw where a piece fit. And another. Then a third. Fourth. And so on… in just a few moments, I’d placed ten to twenty pieces, one immediately after another.

Having the night before stood at the exact same spot and having been stymied, here this morning I was able to break through and, in this simple moment, feel a sense of accomplishment, control, and satisfaction.

Today’s Trouble is Enough for Today

The answer was simple: I was rested, my mind was clear, and I hadn’t yet read the news.

I tend to assume, even when tired, that I’m smart enough to push through. I schedule too many meetings, work too late, and take pride in having a strong work ethic. It’s a trap of arrogance: it’s incredible how different my capacity is when focused and rested.

Today’s worries will come: I’ll step through my task list, invoices will go out, I’ll meet with my team, I’ll try to weather the near hourly onslaught of changes in the world around us. My dad will call, likely, worrying about groceries. My dog will need walking.

Tonight, I’ll go to bed at a reasonable hour. I’ll share a conversation with my wife. Tomorrow morning, I plan to take some more time to breathe, noodle on a puzzle, and sip my coffee in a moment of peace.

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