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Real Life vs Puzzels

February 17, 2020

My lovely wife’s favorite painter is Thomas Kincaid. To some people that’s like saying your favorite chef is Chef Boyardee. Or your favorite band is The Monkees. Or your favorite super hero is anyone except The Batman.

If you are unfamiliar with Kincaid’s work, he’s known as “The Painter of Light.” Of course, he gave himself that name. He was great at self promotion. He was known for paintings of buildings with bright lights coming out of the windows. His critics say they all look like they are on fire.

Anyway, my lovely wife very much likes his work. She has a framed galley print, a clock, several ceramic tiles with is pictures on them, and most recently got some puzzles of his work.

The box she got had three puzzles. A 100 piece puzzle, a 550 piece puzzle and a 700 piece puzzle. The box came from a second hand store, so she was concerned there might be some pieces missing.

First we put together the 100 piece puzzle. It was of a sailboat. All 100 pieces were there. She very carefully put the pieces into a ziplock bag. She then immediately added the pieces from the 700 piece puzzle on top of them.

Yes, it was a mistake. Fortunately it was not my mistake.

We started putting together the 550 piece puzzle. It’s a picture of a cabin in the woods. There’s a nearby campfire and magestic blue mountains soar in the background. The cabin looks like it’s on fire inside.

It takes a while to put together a 550 piece puzzle. Especially when it’s a painting all full of greys and browns and I-don’t-know-maybe-it’s-really-greens.

The picture was on our living room table for several days. My lovely wife, my daughter and I each contributed to getting it put together.

When it was about 3/4 of the way done, I looked at the remaining pieces. It didn’t seem like there was enough room to fit all the remaining pieces into the space that was remaining.

Puzzles are like that, of course. Every piece has a place and no two pieces can be exchanged. You must get them exactly right. And the most efficient form to store the pieces is to fit them all together. If you don’t have it exactly together correctly, the pieces not only take more space, they are messy.

If you read the title of this piece, you know that this is the point at which I try to use the pizzle as a metaphor. You could think of it as,

When you finally get your life together it will come together as perfectly as a puzzle.

Or maybe,

Every single piece of your life is important and without any aspect, you will be incomplete.

I’m not actually going to try to make that point. No. Instead, I’m going with,

Life is messy. And we are never as efficient as we can be.

In business we strive for efficiency. There are entire disciplines devoted to it. Six Sigma, for example, is practice devoted to studying processes and removing inefficencies.

In my current role, my goal is 100% system availability every month. If our systems are less than 100% efficient, we risk paying penalties. When we originally wrote the contract with our client we built in a budget for a certain amount of penalties in a given year. The idea is that no matter how efficient we become, there were going to be setbacks. There were going to be times where either because of human error, or systems failing, we would be less than 100%.

And that’s the lesson of the puzzles. We might stive to get all the pieces in place, to get everything to fit inside the edge pieces (because, of course we put those together first.) But, real life isn’t like that. Any active system, be it computers, or our lives is messy.

I’ve been a speaker at two funerals over the past few years. I spoke at my father’s funeral and I spoke at my uncles funeral. When my dad passed, there were pieces of his story that no one knew. Apparently he ran away and joined the circus. He’d never talked about it. None of us knew any of the details. His puzzle, while complete, had some holes in it.

My uncle died while out riding his Harley for “the last ride of the season.” He died of a heart attack after pulling over to call his sister. We knew a lot of his story. His puzzle was nearly 100% complete.

But, in both cases, the puzzle was done. The pieces that weren’t put together were lost forever.

But, for us, the living, the pieces keep moving around. For computers, we are constantly updating systems. Daily we increase and decrease the load on the system. Only when the system is comletely offline are the puzzle pieces static.

That’s the real lesson of the puzzles. It’s not an attempt to make life perfect, every piece in its place. Instead it’s about creating the picture of what we want our life to be.

It will be static and “done” soon enough.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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