Big Pieces First

Recently, I learned some valuable lessons about life by trying to put together a 12 piece puzzle, that I purchased several years ago. There was no print or lines on the pieces. However, placed together properly, they formed a perfect square. Each piece was a unique piece and some of them were oddly shaped. I was determined to figure it out after I screwed up the beginning.

I got out the box that they came in and saw that all the pieces fit together to make the square. I confidently dumped the pieces onto the table, knowing that I had the answer sheet somewhere in the box, showing how they all fit together. After a few minutes of frustration (and I mean "just a few"), I gave up. I reached into the box for the answer sheet and discovered it was lost and at that point in time, I realized that I was lost as well.

A successful life is about following good advice, trusting the one giving you the information, and catching on to the point where the instructions get easier to follow and anticipate as you start seeing the big picture. It's about learning to connect the dots and seeing the pieces fall together as you connect the dots. Its about learning a code, notation or language of life. Its about understanding the smaller units that make up each of the pieces of life. I believe it can be illustrated by constructing the puzzle that I recently encountered.

Carefully follow the puzzle instructions in this letter to see if you have a chance of figuring out life itself. Get out a plain piece of paper and lay it on a table as though you are going to write a letter to someone, with the paper running longer up and down. At the very top of the paper, writing numbers as small as you can and still read them, number across the top of the paper from 1 to 5, beginning in the upper left-hand corner and ending in the upper right-hand corner. It is very important that you leave the same amount of space between each number.

When you are finished, the number 3 should be exactly halfway between the numbers 1 and 5. The number 2 should be halfway between 1 and 3, while 4 is halfway between 3 and 5. Take the distance between 1 and 2 and go down exactly that distance below the number 1 and write in the number 6. Finish numbering the second row until you have the number 10 exactly below the number 5, the same distance from it as the number 4 is from the number 5.

Continue this process with a third, fourth and fifth row. If you do it correctly, you should have the number 25 in the lower right-hand corner. (A ruler or folding the paper would help make straighter lines, but is not necessary). You are now looking at the coordinates of a large square with the corners of 1, 5, 21 and 25. Draw heavy lines around the large square from 1 to 5 to 25 to 21 and back to 1 again.

Using a pencil, very lightly connect all the numbers to each other to create 16 smaller squares inside the one large square. Now lightly (very lightly) draw an X in each of the 16 smaller squares, connecting each of the smaller square's corners to each other.

Now you are ready to see what the puzzle looks like when completed. From now on draw heavy lines to connect the numbers as I give them to you. The first piece is 7, 12, 18, 14, 8, 7. In other words, draw lines from 7 to 12 to 18 to 14 to 8 and back again to 7. Here are the line drawing instructions for three of the other pieces: (1, 2, 3, 8, 7, 1), (14, 19, 25, 20, 14) and (22, 18, 24, 23, 22). To see more of the pieces of the puzzle, just connect the dots by drawing lines to the following points: (4, 9) and (9, 15).

You should now be looking at an eight piece puzzle, but we need to create a twelve piece puzzle, so we need more instructions. We need to start in the middle of some of the smaller squares, where the X lines cross and draw heavy lines to some of the other numbered points. When I say the 17-23 square, I mean the small square that has a 17 in the upper left corner and a 23 in the lower right corner. 17-23 means the point in the middle of this square. Draw a heavy line from 17-23 (the middle of the 17-23 square) to the number 17 and on to the number 11. Using my notation, I would say (17-23, 17, 11).

Now finish drawing the rest of the heavy lines in this puzzle: (9, 4-10, 10), (8-14, 9) and (11-17, 12). If you are not now looking at a twelve piece puzzle, then you need to be persistent and start all over again until you are successful. Successful people learn to trust their instructors and if they fail, rather than blame the failure on the instructions, they try again and again until they succeed. Few of us can get things on the first try, but most of the successful among us are simply more persistent than the rest of us. Usually, they are not any smarter!

Now, lets look at our puzzle. Notice that each piece is made up of a certain number of equally sized small triangles. For example, the big house shaped piece in the middle is made up of ten triangles. I solved this puzzle myself without an answer sheet by discovering the smaller units that made up each piece and drawing a perfect square with exactly 16 smaller squares, with each square made up of four of these triangles (64 equal triangles make up the whole puzzle). I made a cardboard set of the twelve pieces with lines drawn on each to show the number of triangles in each to help fit them on the big square.

I was not making any headway until I started putting the bigger pieces of the puzzle in place first. Life is also like that. Its easier if we get the bigger pieces of life in place first and then the smaller pieces will start falling into place. I think we can learn a lot about life from a simple 12 piece puzzle.

--Kenneth J. Wolf #57 (06/04/97)

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