Why Life is Better if You Enjoy Puzzles

I’ve never really been a puzzle person. Crossword—can’t finish it. Jigsaw—boring. Rubik’s cube—makes me feel like an idiot. Scrabble—three letters max.

sunday-s-crossword-1238083-639x426I never really understood the purpose of puzzles. Whether you finish them or not, they seem like a waste of time. Maybe you enjoy doing them, but you’re not really accomplishing anything. It’s frustration disguised as entertainment.

I’m always curious when I come across a half-finished crossword puzzle in the back of that magazine they have on airplanes. I wonder if the person was frustrated because they didn’t complete it. Can you enjoy a puzzle if you don’t finish? Can you enjoy a puzzle just for the challenge? Doesn’t life already have enough challenges? Why seek out additional ones?

It occurred to me that one way of looking at life’s challenges is as a bunch of puzzles that need to be solved. Can’t make rent this month? That’s a puzzle that needs solving. Can’t pay your dividend this quarter? That too is a puzzle that needs a solution. Unemployed over 50? Puzzle. Diagnosed with cancer? Puzzle. Don’t know what to make for dinner tonight? Puzzle.

No one escapes. Life is nothing but one long series of puzzles. Day after day. I don’t care if you’re rich or poor, young or old, gainfully employed or borderline homeless. When you wake up in the morning, you’re facing a never-ending string of puzzles. And not every puzzle can or will get solved. But they’re still puzzles. The way I see it, you may as well learn to enjoy doing them.

So, I’ve decided, if every challenge in life is nothing more than a puzzle to be solved, then damn it, I’m going to be MacGyver.

I know I won’t solve every puzzle and that’s okay. I don’t think it’s about he who solves the most puzzles wins. I think it’s about embracing this journey called life and finding a way to enjoy each puzzle that comes along. The same way those crazy people who play Sudoku do.

 

The New Serenity Prayer

I live in the moment, because that is all I have

I close my eyes and breath deep to remind me I am alive

I stand, bend, jump, clap and wave because I can

I think of those I love and who love me back and it makes me smile

I cannot predict the future, nor would I want to

I cannot control the future, but I can prepare for it

What comes my way I will deal with, and move on the best I can

I do not need much to be happy

I will survive no matter what

I will strive to make a difference

This moment is pure gold and I am grateful to have it

I will not live forever, but I will live now

The Most Valuable Asset in the World

With a title such as that, I suppose you are expecting to learn about a special class of rare coins, trophy real estate in the south of France or natural gas exploration in the Marcellus oil field. No. The asset to which I refer is much more valuable. However, every coin that was ever collected, every property ever purchased and every cubic foot of natural gas ever extracted began with the investment of this asset. And no, it is not money. Money is simply a medium for exchanging one asset for another. In and of itself, money—those little pieces of paper with some ink on them—have very little intrinsic value. The asset to which I am referring is intrinsically very valuable.

Usually things that are valuable are scarce, only a few people have them and they tend to hoard it. Not this asset. Not only is it the most valuable asset in the world, but everyone has some of it. It is how we use it, spend it, invest it, that gives it its value. For this asset, while valuable, is also easily squandered. And once it is, it can never be replaced.

This asset is what Warren Buffett, Sam Walton and Bill Gates all used to amass their fortunes. And you have some of what they had when they started. But this asset is fickle. It can be worthless in the wrong hands and worth millions to those who know how to use it.

The asset to which I am referring of course is time. The great equalizer. The richest man in the world gets the same twenty-four hours a day you do. And everyone has some degree of freedom how they spend it. Even a person in prison can choose how they spend their time using their mind.

You can do what you want with your time: drink a beer, watch American Idol, read a book, work out, write a blog, start a charity. It is up to you. Just don’t lose sight of how precious it is. And if you do not think time is the most valuable asset in the world, just talk to a dying person. Ask them which one of their “real” assets is more valuable than the time they have left.

Time is flexible, up to a point. You can savior it, use it, invest it, share it or even squander it. The only thing you cannot do is save it up. It is like a coupon with an expiration date: use it or lose it. So, what are you going to do with your most valuable asset? The clock is ticking.

The Most Important Question You Will Ever Be Asked

The unemployment rate is high; nobody really knows how high. But I bet the employment dissatisfaction rate is even higher. How many people truly love their job? Can’t wait to go to work? Would do it for free? Turns out, not that many. Less than half.

I am sure there are many contributing factors to this statistic, but one of the most influential is the understanding that few people plan out their life, and even less have the courage to correct course midstream. Back when I was in the real estate industry I used to joke that nobody goes into real estate, then end up in real estate. That is probably how it is with most people. By some combination of random events and aptitude tests they ended up where they ended up. They got hooked on the paycheck and have been there ever since.

 

But I think it is worse than that. I think the dream inside most people is dead (or extremely dormant). Knowing what they know now, how many people would know exactly what choice to make if given another chance? Would you know what path to take if you were given another shot? So, here is the question, the most important one most people will ever have to answer, and one most people have never given a second thought.

At the end of each pay period you take home a certain amount of money. Imagine that exact amount of money—no more and no less—showed up in your bank account every pay period BUT, you did not have to go to work. How would you spend your days?

Unlike the “What would you do if you won the lottery?” question, this one does not improve you life financially one bit. You are in the same house with the same car wearing the cloths and taking the same vacations. No around-the-world cruises for you. Just the chance to spend your days differently. How would you do it?

Now for the tough love part. If you can answer that question, really answer it, honestly, and know it is the truth, then that is how you should be spending your days right now! My suspicion is that most people cannot answer that question because they just have not given it that much thought. As you grow older you become aware of this extremely unfair exchange of time for money. You give up this very valuable and very scarce (and getting scarcer) commodity called time in exchange for a very abundant commodity of increasingly questionable value called money. And then you realize that you are here for a purpose and not fulfilling that purpose is the biggest mistake of all. And time is running out.

If you do not know the answer to that question I suggest you get busy. And if you do know the answer then you need to get even busier, migrating from the life you have to the life you choose.