The Philosophical Lessons of a Jigsaw Puzzle

I don’t mean to unnecessarily philosophical, but my recent puzzle-ing escapades have led me to some introspective meditation.

You see, it all began after doing the same-old 100 piece puzzles at work with the kids, I’ve realized that one can only do so many ‘My Little Pony’ and ‘Pixar Cars’ puzzles before one’s sanity is put to the ultimate test. However, I was not completely put off by the activity and actually went out and invested in my own 1,000 piece puzzle. It’s a real artsy affair: a painting of a waterside town at sunset (it was either that or a snowy village). I’ve been working away on it, slowly but surely (emphasis on the slowly), and I’ve come to realize that my biggest fault is that I will look at a piece and convince myself that it belongs in a specific spot. I am so sure that this 1/1000 of a puzzle is a part of the boardwalk, and yet I can’t quite make it fit anywhere. Frustration ensues, followed by begrudging acceptance that I made a mistake, and  finally I find myself able to look at it from a different point of view. This isn’t a piece of the boardwalk; it’s clearly part of the roof on the fish shop!

After struggling with many similar instances of stubbornness, I finally came to accept that what I at first assume is not always accurate. I’ve learned to keep an open mind and look at things from multiple perspectives. Sure, at first glance this one piece may seem like a bit of the ocean, but in actuality it’s a fold in a woman’s dress. By having a rigid mentality, I’m unable to see this, making the puzzle about 20 times harder.

So here are the philosophical lessons I have learned during my puzzle experience:

  1. Keep an open mind– whether it’s about a puzzle piece or a person. It’s important to not get stuck on one thing, but to realize that there are any number of possibilities and solutions.
  2. View each situation from multiple perspectives. So what if you didn’t get into the college of your dreams, view it as an opportunity to explore rather than an impediment to your future. It is important to view each and every situation (or puzzle piece) in multiple ways.
  3. Don’t assume, or at least accept that assumptions are prone to inaccuracy.

And finally

4. Puzzles are hard.

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The Pixar Lesson

I recently watched the documentary The Pixar Story and I wanted to take a quick post to reflect on the films, the company, and the inspiring story behind it all.

Starting out as a rag-tag team of animators, scientists, and just plain creative minds, the Pixar team (though not originally known as such) were trailblazing an area of animation that most of their peers, and superiors, wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot-pole. Having grown up in the world of technology, my generation often forgets that most computer advancements are still relatively new. Even now, the field of computer animation is continuously growing and discovering new ways of doing things. When Pixar first came into creation, CGI films were practically unheard of; now, you can’t meet a kid (or adult) who hasn’t seen (AND ENJOYED) one of Pixar’s CGI masterpieces.

While there are plenty of big names currently and previously associated with the company, some of the most influential contributors to Pixar’s initial success include Steve Jobs, George Lucas, and the incomparable John Lasseter.

After releasing their first feature film in 1995,  the studio continues to create some of the world’s favorite family films. So what was that initial film that sparked such success? Toy Story. Massively entertaining for both parents and children, Pixar managed to find the perfect recipe after a number of rewrites and reworkings. Now, Toy Story is a classic that few haven’t seen.

Defying the odds, sticking with a company that originally seemed to be nothing more than a money pit– the creative talents behind Pixar have alway been so dedicated to their jobs. When asked to produce the Toy Story 2 movie in conjunction with their then partner Disney, Pixar found themselves in a bit of a crisis as they faced deadlines they weren’t sure they could make. What’s more, they soon, though not soon enough, realized that the original storyline they were working with was…well…bad. And so Pixar started over, from scratch, despite the insistence of Disney executives that the story was “good enough.” Good enough, however, wasn’t good enough for the dedicated artisans at this amazing studio.

The Pixar Story documentary not only told the interesting history of the company, but reminded me of the role each of those films has played in my own childhood. I can still remember watching all those films– Toy Story, A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo— for the first time. While I didn’t truly appreciate their genius when I was younger, they never failed to amuse me. Even now, with each rewatch, as I pick up on the subtle adult humor and painstakingly intricate detail put into the animation, I can’t help but smile and laugh.

In the end, the real lesson that can be taken away from The Pixar Story is intrinsically tied to their parent company Disney’s own mantra:

“All our dreams can come true,
if we have the courage to pursue them.”

-Walt Disney