Friday, July 10, 2009


I've never really enjoyed jigsaw puzzles. There have always been other, most exciting activities I could pursue. Like organizing my cookbooks by genre and author.

One of my kids is a puzzle fanatic. So I've learned to like puzzles. Actually, I think puzzles are a great toy - and not just for kids. Puzzles teach geometry, spacial reasoning and (what I think is the most important of all) patience. Even if it's a small puzzle, say 100 pieces, it still takes a while to sit down and put it together. Bigger puzzles - and the 3-D versions - can take days or weeks. I think this deferred gratification is fabulous. With so much knowledge digitized and available in real-time, it's an important lesson to realize you can't have everything now.

Patience is one of those key skills that few people have and most of us have to cultivate. I am not a patient person by nature. Having kids has forced me to re-evaluate my get-it-done-this-second mentality. I've learned to slow down, take deep breaths and focus on my kids, not the task of raising them. Deferring gratification is also necessary for building wealth: When it comes to investing, you have to take a long-term view. Day-trading isn't going to grow my portfolio, but picking some good stocks to hold for years will.

If this is a skill you need to hone, buy or pull out a 500-piece puzzle. The time spent is relaxing and the result - whenever it comes - is worth the work.

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