There I was, a young child, sitting in the middle of the floor in my parent’s living room with my box of LEGO® bricks, each in their own compartment sorted by color. My options were endless; with LEGO I could be anyone, go anywhere and do anything. Now thirty odd years later in my own living room I relive those memories, sitting on the floor with my sons, toiling with them as they build their own LEGO dreams.
As indirect as it may seem, I learned much from playing with my LEGO building bricks. Many of those same lessons my sons will learn too.
“Organize your life around your dreams – and watch them come true.”
To this day, I am particularly organized; including lists, calendars, general tidiness and yes – color coding! Did it all start there so many years ago placing each color LEGO into it’s own pile making sure none of the blue were mixed in with the red? Who knows, but I do know every day when it was time to clean up, each piece went back into its own color coded compartment ensuring the next time I brought them out, no sorting would be needed.
2. Following Instructions
“Discoveries are often made by not following instructions, by going off the main road, by trying the untried.” – Frank Tyger
I don’t remember them when I was a kid, but in today’s LEGO sets there are step-by-step instructions of how to put together each item in the set. The coolest creations are made easy following along with page after page of pictures stepping you through the construction. Maybe it stifles the creativity a bit, but what it does is teach you how you can accomplish your tasks by following along with the directions. Not bad lessons to learn as you are starting out in life.
“Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.” – William Plomer
Once you get past the instructions and let your creativity flow, the options are infinite. With the LEGO bricks in hand you can build whatever you want; there are no limits. When you build a straight up tower of bricks, it can be a rocket ship or a tall building or a sword, your imagination is your own limitation. Let your mind be your guide as you steer toward your life’s destiny.
The more you think out of the box, the more dragons seem to appear!
“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” – Saint Augustine
Building with LEGO bricks is a slow progression. It can be a grueling process, but it is a lesson in the value of patience. And patience is a virtue teaching you self control and restraint.
5. Attention to Detail
“In the successful organization, no detail is too small to escape close attention.” – Lou Holtz
Piece by piece you labor to advance your work of genius; each part needing to be in the right spot in order to achieve your desired outcome. I watch as my son my son studies in detail the pictures on the box, carefully calculating the placement and adjacencies needed in order to build his next LEGO project. I recall similar analysis myself at a young age and to this day you can find me sitting down with a pad of paper and pencil to layout the design of my next project.
6. Adapt to the Situation
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. – George Bernard Shaw
One day you can build an airplane and the next day, with those same LEGO bricks, you can build a skyscraper. If you find yourself a few LEGO pieces short for your intended project you can modify your results by using another color, a different piece or scaling down your design. The possibilities are never ending. In life everything will not happen as we intended, we need to be able to revise our plans when necessary and go with the flow.
7. Any Mistake Can Be Fixed
“Ok, I can fix this” – My son upon breaking one of his LEGO creations.
My son enters my office to showcase his latest LEGO construction. As he extends his arms to present me with his creation as it breaks into two. There were no tears, no grumblings of anger, none of the negativity you might expect when something you worked so hard to build falls apart. On the contrary the first words out of his mouth were, “Ok, I can fix this.” We can all learn a lesson from this type of can do attitude, knowing no matter how awful circumstances may seem our problems can be repaired with a little ingenuity.
8. Problem Solving
“Any problem can be solved with a little ingenuity.” – MacGyver
One of the greatest characteristics I developed playing with LEGO is the ability to know I could use my mind to remedy any situation. No challenge was too great; I would always be able to determine a method for success. It may not have been my original intended approach, but I knew there was always a path to my final destination.
9. You Can Build the Impossible Dream
“Without dreams, there is no reality!” – Luis B. Couto
Dreams are the means to a desired end. With LEGO bricks you can capture those ideas, you can construct your vision no matter how large an obstacle it may seem. The same applies to your life; never accept that something cannot be accomplished – despite the barriers to can realize your dreams.
Have faith in your ideas and give them legs by stepping out and working on them deliberately.
10. Never Give Up
“Never, never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill
Sure there are times when you want to throw your hands up in defeat, I did it myself and I see it from my sons as they construct a LEGO projects, but the answer is to never give up. Determination is a key factor in life; if you endure the journey keeping the vision alive you will see some of the greatest accomplishments achieved you never thought would happen.
“The nice thing about teamwork is that you always have others on your side” – Margaret Carty
We can all use a little help now and again, my sons will periodically come up to us for assistance with their LEGO creations needing my wife or me to snap a piece or two together. Sometimes we can all use a little guidance to get us through a tough spot and it is good to know you have others to rely on. There is no need to go through a difficult situation alone; the insights from others can often be inspiring as they allow us to see circumstances from perspectives outside of our own architecture.
12. Celebrate your Achievements
“The virtue of achievement is victory over oneself. Those who know this can never know defeat.” - A.J. Cronin
Finally, you have worked so hard to carry out your objective don’t let your labors go unnoticed. Boast your accomplishments with humility and place your LEGO creation up on the shelf for all to see. The same policy is relevant in later life; use tact, but be proud of your accomplishments.
Those are just a few of the lessons I learned from play with LEGO; I’m sure there are many more. Who knew back in 1934, when a carpenter turned, wooden toy maker, Ole Kirk Christiansen, took the first two letters of the Danish words LEG GODT, meaning “play well,” and put them together; the concept later developed by LEGO would expand into a global staple of childhood toys shaping the minds, visions and futures of children into adulthood.
“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” W. Clement Stone
What other life lessons have you carried into adulthood based on your childhood experiences?
Jason Christensen is National Accounts Manager for The Stanley Works.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Sources: mocpages.com, textualmenteactivo.com, hownottowrite.com, extremecraft.typepad.com, extremecraft.typepad.com, mocpages.com, farm4.static.flickr.com
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Filed under: Coaching Corner, Leadership Lessons Learned, Leading & Developing Other Leaders, Practical Steps to Influence, Professional Development Tagged: | achievement, Adapt, Attention to Detail, Creativity, Dream, Follow Instructions, LEGO, Mistakes, organization, Patience, Persistence, problem-solving, teamwork