What does it take to get the hard things done?

We started a puzzle recently. As you can see by the picture, it doesn’t have a lot of color variance.

We started at the pink end and, while it was challenging, we were able to make distinct progress. The colors fade so every row is slightly different and the puzzle moved steadily forward… at first.

The blue end of the puzzle is a completely different story. It is just row after row of what seems like the exact same shade of blue. There’s some variance but when you look at the individual pieces, you can’t really see it.

So the night we started this puzzle, we got all the way to the blue section and then we stopped. And we stayed stopped.

We actively avoided working on the puzzle for weeks.

But it’s on a small table in the living room so we’d walk by it every day. I could feel it taunting me, but I just couldn’t round up the patience to work on it. I’d stop by every now and then, try to get a piece in, and walk away in frustration. It had become a problem… one that I needed to solve.

Then this past Saturday, it rained. It was cold out and just fairly miserable.

So I popped the TV on, grabbed some tea, and finally settled in to “work the problem” that was the puzzle.

The method I used was what my fiancé refers to as “brute force.” I’d identify a corner that showed two sides to what the next piece will be, and then work through every possible piece until I found it. That was a long day of movies and tea, but I whittled that all-blue end of the puzzle until most of it was done.

The thing that stopped me near the end was that some pieces just didn’t fit. It was a weird thing, but some pieces were in the wrong place (even if every piece around them worked!) so I had to figure out which ones they were, pop them out, and then insert the right piece.

In the process of working this puzzle out, here’s what I learned about doing hard things:

  • You’ve got to be in the right mind-space. Maybe it needs to be the right weather, the right time of day… whatever it is, figure that out and create it for yourself.
  • Waiting until you’re ready is ok for at least awhile. Use this time to step back and study the problem so that you can identify your best approach.
  • There’s nothing wrong with a “brute force” attack. It isn’t elegant, but maybe that’s not the point. It’ll get the job done and that is the point.
  • You don’t have to get every piece of your puzzle exactly right as you work through your challenge. If something’s not right, it’ll be obvious when it matters and you’ll have an opportunity to fix it then.
  • In the end, you really need just two things: patience and persistence. That, above all, is what will help you get the hard things done.

How does this apply to your marketing?

Maybe you’re working on your website, or figuring out who your ideal client is, or trying to build an audience, or getting ready to launch. Any piece of marketing can feel like a “hard thing.”

And if it is, don’t let that stop you.

There is always an answer to be found. Whether you find an elegant answer or you need to use brute force, there is a way through. You just have to find it. And if you can conjure up the patience and choose to be persistent, you will find it.

So grab a cup of tea (or coffee), settle in… and work the problem. It’s just a puzzle. You’ll get there!

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