See and See Again


About 5 years ago, my mom started a New Year's tradition of doing a puzzle together. Around 8:00 New Year's Eve night when the cooking of the feast winds down, we start puzzling. It's usually my mom and I while most everyone else is outside playing fireworks. The puzzling continues through the night and into the late afternoon of the next day. She picks the 1,000 piece puzzles and I am never around to see the last piece go in. One year, a few days after New Year's Day before anyone was able to complete the puzzle, my dad just broke it all apart and put it away. So tremendously anti-climactic.

I have a little table on our back deck that looks out to the yard. Some days, my children are playing in a blow up pool while I am puzzling, and D is listening to an "old school" 80's pop/rock radio station. Other days, like today, I look out and see the two-toned grass, the light green patch showing me where the blow up pool was over the weekend. The only sound I hear is the wind chime hanging nearby and an occasional helicopter in the distance.

This is where I puzzle.

I love puzzles. Puzzling for me, is a practice in mindfulness and helps me to be a better leader. Puzzles can't be rushed. I can't just "scroll past" and find a match. I need to pay attention. I need to look at every piece and study it's uniqueness. I need to notice it's shape, color, sharp or blurry image, it's fine, barely noticeable pattern on the edge that tells me it connects to something else. I see and see again, picking up individual pieces several times to study it's intricacies before I find where it fits in the large picture.

This practice of "See and See Again" was a foundational aspect of my graduate study in Organizational Leadership at Gonzaga University. In the Leadership and Imagination course, Dr. John Horsman presented Theory U (Scharmer, 2007) which depicts the process of imagination and creativity.

This is Theory U applied to puzzling:

  • Suspend the Voice of Judgement. Open our will and our mind. (Maybe I don't know exactly where this piece should go.)

  • Redirect our Voice of Cynicism. Open our heart and sense what is really going on. (It's possible that this isn't what I think it is.)

  • Let go of the Voice of Fear. Open our will to what purpose is inclined to emerge. (I might not finish this today. I'll put this piece down here with the other orangey-yellowish checkerboard pieces and come back to it.)

  • Letting what is emerging come. Creating a vision of the intention. Enacting with efforts to make it real. Prototyping and systematizing. (Does it fit this way? What if I turn it on it's side? It looks a lot like these other pieces with little rainbow stripes - maybe they go together.)

This is the part of the Dr. Horsman's lecture that I loved. This is the path of leadership.

"To shift from downloading to debate, we need to cross a threshold to open our minds.

To do that we need to suspend the Voice of Judgement.

To shift from debate to empathetic listening we cross another threshold; opening our heart.

To do this we need to suspend our Voice of Cynicism and redirect our focus to sense the experience and perspective of others.

To shift from empathetic listening to generative listening (presencing), we cross another threshold, opening our will.

To do that we must quell the Voice of Fear and become willing to let go and let come - from the future as it emerges before us.

Individually and as a group we become open to a change of identity and purpose".

Dr. John Horsman, Gonzaga University

I bet you never knew puzzling could be so deep.