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Wall Street Steward Blog

Lego Life Lessons

It had been a long, horrific week. Clients were upset and nervous, almost “panicky” as they saw a second straight month of negative returns on their bond portfolios. I hadn’t slept well all week, and my children behaved so poorly that we were offering them up for adoption. At the AA meeting. My poor wife…

As I held my own personal pity party over my Friday night dinner, I heard my 5 year old son Cole, say “hey Daddy, will you play Legos whiff me?” Although, at the time, I would have preferred to sit at the dinner table and finish my adult beverage (my first one….stop), I agreed…knowing that my sore lower back would be barking badly after lying in the floor with him building Legos.

Some background. My son is a Lego-genius. He can assemble Lego sets built for much older children. He is so gifted in this area that I would call him a “Lego-savant” if such a thing existed.  By asking me to join him, he uderstands that he has to dumb it down to my level. Imagine Tiger Woods standing at a putt-putt course trying to teach a clinic to the Bridge Club about how to putt the ball under the windmill when Ethel blurts out “What is a putter?” That is my son playing Legos with me.  He’s a natural, and I am a colorblind trainwreck. But I agreed to play, having no idea that I was about to re-learn some valuable life lessons while lying on the floor in his bedroom.

THE DUMP

“Daddy, first we have to dump out all of the Legos so we can see each one.”

To me, the pile represents a chaotic mess of colors that I can’t see. To him, this is his canvas. To see his long eye lashes flutter as he looks at this pile of plastic as if it were Disney World is priceless. “In awe” is the only way to describe the exuberance he displays…

“Woah Dad…look at all da Legos!”

Lesson: What is ugly to some is beautiful to others. What is useless to some becomes art when put in the hands of the right person. Many times I am quick to write something off, or worse yet, SOMEONE off, thinking “well they are of no use to me, so why bother.” This is no way to go through life. Every situation has a silver lining.  Even this awful week had a silver lining – this Lego moment. Happy children have a way of putting things into perspective. Cole didn’t care that his daddy lost people money in bonds during the week…he only cared that I was there to spend some time with him.

FOLLOW DIRECTIONS
Cole aligns the instruction booklet at the base of his feet, while sitting in a modified catcher’s position (a deep crouch) while playing Legos. A few times, I tried turning the page early to see if he was paying attention. 

“No Daaaaaad, we have to finish da page first”

as he points to the Lego on the page he has yet to attach. He is methodical when it comes to directions. 

Lesson: It never hurts to have some sort of guide to work from…a set of directions, if you will…a plan…yet too often many of us do not bother to read those directions. I tend to get impatient and ignore them, but if my 5 year old son can be methodical about how he follows the directions page to page (for 69 pages no less), then I can do a better job of following along, whether it be a long, boring story someone is telling or the instructions for my CFP classes. 

BE FLEXIBLE
As I was struggling to find a missing Lego, Cole said “Daddy, Lila lost that one, so we just have to build it.” Being clueless, I said “What do you mean, build it?” He simply assembled 3 pieces together that operated exactly like the piece his destructive sister had lost. “See Dad?  Problem solved.”

Lesson: While I agree it is important to follow directions, I feel that in the real world, the directions are never perfect – they are always slightly incomplete in some way. There is always a shortcut to be taken, or a better way to complete the task. This has to be the mindset that innovators like Steve Jobs had in order to keep building, rebuilding, improving, changing the molds, etc. Being flexible is the only way to innovate. I tend to be very rigid in my way of thinking, meaning that if I lost a piece of my Lego set, I would likely put the entire set away and quit. Not Cole, he simply found a way to make it work. That kind of flexibility is something that I covet.

PERSEVERANCE
During this 90 minute Lego marathon, we were interrupted at least a dozen times. Cole’s sisters walking in, bathroom breaks, missing pieces, me readjusting how I was lying on his floor to prevent my back from locking up, us chit chatting about life, etc…How he stays connected and remembers where he is in the building process, I will never know. He maintains a laser-like focus, and sees everything else around him as “noise.”

Lesson: Wow. I took many lessons from this, with the biggest one being to identify a goal, and start working. Eliminate all other distractions, as they are just “noise.” Keep building, one block at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time, etc…ignore the haters – DO WHAT YOU DO, and let everyone else sort it out later.

TOLERANCE
Like I mentioned, I’m colorblind, which presents a special challenge when building Legos. We would be looking for a particular piece, and I would pick up the piece and hand it to Cole, thinking I was helping him. 

“Dad, that is black. Da piece we are looking for is brown.”
“Sorry, son.”
“It-ok Daddy, I know you are colorblind.”

Lesson: Cole accepts me for what I am – a person with problems (in this case, being colorblind), and instead of seeing me as someone who slows him down, he embraces it and jokes around with me. What if we all accepted people for what they were? No judgement, no prejudice, no biases, nothing…just accept people THE.WAY.THEY.ARE. How many problems would that solve in this world?  Is there a more Christ-like behavior than that? Lose the hatred. Lose the “holier than thou” attitude.

FAITH
When Cole couldn’t find a piece, he would pray aloud “Lord, pwease let me find da piece.” Then, when he would find it, he would say “Thanks God.”

Lesson: I think God cares about the little things in our life. He cares about a 5 year old boy’s desire to find his Lego. Well, if He cares about the little stuff, then why do I only ask him for the big stuff? Ask yourself, are you bold enough to pray about the little things? Many times I am not. I think to myself  that God must be “too busy to be worried about whether I can get a parking space at the mall during Christmas season.” That kind of attitude usually prevents me from praying at all, about the big stuff or the little stuff, and that is detrimental in my opinion.

MY HIGH OF THE WEEK
I went into this Lego building session with a bad attitude – I was sore, sleepy, and grouchy. I did not want to play. However, after rubbing my unshaved chin against the back of Cole’s peachfuzz neck as he reinforced these life lessons, this session became the highlight of my week. Thank you Cole…thank you for teaching your Daddy these lessons, and thank you for allowing me to partake in your Lego creation. It was an honor.