5 Things We Can Learn From The NY Times Crossword Puzzle

The great thing about learning is that it is not confined to certain times or a specific location. Learning can happen anytime, anywhere.

I like to highlight this fact by, once a month, looking at things we encounter on a daily basis and seeing what important lesson we can from them.

Today’s installment of “Five Things We Can Learn From Everyday Objects” is a little different. It is inspired by a terrific book by Angela Duckworth called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perservance.

In one section of her book, Duckworth talks about a New York Times article titled “How To Solve The New York Times Crossword Puzzle.” The article is written by Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times. If anyone knows how to solve a puzzle, he’s your man. Duckworth takes elements from this article and applies them to our everyday lives. Similar to what I try to do with this 5 things post.

In order to respect Duckworth’s book, I am not going to copy her work. I am simply going quickly highlight a few points she made and sprinkle in a few of my own. Hopefully this will get you to check out Grit: The Power of Passion and Perservance.

5 Things We Can Learn From The New York Times Crossword Puzzle

1. Start With What You Know

Shortz says, “step 1 in solving any crossword is to begin with the answers you’re surest of and build from there.” Duckworth perfectly illustrates how this same approach can help us find our purpose in life.

2. It is Okay to Guess

Finishing a crossword puzzle is not easy. You won’t have all the answers. You may need to guess. Duckworth shows how there will always been a good amount of trial and error as we look for what we are passionate about.

3. Bring an Eraser

Shortz says we can’t be afraid to erase an answer that isn’t working out. We often hear “to try, try again”, but many times in life, we are wise to cut our losses when we are doing something that isn’t meaningful.

4. Look For Clues

The New York Times crossword puzzle is filled with little hints. There are plenty of hints in our lives as well. We just need to start noticing them.

5. Step Away

According to shorts, “If you get stuck on a puzzle, a time-honored technique is to put it aside and return later. Perhaps the brain works subconsciously on problems in the interim. Whatever the case, a fresh look at a tough puzzle almost always brings new answers.” Substitute life for puzzle and the advice still works.

Five Things We Can Learn From Holidays

In honor of Memorial Day, I have given a holiday twist to the latest installment of Five Things We Can Learn From Everyday Objects.

Today let’s take a look at holidays. Technically they are not objects, but let’s see what we can learn from these special days.

Five Things We Can Learn From Holidays:

1. Some Days Are More Special Than Others

A holiday, by definition, is a day on which normal activities are suspended or reduced. We hit the pause button at work so we can spend time with family. We ignore the everyday minutia and enjoy every minute of the day. We do everything we can to make the day special.

Think the rules for special days can only be applied holidays? Think again. We can take this same approach on all aspects of our lives. Try making a typical workday special by suspending stress and reducing rut.

2. Limits Lead to Value

Another reason holidays are special is that they are rare. There are only 10 National Holidays, which equals less than one per month. If we had a one every week, the power of a holiday would be significantly reduced.

Disney has taken advantage of this idea by creating the Disney Vault. Each Disney movie is only offered for purchase for a limited time, after which it is put “in the vault” and not sold for several years until it is once again released. Disney controls their market and keeps old movies fresh by placing limits to when they will be available.

3. It is Important To Reflect And Remember

Most holidays involve a person or an event from the past. We have holidays that celebrate teachers, trailblazers and turkeys. How we observe holidays may vary, but the common thread is that we honor these days by reflecting and remembering. Looking back into the past can help us see the difference made in our present.

Not everything in our past is something we want to remember. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore it. By reflecting and recalling our past (both successes and failures), we are more likely to see a better future.

4. The Power of One Day

The difference between a two-day weekend and a three-day weekend can feel like the difference between a hole in the ground and the Grand Canyon. That one extra day puts a smile on your face and changes Monday from a bad word to a day to celebrate. Amazing what an additional 24 hours can do for your self-esteem.

When we are working on our dream, time will be a tricky thing. We will either feel that we aren’t ready right now, or that we are already too late. Three-day vs two-day weekends show us how powerful one day can feel. We shouldn’t lose sight of the power of the hours that are right at our fingertips.

5. Take Time Off

Holidays let us take a break from work. In honor of that, I am letting you out early. Only 4 lessons today! Enjoy the day off and have a nice Memorial Day!

5 Things We Can Learn From The Great Wall Of China

The great thing about learning is that it is not confined to certain times or a specific location. Learning can happen anytime, anywhere.

We can even learn stuff from a really old wall…

5 Things We Can Learn From The Great Wall Of China

1. Greatness Takes Time

How long do you think it took to build the Great Wall of China? If you’re anything like me, you might guess 5 years, 50 years, maybe 500 years. Would you believe 2,000 years?

Originally conceived by Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first stage of the Wall was finished around 221 BC, and it is believed to have taken about 20 years. However, what we consider the Great Wall today was built in the 14th through 17th centuries A.D., during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). All in all, many imperial dynasties built and extended the Wall over the course of 2,000 years.

Want to be great? Be patient.

2. Greatness Is A Team Effort

Given how long it took to build, it makes sense that it took effort from many people. But just how many people, you ask. Historical records suggest more than 1.5 million men were used during the peak of the Wall’s construction. Roughly 500,000 soldiers were assigned to both build and guard it during Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s era. More than 400,000 people died during the wall’s construction.

If we are looking to be great, we should also be looking for help.

3. Greatness Is Resourceful

Fun fact: not every part of the Wall is man made. The entire length includes natural barriers like rivers, lakes, mountains and trenches. After about 5 years on the job, I picture a very creative and resourceful construction worker coming up with the idea of building the wall into a mountain. If the goal is to create a barrier, why not use some some help from Mother Nature?

When we are looking for help to become great, it helps to notice anything and everything that might help.

4. Greatness Feels Bigger

It has been said that you can see the Great Wall of China from space. That is not true. The Wall stretches 21,196 km (13,170 mi), but it is not even close to big enough be seen by an astronaut. However, if you were to ask people on the street if you can see it from the moon, they would likely say yes.

When we become great, we feel bigger than we actually are.

5. Greatness Comes In Many Forms

Oddly enough, the Great Wall was never that great at preventing enemies from invading China. Throughout time, however it has become a symbol of China’s strength and is now seen as psychological barrier between Chinese civilization and the world.

On our path to greatness, we may not accomplish what we originally set out to achieve. But that doesn’t mean all is lost.



Sources: Wikipedia, History, China Highlights