Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

Durham has had a series of very cold, and in some cases snowy, weekends, which has meant I’ve had a lot of time for one of my favorite indoor hobbies: puzzles!

A few weeks ago, I opened up a box and noticed that a lot of pieces were still stuck together from the last time the puzzle was solved. I was faced with a dilemma: do I keep them together, giving myself a head start? Or do I rip them apart?

I wasn’t sure, so I hopped on Instagram and posted a story with that exact question as a poll. The results:

Should I have been surprised that 87% of my friends said “gotta separate ’em?” Probably not. Because why do you work on a puzzle if not for the challenge? Why make something that’s supposed to be hard easier?

What did surprise me was that I only got one DM from someone sharing some caveats to their answer. They said, “It depends on how many. If it was like 20, I’d keep it. 50 or more, I would feel strange/guilty.”

Guilty! For cheating (is it cheating?) at a puzzle! In private!

But I was actually thinking the same thing! “Oh, I’ll keep them connected if it’s just a pair, but any more than that, I have to separate them.”

And it got me thinking about when it’s appropriate to take advantage of a head start and when it would be considered cheating. 

I am 100% on board for recycling work I’ve already done (and others have already done when appropriate). And I think the trick, besides respecting intellectual property, is keeping in mind that sometimes (often), our growth, the insights we gain, and the lessons we learn come from the doing and not the final product. And it’s up to us to decide if the journey is meant to be a challenge and when to employ shortcuts, if they’re available.

Related post: Smells like team spirit — about the time I ran a marathon relay and didn’t even notice the shortcuts until I started getting tired.

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