A Ping-Pong Lesson

I spent a big part of the last two days assembling a ping-pong table we bought for Christmas. This is why I missed my regular Friday morning blog post timing. But now, having completed building the table, I recognized there was a real analogy between building it and to nearly all big projects we work on. I felt there was a lesson in there that was worth re-telling.

Upon dragging the 100+ pound box into the house, I opened it up and found at least 500 unconnected pieces that needed to be put together. The 40-page instruction booklet had hundreds of steps. It required some tools I did not have and some skills I was not adept at. Yikes. Talk about being overwhelmed – I honestly didn’t know if I would be able to do it. And my family didn’t think so, either. But they generally laugh at my do-it-yourself capabilities, anyway.

We’ve all faced projects that seemed overwhelming and nearly impossible at the outset. That had what seemed like millions of steps, lots of layers, and processes and skills we’ve never tried. So how do you get it done?

Start small. Initially, I focused on just getting through the first few steps.  I knew the overall process would take hours, so I started by committing a smaller amount of time to make some initial progress. This took me through the first few pages of the instructions, and allowed me to get a few sections done and start to gain a little confidence.

Build momentum. After a break, I came back and built off my initial success. I powered through a couple more sections of the instructions, duplicated it for the second side of the table, and began to really see it coming together.  This is a point in any project where you get very excited by possibilities and grow your ambitions to achieve greatness.

Savor successes. It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments as you gather them. When I’d put together half of the table, it was possible to see what the finished product would look like. This gave me confidence I would be successful. And it also gave me something to show my less than supportive family as evidence of my capabilities. It was rewarding.

Take breaks. After having some success, it’s important to take a break. Breaks do a couple things. One, they help make sure you don’t get worn out and begin to function at less than 100% of your capacity.  And two, a break can help you think freshly about your project, your ideas and your goals. This allows you to return to work even more productively and successfully.

Push through. There were lots of distractions as I put the table together. And there were tons of things I would rather have been doing. But I didn’t allow myself to get distracted – I focused, especially towards the end, on finishing. This is true of any project.

And now, I’ve got a new ping-pong table to show for it. Happy holidays! And happy new year, y’all!


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