Change the Shape of the Paper

9 Dot Puzzle

The above picture is the famous 9 Dot Puzzle.  The goal of the puzzle is to connect all nine dots using only four straight lines.  If you haven’t encountered if before, try taking a minute to complete it.  At the end of this post, there is a picture of one way to solve the puzzle.

Now it’s time for an explanation of the 9 Dot Puzzle, the goal is to get you to think outside the box, because it’s the only way you’ll ever complete it.  It’s a fun, yet frustrating, exercise to see if you will let the box constrain your solution.  The only way to complete the puzzle is by breaking this rule.  We believe that we’re not allowed to extend our lines outside of the box even though nobody said we couldn’t do it.  The first time I was given this puzzle, I thought I tried every option and deemed it a trick question. It is a trick question, it’s a trick to see you will think out of the box or if you’ll box yourself in by believing in the invisible edges.  Nobody told me I couldn’t draw outside of the box, but it didn’t matter. I never thought about it.

The solution is similar to most trick questions.  When you see it, your amazed at how you couldn’t figure it out.  It’s so obvious, but a few moments ago it wasn’t so obvious. It was impossible.

This puzzle is no different then creating any piece of art.  Whether it’s a blog post, a puzzle, a song, a play, or a product, it’s amazing how simple it seems once you see it or hear it.  How many people haven’t seen a product in a store, and thought about why you didn’t create that product?  I do this all the time.  I was doing last night, while watching Shark Tank.  I’m always amazed by the products the contestants create, because many of them are so simple.

Why didn’t I do that?

That an easy question to answer.  I didn’t create that product because I wasn’t working on creating a product.  You won’t ever have a great idea, unless you put in the time to think about ways to solve problems in your life.  That’s all products are.  They are solutions to our problems.  Problems can mean any type of need, and people have all kinds of needs and wants.

The point is, you need to think about how to solve problems.  Earl Nightingale & Jim Rohn, authors of my two favorite audiobooks, suggest you spend time everyday writing about your goals and trying to come up with ideas on how to achieve them. I’ve found this practice to be one of the best habits I’ve created.  That’s how I create a new blog post everyday.

First you need to figure out when is your most optimal time to complete this task.  You need to figure out if you’re a morning or night person, be honest with yourself.  I’m a morning person, that’s why I wake up early to workout and complete my writing.  If I hold off until later at night, my mind reverts back to that of a caveman.  I can cram out some words or brief thoughts, but it’s usually a mess. Figure out your time of day, find a quite space, and then try to spend an hour a day thinking about how to solve your goals or problems. You can even take Saturday and Sunday off.  Try to complete this task on Monday through Friday. You’ll be amazed at the problems you’ll solve.


One of the solutions to the 9 Dot Puzzle

* This post was inspired by a Seth Godin‘s post, “The thing about a clean sheet of paper.”