Legos & the Arduous Act of Process

by Josh Cowen

With the recent rise of Lego movies, the fun little brick has made a huge comeback in popularity. I would like to state, for the record, that I am not a “jump-on-the-bandwagon” fan but a diehard AFOL (Adult Fan Of Lego). I was born with a Duplo in my hand. The late-night yells of my parents from stepping on my Legos still echo in my head. And the fact that my fiancée still gives me Legos for birthdays should tell you that my love for Legos has not dimmed over the years.

A few weeks ago I turned 39 and to my surprise (I have a horrible memory) my fiancée got me more Legos! I was so excited to sit down with a cup of coffee and build the Lego Back To The Future DeLorean!

I used to race through the process of a Lego build, almost eating each instruction page, furiously assembling the plastic bricks in a frenzy to accomplish my goal, until the finished product was gleaming on the table.

Just like my Lego builds, with just about everything else I would do at home or at work, I would rush through the process to get to the end goal as quickly as possible. Growing up, I loved art, but hated how long it took to draw or paint something. Those days in oil painting class just about killed me! I hated process so much that I got a degree in Graphic Design, where I could expedite the creative process and get to the finished piece faster.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the planning/brainstorming part of the process, and I loved seeing the finished product. But I did not want anything to do with the middle, except maybe a giving a little guidance or opinion here or there to make sure the end product was where I wanted it.

As I get older (read “more mature”), I have come to appreciate the process, and almost enjoy it. I have realized that rushing through a task or handing it off to someone else does me no good. When I do that, I miss the nuances and the details about a project or product. I miss pieces of the process that may need to be streamlined. I believe that going through the rigors of a task opens our eyes to new possibilities. For me, doing the same thing over and over still sucks, but the process as a whole is almost therapeutic. 

So, back to the Lego DeLorean. Usually I rip open all the packages of bricks (why they still put them in groups of packages I’ll never know) and start assembling the kit right away. But this time I wanted to savor the whole process and make it last, like many of us do when eating an expensive meal.

So I grabbed a cup of coffee and over the next few nights I organized, photographed and assembled the Lego kit of the best 80’s movie vehicle of all time. There were parts of the process that were tedious, like laying out all the parts according to size shape and color for my flat lay photo. (I didn’t have to do this, but I wanted to capture a sweet pic!) Laying them all out required me to be creative because I had to make sure all the pieces made a square to fit my Instagram. 

Once I had everything organized (and captured my photo), the assembly of the DeLorean was a little easier and more fun because of all the planning I did laying all the pieces out. The planning took me a while, but it was an important step in the process of building. Without a plan, I would have not been able to build the DeLorean, instead I would have had to dig through my Lego pile every time I wanted a piece. This way, I knew right where everything was, and the process was therapeutic. Without a plan, process will probably be frustrating (and you can forget about it being therapeutic!) and your time will be spent in chaos.

And this brings me to my last point:  how we do things is important. All too often we can fly through a process (like I used to do) without even thinking of how we are doing it. As we slow down and appreciate process we start to see parts of it in a new light, which enables us to make important changes in that process. The more we do process at a slower pace with our eyes open, the more we see, and we can adjust what’s not working before we even start a project.

So the next time you get a Lego set, mow the lawn or start a project for a client, slow down, breathe, take a step back and look for ways to plan, enjoy, and adjust your process.