January 2024

Where are the instructions?

Spilt box of lego bricks

A tumbled out box of Lego

What do lego free builds remind us about entrepreneurs?

"Mummy come and build something with me"

My son tumbles a box of lego onto the living room floor, he looks up and enthusiastically invites me to join him.

I gingerly lower my 43 year old body down to meet him, wondering what would be a sensible number of cushions to support my evil sciatic nerve, survey the jumble of colour in front of me and ask…”Where are the instructions?”

"Mummy we are doing a free build"

A free build? Crickey, I’m not sure I’ve got my creative pants on today.

Seeking inspiration I take a deep breath, wiggle on my cushion and ask “ok, where’s the best place to start?”

Are we diving in, are we recreating something from previous builds, should we do something together (ooo yes, please let us build one thing together)?

Nope, I am confidently advised we are each building a brand new, one of a kind, Mech. Cheese and rice!!!

{For those of you that don’t know – a Mech is a giant robot or machine typically depicted as a humanoid walking.}

I've no idea what I'm doing

Creative, imaginative play doesn’t come naturally to me. I wish it did. I’m comfortable following instructions, mimicking actions, guiding boards games but coming up with something from scratch gives me an eeekkk feeling.

That’s often what it’s like as an entrepreneur though. You have the urge to commit yourself to something, it’s important to you, it connects you to those around you, you have hope it will turn out great (you are aware it also may not), it pulls you outside your comfort zone and yet, as you embark on the journey, you yearn for an instruction manual.

Most of the time, as we join the dots of our unique abilities and breathe life into our ideas, we are flying by the seat of our pants.

5 top tips for lego builders and entrepreneurs

No. 1 - Do something

Procrastination, decision paralysis, over thinking…call it what you will but it’s that tickle of fear, the barrier between you and the thing you want to do.

In my experience there is only one thing to do in this moment and that is ‘something’.

One small step, committing 5 minutes to sitting at your desk, making just one phone call, getting the idea you have in your head down onto a piece of paper.

Doing something that will move you forward, push back against the fear and ignite a feeling of “I can do this”.

So, I rummage, pick up a purple brick and start to build.

No. 2 - Find what lights you up

I find another purple brick to go with the first and ta-dah now I have 2 feet.

I delve again into the mound of lego and come out with an eclectic selection of intriguing pieces, some with stickers on from a Toy Story 4 set, small pieces from a picnic set and palm leaves. I’m warming to this.

I look over to Lo and from the same mound he’s selected mechanical pieces, a set of legs from a Harry Potter spider and a column of round bricks.

We have the same things in front of us and yet our creativity is sparked by completely different pieces. We are linked by the theme of the Mech, we sit in the same space, in the same point in time but what inspires us is different.

No one Mech and no one business will ever be the same as another. The things that keep you energised and excited about your business will be the things you discover along the way, the individual things that light you up and keep you delving back in for more.

These will be different from your peers, from your competitors, will make sense to some and not to others and that is all 100% ok because this is your entrepreneurial journey and finding your beams of light is the very best way to find success that feels good to you.

No. 3 - Ask for help

Lo’s been a budding lego builder for years. If he’s gifted a lego set that will become a pirate ship or Ninjago dragon, he builds it but it never stays that way for long, he takes it apart, adds bits from a previous set and creates something new. He remembers the pieces he has, knows how they’ll work in his current creation and searches for them in amongst the thousands of pieces in his room.

On my Mech I’ve added some stubby arms and pieces of flair. I’m stuck though on what to do for the head. I turn to Lo and say “This is what I’ve got so far, hmmm I just don’t know what to do for the head, what do you think?”

He looks, nods his head, says “I know” turns to the pile, sifts through and pulls out the perfect piece…the window from a City build.

It looks pretty cool, fits with my vibe, gives me scope for adding something akin to a hat and doesn’t add too much weight to topple it over.

That’s what a great business mentor does. They assess where you are, draw on their experience, think about the future and keep you motivated.

No. 4 - I'm really doing this

Somewhere along that journey, project, presentation, lego build we catch ourselves thinking “I’m really doing this”. A dash of confidence appears and, like the rings you find in the trunk of trees that show their age and reinforce their strength, another ring of confidence is added to who we are. It will always be with us, bolstering us for future tasks that may at the outset seem a little hard, whispering a reminder that we can do this.

The psychologist Bandura, back in 1977, called this feeling ‘self-efficacy’ and, according to his theory, self-efficacy affects an individual’s choice of activities, effort, and persistence. People who have low self-efficacy for accomplishing a specific task may avoid it, while those who believe they are capable are more likely to participate.

It’s very easy to recall all the slip ups we make and the regrets we have for saying “no” to something. Drown these out with all the brave, creative and interesting things you do. Remember this moment, take a photo (ours is below), make a note, tell a loved one, add it to the timeline of all the things you’ve done within your business that you once thought were beyond you.

No. 5 - Reflect & adapt

Now, you’ve had your success, boosted your confidence, had a magical moment with your son but what next?

A technique I’ve found incredibly useful over the years is to ask two questions – “What worked well?” and “Even better if?”

You can do this on your own but it’s more effective if you chat about your experience with a peer, business mentor or coach. The ‘out loud’ conversation will always be more fruitful than the solo one inside your head.

If something worked especially well, how can you ensure you capture this for future projects? I seem to love colourful flair in my builds, I’ll keep an eye out for more of those in future.

If you feel there was a rough patch, ‘a bump in the road’, be open and try not to be defensive. What could have been a little smoother, a little quicker, a little more considered, a little more bold, a little more open to help. What are the ways that if you were to do it again you would do it differently?

For me, for my future lego builds, I definitely need one more cushion.

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