How do you pack away your lego?


A random thought struck me tonight while I was helping the kids pack away their toys. Because of the sheer amount of Lego in the house I bought a big container with compartments, and there we were, taking the blocks apart and sorting them on the floor like we were planning a military operation.

Then one of my girls asked me “Where does this one go, mommy?” and suddenly, I was confronted with a life-altering choice:

  1. Do we pack the lego away according to colour?
  2. Or do we pack the Legos away according to shapes?
  3. Or do we just chuck it all in together until it the lid fits back on?
  4. Or do you leave it for the next day, like those dishes in the sink?

I get that it might seem like a random question, similar to the toilet paper argument (over or under?) but it got me thinking about the analogy behind this scenario, and how it felt oddly familiar.

Because is there really a right or a wrong way to pack the Legos away?

One might argue that if you want to build one pink house and one blue house, it will be great if all the pink or blue blocks are together. But what if I want to build a farmhouse and for the foundation I need all the extra long blocks?

Practically speaking, it shouldn’t take more than 10 seconds in either scenario to find the desired block. But how often are we told by someone else, or by society, that there is only one way to pack your Lego away? If you have ever tried to argue with a 3-year-old about the way it needs to be done, you’ll know that the point of defeat comes much sooner than expected. Unless there is another 3-year-old who disagrees, and neither of them has the required logic or ability to consider an alternative solution. And that’s where I found myself, smack bang in the middle, in a teachable moment for sure, but for whom exactly?

Wait, what does Lego have to do with real life now?

If you were to sit in a room with 5 other people packing away your Legos and you started dividing the shapes when you notice all of them are sorting the Legos according to colour, what are you going to do? Maybe you fall for peer pressure or maybe you do your own thing but because you are the only one who did things differently, does it mean that you were wrong? Maybe you force everyone to do it your way because it makes the most sense to you, does that mean you are right?

Definitely no, but somehow in society we so easily start doubting our own abilities or thought processes the moment we feel a bit different from those around us, or start judging those who seem to be the outliers in a group. And although certain scenarios are more black and white than others, generally speaking, it comes down to how people view the world. If you are surrounded by people sharing the same perception as you, you are all happily packing away the Lego a certain way. But we have to ask ourselves what we do when we start looking at things differently, do we force our way onto people, do we conform to the norm or believe in our own abilities to have an alternative solution for the same problem?

And then I got carried away with categories, but bear with me – I think it makes a lot of sense if you stop for a moment to think.

The Colour Coders

This thought process reminded me of people who think about the world in a more abstract way – who are more driven by themes or aesthetics in the world around them, and who can see beauty in the smallest of things. Even the Lego box takes on a rainbow vibe when you look at all the colors neatly sorted. Building a pink or green farmhouse will be so quick next time, it’s like playing ‘Easy Mode’ in life.

The Shape Sorters

This thought process made me think of people who like structure and organisation, and systematic thinkers who like following more precise guidelines or problem-solving methodologies. The Lego box might look messy with no aesthetic value to it, but if you start building a farmhouse next time, it will be so much quicker to find a specific size block because these are all grouped together. They’re the ones who read instruction manuals.

The Creative Chaos

This thought process is either one that doesn’t care too much about aesthetics or structure but perhaps more about wasting the time to sort instead of just finishing the task at hand and moving on to the next. Maybe these are the people who can work in chaos and still be productive and get things done, who are not bogged down by a lack of structure because they thrive in chaos. They’re probably the same people who think cereal can be eaten without milk.

The Pesky Procrastinators

We are all probably procrastinators in some areas of our lives. I can personally be very productive in certain areas and the complete opposite in others. But not putting Lego away at all, reminded me of people who procrastinate more than others. These are people who leave their problems until someone else cleans it up for them, or get caught up in it involuntarily (stepping on a Lego in the middle of the night is too obvious not to use) or ignore it until they can no longer walk past it without being confronted by the issue.

So where do you fit in?

So where do you see yourself? If you think about your daily interactions with family, friends, people at work, or just a random stranger – how many times do we get annoyed by people who think differently than we do? For some reason, we immediately assume they must be wrong, just because we don’t understand the world from their perspective. As a mother, this is the biggest contributor to mom guilt in my experience. Being shamed by color coders because I’m a shape sorter and I raise my kids differently.

But it is also so important to remember this at work when dealing with your colleagues or team members. People might not agree with your way of doing it and sometimes they might be wrong, but sometimes they might just have a different thought process driving their problem-solving methods and it’s neither right nor wrong.

I want to leave you with a thought – how open are you to receive input from those who differ around you? It is definitely simplified by using Legos as an example but if you literally had to sit down with your team around a heap of Legos, how would you sort it? Would you still insist that you have the only solution or might you consider trying things a different way, taking turns to let each member lead the packing, or get everyone their own Lego to pack away the way they see fit?

There is still no right or wrong answer here; it is just about understanding that people perceive the world differently from you, and we can all do with a bit more understanding and a lot less judgment.

Maybe we can bring our Lego out more often to play together if we understand how to pack up or settle our differences.

Imagine what we can build.

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