Legos and Life Lessons

I recently spent a sunny afternoon on my parents back porch with a glass of green tea and an unopened box of Star Wars LEGOs, intent on a lazy afternoon.  I got more than that as my mind drifted between “Everything is Awesome” on repeat and life lessons as I was building.

Growing up I was a bit of a LEGO Maniac; I loved LEGOs (and still believe that childhood is incomplete without them).  Names like Space Police, M-Tron, Blacktron, and Ice Planet actually mean something to me, as these were original sci-fi/outer space LEGO sets that presented original imagination long before the current days of licensed franchise LEGOs (Star Wars, Batman, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, ect).  Even though I enjoyed building the actual creations as intended, eventually they’d be disassembled and my young imagination would be unleashed.

One of the great things about LEGOs is that interacting with them is a double-win.  On the one hand you’re learning how to meticulously follow directions that aren’t always the clearest – resulting in some mistakes that you have to backtrack and fix – but at the same time the option exists to ditch the pictures on the page and to create something new, something likely unintended by the set designers.  Nevertheless, while this dual benefit exists, LEGO sets based on licensed franchise material can stifle such creativity by creating a desire to NOT want to dismantle something iconic (an X-Wing, the Batmobile or Hogwarts) for the sake of creating something new; licensed sets – largely what seems to exist presently – seem to subliminally discourage creativity.

Under the surface, the instruction manuals included in these sets ask the question “are you direct-able; can you follow a set of instructions?”  If this was used as a sly method in a job interview, how many applicants would be able to discern its purpose?  At the same time, this same method touches on understanding a process, what may need to happen to get from point A to point W,X,Y, or Z.  As the steps in the manual continue, can you visualize what future steps will be to achieve an end state before it arrives?

One of the best examples of this I’ve ever witnessed of this ability doesn’t involve LEGOs, but it does involve Star Wars.  Being involved in the documentary project Go Far:  The Christopher Rush Story which just had a great write up in Forbes Magazine – I’ve been able to see both rough and premiered versions of the film.  One of my favorite scenes records Chris’s ability to embody this idea of future vision that LEGOs often instill but he does so using Star Wars puzzles.  Chris would often direct friends to place pieces of these puzzles in their proper places long before friends would realize where those pieces needed to be.

The imagination side of the coin asks the question “can you see what others cannot?” – which the directional aspect also can – but additionally, do you have a creative capacity?  Can you dump a box pf LEGOs on your bedroom floor and have hours go by unnoticed?  I did; it was one of the things that would cause my parents to search the house looking for me, just like books or the Star Wars CCG by Decipher that was popular at the turn of the century.

As I sat in the sun building a Star Wars:  The Clone Wars era brick-set, I made mistakes.  They weren’t huge, glaring mistakes, since said mistakes often involved small pieces, but ones that required a lot of time to find, fix, and fathom; clearly my skills had grown rusty.  It’s like math, but with bricks – having to go back and find the mistakes and work forward – and I have an elementary school aversion to math.

Unfortunately this lesson doesn’t always carry over into adult life.  Mistakes aren’t fixed but rather glossed over; modes of operating aren’t changed, but accepted as the norm and when resulting difficulty looms, it sometimes becomes inescapable. Unlearn what you have learned, you did not.

Bricks are great teachers if you have the patience and presence of mind to be on the lookout for their lessons.

Posted on by Aaron in Uncategorized

About Aaron

Author, Speaker, and Super Nerd. Aaron Welty speaks and writes regularly connecting the dots of life, faith, and science fiction. Originally from Michigan, he now lives and works in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.

One Response to Legos and Life Lessons

  1. Mark

    Love what you have drawn from your building experiences. I’ve often had the same thoughts. One of my other take aways from Lego is that sometimes I can’t wait until a huge build is finished and I can admire its detail and size, but, part of me has to reel the other part in and convince myself to enjoy the process. That’s where the value is. The end of a build has become somewhat of a small letdown any more. The solution? Keep building. 🙂

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