AJ Jacobs on facing life’s challenges with curiosity, grit and a Puzzler mindset 

Why is developing a ‘puzzle mindset’ the key to influence?

A few years ago, I developed a bit of an obsession.

It started out as innocent and then became an addiction that, like all addictions, began to expand into more and more corners of my life.

That obsession was with the world of puzzling.

Sudoku, crosswords, picturewits (beware that rabbit hole), train tracks, word finders.

You name it I had to solve it.

Perhaps it was a reaction to the pandemic, to all the countless facets of life and the world I couldn’t begin to solve. Or maybe, it just gave me something I was missing.

A safe space to channel my curiosity and restless mind. 

To be honest I thought I was alone in my addiction – until I came across a book from my guest today.

That book was called “The Puzzler – one man’s quest to solve the most baffling puzzles ever from crosswords to jigsaws to the meaning of life”

Could puzzles really provide the answer to the meaning of life? Does treating challenges like a puzzle, rather than a road block, hold the key to resilience and innovation? 

Still not sure what on earth puzzles have to do with influence?

Believe me all will become clear.

Today’s Guest 

AJ Jacobs is a best-selling author, journalist and human guinea pig. He has written four bestsellers including, ‘The Year of Living Biblically’ – for which he followed all of the rules of the bible as literally as possible and ‘Thanks a Thousand’ for which he went around the world and thanked every person who had even the smallest role in making his morning cup of coffee possible. 

He has given four TED talks with the combined 10 million+ views, he also regularly contributes to NPR and the New York Times. He was also once, perhaps most importantly, the answer to No 1. DOWN in the New York Times crossword puzzle.

@ajjacobs on twitter 

@ajjacobsinc on instagram

You’ll Learn

  • Why AJ has always considered himself to be a human guinea pig – and how developing an ‘experimental mindset’ changed the entire trajectory of his life.
  • Why every challenge we face is a puzzle – and how by consciously approaching and talking about it that way – we can tap into unlimited amounts of curiosity, energy and enthusiasm.
  • Why the best piece of advice he ever received was: ‘Don’t get furious – Get curious’.
  • How to start using the language of puzzling within our families and teams – it’s amazing to watch how a six year old’s eyes light up in response to the phrase ‘let’s solve this puzzle’ rather than ‘let’s complete this task’.
  • Why puzzles teach us to embrace the struggle – and release our attachment to immediately finding a solution. Therefore improving both our patience and grit.
  • Finally, we discuss a beautiful tradition called ‘generational puzzles’. Essentially a puzzle that’s passed down from generation to generation – because no one person can solve it alone.

This conversation will twist your brain and hopefully leave you in a place where you can better approach the puzzles of your own life. 

AJ also poses a few riddles that, for those of you that don’t have the patience to puzzle them out yourself, you can find the answers in the shownotes.

For me, I know when I approach anything in my life – goals, conflict, overwhelm – as a puzzle to solve, I immediately start asking better questions.

What are the constraints? How long do I have? What resources can I call on? What are the available clues? What assumptions am I making?

That shift – from powerless to puzzled – usually holds the key to moving forward.

References and links mentioned

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