Issue #16: Lessons from Puzzles

My fiancé, Michelle, loves puzzles. Frequently I come home to a 1,000 piece puzzle dumped on the coffee or dining table. And I’m starting to love them too.

Last night we were putting together a beautiful 1,000 piece puzzle of Paris and we had built some momentum. Puzzle lovers know that you reach a point in the puzzle making process where pieces start coming together at a faster rate. You’ve built the border and enough objects in the picture that you quickly figure out where the next pieces go. Michelle and I got to that point and it made me stop to think. We had experienced compounding.

When you first open a puzzle and dump all the pieces on the table, it looks like a mess. Only half the pieces are facing up, all the colors blend together, and you can barely manage to pick out the border pieces. As you sit down to get started, it feels like you go nowhere a long time. Michelle begins by pulling out the edge pieces and assembling the border. Then she sorts pieces by colors. This takes a long time, often more than an hour and it feels like no progress is being made at all.

She starts small, one piece at a time. First put two together, then add a third and fourth. And pretty soon entire shapes begin to appear out of the puzzle and the makings of a completed picture start to show themselves. Out of steady, consistent, small efforts, a beautiful picture takes shape.

Compounding is all over my life. It’s in my drive to learn a little bit, eat lots of vegetables, and brush my teeth every day. Every conversation, date, text, hug, kiss I gave Michelle led to us getting engaged. While every little homework assignment or class I went to in middle school, high school, and college felt like a small thing, together it led to an education and where I am today. It’s been in my life and will continue to be present.

Wrapping my head around this, it struck me that building this project closely resembled the process of putting together a puzzle. Initially, small company investing looked jumbled and unorganized, but interesting nonetheless. Each strategy, investor, model, industry, and conversation represented a new puzzle piece being added to the overall picture of this space. Today I’m still very much working on the “border”, but I can feel the progress accelerating and the true picture is beginning to show.

I want to build a career around investing in companies and every small, daily effort to learn and build relationships can build into something truly impressive over a long enough period of time.

Capital Notes

  • 2019 Independent Sponsor Report by Citrin Cooperman was very interesting to read.

  • Not sure how many of you have heard about Scuttleblurb, but the author, David, wrote a fascinating reflection on his paid newsletter.

  • Les Schwab is a company I’ve grown up around as they’re headquartered here in Oregon. It’s one that’s stayed in the back of my mind as one I’d love to own one day, and they just because available on the market, for $3 billion. Apparently they had turned down offers from Michelin and Warren Buffett.

  • David Perell wrote a great article about the rise of entrepreneurship at the individual level, particularly in software through various no-code tools, and how that’s becoming the new American Dream.

If you found an interesting article, podcast, or interview that I missed, please let me know, I’m always looking for interesting stuff!


Join small company investors, search funds, private equity firms, business owners, and entrepreneurs in reading the Think Like an Owner newsletter and other project updates.

Share This