We all go through phases. Sometimes, it’s a particular sport or food or reading or playing the guitar. For the past year, I’ve been in a YouTube phase. This isn’t my first YouTube phase, but it’s been about ten years since my last one, and the thing that kicked it off this time was puzzle videos. Surprisingly, these puzzle videos have taught me lessons about life and running my small business.

If you don’t know me, I’m a web designer and WordPress developer from Austin, TX, now living in Berlin, Germany. I’ve been running Design It Please for four years now, and the ride has been incredible. Running your own business is full of learning, which is why I keep writing posts about it. My latest reflections revolve around puzzle videos.

What’s a Puzzle Video?

Never seen a puzzle video, you say? Watch one below from my favorite puzzle YouTuber, Chris Ramsay. Pro-tip: you can speed up the video by clicking on the gear icon in the bottom, right-hand corner of the player.

See? See?? Do you see now how fun these are to watch? I’ve watched a lot of these over the last year, and I’ve come up with a list of ways that puzzles are like running a small business.

5 Ways Puzzles Are Like Running a Business

01 Perseverance

Want to know the difference between a successful business and a failed business? The successful business owner didn’t stop. Being a freelancer, solopreneur, or small business owner requires a ton of perseverance. We have our own puzzles to solve, but we won’t ever solve them if we stop trying.

02 Thinking outside the box

The most interesting puzzles are the ones with a twist; the ones where you don’t see the solution coming. I definitely find that to be true, too, with web design and business. The best solutions to design problems often are found outside of the box.

03 Creativity

Can you imagine how much creativity it takes to create a puzzle? The whole point is to create something no one has ever seen before or to create a solution no one has solved before. I look at the puzzles, and I am in awe of the merging of art and science. Likewise, it takes a whole lot of creativity to run a successful business.

04 Logic

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of thinking creativity doesn’t include logic. Clients are often surprised to find just how much logic goes into web design. Design isn’t just about pretty colors and making something look good. Design, at its core, is the finding a solution (or two) to a problem.

05 Well-crafted

A puzzle maker might have a great idea but without good craftsmanship, no one would be able to solve it. The pieces have to fit together precisely in order to achieve the solution. Additionally, these puzzles are beautiful to look like. They’re little pieces of art. A well-crafted business is also a piece of art.

But….You’re Watching a Video….

You’re absolutely right. I’m not solving these puzzles myself, so what does that say about me? I think it’s a lot like watching a sport. It’s fun to watch Chris solves puzzles. I’m right there with him as he moves from excitement to frustration to satisfaction. It’s like your favorite basketball team winning their game.

This is my attitude with my friends who also run their own businesses. I’m in the stands watching them compete and struggle and succeed, and I’m cheering them on the whole time. I think we should all have jerseys for our friends’ businesses to symbolize that fact that we’re rooting for their success. I’m invested in Chris’ success in solving whatever puzzle he’s working on just like I’m invested in C3Nami’s success and Kimberly & Coach’s success and Bride’s Best Friend’s success. Go team!

Transforming an Individual into a Group

The other thing that’s interesting about puzzle videos is the fact that solving puzzles is usually a solitary activity. Most people solve puzzles at home, alone. But Chris decided he would video it, and by doing that, he invited people into this singular activity. It’s similar to the community that has grown on Twitch to watch people play video games. These solitary activities have grown communities.

The same holds true for running a business and being a freelancer. You can’t really do it all by yourself. That’s why mastermind groups are so important. We all need a space of trusted confidants with whom we can share victories and struggles. It’s how we receive support, and it’s how we move forward.

Take this video by John Green as more proof that, together, we advance.

Our businesses are like a game of Tetris. We can sit alone at our coworking spaces and attempt to solve our problems and advance to the next level, or we can invite people in, learn from each other, and advance together. As John Green says, “small groups of deeply passionate people can be more productive than large groups of casually interested people.”

Where Is My Community?

When I first started my business in Austin, TX, Orange Coworking was my community. It’s still the best coworking community I’ve found, and I’ve coworked around the world. Out of that community, though, came peers with whom I can share my struggles and victories.

Currently, I’ve found like minds in the #solopreneurs group at Factory in Berlin. We meet twice a month to share victories and struggles and offer advice. Additionally, The Designership has been a good community for design-related discussions and feedback.

Have You Found Your Community?

Do you have a mastermind group? A coworking space? A group of peers? People to support you? Are you interested in being part of a community? I’m curious to hear your experiences. Comment below or tweet me!