What’s Your 22-Hour Piñata?

A couple of years ago, my daughter’s Spanish teacher required students to design and construct a piñata. Being ever ambitious, my daughter — who was 16 at the time — designed something quite large. The design was approved, the papier-mâché process was a success, and a weekend was set aside to glue on tiny squares of tissue paper to create a beautiful butterfly.

My daughter began the project with great determination, but after an hour and a half of focused work, she began to express despair. Based on the remaining surface area, she calculated that the tissue-gluing process would take at least 16 more hours.

As soon as the projected time commitment became fully apparent, I urged her to rethink her weekend plans. “It seems to me,” I said, “you can either design a smaller piñata or dump this project and do all of your other homework instead.” My advice was not well-received and I got a lecture about the importance of excellence in all matters. “I can’t believe you are telling me to be a slacker,” my daughter practically hissed.

I persisted, of course. “This is a ridiculous project and does not merit this much energy. Other than gaining a more profound appreciation for the patience of people who make hand-made piñatas for a living, you aren’t going to get anything out of this experience. Not everything in life is worth doing well. And some things aren’t worth doing at all.”

My advice was ignored and the gluing continued, not for a total of 17 hours, but for a full 22.

Since that time, I’ve seen my fair share of 22-hour piñatas. They come in many forms, including overly complicated events, projects that involve too many people, and not-terribly-important presentations that obviously took days to develop. While slacking off is never advisable, lightening up can often be highly strategic.

When was the last time you created or encountered a 22-hour piñata?

[Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user Joelk75.]

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