Self-Improvement

WHAT IT TAKES TO SOLVE AN “IMPOSSIBLE” PROBLEM

A few months ago, I visited my sister and spent an extended vacation with her. My sister was hosting another family at the time including a 10 year old young girl and a 14 year old young boy.

A few days after I arrive at my sisters, I saw the Rubik’s cube on her kitchen counter but did not pay much attention to it. One day, I picked it up and was just fiddling with it. The young lady asked whether I could solve it and I instinctively said yes. I have never attempted to solve the cube, but did not think it could be that difficult. For the next 24 hours, I kept fiddling and realised that this was not going to be an easy task. The young lady said I could not solve it and again without thinking, I said I would not return home until I solved the cube. Now, I had 2 weeks to safe face with a 10 year old.

As an adult, I always encourage youths that they can do anything only if they tried and if they knew how. If maths was your Achilles hills, you need to take time to understand the principles, the know-how and then it becomes easy. Riding a bike looks impossible until you know how and then it becomes second nature.

It was now time to live by my own principles. I kept fiddling with the Rubik’s cube for a few days. There are about 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 (43 million 3 times) possible combinations for the 3 x 3 cube I was trying to solve. Fiddling randomly was like taking a stab in the dark and hoping to hit a very small target. I was getting nowhere.

So, it was time to investigate the “know-how”. I went online to get help. I found a few websites that provided step by step guides, with images, with videos. The 6 steps seemed complex and my first attempt at following the guides were unsuccessful. However, I did not give up, I went slowly but steadily and within 24 hours, it was solved.

Wow, my young lady and her brother could not believe it and they juggled it up again. The next time was quicker – a few hours…still with help from my online friend. The time after that was less than 2 hours…and still with help. However, out of the 6-step process, I now only needed help with the last 3 steps.

I took a few lessons from this:

  • Challenge yourself: Sometimes, we need to set ourselves a challenge and an incentive which will stretch us. If you want to learn French, what about incentivising yourself with a trip to France when you reach a particular level.
  • Seek help: there is no shame in getting help and it is certainly easier to do this than muddling through the waters on your own. You will be surprised how much support you can get whether from other people or other resources.
  • Believe in yourself: Even if the current circumstance suggests otherwise, you have to start from a basis of IT IS POSSIBLE. Of course, there are limits….and maybe it is not realistic to believe that you can lift 10 tonnes with a finger. But it is worth stretching your imagination. Many give up saying “I can’t” before the even try. What do you lose by trying? Nothing. I had never solved the Rubik’s cube, but I believed I could and I did.
  • Perfect by practice: At the time of returning home, I still needed to refer to the online guide for the last three steps, but I could solve the first 3 steps without help. I know that if I continued to practice, I would eventually be able to solve it unaided. The final lesson is that you can perfect a skill through practice, practice and more practice.

The Rubik’s cube may not be a big ambition for you. But the principle remains the same – expand your imagination, believe you can achieve and equip yourself with the right resource to make it happen.

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