Friday, 24 September 2010

Best Birthday Cake Ever!

My birthday cake for this year (age 27).  Based on the Rubik's Cube!  It weighs a tonne - but sooooo worth it!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

What size cube are you trying to solve?

By now you're probably getting the gist of this analogy; you may have even thought of some aspects of the analogy I have missed (please do post in the comments if you think of another way to expand this ongoing project).

I am finally brought to the title of my blog. 
"My life is a 5-by-5 Rubik's Cube"
What do I mean when I say that?

Well.  Consider that most Rubik's Cubes are 3 blocks by 3 blocks in all directions.  It is possible to get official Rubik's brand cubes in dimensions up to 5 blocks by 5 in each direction.  And if one so desires you can now obtain up to 7 blocks by 7 in all directions (in the V-Cube brand...  This I was unaware of when I named the blog).

Most people would agree that the larger the cube (in terms of number of blocks on any one side) the harder it will be to solve (and keep solved).  Of course, for every cube, it is only the top layer (or two when you get to the really big cubes) that other people can see.

So what makes a person's 'life cube' a 4x4 or a 5x5?  The number of things they have to deal with is essentially proportional to the size of their cube.  When I say 'things' I mean relatively big things such as a job, haing children to look after, a chronic illness or a disability, studying a tafe/uni course, hobbies that take up a significant portion of time etc.  In that list are things that we get a choice about and things that we don't.  Imagine being handed a 5x5 Rubik's Cube and not being given the option of a 3x3 to start with.  You always have the option of making your cube bigger (you can add things) but you can't always choose to shrink your cube to a smaller size (that's just the way life goes). 

A 5x5 cube is substantially harder than the 3x3 for the uninitiated.  think of how much harder you would find it to solve just the top layer of a 5x5 and get that looking nice and presentable!

There's a few things to take from the size analogy...

Not everyone get's to choose their cube size; and not everyone get's to start with a basic 3x3 cube to help them build up to solving the 5x5 cube! 

Some things in life are our choice and therefore whether or not they increase the size of our cube is also our choice.  Other things in life are not our choice, and it is important not to beat yourself up if you can't solve the bigger size cube straight away when life throws something at you that knocks you up a cube size.

It is easier to solve a 4x4 or 5x5 cube once you have learnt the principles of solving a 3x3.  Similarly, without the opportunity to develop the "basic skills" solving a 3x3, a 5x5 can be inordinately difficult.  Therefore it is wise to take opportunities to develop your skills for the 3x3 before life pushes you onto a bigger cube.

Life is a progression and it is natural that as you move through life and take on more responsibilities that your cube size will increase!  Expect it!  Enjoy it, because each time you get to tackle a bigger challenge and learn new skills. 

Successfully solving a 5x5 cube takes much more planning than a mere 3x3 cube.  So if you are living with a bigger cube size, be prepared to spend more time planning and thinking things through in life.

Something you can do if you are finding your large cube size too difficult is remove an element of your life that you have a choice about (that may be increasing the size of your cube) and come back to it at a later time when you have the skills to deal with the increased cube size.  While this isn't always possible, for most people there are a few things they can push to the side for a while in order to decreased stress and make the cube (life) just that little bit more manageable.

Consider how you think about other people.  Do you judge them if their top layer isn't as neat as your own.  Have you checked to see what size cube each of you are working with?  What if you've got a nice and tidy 3x3 cube but this person has been obligated to tackle a 7x7?  Are you still going to think they are less competent and in control as you when you see two little squaures out of place on their top layer?  I wouldn't...  Also consider that they may never have had the opportunity to learn the more basic cube solving strategies (life skills) and this 7x7 cube they have been dumped with may be an almost impossible task for them!

- Elements of your life determine the size Rubik's Cube you are working with
- You have control over some elements of your life but not everything
- You may be stuck with a 5x5 Rubik's cube regardless of your efforts
- It is easier to build up to a bigger cube gradually rather than tackling it without having solved smaller cubes first.  Build up to the big things!
- You may not know how big another person's cube is, or whether they had the opportunity to practise with a smaller size before being dumped with the big one.
- If your cube is too hard and there is something you can put on hold, do it.  You will shrink your cube size and make it more manageable.  Come back to the element that knocks you up a cube size when you are ready for the challenge and have developed the relevant skills!
- Some people find the larger cube sizes stimulating and thrive with them.  Others find large cubes frustrating and painful.  Don't judge people who fall on a different side of the fence to you on this matter. 
- The bigger your cube the more you will have to plan and think through your moves.
- It is normal to grow and increase your cube size as you go through life.

My life is a 5x5 Rubik's Cube.  Not all by choice, but I could probably opt for a 4x4 if I wanted.  I'm just starting to get the hang of the 5x5 'life cube', but it's not second nature yet (like the 3x3) so I'm sticking around this cube size for a bit longer until it is all second nature.  Then I plan to move up to the 6x6; hopefully things don't look too messy once I move up that cube size. 

(c) Arlene Taylor 2010

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Easy way Out

So before I started learning more about emotion regulation and social situations, I had tried to commit suicide several times. 

I would get to a point where I couldn't see anyway to solve what what going on around me (or even understand it sometimes).  I didn't understand why people did or said particular things, I didn't know how to solve certain problems etc  Basically I was looking at an unsolved cube and would become extremely distressed about this (of course, if I had realised I was doing the same thing as looking at an unsolved cube the distress probably would have gone away).  I had these false expectations:
- The Cube should always be solved
- The Cube must not be messy at any stage
- If I get stuck, the Cube will never be solved...
Clearly these false beliefs didn't leave me in avery good frame of mind.  How many people will admit to throwing a real Rubik's Cube across a room in frustration because they can't solve it?  [I'll be a few of you said yes to that].

About 2 weeks into using the Cube as a model for social skills and emotion regulation I realised it worked well as an analogy for suicide attempts and what they really do. 

Imagine you've got your cube looking pretty good on the top layer, but the bottom 2 layers (that only you can see, remember) aren't looking so flash.  You get all frustrated because you can't work out what to do in order to sort out those bottom two layers.  In your frustration you randomly move all sides of the cube and suddenly, Wham!  Your entire cube is messed up, including that top layer that everyone else sees.

You might even have intentionally messed up the cube, hoping that it would be easier to solve if messed up a different way.  But really all you did was took yourself backwards a lot.  No you don't just have to contend with a messed up bottom two layers, but everyone else can see your cube is messed up because they can see the newly disrupted top layer.  Now you need to work hard just to get that top layer looking good again, and then you'll be right back where you were with the two bottom layers still messed up.  No-one likes seeing other peoples cubes messed up, it's distressing.  At least when the top layer of your cube is neat and tidy people can see that you've got the basic things going right - it inspires a degree of confidence.  Most people will smile at a solved cube, and similarly, most will turn away from a messed up cube (unless of course they feel they can fix it and have a passion for doing so...  Read into that what you will).

So, once I realised that each suicide attempt was essentially just me messing up my entire cube, decreasing people's confidence (and mine) in my abilities, losing me time, making things harder, pushing me backwards...  All of those things...  Well, once I realised all of that, suicide didn't really seem like an easy way out, it seemed completely illogical and distasteful.  For my overly analytical and logical autistic mind, that was eactly what I needed; a way to reframe suicide attempts so they were not a solution, but rather something negative. 

To anyone who has never tried to kill themselves that might all sound incredibly logical, and it is.  But the jaws of depression helped me twist suicide into a logical 'fix-all' solution.  That while I didn't want to die, it was an 'out' to solving my own cube.  Which as I have written...  My Life if a 5x5 Rubik's Cube!

- Suicide attempts are like messing up your entire cube when you are frustrated about not being able to solve the whole thing. 
- You may only be stuck with the bottom two layers initially, but once you mess it all up you them have to solve the whole cube again!
- Once you mess up the whole cube, even the top layer looks messed up. 
- Other people don't like seeing messed up cubes (and they can only see the top layer), so messing up your cube isn't very pleaseing to others; they'll probably look away.
- A messed up cube is more work to solve than a cube that is at least partly solved, say just one layer.
- The cube is not likely to be any easier to solve the second time around, especially if you didn't learn any skill the first time before messing the entire thing up. 
- In fact, giving up once an give you the bad habit of messing up the cube whenever you feel stuck or frustrated - once you've done it once it is much easier to do again.
- Instead of messing up your cube when you are simply ready to give up and mess the whole thing up, simply put the entire thing down (just how it is) and come back to it later!  This might mean some "you-time" not worrying about the state of the cube.
- The bigger your cube is to start with, the worse it is when it gets all messed up!

(c) Arlene Taylor 2010

Friday, 20 August 2010

Election Day

As with anything that bothers me in life, I have brought my thoughts on the Australian election today back to the Rubik's cube. 

In Australia it is a crime not to vote.  While I fully intend to go vote as soon as the polls open in just under an hour, I'm very much feeling like this is a waste of my time. 

Not one party has put information into my mail box actually saying what they plan to do for the country.  Every single flyer has been aimed at criticising and decreditting another political party.  So, am I meant to vote on the people who criticised the best, am I meant to vote for those who didn't clutter my mailbox with political negativity or do I vote for whichever party I used to think would do a good job?  Tough question really. 

Our of those 3 choices the last seems logical, but its worthiness as a strategy is questionable given the newness of the party leaders in both major political parties.

If I think about this situation using the cube it makes me think that it's like twisting various sides of the cube hoping the pieces will land in the correct place without knowing where each piece is heading as you twist a particular face.  Or you could think of it as holding a messed up cube behind your back and trying to solve it while not ever looking at it.  I think most people agree it is highly unlikely you will magically solve the cube by doing this.

Today - I see my vote as an unfortunate attempt to twist the cube blindfolded.  I have not particular idea abot what each possible move will do to the cube, and I'm sure I hardly know the ins and the outs of our country's problems.  Perhaps I should base my decision on the party who I think are the most intelligent/logical because they will have the best chance of solving our national cube!

- If you don't look at something and identify it's imperfections and problems, you don't know what you need to solve it.
- If you act without knowing what the result of your actions will be, you are less likely to improve the state of your cube than if you know how your actions will affect each part of the cube.
- If you don't look at the cube and it's problems while fixing it, you likely won't get anywhere.

(c) Arlene Taylor 2010

Thursday, 19 August 2010

147 Rubik's Cubes!

Earlier this year I delivered a time management seminar to final year medical students using the Rubik's Cube analogy. 

Their feedback was extremely positive and very encouraging.

Having realised the uniqueness of my Rubik's Cube analogy, and its marketability, I have decided to run the occasional seminar on:
- Time Management
- Emotion Regulation
- Social Skills
All of these workshops will be based on the Rubik's Cube analogy.

Much to my delight I was able to find a large supply of very reasonably priced Rubik's cubes at a discount supplier yesterday.  The mechanism for each cube is smooth and the stickers are arranged the way Erno Rubik intended.  These cubes are only 2mm shy of having the same dimensions as the official Rubik's company cubes, and each comes nicely packaged in a presentable cylindrical container.

Now I will be able to provide all of my worshop participants with cubes to aid in their discovery and exploration of this analogy.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Faith, The Messiah and The Cube.

In my introductory post for this blog I pointed out that there are 43 252 003 274 489 855 999 possible combinations in which the cube can be messed up! 

There is only 1 combination where the cube is completely solved.

While talking with Carole about this blog and the analogy, we discussed that there is that 1 arrangement where the cube is perfect.  So in 43 252 003 274 489 856 000 people, there should be 1 perfect person/life. 

For me, it was easy to identify who this 1 perfect arrangement would be; God!  Or more appropriately, the son he sent to earth, Jesus. 

So then, for anyone with faith, it makes sense that they would aspire to have their cube appear as close as possible to that of their 'perfect' person.  Most religions have 1 particular person who is considered perfect.  There are the great prophets, Jesus, Alah, God, etc...

For those without faith, there are always people who they may perceive as having a totally solved cube.  And whether or not those people really do have a totally solved cube, the person looking up to them thinks they do and is therefore aiming for that same solved cube. 

I thought it was worth including the link between faith and the cube, even if it is just for fun.

Perhaps for me, now, the phrase "What Would Jesus Do?" will conjure up a whole new image.  A comedic picture of Jesus solving a Rubik's cube and holding the finished product enters my mind.  :)

Until next time...

Keep Cubing!

(c) Arlene Taylor 2010

People are sharing the love...

I thought I would detour from my postings regarding the Rubik's Cube as an analogy to life to thank my many friends who all sent me copies of a recent article about the wonderful cube.

Google scientist have now proven that every combination of the cube can be solved in 20 moves or less. 

I found the article quite interesting because I'm sure there would have been a more simple mathematical way to prove this phenomena using permutations and combinations; as opposed to the trudge work that these google enthusiasts outsourced to their super computers. 

Regardless, it's nice to have some form of evidence that the cube can be solved so readily. 

Perhaps taking this analogy back to the Cube as a model for life...

Certainly, a person could sit there and ponder for hours, calculating the exact 20 (or fewer) moves needed to solve the cube without un-necessary movement.  However, in the time it takes to do that, someone who has trained themselves to systematically solve the cube using various strategies that apply to various mixed up patterns they see in the cube, could have finished the cube and had coffee in the meantime. 

My point?  It may be more practical sometimes to simply work on a problem with a series of strategies than spend forever seeking out the perfect solution, when a bunch of less than perfect solutions combined will get you the same result with some extra manipulation, but less time...  Perhaps I should keep this in mind next time I become a perfectionist in my approach to something. 

- The 3X3 Rubik's Cube can always be solved in 20 moves or less
- Using less than perfect strategies with persistence can achieve the same result as the perfect solution.
- Approaching the problem systematically and strategically may actually be faster and more efficient that spending forever trying to work out the shortest possible solution.
- Building skills for solving different parts of the cube will give you a way to solve the cube no matter how it has been messed up.
- The shortest possible sequence od moves needed to solve the cube will change depending on how the cube was messed up. 
- Skill building is essential for have a guaranteed method for solving the cube and living life!

(c) Arlene Taylor 2010