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Reflecting on 2016

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I spent Christmas at home in Texas. Waking up in my old room made me realize how much I have evolved both as a person and a speedcuber. Time is a funny thing, you wake up everyday as if not much has changed, but you look back every year and things are very different.

I started cubing 9 years ago. Time has flown by – especially this year. Reflecting on 2016’s experiences, I have realized that my motivation to cube has also continued to evolve.

When I started cubing, my times dropped every few weeks, and I got an adrenalin rush every time I raced against the clock. This made competing extremely exciting, and the pressure I put on myself to improve made cubing all the more challenging and rewarding. However, as the years went by and my times improved, the threshold for improvement narrowed, and the frequency of competition PBs decreased as external expectations increased. So many variables would determine how well I did in competition, and half of them were out of my control. Competing eventually became less fun.

Still, I loved competing because it was an opportunity to improve my ranking and potentially set records. And even though the amount of pressure I placed on myself often affected my performance negatively, it was masked by the amount of fulfillment I received from travelling the world and meeting interesting people. In the last two years I have competed 35 times, all over the US, and as far as South America, Europe, and Africa. I have won 25 of these competitions, catapulting me to 1st place on the all-time 3×3 wins list. Cubing is a major part of my life, and I will always look back on these days with a sense of pride.

One of my favorite cubing memories is winning 2×2 at the US National Championship. I was a 17 year old with big bushy hair who was so happy to win the title. At 23, I look back on the accomplishment with a smile not because of the end result, but because of the journey to get there. Leading up to Nationals, I spent hundreds of hours refining and learning the EG method’s 128 algorithms. At the time, many people doubted its potential to be a viable speedsolving method. That changed when I posted the fastest 2×2 average ever recorded on YouTube – using EG. Now, nearly every world class 2×2 solver uses EG, including many of the same algorithms I developed in high school at my dining room table. That’s pretty cool.

I began this year with the idea of consciously focusing on improving my cubing skills, regardless of how that may affect my times. This began as the 310 challenge, and quickly evolved into an attempt at mastering ZB. I will post more about ZB when my work is refined further, but you can get the gist of it here, and find many of my ZBLL algorithms here.

I’ve always told cubers to not worry about their times and just focus on their solves. This year, I found myself saying that a lot – to myself. I’ve dedicated an enormous amount of time to refining, memorizing, and practicing the ZB system. The 310 challenge was an attempt to bring back the excitement of my early days of cubing. The process of learning ZB has made me realize that being on the forefront of new research and developing better algorithms and methods is ultimately what excites me.

Now, I’m cubing for myself again. And loving every solve. So, I’ll say it once more: try not to worry about your times, and just enjoy the process.

Happy Cubing,