Why I broke a Puzzle solving record – Pleasing self or pleasing others?


We do many good things to please ourselves, but we do many greater things while trying to please or benefit others or those who matter to us most.

My oldest brother has always been my hero in many aspects in life since my childhood. Always regarded as the most intelligent, most knowledgeable and always responsible amongst three siblings, I grew up in awe of him and the love and affection he got from the larger part of the family. So, when he said something to me as an advice or being critical of my behaviour, it had a major impact in my often mundane and day dreaming mind.

It was 18 when my older brother returned from a short business trip from London. I was home basking in the lazy pleasures of a summer break after school. My days, which used to begin at 12:00 noon after my sweetest slumber, were spent raiding the kitchen, finding something humorous about life, people and watching movies if I am not drawing sketches of Princess Diana or my little baby nephew. So, it was quiet understandable his frown upon seeing me when he would come home after a busy day of work and find an unproductive slob sitting at home doing absolutely nothing. But his entry that afternoon from the airport was different. He had a smile on his face that often means that he is going to quiz me on something “intelligent” again and I will certainly disappoint myself and please his humor by not knowing anything about it. But he didn’t. He spared me the usual embarrassment. But instead he handed me a new puzzle invented by Erno Rubik the designer of the famous Rubiks Cube. Along with it he gave me a copy of the latest issue of TIME magazine which has a tiny article about this new puzzle called the “Rubiks Clock” and that the inventor himself hasn’t found a solution to it yet but a computer simulation suggests a few million possible ways to have the 9 clock faces on both sides of the disc shaped puzzle point the needle at the 12 O’clock position. Thus, by brother throws down a different challenge this time.

I took it upon as a worthy challenge as I had found a solution and mastered the Cube a few years earlier. If I could do this I could I will show him that I am smart as well but in different things. Either way, his acknowledgement of my intelligence and smartness was very important to me, considering his level of knowledge. I knew I was capable, and he fully well was aware that I had the potential, but this puzzle was something that no one has yet solved. Hence I embarked on this challenge whilst I dreamt of fame but was driven by one single force. That is to please by brother and meet his expectations. His pride in me was for some reason of supreme importance to me.

Within a weeks time, I had not only solved the puzzle but I had developed a working solution in 17 easy steps that that could solve the puzzle in less than 30 seconds.My brother was pleasantly shocked and his these words “I knew it! I knew you could do it” not only gave me the much needed boost to my ego and pride, but also proved to me that I am certainly capable of doing great things when I set my mind to it. The local newspaper ran a quarter page article about my achievement, I shamelessly gloated on my 15 minutes of fame and got a letter from Erno Rubik to contact his publisher to publish my solution. Success was very sweet. But bringing the pride and confidence about me to my brother and family was the ultimate thrill! I had merely reconfirmed his faith in my potential and intelligence which he seldom expresses, but in the process of achieving this, I was one of the first to break a puzzle record and formulate a fast working solution that no one had developed at that time. Ever since, I have often landed many jobs telling this story when the interviewer asks me to tell them about a time I had done something that stood out or when they quiz my problem solving skills.

But my wisdom from this whole experience was very different from what many others perceived it to be. Because solving a problem was merely a challenge to my wits and potential. I knew if I approach it as a unique opportunity given to me and I am willing to work hard towards it I will eventually find a solution. Perhaps it is on the over confidence side of thinking, but if it has to be a positive thing and with hard work I am willing to dive in and give it my best shot. But what this experience really showed me is what I am willing to do to please the people who mean a lot to me, especially my core family who collectively make the fabric of who I am and my personality. My core motivation was to please my brother and my family and make them proud of me. And while I chose to use solving this Puzzle as a means to achieve this I ended up breaking the record.

The popular opinion about “people pleasing” is absolutely right and I agree with it whole heartedly. I sincerely believe that you cannot please everyone and by excessively indulging in this behaviour you often end up losing your own identity and take upon an impossible task of living up to other people’s expectations. But there are certain people who you love to please. Whose happiness, pride, and opinion matter to you greatly. They may play an important role in your life as a source of inspiration, moral support, emotional comfort or even spiritual guide. Pleasing such individuals gives us a sense of accomplishment and purpose at times. For instance the need we feel as parents to please our children. Or as children we strive to please our parents and do things to meet their approval or impress them.

My experiences since I solved the puzzle have enabled me to notice this particular behaviour in many great things that were achieved or developed by several people. People seem to go out of their way and often do many great things in an effort to please others who matter to them. It could be simple great things such as being charitable, selfless, sacrificing, accommodating or even forgiving. Many do it to please their love, parents, siblings, friends, or God. People in love become selfless in doing things for each other and make several great sacrifices at times, some who have been through adverse life challenges do many generous acts of charity to please others and themselves, or even people at work do many things to please their boss and end up achieving many successes in the process. I know few people who join the fight for cancer by raising funds to please the soul of the ones they have lost to this ailment. In sports a team looks up to a coach for motivation, guidance, and inspiration and push their limits to please them. As a result they often exceed their limits and end up doing something spectacular and succeed. Certainly, one needs to choose who and why they please. But if the reasons are positive and progressive, then often one strives to achieve a certain level of accomplishment to meet or exceed the expectations. I have seen many candidates at interviews who commit to meet and exceed the organizations’ expectations of them. And some do and achieve many successes and move on to greater accomplishments personally. Perhaps this is what I did too. In my effort to please someone I looked up to, made me break this puzzle record.

The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure. Dale Carnegie