The much-anticipated Five Minutes in Hell event last month was everything we had hoped for. We had an incredible turnout and people are still talking about it. There were a total of thirteen brave YNPN-TC members who dared to take the stage to capture the attention of an eager audience. They made us laugh, they made us cry, and most importantly, they made us truly appreciate being a part of such a talented community.
I had the pleasure of being one of the night’s presenters. My topic was on how I learned how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Sounds like the kind of speech that will have people on the edge of their seats, right? Maybe not, but while this might not seem like the most invigorating speech, I can assure you that the foolproof, cute photos of my younger self kept peoples’ attention.
All jokes aside, the Rubik’s Cube actually means a lot to me. It represents the power of high expectations. Ever since I was young, being told that I couldn’t do something always motivated me to do it. When I was told that I was too small to run a road race, I did it anyway. When my mom told me I couldn’t climb up the tail of a random elephant statue, I did it anyway. And when pretty much everyone told me not to wear my favorite blue suit to our 4th grade party, you know I was the best looking kid in school. I just refused to allow others to tell me what I could and couldn’t do.
That was until I discovered the Rubik’s Cube in 4th grade. My teacher brought one to school one day and solved it for us. Something about it spoke to my inner nerd; I was just so fascinated by this puzzle. So one morning, I finally built up the courage to ask my teacher if she could show me how to do it.
She looked at me with a half smile and said, “Not right now, Jarell. It’s really complicated. I don’t think you can do it.”
I doubt my teacher was in the business of crushing little kids’ dreams left and right. She most likely just meant that she didn’t have time to teach me how to do it right then in that moment. But in my little 4th grade mind, what I heard was, “You can’t do this.” So I decided that I was not capable of solving a Rubik’s Cube. I wasn’t mad, sad, or upset at all. I just accepted the “fact” that the Rubik’s Cube was something that was too complicated for me to figure out. And that was it. I moved on with my 4th grade life seemingly unaffected, and the Rubik’s Cube was out of my mind.
In high school six years later, the Rubik’s Cube found its way back into my life. This time, it was my good friend Tommy who brought it to school. Although I hadn’t seen or even thought about one since elementary school, I still felt that same fascination after seeing it again. I remember saying to Tommy how I’ve always wanted to learn how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Without hesitation, Tommy offered to show me how to solve it. I remember dismissing his offer saying, “No thanks, it’s too complicated. I don’t think I can do it.” I didn’t even realize that I had completely internalized what my teacher had told me six years earlier. I still didn’t think I could do it.
Tommy looked at me and said, “Well yeah, it’s complicated, but I can teach you. You’re a patient and smart guy. Let me teach you. You can do it.”
He told me that I could do it. It was something about his genuine tone that gave me the confidence to even want to try. Tommy clearly believed in me and wanted to give me a chance, which helped me believe in myself. So I agreed to let him teach me. It wasn’t an easy task, but I am proud to say that ten years later, I can still solve a Rubik’s Cube.
There is true power in high expectations, and the Rubik’s Cube is a symbol of that for me. Whenever I see one today, it’s a great reminder of how grateful I am to have had friends and family hold me to the high expectations that teachers and others didn’t always have for me growing up. We are all capable of accomplishing great things. Let’s lift each other up as we are all reaching for the stars.