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Slow Down to Speed Up

I used to be a competitive Rubik’s Cube solver.

First I learned to solve the Cube without a guide. Then I wanted to solve it faster.

I aimed to move my hands as fast as possible. I memorized dozens of algorithms, practiced finger tricks, and tuned the springs on my cube to a consistent pressure. I would go on forums to brag about my TPS (turns per second).

No matter how fast I went, I couldn’t break the magical sub-20 second barrier.

At the 2005 World Championships, I was knocked out of the first round. My best time? A paltry 20.40 seconds.

Defeated, I watched the other competitors warming up for the next round. Many were practicing like I had been, moving at full speed. But one group was doing something odd. They were turning the cube slowly, but consistently.

“Why do you practice like that?,” I asked.

“When you move too fast, you can’t tell what’s coming next. You lose a ton of time hesitating between phases. If you practice slowly, you'll get better at smoothing out those transitions, even at full speed. Try it.”

Rather than bursts of speed interrupted by long pauses, they solved deliberately without stopping. And even though I could turn my hands just as fast as them, they made it to the finals, and I didn’t.

I practiced moving slowly, and oddly enough, my times kept getting faster.

The next year at Nationals, I made it to the finals. My best time? 15.06.

Slow down to speed up.

Thank you to Tasshin for helping with this article.

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