Max Park (USA) is a Rubik’s Cube speedsolver with numerous Guinness World Records titles including the fastest time to solve cube sizes from 4x4x4 through to 7x7x7 and the fastest average time to solve a Rubik’s Cube one-handed. Max has also been diagnosed with autism. Ahead of World Autism Awareness Day, Max's parents Schawn and Miki have talked about their son’s records and how cubing has helped him with his autism.
Originally, we never started cubing because of cubing. We started cubing because of Max's autism.
When he was very young we were always looking for situations or opportunities to do therapy. In the world of autism, you're really primarily working on one thing which is socialisation, and in order to do some socialisation you need someone around to socialise with. So, with Max we're always looking for opportunities where we can introduce him to socialisation and opportunities. That's how we got into cubing, purely for that reason.
At the time his fine motor skills were not there. He couldn't open water bottles so we were constantly looking for something that made him strengthen his fine motor skills. We had a Rubik's Cube around the house and he was showing interest.
We were going to go to the cubing competitions, to teach him how to stand in line, wait his turn and look directly at someone and say 'I'm ready', which is a big thing. Looking at somebody and pointing, things like that, were a big factor because with autism theory of mind is an issue and so we needed to practice that a lot. Him becoming good at cubing was just an afterthought. It actually wasn’t even considered. It wasn't even important.
For normal people it's nothing. For example he gets an award and shakes hands, something that is such a normal thing, Max couldn’t do it. We practice that, as much the cubing.
One day at his second competition he won, and we were pretty surprised. We thought they'd made a mistake because he was competing against college graduates from MiT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Caltech (California Institute of Technology), and here's this 10-year-old boy beating them and we're thinking 'there’s a mistake'. We never thought it [the journey] would take him so far, up to the point now where he’s getting world records, being sponsored to travel all over the world. This is just all new territory for us.
One of the funniest things that happened was at the World Championships which Max won, we're very very proud of that, but the big thing for us was he got the certificate and was looking at the people next to him and he was adjusting his certificate to be like everybody else. Now, if you tell another autism parent that they’ll be like 'you won the lottery', because that's something we want our autistic kids to do, reference somebody else and copy them. That social influence, so for us that was our win. Never mind he's on the podium with the world champion, we’re like 'did you see him adjust his certificate?'. That was the reward for us.
The biggest thing we noticed in Max before he started cubing and afterwards was the growth of his speech and wanting to speak with somebody else. When he comes to these competitions he knows instinctively because they all have the same interest. Because of that, that initiates this drive for him to want to start communicating with other people and that has tremendously increased his awareness and ability to speak with other people.
The proudest moment came earlier in his cubing career. It wasn’t when he became number one. It was when he broke into the top 10 because it was fascinating to me that someone could be good at anything in the world and in the top 10. To this day it's impressed me outside all of his personal development he was able to achieve.
Some of the pivotal moments in Max’s career have been, certainly winning the world championship in Paris. Probably the most notable moment was the first competition he placed first, because it was a surprise when he won the 6x6x6 when he was 10 years old. I think one that stands out also was his 3x3x3 average world record. That came out of the blue. He was sick that day and got the record and took us by surprise. That also triggered the sponsorship and notoriety, people took notice of this kid and wanted to know more about him.
The cubing community
The cubing community did more than just accept Max, they are an extended part of the family. When we first started to do therapy for Max for his autism it took so many resources in terms of time and finances.
There was so much commitment and a lot of sacrifices. We had to constantly hire professional, educated people to do things like pointing. That took us thousands of dollars to try and make that happen. The cubing community basically replaced that for us. We were going to communities and that was naturally being instilled into his therapy for free. We were thinking 'oh my goodness, we don't need as many therapists anymore', because half of the things he needed to do in therapy, he was doing in a cubing competition. To say the World Cube Association (WCA) and community has been a help is an understatement because to us they're like family.
But besides Max, I've never met a group of people who are just a perfect representation of the Utopian society. This is the only place, that I know of, where if someone does a solve and the judge writes down the wrong time, the competitor will say 'I'm sorry, I think you made a mistake, my time is two seconds longer'. It's so genuine and honest and disciplined. They're just good people. These guys are so fair, and so just. But even within this organisation, the kids are really competitive, it's fierce. The same as any athlete, they're cut from the same cloth. They strive to be number one. They don't compete with each other, they compete with their former self.
I remember talking to another sports person, he said the only other place he'd seen [people like] this was the rodeo. Competitors were as concerned and interested in how their competitors did as well as themselves and I thought that was pretty appropriate for our situation. The people are really interested in each other and their welfare so when competitors one and two go up against each other, number two is really happy for the other one. Genuinely.
I often say Max has been my biggest influence in my perception of success in life. He's basically shattered all of our perceptions of what it takes to be successful. He rewrote how it's supposed to be. You hear the cliché, get up 5 a.m., get all this stuff done, make lists, short term goals. Max showed us it doesn’t have to be that way.
As soon as somebody breaks his record, then I guess he’ll have a routine then. But it’s not traditional that you have to get up and practice this much.
Max’s other interests are anything to do with a sense of being quantitatively finite. There are a quantillion combinations for a Rubik’s Cube, to him that’s more comfortable because it's finite. He really likes data, anything to do with numbers.
Max was the one who started the trend in the cubing world of doing the AO100 [average over 100 solves]. I remember the first time we went to the world championships and he’s asking 'who does AO100?'. Max was asking people what their AO100 average was and they're looking at him going 'what are you talking about?', and now it's the marker, a badge of honour of how good you truly are. So similar to the way he's influenced us and the perception of how things are supposed to be, I think he's had an influence on the cubing community of what you should do to best help yourself to succeed in this environment.
Max has this motto, 'don't think, just solve'. I think that was born because most of these kids, when they practice their cubes they become very, very good in the relaxed environment of their home. You'll notice they're always a lot slower when they come to the competition and that's all mental, so I think Max just thought, 'don’t think, just solve, you already how to solve it, you just do what your hands are telling you to'.
Right now Max has the records for 4x4x4 (18.42 seconds), 5x5x5 (37.28 seconds) and 6x6x6 (1 minute 13.82 seconds) and 7x7x7 (1 minute 47.89 seconds). And 3x3x3 one handed he has 9.42 seconds.
The 7x7x7 record just came out of nowhere, he did 1 minute 47 seconds. At the time, just under two minutes was the world record. Max shattered that. Some of the notable people in the cubing community like Erik Akkersdijk said that was the most impressive thing he's ever seen. That record is probably going to stand for a while.
We cannot even describe how proud we are. Most of us as parents are proud when a kid brings home an A grade. This blows us completely out the water. It's surreal, it's beyond proud.
Max loves anything to do with records so being in Guinness World Records 2020 is probably going to be the highlight of his life because there’s nothing he likes more than the finality of being the best at something. To see his own name in the ranks of the best will be just amazing for him.
Max Park's Rubik's Cube records
- Fastest average time to solve a Rubik's Cube one-handed - 9.42 seconds
- Fastest time to solve a 4x4x4 Rubik's Cube - 18.42 seconds
- Fastest average time to solve a 4x4x4 Rubik's Cube - 21.13 seconds
- Fastest time to solve a 5x5x5 Rubik's Cube - 37.28 seconds
- Fastest average time to solve a 5x5x5 Rubik's Cube - 42.36 seconds
- Fastest time to solve a 6x6x6 Rubik's Cube - 1 minute 13.82 seconds
- Fastest average time to solve a 6x6x6 Rubik's Cube - 1 minute 17.1 seconds
- Fastest time to solve a 7x7x7 Rubik's Cube - 1 minute 47.89 seconds
- Fastest average time to solve a 7x7x7 Rubik's Cube - 1 minute 51.63 seconds