Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sudoku IS life

A while back I was in a car accident. It wasn’t a serious accident. I mean, I wasn’t injured or anything, but my car was not drivable and had to be towed away. Because I needed a ride about 25 miles to my house, I ended up waiting in a local restaurant for a ride.

While I was there I read the newspaper. Then I read it again. And finally a third time. Then I turned to the Sudoku puzzle. I had never done Sudoku before, but hey, I’m good with numbers (and a reformed accountant) how hard could this be.

First ,I spent about 15 minutes just looking at the overall puzzle. It was just a jumble of numbers. I tried plugging in a couple of numbers, but quickly realized the futility of that approach.

Next, I decided to look at one row at a time. I checked for the row with the most filled in numbers and started there. I made some semi-intelligent guesses and filled the row in. Then I went to the next most filled in row and started there. Again, I was able to fill in the numbers without too much problem. But by the 4th or 5th row I was running into trouble and having to change some of my prior numbers, which changed other numbers.

So then I went to the columns, but it only took me a few seconds to realize that this was no different than filling in the rows.

Next I tried the larger 9-box squares. Certainly this was the way to approach this puzzle. Luckily I had been using a pencil so I was able to erase my answers, again. 15 minutes later I was stuck again making changes, erasing numbers, and looking for a better solution.

As it turns out, the key to understanding and winning at Sudoku is not looking at rows or columns individually. Nor is the key checking out the larger 9-box squares. And certainly the key is not trying to solve the puzzle all at once.

It seems that the key to Sudoku is in looking at the 9-box squares in conjunction with the same 9-box squares in the same column or row. In other words you look at the top 3 rows together as a single unit. Likewise you look at the 2nd 3 rows together, and the 3rd 3 rows together. For the key to solving Sudoku is in the relationships between the different rows and columns. And it’s about the relationship between the 9-box squares. You don’t solve them individually, but you solve them in terms of how they relate to each other.

And that’s a lot like life. You can try and solve life’s problems by yourself, looking at things and people individually, but you may find yourself constantly reaching for the eraser. Instead, let’s try a different approach. Instead of concentrating on just one person at a time (yourself), concentrate on your relationships. Instead of looking through just a single lens (your own), look through the lens of you and the people that you interact with. Look at how things inter-relate and how your needs and desires join with the needs and desires of those around you. When you begin to look at relationships as the key to a successful life, you have taken the first step toward winning the game of life.

And that’s true in Sudoku as well.

Until next time….

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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