Slow Down

Are you constantly on the go? Slow Down!

When I was in seventh grade I got this extra credit assignment in my math class about monkeys. Three monkeys are on an island with a huge bag of bananas. But it was unclear how many bananas were in the bag. That's what I had to figure out. At the time, we were doing basic algebra with one or two variables. I brought the assignment home and asked my dad (an engineer) for help.

He started writing equations down for everything we knew (it was a wordy word problem). I'd never seen so many variables. I had no idea how we were going to solve all these equations, and he wasn't using x and y. He was using T sub 1, M sub 2, etc. I was lost.

But I heard one phrase about 40 times that night.

“Read the problem. Stop. What do you know? Write it down.” 

He said it over and over again. I never got to read the whole problem at once because we kept “finding things out” and writing down random equations down. But he was hell-bent on teaching me real math that night (even if he did show me on the computer later that night how we could have written a program to solve it in 5 minutes).

Four hours we worked that night!

“Read the problem. Stop. What do you know? Write it down.” 

We got the problem solved. I learned algebra that night. For real. And I fell in love with how computers could solve problems even faster. But I learned something far more important that night.

My tendency is to move too quickly. To make assumptions. To get going before I know everything I need to know. And to skip past useful information.

Want to have success in 2013? Slow down.