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The Wrong Right Answer

| Learning | October 21, 2013

(I have recently graduated from college and have been sent back to the area for work, so I visit a former professor and good friend of mine. I was notorious for giving her a hard time in class by joking around while still being ‘right.’ She’s asked me to talk to one of her classes that take everything too seriously about the ‘real world.’ It is a while into the talk…)

Student #1: “So [Professor] tells us that you were a major a** while you were a student.”


Professor: “Oh, don’t worry; he knows it. He’s quite proud of it.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s not news. When I graduated I even gave her a note saying ‘Sorry for being such a smart-a**.'”

Student #1: “How do you be a smart-a** in discrete algebra? It’s all straight forward logic!”

Me: “If you want to become a good developer, you need to learn how to be flexible. Think with the same logic, get the same outcome, but do it a different way. For instance: you have two piles of matches, each with the same amount of matches, and you could only take matches from a single pile. Then I would be given the chance to do the same; how do you guarantee that you get the last match?”

(The entire class tells me the ‘right answer,’ which is to go second and to copy everything I do, but on the second pile.)

Me: “That’s one way. I took all the matches from a pile and set the other one on fire.”

Professor: “And that’s why this smart-a** has a job while the rest of his class is still looking for one.”

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