Math is Hard, part two

(Sometimes a second part is needed for clarification. )

The following morning,  the student took his accustomed seat a few paces from the wall facing the rising sun.  The master paced a circuit that kept him always equidistant from the student and the wall.

Before the sun stood overhead, the student finally achieved something akin to enlightenment. “Aha! ” he said. “Teacher I see now that you are diabolical. ”

Swiftly, the master administered a boot to the head, leaving the student a crumpled mess.

“You were almost right there.  But math is still hard, though not quite as hard as my boot.”

Math is Hard

One day in front of a wall of stone, sitting at sunrise, the student asked the master, “Teacher, why do you speak thusly to me with stories, rather than address me directly?”

The master acknowledged the question with a raised eyebrow and together they contemplated the turning of morning into day as is their wont. When their master finally spoke, he said, “Why, I always speak to you in a way that you are the focus of all I say, no matter where we are relative to each other. It is simply a matter of squaring the material with reality and adding the distance that measure of what you are ignorant.”

As the sun began set upon the student and the teacher, the student said, “Ahh, so no matter where I am, you are always the same distance from me and the wall.”

“Which is why sometimes speak to the wall. It needs no explanation of math.”


The CEO’s Dilemma

President Jones runs a company (Fit-Ed) that sells five-year health and fitness programs as part of America’s “Get Fit and Save Money” initiative.  Each plan can be partially subsidized with federal grants based on family need.  There is even a federal loan program for those that don’t have adequate cash flow or financial discipline to afford the programs. Unfortunately, the Feds have put in place performance metrics requiring at least a 60% Program Completion rate to continue to allow customers of a given company to access the federal subsidies and loans.

At a recent meeting of the CEO and vice presidents:

“Folks, we are sucking wind. We have a 44% Program Completion Rate and no one can tell me why. We simply don’t have a market to exist without the subsidies. We need a solution.”

VP Operations: “Sir, what do you want us to do? We have optimized our recruiting as best we can, but our business model won’t support upgraded facilities with bigger pools, saunas, and all the luxuries.”

“What do you mean we’ve optimized recruiting the best we can?’

VP Operations: “It’s like this. Everyone wants fancy facilities, especially pools and saunas, and family water features. But the localities where we have boxes don’t have family incomes to support those things. We would need a larger population of wealthy families. And let’s face it, wealthy families are those that most likely to exercise and stick with a program. Poor people, well, they are just too busy being poor. Nearly 80% of our market is receiving the subsidies or loans.We’ve targeted recruitment as best we can, the wealthier population has a greater number of options and is more willing to travel to exercise.”

CIO: “You know, maybe this is a data problem. The metric is all wrong.”

CEO: “Tell me more.”

CIO: “Well, maybe our failures aren’t really failures. Maybe they just leave us for our competitors.”

CEO: “Sounds like a failure to me.”

CIO: “Is it? From a a business perspective, from our business perspective, it certainly is. But this federal program is about getting Americans fit. So does it really matter *where* that occurs as long as it happens? If we could find a way to track our customers, we could add those that go to other programs to the numerator and argue that it is a better, more complete measure of success.”

CEO: “Damn. I like that. Let’s make that happen.”

VP HR: “Sir, wouldn’t this be terribly misleading? Wouldn’t we be taking credit for another company’s success? After all, these clients left us.”

CEO: “I don’t give a rat’s ass. We need to survive. Besides, who’s to say we don’t deserve credit for the fact some of clients are more successful elsewhere.”




Yesterday I shot a 94 for 18 holes of golf. This is only notable because because it is the first time since starting to play this crazy game that I broke a 100.

Unfortunately, I can’t get too excited since it was a much shorter and easier course than my home course. Easier to the point that it actually caused my handicap index to trend back upwards four-tenths of stroke. Golf can suck like that.  You can do what feels to be really well, only to find out that what you did wasn’t nearly good enough, in fact, it wasn’t even up to your usual performance.

It was however good enough to outscore the guys I was playing with who generally outscore me. I don’t actually pay much attention to that, but they do. I’m focused on learning to play again and am playing against myself and the course. Everyone else is really incidental. My biggest problem with golf has always been the mental game.

Last weekend I had an 18-hole playing lesson with my instructor. My son was along as well. A 25-handicapper playing alongside a playing and teaching professional really is playing a different game. The opportunity for instruction on course management and to watch him play close up was invaluable. It was also a very intense four hours on a Saturday.

I’ve also a spent the last two weeks reading the first two of four books by Dr. Bob Rotella that I have inserted into my reading list. Grappling with impatience and the Luke Skywalker Problem:

Yoda: Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained. A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless.

Staying the moment. Moving on from the previous moment, especially when it was a failed shot. I’ve always had difficulty dumping the past. I think it is about time I learned.

In fact, that is pretty much what happened yesterday. Jay has done a tremendous job helping me build a repeating good swing. It’s not where we want it yet, but it is worlds different. So I was able to trust my swing and stay in the moment, because the failures were failures and almost always immediately understandable. “I screwed up. Move on.” Further, his method of instruction has not only helped me to accept the fact that bad shots will happen and I don’t need to beat myself up about it, but also to rely on routine to make things work.

So, good, positive teaching is priceless.

And raw numbers don’t always tell the truth. It’s difficult.