What High School Math Class Can Teach Us About Business

The best (and worst) high school class that I ever had was trigonometry/pre-calculus.  Our class sessions were nothing like this one.

Mr. Mozingo was an intense, outgoing and ebullient guy.  He was also as “old school” as they come.
No calculators allowed in his classroom – all work was done longhand on paper.
Need a formula?  Better have it memorized.
Need a value for sin or cos?  Look it up in this (paper) table if you must.

Except for test days, every class followed the same format.  The first 1/3 of the period was spent reviewing the homework from the night before (yes, we had homework EVERY night), with the remainder used to teach the day’s lesson and assign yet more homework.

Homework review was the equivalent of public interrogation.

Each day, the instructor picked rows of students, seemingly at random, to present their homework on the chalkboard up front and explain it in detail to the rest of the class and the instructor.  Every decision along the way had to be supported. Let’s suppose you obtained a copy of the assignment from a friendly classmate but didn’t really understand it.  Woe unto you.

Unprepared for class?  I once saw him throw a student’s books out a second story window for that offense.

In this particular classroom, there was nowhere to hide.
Think you can go unnoticed and sit in the back of the classroom?  Wrong.
Assume the odds are long that your row will be chosen on the only day you didn’t get your homework finished?  Wrong.
Assume the same row would never be chosen twice (or thrice) in a row?  Wrong again.

It was accountability at its finest.  Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.  Responsibilities were assigned and results were expected without excuse or delay. I’m convinced that this guy was the inspiration for the “Coffee is for Closers!” mantra from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross.

It’s a lesson that has been somewhat lost on students (and parents) these days. As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, I help coach a baseball team in the spring and summer. This spring, one parent (new to the team) asked “you’re not going to be one of those coaches that doesn’t play a kid if he doesn’t come to practice are you?”.

Um, yes.

If you are not willing to work hard to get better, someone else will.

Likewise, this lesson does not seem to resonate with many businesses today. As a whole, we are more accommodating of failure, irresponsibility, broken promises and empty salesmanship than ever.

This quote came across my desk just today:

And it’s something that I agree with wholeheartedly.

Here at EXAIR, we are fans of “healthy paranoia”.  We feel that if we aren’t doing the things we need to do to be successful as a company, then someone else will.
Week upon month upon year, we keep pushing ourselves to improve, expand, widen our view and serve customers better.

And we always will.

Bryan Peters

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