If at First You don’t Succeed, QUIT!… – Skate across America Day 20

… and try again differently!

Oct. 23, 2010

Total Distance for today: 0 (in Baltimore, arranging opportunities ahead)
Total Distance for Trip: approx. 233 miles
Current Location: Baltimore, MD

Strategic Adjustment Ensures Success

That old saying that I just played on, “If at first you don’t succeed, TRY! TRY! AGAIN!” might be some of the worst advice ever, if left completely untouched. With one slight modification, it might just be the best advice ever! Alright, I’ll stop being a drama king and tell you what I mean: It’s foolish to repeat the exact same process over and over, and hope to eventually see different results. When you try something and fail, the smartest thing to do is observe where the failure took place and hypothesize as to why. Make a slight strategic adjustment, and give it another whirl. This process of fail, adjust, and repeat is known as iteration, and it’s actually used in advanced mathematics!

Did you know that the majority of real-world advanced math problems cannot be solved exactly? One semester of “Numerical and Computational Methods” will show you that your instructors have been cradling you in a “dream-world” most of your life. Most complicated math problems require numerical methods that approximate a solution, adjust based on feedback, and go at it again. Using this method, it is still impossible to get the exact “right” answer, but you can rapidly converge to a good approximation. You know, it’s kind of like life: There’s no exact right answer in most cases, but with enough bold and strategic experimentation, you can certainly come up with a good answer!

Take home lessons:
1) Learn to “learn” by making small strategic adjustments, based on the effects you observe.
2) Learn to be comfortable with imperfection, as long as you are moving forward.


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