This is part 7 of a 12 part series that I call the 12 X’s of Leadership
Several dozen upper level engineering students were waiting for their professor to arrive one day for class. While not a formal understanding on most college campuses, there is a kind of unspoken rule that if a professor is more than 5 minutes late, then class is canceled.
Just as the students were about to “high five” and head for the door, in walked their professor carrying a large cardboard box. He loudly dropped the box on his desk and announced, “I am giving you a surprise exam today and a large percentage of your final grade in this class will be determined by how well you do on this test.”
Immediately groans were heard throughout the room as the students began to nervously wonder upon what they were soon to be tested.
The professor pulled out a barometer and stated, “I have brought a barometer to class for each of you. Your assignment is to calculate the exact height of this engineering building using the barometer. You have one hour to complete the task and turn in your calculations and descriptions for the assignment.”
He then walked out of the room.
Stunned, shocked silence hung in the air. Several students laid their heads on their desks. Sniffing could be heard as others began to quietly weep knowing they were not prepared for this exam.
But three students leapt from their chairs, raced down the aisle, and each grabbed a barometer.
The first, ran up to the top of the building and took a barometric reading at the top. She then raced down to the bottom of the building and took another barometric reading at the bottom of the building. Armed with the differential between the top and the bottom, she was able to mathematically calculate the exact height of the building. At the appointed time she submitted her paper to the professor who said, “Well done! That is exactly the correct way to do this – A+”
The second student also ran to the top of the building. But rather than take a barometric reading, he dropped the barometer over the edge while simultaneously mashing the start button for the stopwatch feature on his sports watch. When the barometer crashed onto the pavement at the base of the building, he hit the stop button. He now knew the exact amount of time it took the barometer to fall from the top to the bottom of the building and was able to mathematically calculate the exact height of the building based on gravity, speed, and velocity. At the appointed time, he submitted his findings to the professor who read the report and surprisingly stated, “You’re right! I would have never thought to do it that way – A+”
The third student grabbed a barometer and took off across campus to her dorm room. Once there, she threw open the door, grabbed her kite, and ripped the string off the kite. She then raced back up to the top of the building, tied the string to the barometer and lowered the device over the edge down to the ground. When the barometer touched the ground, she cut the string at the top, ran back down to the ground, laid the string out, and measured the length of string to determine the exact height of the building. When the professor read her paper he exclaimed, “You’re right! What a creative way to do this… I would have never thought of this – A+”
A fourth student also rose to the challenge, but in a very different way. He meandered to the cardboard box, plucked out a barometer, and strolled over to the Coke machine. He dropped in some money, grabbed two Cokes and walked down the hall to the building superintendent’s office.
“Hey Bill”, the student said.
“What’s up kiddo?” replied the superintendent … and then he added, “Hey what’s that yer holdin’?”
The student described the barometer and all the neat things one could do with it and the superintendent said, “Man, I’d really like one of them.”
To which the student replied, “I’ll trade you for a copy of the plans for this building.”
When the professor read this student’s report, he leaned back in his chair, rubbed his chin and said, “Well, you got the answer right…and you used the barometer to get it!”
As we go through this life, we will face many obstacles and challenges that will try to prevent us from accomplishing our goals. Remember to explore all possible avenues…your solution may not at first be obvious.