Your Online Math Professor

April 24, 2010

Seize the day!

Filed under: Approach,Attitude,Leadership — yourmathprof @ 6:20 pm

Carpe diem.

Seize the day – seize the opportunities that life affords.

I want to focus on one aspect of that statement in this post.

Namely, I want to write about being decisive.

Ever notice how most people act when you present them with a choice, say, where to go for dinner?

“Oh, I don’t care. Anything’s fine with me.”

“Well, there’s the Mexican restaurant right down the road, and the Italian bistro around the corner – what are you in the mood for?”

“It doesn’t matter to me. You decide.”

I used to get frustrated with others who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, make up their minds, and who would leave the decision-making to me.

But then I realized something.

Most people are, by nature, FOLLOWERS.

They don’t want to assume the mantle of leadership.

They don’t want the responsibility.

But I do.


In crunch time, I want all eyes looking towards ME.

In basketball terms, I want the ball in my hands.

I want to take the game-winning shot.


Because you can’t be the hero in life unless you’re willing to be the goat.

What about YOU?

Are you the type who says “Give me the damn ball!”

Are you ready to seize the day?


It’s not the size of the dog in the fight…

Filed under: Approach,Attitude,Focus — yourmathprof @ 5:42 pm

It’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Don’t doubt the truth of this for one moment.

To illustrate, here’s an example from my life.

My parents were very religious, and so insisted that my education be religious-based, including my college education.

While I learned a lot, and had many good values instilled within me, their insistence reduced my options when it came time for graduate work.

The Harvards and Yales wouldn’t give me a second look, but that didn’t deter me – because there’s a lot of fight in this dog.

I went to a school not far from where I got my undergraduate degree, and spent the next few years working towards my Ph.D. in math.

All the while, I kept my eyes on the prize: a prestigious post-doctoral position that would permit me to excel.

When the opportunity to apply for such a position appeared, I lunged for it like a dog on a bone… and was offered the job.

I took it, and spent the next three years distinguishing myself as a mathematics researcher.

By the time all was said and done, I had become the most accomplished person who ever held that position.

Towards the end of my time there, I was introduced by a colleague to a friend of his, a fellow who, like me, held a Ph.D. in math.

Unlike me, he had gone to elite schools, and at the time we met, he held a post-doctoral position at a Big Ten university.

He had a pedigree that guaranteed success… yet when he heard my story, and learned of my accomplishments, he was AMAZED.

“You went to a backwater college, then got your Ph.D. at a second-tier school – and you’ve done all this?

“Incredible! You’re not supposed to be able to do all this! People who’ve taken your route just don’t get this far.”

Tell me about it, pal.

I’ve had to deal with the naysayers from day one.

But what they had to say didn’t matter to me… because there’s a lot of fight in this dog.

I’m betting there’s a lot of fight in YOU, too, or else you wouldn’t be here.

I’m Your Online Math Professor, and I’m here to help you harness your drive, to help you FIGHT for your seat at the table of success.

Just win, baby!

Filed under: Approach,Attitude — yourmathprof @ 4:17 pm

Trust your gut.

Rolls right off the tongue.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Then why don’t most people do it?

Why doesn’t a man listen to his inner voice, and follow his heart?

Because society has conditioned him to mute himself, and to listen to the voices of ‘wisdom’ and ‘authority’.

What do these voices tell him?

“Don’t make waves… do what you’re told, and everything will be OK… obey.”

Instead of going his own way, he falls in line, and becomes just another member of the herd… and his opportunity is lost.

Joe Montana could have followed conventional thinking in January 1982 – and when he let go of the ball, people thought he was doing just that.

But he wasn’t.

He and Dwight Clark had other plans.

Plans that they had worked on for months, should a situation such as the one they faced ever arose.

Ol’ Joe wasn’t throwing the ball away.

He wasn’t giving up.

He had one thought in mind: TIME TO WIN THIS BALLGAME.

Clark leaped as high as he could, grabbed the ball, and landed in the end zone.




Ed “Too Tall” Jones said to Montana “You just beat America’s team.”

Montana replied “Well, you can watch the Super Bowl on TV with the rest of America.”

What am I telling you?

Just win, baby.

Listen to your inner voice.

Follow your heart.

Blaze your own trail.

Let the rest of the world watch you from the sidelines, while YOU play in Life’s version of the Super Bowl.

April 23, 2010

Stay Focused

Filed under: Focus — yourmathprof @ 9:17 am

Stay focused.

How does one DO that?

Life comes at us so fast in the Information Age.

We talk, text, and email.

We’re surfing the Net, chatting on Facebook, and tweeting on Twitter.

In our cars, at our desks, and on our feet, we’re always on the go.

Staying focused on our goals and dreams has never been more difficult – and therefore, has never been more vital.

Clearing blocks of time, setting aside all other distractions, and getting it done – successful people do this every day.

You’re here because you want to be successful, or an even greater success than you already are.

You’ve come to the right place.

I’m Your Online Math Professor, and I’m here to show you how to STAY FOCUSED, in the classroom and in life.

Scared Witless?

Filed under: Attitude — yourmathprof @ 8:51 am

Whenever you start something new, you’re bound to experience some anxiousness.

That’s normal.

The unknown is an undiscovered realm.

But it is a land that’s waiting to be explored by you.

If you’re afraid to take that first step, you’ll never know what you’re missing, the possibilities that first step affords.

But even when you do take those first few steps…

If your mind is filled with negative thoughts…

If you say to yourself “I can’t” or “I won’t”, instead of “I can” and “I will”…

You’ll create within yourself a climate of fear and doubt.

You will end up being SCARED WITLESS.

That fear will lead to delayed action, or even inaction.

You either won’t get things done, or perform tasks in inefficient and improper ways.

You’ll set yourself up for failure.

As Your Online Math Professor, I am here to show you a different, and better, way.

Come with me, and learn how to replace trepidation with BOLDNESS, hesitancy with DETERMINATION, derangement with FOCUS.

Practice Makes Perfect?

Filed under: Approach — yourmathprof @ 8:09 am

Each of us has heard the phrase “Practice makes perfect!”

But what does it mean?

And, in what sense is it true?

First, let’s be clear that perfection is, as a general rule, unattainable. Excellence is the goal.

But simply practicing a skill over and over again, ad nauseum, does NOT mean that you will achieve the excellence you seek.

A good example of this lies with playing the guitar.

You can practice for hours on end, until your fingers are bloody, callused, and sore.

But if your finger positioning is poor…

And your strumming technique is deficient…

And your timing is off…

You’ll sound just as bad at midnight as you did at noon.

Get this straight.

Practice, in and of itself, is NOT indispensable to success.

Practicing correctly and consistently, however, IS indispensable.

As Your Online Math Professor, I am here to show you how to practice the skill of doing mathematics – correctly AND consistently.

April 22, 2010

Go for the gold!

Filed under: Attitude — yourmathprof @ 9:44 am

So often in life, you are your own worst enemy.

How so?

You defeat yourself by setting your sights too low.

Let me give you an example from my own life.

When I was studying for my three Ph.D. qualifying exams in 1995, I determined, at the outset, that I would pass all three on the first try.

Accordingly, I studied my a** off for four months.

Nearly every free moment was spent poring over notes or solving problems.

I would set aside blocks of time to take practice exams, timing myself and grading my work afterward.

With both my attitude and my actions, I was making a bold statement to all:

Nothing was going to stand in my way.

I took the exams in January 1996, then waited.

Two weeks later, the head of the graduate program called me into his office to tell me the results.

With a grin on his face, he said “You didn’t just pass the exams – you nailed them.”

By way of contrast, another student who took the exams at the same time I did set her sights too low.

She said that she wanted to pass two of the exams the first time, then take advantage of the retake policy to pass the third exam six months later.

You know what happened to her?

She only passed one of the exams.

One year later, she was out the door.

Instead of being in the Ph.D. program, she had to settle for a terminal master’s degree.

She wasn’t alone.

I knew of other students who failed EVERY ONE of the exams, and who ended up having to abandon their dream of obtaining a Ph.D. in mathematics.

They set their sights too low… and in so doing, they let others set their sights for them.

So what am I saying to you?

Go for the gold!

Don’t settle for the silver or bronze medals – and forget about any participation awards, because life doesn’t reward you for just showing up.

Have a HUNGER for the gold, just like the guys in the photo above.

In your math course, don’t decide to be happy with just a passing grade.

Instead, cultivate that craving for the A from DAY ONE, then set out to do whatever it takes to satisfy your hunger.

At the end of the course, you want to be standing on the top platform, having everyone look up to you.

Go for the gold!!!

April 18, 2010

Grab the bull by the horns!

Filed under: Attitude — yourmathprof @ 12:30 pm

Math is a tough subject to learn, and it doesn’t help when you tell people that you’re taking a math course.

“I hate math!”

“Math was my worst subject in school!”

“Good luck! I don’t envy you.”

My response to these purveyors of negativity and doubt is a simple and powerful one: Don’t let these people discourage you!

Grab the bull by the horns!

Be the aggressor!

Stare the mathematics bull square in the eye, determined to be the victor!

Take the initiative, study daily, ask questions, resolve to be the conqueror!

At day’s end, you will not lie on the ground, gored and bloodied.

Rather, you will stand atop your fallen foe, sword in hand, the triumphant matador!

Follow me, and I shall help you realize your goals.

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