Frustrated, I marched to my math teacher’s desk after class. I had gotten every single answer correct and still failed. Coming home with an F was punishable by death, and I couldn’t die before finding out if the ’08 Patriots would complete their undefeated season.
Before I uttered a complaint she looked at me and said, “Lonnie, you need to show your work. Having the right answer is not enough. You have to document how you got there.” Dumbfounded, I stared at the chalkboard. At home that night, my confusion morphed into anger. “Why does it matter? What’s the point of asking a question if you don’t care about the answer!?”
Eventually I gave in, and that was because I feared my parents’ wrath. Seven years later, I couldn’t be more thankful for the lesson my math teacher taught me.
“Show your work” is much bigger than math.
For people to take you seriously, they have to see evidence of the time you have invested in your work. If your work cannot be proven, how will the people who hold your future in their hands (bosses, coaches, etc.) be able to trust you. Like my teacher said, “Having the right answer is not enough.”
Speaking of answers, one story in particular embodies my motivation to continue showing my own work. Allen Iverson (aka “The Answer”) sat at a press conference and went on his infamous “Practice” rant. I can even recall seeing a local news segment on the press conference’s anniversary. The anchors chuckled and replayed the “Practice? We’re talking about practice, man!” line over and over again.
Growing up during Iverson’s twilight years, those lines defined him in my eyes. I only knew the MVP, Rookie of the Year, and 3-time All-NBA superstar as a temperamental basketball player who didn’t care about practice.
When I eventually stumbled upon a YouTube clip of the entire press conference, I was furious. After the notorious “Practice” part, Iverson went on to explain his irritation:
“We are on the same page. We are. I’m upset because of one reason…we are in here. I lost my best friend, I lost this year. I feel that everything is going downhill for me as far as my life.”
Iverson’s best friend had died recently, and his 76ers had just been knocked out of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics. That was the context to his “Practice” monologue. I was blown away. The only part of that interview I had ever seen on TV cemented a false notion. Allen Iverson had a shattered heart and broken spirit, and millions to this day laugh at his expense.
For me, that was unacceptable.
This is my daily motivation. This is why I show my work.
I love sports, and I love the idea of a media that keeps the public informed with the unfiltered truth. Through my blog and many other outlets, I pursue my passion of eliminating a growing level of cynicism regarding mass media.
I encourage you to identify your own passion; and in the words of my annoyingly wise math teacher, “Show your work.”