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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

An Inspirational True Story a Friend on Facebook Shared With Me!

Thanks to Andrés for sharing this lovely true story of inspiration! 

George Danzig was a senior at Stanford University during the depression. All the seniors knew they’d be joining unemployment lines when the class graduated. There was a slim chance that the top person in the class might get a teaching job. George was not at the head of his class, but he hoped that if he achieved a perfect score on the final exam, he might be given a job.

He studied so hard for the exam that he arrived late to class. When he got there, he just picked up his exam booklet and slunk to his desk. He saw that besides the eight problems on his test paper, there were two more written on the board. He diligently worked the eight problems on the test paper, then started on the two on the board. But try as he might, he couldn’t solve either of them. He was devastated. Put of the ten problems, he knew he had missed two for sure. But just as he was about to hand in the paper, he took a chance and asked the professor if he could have more time to work on the two he had missed. He was surprised when his professor agreed to give him two more days.

Danzig rushed home and plugged into those equations with vengeance. After hour and hours he could find the solution for only one of them. Out of time to solve the other problem, he turned in the test. He was certain he had lost all chance for a job. It was the darkest moment of his life.

Early the next morning, Danzig was jolted awake by a pounding on his door. He opened it to find his mathematics professor, very excited. “George! George!” he kept shouting, “you’ve made mathematics history!”
He didn’t know what his professor was talking about, so the professor explained. Before the exam, he had lectured the class on the need to keep trying in spite of setback and failure. “don’t be discouraged,” he had counseled the students. “remember, there are classic problems that no one can solve. Even Einstein was unable to unlock their secrets.”

Those were the two problems he wrote on the black board. Since George had come to class late and missed those opening marks, he didn’t know the problems on the board were up there as illustrations. He had no idea they were considered impossible to solve. He thought they were part of his exam and was determined to work them. Amazingly, he had solved one!

He did the impossible

Danzig's work was published in the International Journal for higher Mathematics, and he got a job as an assistant professor at the Stanford during the height of the depression.

What are the chances that George Danzig would have tried hard to solve the two problems on the board if he had heard that they were impossible to solve? No doubt, he would have been like every other student in the classroom who simply took the exam and turned it in. he might have felt encouraged by what they represented: that even the greatest mathematical minds had not been able to solve every problem. Only because he didn’t know they were impossible did he even attempt them. That’s exactly why so many people resist a challenge. We give up because we’re either told its impossible or we come to believe it’s impossible all on our own.



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