Just some stories I remembered from high school and wrote down on the train.
When I was in high school, I had an economics teacher that I thought was amazing because he was so good at telling stories…
“There used to be a guy working at JPL. Now JPL is THE place to work if you are an engineer. It is the Goldman Sachs for engineers. If you graduated from college and got into JPL, you were set for life.
This guy that worked at JPL had everything in life: a beautiful wife, two beautiful kids, a beautiful house and an amazing job. However, what he didn’t realize was that his job defined him. He only had everything because he worked at JPL
Then, right before Christmas, he lost his job because JPL had to cut jobs due to the financial crisis. After he lost his job, he lost everything. His beautiful wife, who was just with him for the money, left him. She brought the kids with her, and brought them to her parent’s place for Christmas
Now, he was alone in his big house on Christmas eve.
The next day, the police found his wife, children and her parents killed in their house. They found his dead body not far away. He had broken into their house on Christmas morning and killed everyone in the house, then committed suicide.
So, guys, never let your job define who you are. And for you right now, don’t let your grades determine who you are.”
I guess this was especially motivational right after a hard test. It was only later in college that I learned that good economists are always good at telling stories.
History was another class full of stories.
“I once had a student. He was really smart. He got an A in every single one of his classes. I remember that he even graduated with a record GPA. One day, he sent me an email saying he would like to invite me to speak at Stanford. Apparently, all the top performing students at [a top 10 university] could invite the teacher they thought was the most inspirational from high school. He graduated top of the class in engineering, and asked me to go.
I’m guessing its because I’m the only teacher who didn’t give him an A. I gave him an A-. He came to class and aced all the tests, and knew all the answers, but I didn’t really feel that he was a good history student. He was just a machine.
I went to [a top 10 university] to speak. It was a fun experience. There were other history teachers, science teachers and even a french teacher. The talks were nothing special.
He did end up treating me to dinner afterwards though. We talked about his life. I asked him if he got a girlfriend, and he said he did for a while, but it didn’t work out. I asked him about his job and he told me that a firm hired him to be a quant. Basically, they were paying this kid hundreds of thousands of dollars to screw everyone over with his superior math skills.
I didn’t like his life style. He had a lot of things going out of college, but I still saw him as the kid that still deserves an A- in my class.”
I don’t know why, I always enjoyed story time with my history teacher. I guess both him and my econ teacher were some of the few in my school looking beyond just grades, colleges and jobs. It was comforting to not have to look far ahead in these classes, and just enjoy history and economics.