Back when I was still part-time freelance writing and editing, I worked days with middle school math students. Now math has come a long way since I was in middle school back in the early 80s, but one thing hasn’t changed: the importance of practicing the fundamentals.
Math is one of those subjects that just takes practice. Learn the formulas and rules to work computations correctly, assess the problem before you, and apply the correct set of rules, following the steps exactly the same every single time, and you will arrive at the correct solution. If only life were so simple.
But aren’t most things, even complicated things, based on simple fundamental principles that, when mastered, bring success?
Aren’t most things based on fundamental principles that, when mastered, bring success?
Starting with the Fundamentals
In July 1961, the Green Bay Packers football team was assembled for the first day of summer training camp. The prior season had ended with a heartbreaking defeat when the Packers had lost the NFL Championship to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Every Green Bay player had been thinking about this loss for the entire off-season. Now, they were eager to advance their game to the next level and start working on the details that would help them win a championship. Head coach Vince Lombardi had a different idea.
In his best-selling book, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, author David Maraniss explains what happened when Lombardi walked into training camp in the summer of 1961. He took nothing for granted. He began a tradition of starting from scratch, assuming that the players were blank slates who carried over no knowledge from the year before.
He began with the most elemental statement of all. “Gentlemen,” he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand, “this is a football.”
Lombardi was coaching a group of highly skilled professional athletes who, only a few short months ago, had come within minutes of winning the biggest prize in professional football. And yet, he started from the very beginning.