Jeremy Côté


Jolting Your Ego

I’ve always considered myself to be good at physics. In every physics class I’ve taken, I’ve excelled at the subject and always enjoyed it. The blend of physical situations with the use of mathematics always enticed me. Consequently, my grades in nearly all of these physics classes have been great.

Therefore, I was quite confident that I would do well in a new book I found, called 200 More Puzzling Physics Problems. I figured they would be small puzzles that I could solve fairly easily after a bit of thought. With my grades, of course it was going to be a breeze!

Unfortunately, I received a rude awakening when I looked at the first problem and was stuck. I sort of understood what I needed to do, but not really. I ended up looking at the solution in order to solve the problem, and then moved on to the next one.

Same result. A question that seems simple enough on the surface, but has a complex answer. Once again, I looked to the solution, and saw the equations and definitions which were everywhere, and I realized that I had jumped into a level of difficulty I wasn’t prepared for. Even with the hint on each question, it was proving more of a challenge than I had anticipated.

Finally, I encountered a problem I was able to “partially” solve (which really means I couldn’t solve it, and had to look at how to set up the problem). A small bit of triumph exploded within me, and it has become my motivation for continuing. I want to solve more of the problems, even if my memory of some of my earlier physics classes is a bit vague. It has definitely been a hit to the ego when I could not solve a problem, but I realized that the better attitude is to look at these difficulties as learning opportunities. I don’t need to be perfect with all my answers, and the book is fleshing out some of the peripheral details that weren’t really explained in earlier classes. It’s good practice, and it has inspired me to improve my problem-solving skills.

When faced with a challenging situation for one of your passions. Don’t run away. Embrace it head on, and work to improve yourself. If you do that, you will be able to get through the situation.

Sometimes, it’s wise to leave your ego at the door.