Actually making a difference

Most of my professional life is about incremental improvements. Typically, I take students who already are the successes of our education system, and I make them slightly more successful. Or I slightly improve the body of known mathematical research by proving a new theorem. I rarely do anything of great importance. This is not to say that I am not important—somebody needs to do my job. But—really—I am a cog in a machine. Moreover, I am a replaceable cog, in that people’s lives would not be all that different if I were replaced with a similarly competent professor.

Almost every day of my work life is like this, and I am fine with that. But not yesterday. A student came to me asking for advice. This student had two choices, and the choice would dramatically affect (at least) the next ten years of the student’s life. I gave this student advice that no one else had given before, even though many were asked.

It is rare that I have an opportunity to change the course of one’s life. It was completely satisfying.

2 Responses to “Actually making a difference”

  1. Cong Tuan Son Van Says:

    Bret, you helped me pursue the mathematician career, which I did not want or think about earlier! And I am happy with it so far!

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Hi Cong!

      Thanks for the vote of support. However, I think that you are a good example: I am guessing that there is a good chance that you would have gone to grad school if you had someone else for multivariable, structures, and thesis. Even if you didn’t, you would be a star programmer somewhere. Heck, you had a successful career BEFORE you even met me!

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