March Madness Behind the Curtains - It Isn't So Mad

Contributor: Adrian Rutt

Last week the 15th seed, Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders upset a number 2 seed, Michigan State Spartans. It was a fairy tale of a game. As I watched the clock hit zero, I thought to myself ‘what a game - I guess sometimes things just come together at the right moment and time.’ Then another thought hit me: that’s exactly how education works. I wasn’t seeing stars or unwarranted connections, so let me explain.

The Blue Raiders’ win wasn’t an anomaly except in the sense that it was a higher ranked seed beating a lower ranked one, and rankings are simply expressions of statistical probability. No one thinks that because there is a difference in rank that therefore the outcome is already decided - no one would ever watch March Madness if that were the case. Furthermore, what of situations later on in the bracket in which a number 2 plays another number 2? I’ll save you the suspense: the world doesn’t explode when two same-ranked teams meet.

We should remember, then, that there was a significant amount of preparation done by the Blue Raiders. It wasn’t pure chance that they won, but neither was it purely determined ahead of time. It was a little bit of both, and that’s when I realized that was exactly how education worked. You see, education is like the Blue Raiders preparing all season, practicing, looking over Michigan State’s playbook before the game, and working hard. But no one sees this: it’s behind the curtains so to speak. Everyone just sees “Number 15 Beats Number 2!” and chalks it up to ‘well, it’s March Madness…’

March Madness isn’t so mad though. I can tell you how an upset works: preparation meets chance. As I said earlier, it isn’t purely the latter. Not a single player on the Blue Raiders would chalk it up to astrology or randomness; they would say something to the effect ‘we worked hard all season, stayed dedicated, had faith, etc.’ In addition to this they would say ‘and it just worked out for us.’ This teeny-tiny latter part is the chance aspect. When you pull away the curtain of a seemingly chaotic situation and see that there was so much more to be seen and accounted for, it kind of ruins the ‘madness’ aspect of it.

To say that someone like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs merely rose to the heights that they did because of ‘madness’ is, well, madness. Tweet: To say that someone like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs merely rose to the heights that they did because of ‘madness’ is, well, madness.

Like the Blue Raiders, my guess is that these two men would chalk their success up to mostly their education - both formal and informal, the hard work they put in, and then, the cherry on top, things just came together at the right time. To say their rise to the top was because of chance or madness is to demean the hard work they put in in all of the moments leading up to the top.

So while part of life is about being in the right place at the right time, it is also knowing what to do when you are in the right place at the right time. You can’t just merely exist and hope it all works out in the end: the right place, right time argument is meant to present you with a situation in which you can display all you’ve learned up to that point. Life presented the Blue Raiders, Gates, and Jobs with a chance, and they capitalized. Their being able to capitalize wasn’t chance.

Are you prepared when your chance arises?