Computer Science teacher Andrew Erker ’11 continued his alumni presentation program by inviting Ryan Linkul ’08 to speak to Priory’s 7th grade computer science classes in the Kevin Kline Theatre on Friday, March 3. Ryan offered his personal history and a few fun photos from his time as a Priory student before diving into the topics of his presentation: success, failure, and confronting reality.
He began by showing three riddles, and challenging the students to quickly answer them (we’ll include the answers at the bottom!).
- A bat and a ball together cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
- If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?
- In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half the lake?
The boys scribbled furiously on slips of paper, before handing them in to Mr. Erker for grading. Ryan then showed them statistics on how college students performed when asked the same questions. The goal of this exercise was to show how it’s important to dig deep into life’s questions, and not just go for what seems to be “the easy answer.” All of the problems Ryan presented are easy to work out with a little thought, although most students (and the author of this article) answered them incorrectly due to not taking the time and care to really think them through.
Ryan quoted Mark Twain, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” He encouraged the students to always challenge what they learn, and to especially challenge what they already feel they know. He also taught that misjudgment is prevalent, and that we all suffer from what’s known as recency bias: we expect what’s happening now to continue on. We tend to bypass natural logic, and are over-influenced by authority. Ryan used examples of people who consistently thought differently and challenged what they were told or what they knew to be true, including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. He also talked about the failure these incredibly successful people experienced, and how they turned failure into resilience, an engine to drive continual change and improvement. Ryan told the powerful story of his own failures – he founded two companies, neither of which exists today – and how he uses those experiences to reflect and improve who he is and what he does.
He stressed to students that they should always be students, even after they graduate from college, and encouraged them to always be “amateurs” who confront reality and are comfortable with failure and the lessons that can be derived from it. He spoke about how pain plus reflection equals progress. He said, “I believe that life consists of an enormous number of choices that come at us and that each decision has consequences, so the quality of our lives depends on the quality of the decisions we make.” He even quoted Father Michael Brunner, O.S.B.: “We are formed by what we do.”
Ryan finished his presentation with words of advice:
- Be a continual student.
- Ask why…
- Code something for fun.
- Enjoy your time at Priory
Ryan Linkul grew up in Glendale and attended Mary Queen of Peace before Priory. He graduated from Priory in 2008 and attended Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., earning a B.B.A. with a triple major of Finance, Accounting, and Information Systems and Operations Management. After Emory, he founded Linkul Value Management, LLC. He now works as an investment analyst for ACR Alpine Capital Research, LLC. He has a younger brother, Colin, who graduated from Priory in 2011 and attended West Point.
Many thanks to Ryan for spending time with the Priory 7th grade computer science classes!
Answers to Ryan’s pop quiz: