I enjoy helping my son, Samuel, with his homework. He’s in first grade…so I still have the intellect to help him. Now, next year will be a completely different story.

The other night, I was sitting at the kitchen table helping him with his math homework. He is working on plus 2’s, as he calls them. This is where he takes a single digit number and adds 2 to it. So, this particular paper was filled with questions like 9+2 and 4+2, etc. I’m sure you get the idea. I’m also sure that you can now see why next year will be above my intellectual level.

At one point, about half way through the homework, he got stuck on an equation like 6+2. He finally figured it out after counting on his fingers. The next question was 9+2. I immediately thought “uh oh”…he doesn’t have enough fingers to count to 11. What will he do??

He very quickly wrote down the number 11 for the answer. I was surprised and impressed!! Wow! He is a child prodigy!!

So, I naturally asked him about this. I said, “Sam, how did you get that answer so quick? It was a tough one.”

He responded “I had that same one before.” He pointed out that several of the equations are repeated on the page and he had already answered 9+2 early on this homework assignment. So he simply copied his answer…

At this point, I started second guessing public education and began making plans for how and when I was going to pull my son out and begin homeschooling him. I mean, what are they teaching anyway??? Right?

But, then, I realized…I do this all the time. I look for ways to cheat the system. I look for loopholes and ways to get my work done more quickly.

Although I call it “working smarter, not harder.”

So, maybe my son’s school isn’t teaching him how to cheat. Maybe they’re teaching him how to work smarter rather than harder. Maybe he’s learning the lesson of how to be resourceful.

Regardless, it caused my to become introspective about my own approaches that mirror this same approach. I copy experts. I copy organizations that are bigger or better than my own. I look back over the things that I’ve done and pull out the wins and try to replicate them.

But, here’s the downside of this approach and the lesson I learned from my son’s homework:

WHAT IF HE HAD GOTTEN THE ANSWER WRONG THE FIRST TIME?

9+2 wasn’t just on his page twice…it was there 3 times! And out of 20 questions, if he is copying the first answer – and it’s wrong – that’s 3 wrong answers and takes him immediately down to 17 out of 20 right off the bat. That takes a potentially A homework assignment down to a B very quickly. Luckily for my son, he got it right the first time. 11. But what if…?

And, for us, how often do we get it wrong? Or what about those “experts” or organizations that we’re copying? What if they’ve gotten it wrong? Or what if they got it right for them and their organization…but it will be completely wrong for you and your organization?

So, before you copy that previous answer, you better make sure it was right the first time.

Where have you been guilty of cheating the system and gotten the answer wrong? Comment below and let me know!