His most recent job was playing an obscure instrument for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Since music was a foreign language to me, I enjoyed the occasional dinners we shared with our wives as Ross would regale us with stories about his time with the symphony.
Coincidentally, Ross and I happened to be in the same accounting class that first semester and periodically we would study together and compare notes. Midway through the first semester, we had our first exam. I felt pretty good about it and so did Ross.
A week later, we entered the cavernous theater-style classroom and noticed that the professor had written the top five exam scores on the large board in the front of the room. When the professor handed back my test, I looked at the score and silently cursed as I realized I did not get one of the top five scores. After the professor handed out all the exams, he walked back to the front of the room and next to the top five scores, he wrote the name of the person who achieved them.
To my utter amazement, the professor wrote Ross’s name next to the highest score.
I slouched down in my chair, furrowed my brow and thought, “How in the world can a guy with no business background come in here and get the highest score on an accounting exam in his first semester at graduate school?” I spent four years getting an undergraduate degree in Finance, three years working in finance and accounting for a Fortune 50 company and yet, this musician from Boston beat me! “It’s not fair,” I immaturely thought.
Being competitive, I decided to “get even” and I immediately set a goal for the final exam. My goal over the next eight weeks was to not only beat Ross but also get the highest score and revel in the glory of seeing my name up on the board. So I kicked things up about 10 notches. I took copious notes in class. I went home and typed them up so they were legible. I spent many nights at the library working through problems and memorizing definitions. I pestered the professor during his office hours with questions. I worked myself into an accounting frenzy!
As the final exam neared, I was primed for success. Ross, on the other hand, was his usual carefree, goofy-smile self. He had no idea that his mid-term score became a bulls-eye on his back and I was determined to shoot an arrow right through it on the final exam.
My heart was racing as the professor handed us the final exam—if nothing else, at least I had adrenaline working for me. About an hour and a half later, I saw Ross out of the corner of my eye stand up, walk to the front of the room and turn in his exam. “Oh Sh&*”, I thought, “I’ve still got a lot to do and after all this preparation, he can’t beat me again.” About 20 minutes later, I turned in my exam, tried to calm myself down, and wondered how I would get by the next week until we met again to go over the results.
Walking back to my apartment, I reviewed the exam in my head and felt cautiously optimistic. Unfortunately, my pride would not let me ask Ross how he felt he did.
One week later, I solemnly walked into the meeting room and awaited my fate. The professor quietly walked to the front of the room and wrote 5 scores on the board. The first score he wrote was 97 followed by 96, 96, 94, and 92. I began to perspire. It seemed like an eternity before the professor got around to hand me my exam. I didn’t want to make eye contact so I kept my head down and then all of a sudden, my exam plopped down on the table with a thud—face down. I waited about five seconds before I nervously and gingerly turned it over.