Jeevan Sivasubramaniam of Berrett-Koehler Publishers produces the weekly BK Communique. An occasional feature is a puzzler. His final contest of 2009 caught my eye. Here it is:
"I issued this challenge. Some people came close, but no one answered correctly. The answer? You should definitely not take my bet — here's why.
"Kevin McCarthy submitted a response that was just so, um, creative that I had to give him a free book. (And he kindly sent me a copy of his book.) You can read Kevin's response to the challenge here.
No, I will not accept your bet in A Game of Cards. Here's why:
After reading the challenge, I easily recognized it as a probability and statistics question. Upon the thought of engaging in the calculation of the odds of winning versus the payoff, I felt this knot in my stomach – the same one I used to feel in undergraduate and graduate school when I had to take probability and statistics classes. My mind swirled with permutations, methods, and calculations as to how to attack and solve your challenge. My competitive juices began to kick in because I had to be the first to solve it in order to win a book and have a shrine in the lobby. Fortunately, I'm on the East Coast so I have an advantage over those later risers in the Central and Western time zones.
Recognizing this strange mix of competitiveness and cards, I immediately converted from worshiping in an Episcopal church to an ultra conservative Baptist church with Pentecostal and Charismatic leanings. This means I can neither play card games nor gamble. Because I don't smoke, drink, or dance (lack of any sense of rhythm per my wife) anyway, my transition ten minutes ago to my new Thursday morning church is going along fundamentally well. Never doubt the power and practicality of my conversion and the values of my new denomination. The knot in my stomach is gone – healed in an instant! Here is proof of the peace that passes all understanding as it washed through me. PTL!
Sure, you were likely expecting some brainiac to give an answer to the challenge using math. I, however, have claimed the high moral ground in a triumph of faith over math to come to the answer. Finally, should this be the winning and timely response, then I will accept a book but must decline the shrine in the lobby. I can have no part in false idols.
Kevin W. McCarthy
CEO, On-Purpose Partners, LLC
Here was Jeevan's notice to me of being the book winner:
"Never has an answer been so blatantly wrong and yet seemed so right. So, what the hell, for sheer audacity and creativity, you win a book."
Jeevan was true to his word and sent me The New Organizational Wealth, the book of my choice. He was a good sport so I sent him The On-Purpose Person.