When we were newly married, my husband, Bob, joined the Air Force and was accepted into the accelerated master's program in management at MIT—and the Air Force was paying for it. The opportunity awed and excited us.
Then classes started. All of a sudden study habits loomed large. Our days became filled with the same conversation: "Bob, don't you need to study?"
"I'll get to it."
"Bob, isn't that finance paper due Friday?"
"Stop bugging me about it!"
I was afraid for the future—what if Bob failed a course? Would the Air Force court-martial him? I didn't think so, but I didn't want to find out!
My fears crystallized around Statistics and Probability, a self-paced, pass/fail course in which you studied a chapter, took the test, and moved on if you passed. Bob hated the course; to his engineer's mind it was "voodoo math" and not worth his effort. So he avoided it. Although he went to class, he barely cracked a book.
So here we were, days before the term's end, and Bob had 15 chapters to finish. I was frantic.
"Bob, aren't you going to work on Stats?"
"What if you don't finish?"
"What if you get an F?"
"Then I'll get an F."
"But what will the Air Force do?"
"Probably nothing," he said, becoming frustrated.
"Don't you care about our future?"1