Don’t Take No for an Answer, Bend The Rules As Needed to Lock in Your Success

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Make the rules work for you.

My long-term life plan required:

>> I graduate college to be all I could be

>> to graduate in the Spring, I needed to pass all of my required my classes

>> to pass one of my required courses, I needed to code a disk dump program

>> since I was a slow and sad coder, I needed the computer lab open twenty-four hours a day to figure out what to do.

All electrical engineering students needed to take software coding classes to graduate. Some computer languages were easy for me, others I got after study, but this current coding course was whipping my ass. I needed every minute I could secure in the computer lab.

At this time, college programming courses ran programs on mainframe computers. It was in olden days before desktop computing. Everyone had to use stand-alone computer terminals to use the computers which served the entire college campus. You could not perform this work from home. I needed the computer lab open in the early morning hours, but the school did not support those hours.

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The university computer lab had two rules:

1. If there was one student in the lab, it was open for use.

2. If you were sitting at a computer, terminal, it was yours. Once you left the seat, another student took it. There was no going to the bathroom or taking a fresh air break.

The computer lab was open from seven a.m. until ten p.m. As an older student, who was also a wife and mother, I needed more time to code in the middle of the night since that was when I had available time.

After that, the “one student” rule applied. I was often that one student, left behind and reluctant to leave because my programs were not working. I needed the computers to test my code. Sometimes I would head home to catch a few hours of sleep, then return in the early hours of the morning to find the lab locked. The lack of access was hell for me as I had no other way to test the new code I had generated.

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill

The university had been approached by students many times about leaving the computer lab open twenty-four hours but had refused to because of the cost. I went to the Dean and was told that the rules allowed for the lab to be open 24 hours a day “if there was anyone in the lab.”

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After that conversation with my Dean, I brought a blanket and pillow with me to the computer lab. Once I was too tired to continue, I would lay my blanket on computer printout paper on the floor. There were trash cans full of fan-fold computer paper. The paper made a hard but clean bed.

When the student guard came to check the lab, I was in there, asleep. I was not sitting at a computer, but I was in the room. He could not close the lab, so he did not lock the lab, nor did he ask me to leave. I would sleep a few hours then get up and code more.

Early in the morning, when other students came to use the lab, if I was still asleep, they would wake me. I would stand up, go splash water on my face and return to my seat and continue coding. No one took my seat while I was out of the room. I became the exception to rule number two.

My coding classmates saw what I was doing and followed my lead. Someone created a sign-up sheet, so the lab would never close. It worked. We followed the rules, got no pushback from the university, and the lab was open twenty-four hours most days.

I gained enough time to complete my coding by working all night many times, got a “B” in the class and graduated in the Spring changing my life forever.

Take whatever short-term actions are required to move your long-term plan forward. Be creative with the rules. Bend, don’t break. Never give up.


My books are available on Amazon. From Zero to Hero, Supercharge Your Finances with a College degree is the book that further details my college adventures.

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Toni Crowe can be reached at

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