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Riddle me this


“A man goes to work, tries to run home, sees a man with a mask, and then turns around to go back. What is his job?”

This riddle is just like the many challenges we face in the Air Force. We all have different ways of solving problems, and arrive at solutions at different times using different strategies.

This isn’t to say that one way is always better than others. It just means that we’re all different, and as a result, have different ways of coming up with answers.

And keep in mind, there isn’t always just one way to solve every problem. Abraham Maslow reminds us that “it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

When your unit might be handling a massive influx of customer orders, or MICT is throwing more flags than NFL refs, or you’re unable to communicate to your fellow Airmen how important the fitness test actually is, there are always many solutions to each of these challenges.

How you go about solving each one and how efficiently you solve them is something that will define you as a leader. Do you seek outside help? Is time managed well? Are you using all of your resources? Do you collaborate with a team? Do you take notes on what hasn’t worked so far, so that you don’t repeat mistakes?

The same strategies can be applied to solving a riddle. I’ve given the above riddle to almost everyone in our unit. Some were able to solve it in 10 seconds, while some took over 30 minutes to come up with the answer.

Those Airmen who collaborated, thought critically about each detail of the riddle, and had creative questions were able to solve it quicker. Those who sat in silence and pondered possible answers took the longest.

Following suggestions found on, the best tips for solving a riddle (or any problem for that matter) are the following:

  1. Read the question carefully
  2. Learn to question what you read first to make sure you fully understand the problem
  3. Pay attention to detail
  4. Learn from people – analyze other people’s solutions and what caused them to reach their respective conclusions

Think about this next time you’re faced with a challenge in your unit. There are probably many different possible ways to reach a solution. The question is, how long will it take you, and what will you do to reach your solution?

I’m sure you’re wondering about the solution to the riddle. If you don’t want to know, stop reading here.

The answer is that the man is a professional baseball player. He’s running home, referring to home plate, and the man in the mask is the catcher waiting to tag him out. Remember the strategies here when you tackle your next problem. The solution could be as easy as a home run.