I hated math growing up. And hated just about every math teacher I’ve ever had. Maybe because I’m dyslexic and it’s not fun looking at a bunch of numbers that are dancing around. Maybe it’s because I failed or barely passed just about every math class I had ever taken. Or maybe it’s just because I could never understand how calculus could be useful to my everyday life — other than causing me indigestion.
Math is important to me now, however. Not the kind of classroom math I was speaking about above, but the kind math I now call life’s math. Let me explain.
When I was in college, I took a young lady to a James Taylor concert in Raleigh, NC. During our two-hour drive back to Greenville after the concert, I was pulled over on Interstate 264 by a police officer for speeding. I was going 75 mph in a 65. When the police officer walked to my car to ask for my driver’s license and registration, he asked me to follow him back to his police vehicle. It was then that this police officer gave me my first life math lesson.
He asked me where I was headed. Then the police officer took out a piece of paper and a calculator (yes, this was 1991 and before the smart phone was invented) and started scribbling down a math problem. A minute later he said, “six minutes. If you kept on speeding 10 miles over the speed limit back to Greenville, you would save six minutes off your travel time.” Then he handed me a $250 speeding ticket and asked, “is six minutes worth $250 to a college kid?”
Ask my wife, my kids, my buddies…I hardly ever speed. Nearly 30 years later and that police officer’s life math lesson changed the way I view speeding. Saving $250 is not worth six minutes of my time. And more importantly, it is not worth the safety of those that I am driving in my car and those also sharing the road.
Two years ago, one of my best friends got pulled over for a DUI and my daughter was in the back seat with his daughter. I later learned that my buddy refused to take the breathalyzer test and requested a blood test for a more accurate reading of his blood-alcohol level (which I have learned since then is the smart thing to do in that situation). Back to life’s math.
The repercussion of refusing a breathalyzer test with minors in the backseat is that you automatically get arrested. So, after the trip to the hospital to get his blood tested, my buddy spent the weekend in county jail. On Monday morning, I drove two hours to attend my buddy’s court hearing. He came out, no joking, in a full orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. I will never forget the look on my buddy’s face. He was humiliated and ashamed. It turns out that my friend’s blood-alcohol level was below the legal limit, but it still cost him $5,000 to hire a lawyer, pay court fees, etc.
So, I did he math. The average Uber ride to our favorite restaurants in town cost about $30. Divide $5,000 in legal fees by $30, and it averages out to 166 safe rides home. My buddy’s life math lesson changed the way I look at drinking and driving. Before this incident, my policy was if I had one or two drinks, I would drive home. Now, if I have even a sip of alcohol, I’m taking an Uber home. Do the math. It is always worth 166 safe rides home.
This year is the 12th year that I’ve been blessed to be on the speaking circuit. In this business, professional speakers have a booking agent or business manager that represents them in hiring companies and clients. I’m embarrassed to admit, but I’ve had eight different business managers over 12 years. Like my buddy in an orange jumpsuit, this is humiliating.
I started doing life’s math. If you divide 12 years by eight, then the average tenure of my business manager is 1.5 years. My last business manager lasted 60 days. Something is wrong.
My failure to take the time and invest in finding the right business manager has cost my company thousands of dollars. And even though Andrea, Kerry, Debbie, Tonia, Amber, Brooke, Faye and Tara are all wonderful human beings, they did not have the commitment to be successful in this position. Instead, I should have invested in the right resources or hired a consultant to help on board the right person..
Life math works in marriage too.
I have learned to listen to my wife with no distractions for 15 minutes versus fighting all night about me not listening to her. It’s worth the 15-minute investment for sure!
Life is math. I may have hated math back in school, but I now understand its importance. Life’s math changed how fast I drive, how much I drink when I drive, how I hire employees, and most importantly, how I listen to my wife.
Think about all the personal and professional challenges in our lives. Life’s math can usually help solve our problems. And, you don’t need to wear an orange jumpsuit or sleep on the couch to do the math!