There are some similarities between math and life that you probably never thought about.
Math. Everyone’s favorite subject. Pythagorean Theorem, The Black–Scholes model, etc. The list of elegant, hair-graying, life-shortening formulas goes on. Math is a beautiful yet harsh reality. It is faceless, emotionless and everywhere. Did I lose you yet?
Depending on your situation, your life is a beautiful yet harsh reality. The answers are in existence. The answers are hidden, waiting to be brought to light.
Recently, I read Edward Frenkel’s Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality. It exposed me to the reality of mathematics. It’s taught me things I’ve learned to integrate into my life.
My goal isn’t to persuade you to become a mathematician—or how learning the Pythagorean Theorem will save your life one day. My goal is to help you understand how the process of learning math can help you in other aspects of your life.
From my readings, I found six realities of math that applies to life. It seems that math and life are much more similar than I thought.
1. Math and Life Are Both Uncertain
Confusion and frustration are obvious steps when doing math. That’s why it’s called math. There will be times when you approach a problem and have no idea how to solve it, let alone where to begin. And this is completely fine because the exciting part is the process of solving the problem. Losing your marbles is part of the process. Kind of like when you’re building something from Ikea.
When you’re taking on a project at work, starting a company, or raising children, there are a multitude of unknown variables. This is supposed to be invigorating! If everything in life was cut and dry then there would be no excitement. Everyone would be successful with little effort.
Enjoy the process and embrace uncertainty! It is where your creativity thrives. What makes math and other obstacles of life so intriguing is the journey that takes place to overcome the obstacle. When you solve that equation, close that sale, or finish that marathon, you’ll raise your hands in triumph! Most importantly, you’ll have learned so much in the process.
2. Keep Math and Life Simple
Another similarity between math and life is that some of the most obscure problems were solved by using simple formulas. Einstein (he was a physicist, not a mathematician) was known for keeping things simple.
Genius is making complex ideas simple. Not simple ideas complex.
Time and time again have simple concepts been the foundation for solving complex situations. It’s our tendency to over-analyze or magnify a problem when in the end, all we need to do is begin with the basics.
Training for a marathon? Start by running a mile. Then two. Then four. . .
Learning the guitar? Play scales. Repeat till your fingers bleed and calluses develop. You’re not going to learn “Stairway to Heaven” right away.
Writing a book? Create an Outline. Start with page 1. Begin with the introduction. Or just write whatever comes to mind and piece everything together afterward.
Begin with the basics. You’ll figure the rest out.
3. Math and Life Can’t Be Done Alone
A problem might be outside a mathematician’s interests. Or perhaps the problem is too easy for their taste so they delegate it to a student. Regardless, no mathematician goes at it alone. According to Edward Frenkel, it is almost impossible for students to do their own research without someone coaching their work. An advisor is vital.
We like to think we can do everything ourselves (I’m looking at you solopreneurs), but high-performing people know they can’t do everything. They collaborate and delegate.
A smart leader will delegate a project to someone that’s hungry to prove their worth. A smart business owner will delegate tasks because they know they don’t have the bandwidth to do it themselves. Or they know that someone else can do it better—they build people up.
A mentor, advisor, personal trainer, life coach, etc. is crucial to your success. Having a third-party to keep you in check will pay exponential dividends. Whether your name is Barack Obama, Richard Branson, or LeBron James, you have people helping you along the way to hit your milestones.
Bottom line—no one succeeds on their own.