THE BLOG

The Key To Career Success

07/15/2013 02:34 pm ET | Updated Sep 14, 2013
Shutterstock

"The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple." ~ Stan Gudder, Mathematician

Math, at its core, is about solving problems -- about breaking a challenge into its basic elements to be investigated, tested, manipulated and understood. Math can give you the tools to find a winning formula. And, it can create the path to your career.

I confess: I love math ... always have. After all, math provides a framework to investigate the world. It brings clarity and helps us understand how things fit together. It's logical; it's practical. Quite literally, it measures the difference between winning and losing. And who doesn't love to win?

Math has been the key to my career success. It equipped me with the know-how to evaluate what companies are worth (yes, using big mathematical formulas!). It allowed me to successfully run a business and be in charge of financial communications for AT&T, the world's largest telecommunications company. And today, it's enabling me to build a new business within that same company. Math is at the core of how I think about the business, how I formulate my plan for the future, and how I evaluate its success.

Math is the key to unlocking possibilities. It frees you up to think creatively about solutions and to focus your attention on what truly matters at the end of the day.

When looking at a business (or any organization, frankly), you can break it into elements or building blocks. What makes up the key functions needed to run the business? How do they fit together? Once you can see how the pieces fit together, you can better understand what's important and what's not. You can tell which elements have the most impact on results.

Consider a lemonade stand (my sister, Claire, and I often put one up on the corner when we were younger). The revenues we earned were based on the number of customers who stopped and bought lemonade, times the price we charged. Our costs included our advertising (Claire standing on the corner waving her arms and holding a handmade sign!), the stand itself, cups, ice and our product, the lemonade, and our time to staff the stand (yes, I usually was the manager!). Think about how all these elements are related mathematically - you can literally turn them into a formula to measure how well your lemonade stand functions today, and how you can make it better and more profitable in the future. You use math to make success happen, which is the approach Claire and I both use in business every day (yes, she is also an accomplished businesswoman!).

Ultimately, math helps you understand, simplify and communicate decisions. It frees you to ask "what if ..." and "what would it take to ...?" So, you can think about what would happen if you lowered the price of your lemonade, or if you made your sign bigger, or if you added another product (like cookies). You can focus on prospective decisions and use math to compute the impact! It helps you communicate with others - and you use the numbers to tell the story!

Finally, math empowers you to be a better leader and to remain open to new ideas. It sparks creativity and learning. It gives you confidence and conviction to say "YES!" when you're asked to take on a new challenge. It helps you attract and energize the people you hire to help you. In a marketplace that's moving so fast, it's important to constantly listen, learn, analyze and formulate new ways to serve customers. Math provides the foundation for doing just that.

Want to succeed? It's simple ... math.

Recipe: Brooks' Homemade Lemonade

  • 1 ½ cups of lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
  • 1 ½ cups of sugar
  • 8 cups of water

Stir and serve over ice!