In one of, if not THE greatest moment of my life, I was lying on my couch, not wearing pants in the middle of a weekday afternoon. I was watching a movie on television and eating snacks from a bowl. I know that may not sound so extraordinary, but please allow me put it into context.
I did well all the way through school, but with the exception of a few subjects, it never came easy to me. I had to work my butt off for just about every good grade I ever earned. The subject with which I had the most difficulty was mathematics. The only test I ever failed in my life was a high school math test. Failing that test scared the crap out of me and motivated me at the same time. My final grade that semester was 95.
My thinking, from the time I was in grade school (positive that I would one day be a professional baseball player), was: why do I even need to learn this? I’m never going to need this stuff… (I could never have known then how complex baseball statistics would eventually become). I can’t stress enough how much anguish math gave me. For years, there were dozens of small holes in my bedroom wall from stabbing it with my pencil out of math-inspired frustration. I hated math. Hated it!
Fast forward a bunch of years and I signed a major-label record deal. I remember somebody putting things into perspective for me that day, saying, “you know, people win lotteries more often than people sign big record deals…” That’s true! It was an amazing realization, but somehow I don’t think of that day as one of the best of my life. It was a big accomplishment, but I don’t remember feeling super-excited. There was a long, stressful process leading up to it and I guess I figured that there was much hard work ahead of me (I was certainly right about that).
But everything came together for me that day five or six years ago when I was lying on my couch in the middle of a weekday afternoon with no pants (trousers) on. I wasn’t exactly bored, but I remember thinking, ‘why hasn’t the phone rung all day? where are all of my friends?’ And then it occurred to me: they were all at work. They had real jobs. Most of them were doing things they didn’t really want to be doing so they could pay their rent. But not me! I was snackin’ and watchin’ movies! No pants on! I was living the dream! No job for me! Not a real one, anyway. I hadn’t had one in years. I beat the system! I was living a life of leisure due to my success in the music business. I started to reflect on things and flashed back to when I was a kid, in agony, doing math homework in my bedroom. That’s when it hit me: that I was right! I was right when as a kid I swore to myself that I would never need math in my life. It’s silly, but that realization made me feel so good. Signing a record deal was great. Having a successful career in music is amazing. It’s such a fun life. And I don’t need to do math! Ever! I never need to do long division or work out algebraic formulas. It was as if I had swore a solemn promise to myself when I was young, forgot about it, then remembered in a flash that I made good on it. It was so satisfying.
So there I was - no pants, no math. I was a grown man with a bowl of snacks and nary a care in the world. It hit me hard that few people are able to pull off a trick like that. And even better, I knew that luck had nothing to do with it. I worked very hard off to get to that position. Being a lazy slob at that particular moment was deeply, deeply satisfying.
I should note that my attitude about math has changed drastically since my school days. The truth is, I devote much of my free time to study. Several years ago, I read a book called Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife. To be honest, I originally bought it because the design of the cover was so nice. But I read it and loved it. It’s a great, great book. It sparked in me a keen interest in mathematics and physics. So I took it upon myself to read more and now I see math as a very beautiful language. I still take time to learn about math whenever I can.
So, for everything it meant, being a total slob on a weekday afternoon was perhaps the best moment of my life. I know it’s not an easy question, but what was yours?