Hi, it's me, the English major--the one who managed to avoid ever taking another math class after sophomore year in high school. That's right, after struggling through Algebra 2, I tossed my calculator in the trash and never looked back.

Except that:

  • I'm CEO of a small company (employee communication consulting), where I pay close attention to our monthly financials.
  • Because we're a consulting firm, every staff member (including me) tracks every hour he or she spends, and those reports inform almost every decision.
  • A key service our firm offers is communication measurement; we conduct surveys to ask employees for their feedback. That generates a lot of data--data that we analyze to help our clients improve their efforts.

So, gradually, while I wasn't looking, math became a core part of my professional life. And, along the way, I realized that being comfortable with math gives me a critical competitive advantage over liberal arts majors who are still avoiding even the slightest whiff of anything numerical.

How can math help you be more successful? Here are 5 ways:

  1. You'll speak the same language as senior management. Your EQ is probably way better than the accountants and engineers who rose to the top. But they crush you in the math department. By making the effort to master the essential numbers--revenues, profits and a few others--you can at least play in their sandbox.
  2. Your thinking will improve. Ever since I embraced math (as it relates to communication measurement), I've become more analytical. I'm better at pattern recognition. I can see the big picture, then drill down to understand a specific aspect. Numbers helped me understand employee communication from a different perspective. So I got better overall.
  3. You'll realize which part of math actually matters to your business. The good news about math is, unless you suddenly decide to become a physicist, you don't need to know everything. Calculus? Probably not. Algebra? Not very likely. So now you're down to basic mathematics (old fashioned calculation of numbers) and possibly geometry. You're smarter than a fifth grader, so you can concentrate on the few areas of math that actually relate to what you do for a living.
  4. Once you overcome one fear, it leads the way to conquering others. You're not a fifth grader; you're an adult. So it's time to take on topics that created anxiety when you were younger. Start with math and keep going. Science? History? You're ready to be awesome.
  5. You'll seem much smarter. "Most customers prefer this feature" is an okay argument. But quantify it--"67 percent of customers prefer . . ."--and you sound much more knowledgeable. (That's because you are. You're not guessing; you know.)

Ready to love math?