# Monday Motivation: Irrational and Inexact Can Still Be Useful

Yes, today is **Pi Day.** Why is that? Because pi is approximately 3.14, and today is March 14^{th}, which can be represented as 3/14 (or 3-14, or even 3.14). Get it?

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t. When someone told me last week that today would be Pi Day, I thought they meant “Pie Day,” and I was very much looking forward to eating nothing but pies all day long. Hmm, you know, there’s nothing stopping me from implementing that plan anyway…

If you have forgotten (or never knew) what pi is, it is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. If you don’t know what that means, you can learn more than probably want by reading Wikipedia’s Pi entry.

Here’s an interesting fact about pi: It is an **irrational and inexact** number. (I could make a lot of metaphorical jokes here – “Pi is irrational and inexact – like ___” but those would probably get me into a lot of trouble with many different people. So let’s just leave it at that and move on…)

By mathematical definition, irrational means that it “cannot be expressed as a fraction a/b, where a and b are integers, with b non-zero, and is therefore not a rational number.”

This means that pi **never terminates and never repeats.** It starts with 3.14, but it goes on for an infinite number of decimal places. (Lu Chao, a 24 year old grad student from China, is the Guinness-recognized world record holder for pi memorization. He recited pi to **67,890 decimal places** without an error. When asked why he did it, he said, “to get women.”)

(Pi is also a **transcendental number**, which makes it sound like it likes to hop in its VW Minibus and head out to California to chant and meditate. What it actually means is that “it is not a root of a non-constant polynomial equation with rational coefficients.” And if you understand that you are officially my smartest blog reader. Stop reading my blog and go do something useful like inventing cold fusion or finding a way to keep the “Real Housewives of Anything” off my TV.)

Because it never repeats and never terminates, we can’t know **exactly** what the value of pi is. However, our “best” guess is close enough that pi is widely used in math, science, and engineering. Without pi, you would be reading this off a piece if papyrus while living in thatched hut, getting ready to hop on your horse to ride over to the next town. It’s a remarkably ubiquitous mathematical constant.

Basically,** pi is irrational and inexact, but it is still incredibly useful.**

## The Takeaway

I think we all can learn a little lesson from pi.

Too many times people wait around, trying to gather all the facts. Trying to figure out every angle. Trying to guess and plan for every potential outcome.

That is a recipe for **paralysis and inaction**. Sure, you want to gather plenty of data, do your research, and get your ducks in a row. And in some areas (say, doing your taxes) you’ll need to be pretty exact.

However, there are many areas in life where **this level of precision is unnecessary and impractical**. Some things you just can’t know with 100% certainty. And some things are not going to make sense to you, but they still might work.

You’ll really see this in anything that involves other people. Making rational sense of others’ behavior and trying to figure out exactly what they have done and will do can be overwhelming. **Don’t drive yourself crazy trying!**

Gather a reasonable amount of data, create a best guess, and take action and move forward. Even if you’re wrong, you’ll get more feedback on how to fix your approach than you would have if you had just sat around and kept analyzing the situation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go cook myself up a pecan pi to celebrate this incredibly nerdy holiday…

## Pi Paraphernalia

You pi nerds may appreciate some of the nifty Pi related products on Amazon:

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### About

By Avish Parashar. As the world's only Motivational Improviser, Avish uses techniques from the world of improv comedy to engage, entertain, and educate audiences on ideas around change, creativity, and motivation. Connect with Avish on Google+