Lose Yourself (In The Digits), March 2004
» Three days of focus, ending with a sudden command performance in front of hundreds
It was Monday, March 8th. The sixth Pi Day of Luke’s speaking career was approaching, but he hadn’t yet been invited to return to his college for his annual presentation. When he finally got the call that afternoon, he decided it was time to add something to his act. Each year since 1999, he’d given a lecture about the history and mystery of pi, always ending with the recital of 250 digits from memory, and a cheesy piano love song about the number. He wanted to spice things up in ’04, so he decided to write a rap.
Luke worked at an investment bank at the time, in a 10-hour-a-day job. For the next 72 hours, he filled every spare moment, from lunchtime to his bus commutes to his evenings at home, with pondering and writing the lyrics. He was a big fan of Eminem’s recent hit, “Lose Yourself,” and the song’s theme of performing under pressure lent itself quite well to the idea of reciting that elusive number in front of a crowd.
Luke finished the rap on Thursday, and performed it for a few coworkers that afternoon. His boss overheard the mini-concert, and he confronted Luke about it the next morning. No, he wasn’t upset; in fact, he wanted Luke to perform it on the company’s trading floor, in front of a couple hundred people, as a charity fundraiser! The company was about to launch a two-week drive to raise money for a local foodshelf, and Luke’s boss thought this would be a great way to kick off the event. Raise $2,500 by noon, he challenged the company, and Luke will rap live in front of everyone. And if other branches of the investment firm were to donate, then Luke would wear a headset and turn the performance into a national conference call!
The money poured in, and in just three short hours, people had given well over $4,000 to the cause. Luke didn’t even have his own words quite memorized yet, but he donned his now-famous Pi Diddy hat and gave it all he could. Hundreds of traders and analysts dropped what they were doing and stared (or listened) as Luke stomped back and forth across desks, singing about how possessed he was by a number. It was a hit. In the end, the company matched many of the donations, raising the total to about $7,300… not bad for an impromptu hip-hop benefit concert on a trading floor.
Luke went on to perform his rap at his alma mater that afternoon, March 12th, and would later sing it for dozens of middle school classrooms. He recorded it professionally in late 2005, and in early 2006 it became the most popular feature on TeachPi.org. In 2007, his song and classroom presentations were covered by local and national media, and he was even quoted in Newsweek talking about the celebration of his very favorite number.