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Three Things I Know Are True: Taking Risks

I’ve been attempting to find “true north” in a lot of things lately. This series explores what I’ve found to be true in my own life. Your answers will probably differ; the point is to find what’s true for you.

Today’s topic is taking risks. Here are three things I know are true.

1. Most risk is perceived.

For example, it’s not any riskier to work for yourself than it is to work for a company, and it may actually be less risky. Why would you trust someone else with your well-being? Self-employment is actually a very safe and conservative choice for many of us.

Therefore, it’s very important to rethink the role of risk in your life.

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Going to the Movies by Yourself

I’m a big fan of doing things alone. I eat in restaurants alone, I go to faraway places for my birthday alone, and I generally work alone more often than not.

That’s why I’m naturally predisposed to like new research that shows that when you’re by yourself, you shouldn’t just stay at home and avoid activities that you might normally only do with someone else.

"People decide to not do things all the time just because they're alone," said Rebecca Ratner, a professor of marketing at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, who has spent almost half a decade studying why people are so reluctant to have fun on their own and how it may lead to, well, less fun overall. "But the thing is, they would probably be happier going out and doing something.”

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Three Things I Know Are True: Exercise

12200575735_0a3e958bf1_z I’ve been attempting to find “true north” in a lot of things lately. This series explores what I’ve found to be true in my own life. Your answers will probably differ; the point is to find what’s true for you.

Today’s topic is exercise. Here are three things I know are true.

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The Self-Addressed Envelope We Send to Ourselves

"Every day is like a self addressed envelope we post to ourself. Be careful what you post in it.”
I went through a phase as a kid when I collected autographs from baseball players. It was a pretty short phase—I don’t care much for baseball now—but for a few moths, I spent all my allowance on baseball cards, then consulted a book that listed the addresses of retired players. I’d send off a card to five or ten of them a week, including a note asking for an autograph, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope, then wait to see what happened.

As I recall, the results were pretty good. It took a while, but on average about half of the players returned my envelope with an accompanying autograph. It was fun to get mail, and the response motivated me to send out more batches of requests so I could await the returns in future weeks.

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Three Things I Know Are True: Writing Books

I’ve been attempting to find “true north” in a lot of things lately. This new series explores what I believe in different areas of work and life. Your answers may differ; the point is to find what’s true for you.

Today’s topic is writing books. Here are three things I know are true.

1. The basic process is easier than most people think.

As I’ve explained before, it’s not that hard to write a book. A book is composed of a number of chapters and words. If you break down the process in a logical manner, you can see approximately how many words are required on a daily or weekly basis to achieve the goal in whatever time period you set.

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“Knowledge Is Not Understanding” — The Case of the Backwards Bicycle

I loved this video from Smarter Every Day, where host Destin Sandlin learns to ride a bicycle that has been custom welded to reverse the handlebars.

It sounds easy—all you have to do is think left when you normally think right, and vice versa. Can’t be too hard, right? But it is hard... very hard.

After he learns to ride the reverse bicycle, he then has another big problem: how to switch back to an ordinary bicycle. It turns out that's really tough, too!

Lesson: “Once you have a rigid way of thinking in your head, sometimes you cannot change it, even if you want to."

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“Most Ambitions Belong to the Past”: Reflections on A Neurosurgeon’s Final Year of Life

I recently stumbled upon an essay from Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who died earlier this year at the age of 37.

I read the whole thing several times and was struck by several passages, including this one:

"Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past.

The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed."

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Hate Paying Taxes? It Could Be a Lot Worse: You Might Not Have to Pay Them

I do wish it were simpler. I was surprised last year to learn that I agreed with Donald Rumsfeld on something.

Part of it is my own fault: I keep starting new businesses and entities. I have a tax return for my career as an author, another for my entrepreneurial work, another for WDS, another for the WDS Foundation (a separate organization), and now another for Pioneer Nation. Who knows what else I’ll have next year!

Why can’t Amazon or Zappos or Apple figure this out for the federal government? Imagine the possibilities.

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To Cross the Railroad Tracks, Go Against Everything You’ve Been Told

One time, long ago, I had a hard year while living in Memphis, Tennessee.

Ever since then, especially when I’ve been at events throughout the south, I’ve met a lot of people who also lived in Memphis for a time. When the subject comes up, once in a while I mention something about my hard year there, and I always add a disclaimer: “Probably it was just me.”

There are good people everywhere, and you never want to insult someone’s city. More than once, though, they’ve said “I had a hard year in Memphis too!”

As the song says, maybe it was Memphis, but maybe it was just me. Whatever it was, it wasn’t only a hard year: it was actually a terrible year where I felt very alone and afraid.

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Paradise by the Runway Lights: Notes from Childhood and 25 Hours of Flying to Melbourne

It was long ago and it was far away, and it was so much better than it is today.

I had an eclectic taste in music when I was a kid. Much of it came from my dad, who introduced me to Bob Dylan before I became more of a fan than he was. There was also Tom Petty (early years), Warren Zevon, and Bruce Springsteen at some point.

I was growing up at least ten or fifteen years late, in other words.

But our generation had an edge on the previous one when it came to technology, or so it seemed at the time. I'd saved for a Sony Walkman, a prized possession acquired at age eight, and over the next few years I recorded songs off the radio for later listening. Late at night, I’d play myself to sleep on many of those songs.

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Win the Way You Won Before

When you encounter a setback and need to regroup, think back to a time when you won. You mastered a skill, navigated a tricky negotiation, or otherwise came out on top.

Can you use the same skill or strategy now? Can you adapt that skill or strategy to a new situation?

Sure, circumstances may have changed. But you haven’t always lost or struggled, so think about that time when you got it right.

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Visiting the Hidden Speakeasy in Downtown Sydney, Australia

Searching for a great cocktail in Australia is a quest of its own. For most Australians, a cocktail means "gin and tonic" or "margarita"—they have great wines in this part of the world, but legit mixed drinks are hard to come by.

That just means you have to look harder, of course.

I found a modern-day speakeasy hidden away in the Central Business District of Sydney. Finding the general area wasn’t difficult, but there was a trick to finding the speakeasy itself: you had to avoid an imposter bar located right outside. The imposter bar looked fine—just a normal pub with the typical overpriced drinks of Sydney.

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