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If You Can’t Learn Math, Maybe It’s Not Your Fault

My experience in higher education was unusual and erratic. I eventually earned a master’s degree in International Studies, but long before that I was a high-school dropout.

One thing I haven’t talked about much is that I’ve never been able to learn higher math: algebra, geometry, calculus, or anything of the sort. It’s not for lack of trying, or at least it wasn’t for a while. (I have zero interest in trying to learn it these days.)

No, I tried and I just couldn’t learn. I tried over and over and it never got any easier. Lots of people tried to help. I read books and went to study groups. But no matter what I did, it didn’t sink in.

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“The Beauty Is That It Could Fail”: A Real-World Story of Risk

The new host of Prairie Home Companion steps in after forty years of someone else running the show.

Toward the end of the meeting, Thile suggested a new idea. He wanted to perform a live request every week with his new house band. The rules: A minimum of two of the players should have heard the song, but none could have previously played it.

Rowles liked it. Hudson looked wary. Someone else said, “It could fall flat.”

Thile pointed out that its flopping could be entertaining as well: “It’s Evel Knievel.”

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A Story of Friendship and Values


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Two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face.

The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.

They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him.

After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE.

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Why I Became an Entrepreneur 16 Years Ago

102269936_c53eb13bef_z The best and most honest answer is that I wasn’t good at anything else. For better or worse, I learned that I was a terrible employee. I was unreliable and unskilled.

I’ve written before about my last official job, lugging boxes onto FedEx trucks in the middle of the night.

Stacking boxes was surprisingly hard! It wasn’t just about picking up the box and tossing it in the truck—you had to stack it in a certain way that led to maximum efficiency (and presumably out of some concern for the contents, though that never seemed to be much of a priority).

I lacked the spatial reasoning to do this task well. I was decent enough at Tetris, but when it came to real boxes, I sucked. I kept waiting for that big horizontal bar to come down the chute, so I could clear off four lines of bricks or boxes all at once, but it never arrived. Instead, the supervisor kept messing with me, adding boxes with incorrect zip codes to the queue while laughing at my poorly-stacked pallets.

Whatever. I quit and never went back.

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Living With Gratitude in a Modern Age: Starbucks Edition


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Here’s one more story for the thread. (Oh, and here’s the first.)

Someone gave me a Starbucks gift card as a thank-you for a favor I did. Oh thanks! I thought. That was nice.

But to be honest, I get a fair number of Starbucks cards, so it didn't stand out in my mind at first. Most of the time, I just load them up on my card (you use the app, right?) and don’t think of it again.

This time I did something different. It was a $25 card, so I added it to the app but didn’t combine the balance with my main card like I usually do.

What’s the difference?

Well, every time I went to Starbucks for the next couple weeks and used funds from that new card’s balance, I thought of the person who gave me the card. Instead of just thinking That was nice once, I continued to think That was nice—and they’re still buying my coffee today!

Every day we have opportunities to live with gratitude—even in this modern age.

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To Write a Great Story, Start with a Real Struggle

I appreciated this illustration on unconventional storytelling from Tom Gauld:

092082E1-DC5A-4463-A4DF-71D15799F53E When talking about adventures, I often relate the plot outlining of blockbuster movies and video games. What if the synopsis of a big summer movie was "So and so had to save the world from evil... and then they did?"

We'd think, "That's it?! How did they save the world ... what happened along the way? Did they lose something and have to recover it? How was the hero changed throughout the journey, and what was different at the end of the story?"

Challenge is the essence of adventure, and struggle is the root of any great story.

In fact, sometimes the struggle is the entire story. If the struggle is good enough, we're willing to overlook anything else. Why did the aliens invade the earth? Who cares—we have to defeat them!

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A Few Things In the Mix

For a long time I’ve been troubled by the fact that there are many, many amazing people who are part of this community in addition to doing other awesome things—yet we don't do a good job of telling their stories. Just as we're actually making Unconventional Guides now instead of just saying that we should, I'm finally working on addressing this problem.

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A Tale of 9 Startups

Jon was inspired by a blog post that told him to quit his job and start a business. He dutifully did so, firing off a farewell message to his boss and former colleagues. Having heard about becoming “location independent,” he bought a backpack and went off to the world. What was it about that business thing? How would he actually make a living? He would figure it out along the way, he assured himself ...

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In Search of a Few Great Stories (Can You Help?)

The best part of The $100 Startup was telling the stories of all kinds of people who started successful businesses without spending a lot of money. Happily, the book has been a big success, with more than 100,000 copies sold in the first few months and at least 15 foreign translations in progress. I'm now beginning the research process for my next book, which we expect to reach even more people. This book is about quests—a project of measurable challenge that you work toward over a long period of time.

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