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Don’t Join the Popularity Contest: Make It Happen Yourself

Many times a day, I hear from someone who asks for help promoting a cause. They have something they're working on and want to share it with me—totally fine. I generally like to help as many people as possible. Being helpful relates to feeling happy, at least for me, and it's also a nice thing to do. Some of these requests, however, come in the form of “vote for me and spread the word” pitches—and these I feel less comfortable with.

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The Virtue of Insecurity

“When I wake up in the morning, I feel like any other insecure 24-year-old girl. Then I say, ‘Bitch, you get up and walk the walk today.’” ―Lady Gaga One time I failed at something I’d worked at for a long time. I felt terrible and spent a week moping around, complaining about it. My…

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Visiting the Art Museum

A while back I was emailing with Julien, and one of his questions reminded me of a story I like to tell… “A lot of people probably relate to the idea of leaving behind their responsibilities and heading out to a new life, but they’re not in the situation where they just say “screw it”…

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In Limbo

Being between things is tough. There’s a bright future ahead! You can picture it, just out of reach in the near distance. But there’s a muddied present in front of you. Things are messy and take longer than you think. You experience setbacks as you proceed toward the goal. What can you do? You could…

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The One-Year, Alternative Graduate School Program

What if learning wasn’t confined to a rigid program in a university? What if you could begin learning now, without going back to school?

The One-Year, Alternative Graduate School Program was one of the more popular parts of the original AONC book, in the same chapter where I compared the value of my graduate school degree to my career as an independent writer. I’ve since heard from a number of “students” of all ages who implemented this practice in a variety of forms.

The point isn’t to disparage traditional education, but to provide an alternative for different kinds of learning. You never have to put off learning, and higher education isn’t the only option.

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A Short Note on Bridge Jumping

When you were a kid and wanted to do something your parents or teachers didn’t like, you may have heard the question, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?”

The idea is that it’s not good to do something stupid, even if everyone else does it. The logic is think for yourself instead of following the crowd.

It’s not bad advice, even if it’s sometimes used to exert control more than to support independent thinking.

Then, you grow up and suddenly the tables are turned. People start expecting you to behave exactly as they do. If you don’t conform to their expectations, some of them get confused or even irritated.

It’s almost as if they are asking: “Hey, everyone else is jumping off the bridge. Why aren’t you?”

The irony of this is lost on everyone who is busy lining up to take the leap. The logic shifts from independent thinking to groupthink. If everyone else is doing it, it must be right.

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What To Do When the Unconventional Opinion Is Wrong

When I'm not roaming the world, I live in Portland, Oregon, land of strong coffee and tall bikes.

Portland is a fun little place, and it also happens to be one of the most progressive cities in America. You can buy marijuana at a food cart beginning at approximately age twelve.

When George Bush (the first one) visited Portland, so many people turned out to protest that he dubbed the city “Little Beirut.”

Walking down the street on any given day, you'll be accosted by people who want you to save the rain forest or support homeless anarchists.

For the most part, it feels like home.

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Lessons Learned from 11 Years of Travel

Last weekend I had the honor of speaking to 600 people at Frequent Traveler University, a conference devoted to the world of points and miles.

A longtime friend, Gary Leff, asked me to share a few lessons from the 11-year journey to every country that just wrapped up a few weeks ago in Norway. What have I learned?

Good question. I thought about it for a while and here are some of the highlights I came up with.

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