Zero to One, by Peter Thiel, had been sitting in a pile of books next to my nightstand for almost a year before I cracked it open. I’d heard it was great from a number of people much smarter than myself but had put it off.

Thiel offers many interesting ideas, but his main principle is this: Improving upon something that already exists takes us from Zero to N. Only when we create something truly new and groundbreaking do we get from Zero to One. Ideas that have the potential to change the world are what’s needed to take the future from Zero to One

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I never knew how I’d react if a stranger were to pull a knife on me. Sure, I’d thought about it. We all have. Most guys—we’ve fantasized about it. We’ve all rehearsed that round-house kick to the mugger’s head. We’ve replayed the scene where we save the girl from the crooks in the alley a thousand times.   

We all love to think that when danger arises we’ll stand our ground and fight. However, it’s our evolutionary “fight or flight” response that gets the final word.  And here’s the thing about fight or flight: it’s designed to take thinking out of the equation. Thinking gets in the way of reacting. And for tens of thousands of years, quick and thoughtless reaction has been what’s helped keep mankind alive.

When the time came for me—when push did finally come to shove—I was reminded of how little thinking I had time for.

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“Balance is important,” he said as we piled into the riverboat. It sounded like it might be the only English phrase he knew. He motioned with his hands from port to starboard and the packs of turismos split and filled the seats evenly on each side. “Balance,” he said again. “¿Entiendo?”

We were shuttled down the mountain from Monteverde, Costa Rica to get the river. One top heavy bus and a dozen travelers on a thin dirt road, speeding through green farmland and three-casita villages. Some passengers closed their eyes when the tires kissed the edges of the cliffs. I stared out the window, deciding if I was electrified or petrified.

I watched our driver brace himself before the bumps in the road came and relax his body into the blind turns that followed. He knew the roads well. He knew the balance.

How do you find balance while traveling?

I’m not talking about balancing all that extra stuff in your backpack you don’t actually need. How do you balance your priorities? How do balance your mind?

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