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Peanut Allergy, Blue Pens, & Paralyzed Millionaires

By: Michael Blankenship |

“It’s easy to believe in something when you win all the time…The losses are what define a man’s faith.”

– Brandon Sanderson, The Well of Ascension

Greetings from LA and Oahu!

This week we’re discussing how antifragility (and a resistance to peanut allergy) can be fostered in children, sharing 12 lies you were told as a child, and telling the story of a self-made millionaire who can’t move anything but his eyes and lips. 


Today’s email is sponsored by Startup.Curated

Startup.Curated is a weekly collection of links related to technology and business growth. Each link is annotated by Edward Nevraumont, senior advisor to the Warburg Pincus private equity firm, to provide insights into why it is important and what the general consensus is missing. Often the best links do not even need to be clicked! Sign up free here to stay updated on all things tech and entrepreneurship.  

Stay Informed

Peanut Allergy

In the mid-1990s, a measly four out of every thousand children had a peanut allergy. By 2008, using the exact same measurement standards, that rate had tripled to 14 out of every thousand.

Why the sudden spike?

In the 1990s, schools and parents started limiting kids’ exposure to peanuts to ensure that allergic children wouldn’t be harmed. But this had unintended consequences.

In 2018, a study was published that had recruited 640 infants at high risk for developing peanut allergies. Half the parents were told to follow the traditional advice and avoid exposure to peanuts. The other half were given a snack containing peanut butter and told to feed it to their children at least three times a week.

The researchers followed the children for years and by the time the kids were five years old, they were tested for an allergic reaction to peanuts. Among the children who’d avoided peanuts, 17% developed a peanut allergy. Among those that had been exposed to peanuts deliberately, only 3% had developed a peanut allergy.

It turned out that peanut allergy was on the rise precisely because adults and schools were trying to “protect” their children from peanuts.

It’s now well-known that consuming peanuts at a young age massively decreases the chances of a child developing a peanut allergy.

This research specifically relates to peanut allergy, but it’s a powerful metaphor for the importance of exposing children to things that are difficult or even uncomfortable so that they may grow — while it might seem counterintuitive, doing so makes children stronger… not weaker.

In an email from Ana Lorena Fabrega (as part of her Fab Fridays newsletter), she gave the following advice to parents who want to raise antifragile kids…

“It’s not easy to see a child suffer, so it’s normal for adults to want to intervene when a child is upset. In cases, however, when we feel like we’re protecting our kids, we really aren’t…

Let kids experience discomfort and deal with difficult people. Let them take a few bruises, bumps, and scars in a relatively safe environment, like school or soccer practice. Just like exposing kids early on to germs will help them develop stronger immune systems, exposing them to difficult situations and reasonable risks will help them become more resilient, independent, and self-confident…

It’s about keeping a close eye, but not intervening all that much; making kids feel safe and protected, but not that much either. Doing nothing is often better than doing something. Although difficult at first for both kids and parents, stronger, antifragile adults will thank us in the future.”

Stay Entertained

The Pen is Blue


Not everything you were told as a child was true. 

In fact, many of the things you were told (maybe even believed) were simply a result of your parent’s beliefs and cultural biases. 

We love this thread from Aadit Sheth where he shares 12 lies you were told growing up. 

It’s worth checking out. 

Our favorite lies? 

  • You must work hard to find success in life. 
  • You should know what you want to do after you graduate college. 
  • Education ends after university. 
  • The end goal is to be famous.
  • Success is linear. 

Stay Inspired

The Paralyzed Millionaire

Jon Morrow can’t move anything but his eyes and lips. Diagnosed as a baby with spinal muscular atrophy, Jon became weaker as he aged, not stronger. And he now is almost completely paralyzed. 

In his heart-wrenching article, 7 Life Lessons from a Guy Who Can’t Move Anything but His Face, he explains, 

The only parts of my body I can move are my eyes and lips. My hands, feet, arms, and legs, are almost totally paralyzed, managing the occasional twitch and nothing more.

And yet… I have an amazing life.

Using speech recognition technology, I’ve written articles read by more than 5 million people. I’ve also built several online magazines that have, shockingly, made me a millionaire.

“This can’t be real,” you say. “You did all this, and you can’t freaking move?”

Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true. I do it all from home, sitting in my wheelchair, speaking into a microphone.

I’ve traveled a good bit too. I’ve lived in San Diego, Miami, Austin, and even Mazatlan, Mexico.

Not to imply it’s been easy, mind you. During my 34 years, I’ve had pneumonia 16 times, recovered from more than 50 broken bones, and spent literally years of my life in hospitals and doctor’s offices.

But I’m still here. Not only have I survived my condition, but I’ve built a life most people only dream about.

And starting today, I want to talk about how.

He’s an incredible writer and blogger who’s built multiple million dollar businesses. We highly recommend setting time aside over the next week to read his story in full. And we dare you not to cry. 

Extra Stuff

Here is some other random stuff we found interesting this last week!

Books We’re Reading

Here’s what we’re currently reading!

This Week’s Photo

Matilde Campodonico / AP

“A gaucho rides a horse during the Criolla Week rodeo in Montevideo, Uruguay, on April 14, 2022.” via The Atlantic

This Week’s Riddle

Here’s this week’s riddle — the answer is at the bottom of the email!

A woman shoots her husband, then holds him underwater for five minutes. Next, she hangs him. Right after, they enjoy a lovely dinner. Explain. 

This Week’s Question

Answer this question — either privately or by replying to this email. If your answer inspires us, then we’ll ask for permission to include it in a future email!

How do you know when you’re pushing yourself too much? What about when you’re not pushing yourself enough? 

This Week’s Challenge

Read through Jon Morrow’s story above and spend a bit of time thinking about your own life. Anything is possible… are you spending your life the way that you want to spend it? Take 30 minutes to think about the direction you’re heading and if that’s the direction you want to head. 

Until next week, 

Mike & Alec

Riddle Answer: She took a picture of him and developed it in her darkroom.

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