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Your environment, Musk’s mama, & best college degrees

By: Michael Blankenship |

“Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived…Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation… Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”

– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Greetings from LA and Oahu!

This week we’re talking about how your environment has an undeniable impact on your behavior, why Musk’s mama has been so successful at raising and rearing children, and which college degrees are the most lucrative. 


Stay Inspired

Your Environment

In 2018, my (Mike’s) family and I moved to Europe. Within the first three months of living there, one of the most notable personal changes — one that I wasn’t expecting — was in my waistline. 

Everyone walked. And so did we. 

Everyone ate smaller portions. And so did we. 

Everyone embraced a slower paced, relaxed lifestyle. And so did we.

What was most interesting, though, wasn’t just that these changes occurred… but how they occurred

It was easy. 

We did it because everyone around us was doing it — not because we were on some hardcore diet plan or exercise routine. It happened without thinking or intent. Our environment was influencing how we behaved… as it always does. 

Research by Darby E. Saxbe and Rena Repetti on women’s cortisol levels found that having a cluttered home is linked to “reduced executive functioning, as well as procrastination, reduced productivity, and emotional exhaustion.”

Moreover, “Neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania found that rats who were kept in the dark for six weeks exhibited depressive behavior. In addition, the researchers observed damage in the areas of the rats’ brains that produced norepi­nephrine, dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters involved in emotion.”

And finally, in Roger Ulrich’s most well-known study, he “compared how quickly patients healed after gallbladder surgery. He found that the patients who were put in a room with a view of a grove of trees consistently healed faster than those whose windows looked out on a brick wall.”

The point is this: your environment has a huge impact on how you feel, how you think, and how you behave. 

Sometimes, therefore, the easiest way to change your life… is to change your environment. 

Wondering what steps to take to do so?

Check out this week’s challenge!

Stay Informed

Lucrative College Degrees

Thinking about a career change? 

Here are 25 of the most lucrative college majors, according to Kiplinger. 

The top five are…

  • Electrical Engineering ($118,000 Salary)
  • Nursing ($77,600 Salary)
  • Computer Engineering ($120,000 Salary)
  • Chemical Engineering ($126,900)
  • Civil Engineering ($101,100)

Stay Entertained

Musk Mama

Maye Musk is the mother of three wildly successful children. 

One is the richest man in the world (Elon Musk), one “started farm-to-table restaurants and is teaching children to build fruit and vegetable gardens in underserved schools,” and one “is producing and directing films through her own entertainment company.”

You might wonder, like many parents, how Maye reered such smart, forward-thinking, risk-taking children. 

Good news. 

Maye put together an article for CNBC where she attempts to answer that question. 

Her advice? 

Just two things… 

Put your kids to work at an early age

My parents treated us like adults who could be trusted, and their influence is evident in how I raised my children. From a young age, my kids helped me with my nutrition business. Tosca would go into my office and type up letters to doctors on a word processor. Elon was very good at helping to explain the word processor functions to me. Kimbal was always helpful, too.

When we were living in Bloemfontein, I put Tosca to work at the modeling and image school I was running. Imagine an eight-year-old teaching students how to walk, choreographing runway shows and running etiquette classes. I even made her the dresser for all my shows.

Let your kids decide what they want

I brought my children up like my parents brought us up when we were young: to be independent, kind, honest, considerate and polite. I taught them them importance of working hard and doing good things. I didn’t treat them like babies or scold them. I never told them what to study. I didn’t check their homework; that was their responsibility…

Children don’t need to be protected from the reality of responsibility. My kids benefited because they saw me work hard just to put a roof over our heads, put food in our stomachs and purchase secondhand clothes.

When they went to college, they lived in quite poor conditions: mattress on the floor, six roommates or a dilapidated house. But they were fine with it. If your children aren’t used to luxuries, they survive well. You don’t need to spoil them. Once you’re sure your kids are in safe situations, let them look after themselves…

Let your kids handle their own documents to get themselves into universities or jobs. They should be responsible for their future. Or if they prefer to start a business and you think it’s a good idea, support them. Teach your children good manners. But let them decide what they want.

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

Nir Elias / Reuters

“Orthodox Christian worshippers attend the Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 23, 2022.” via The Atlantic

This Week’s Riddle

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

A murderer is condemned to death and he has the option to die in one of the following three rooms: a room full of raging fire, a room full of assassins with loaded guns, and a room full of lions who haven’t eaten in years. Which room should he choose?

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 does your environment impact who you are?

This Week’s Challenge

Read the “Your Environment” section of this email and ask yourself the following questions about the environments you’re currently spending the most time in:

  • Do the people around you believe in you? 
  • Is your health prioritized? 
  • Are you challenged? 
  • Does your environment inspire you? 

Think about your answers. Then consider making some beneficial changes to your environment.

Until next week, 

Mike & Alec

Riddle Answer: The room with the lions because if they haven’t eaten in years then they’re already dead.

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