- Published: 5 January 2021
- ISBN: 9780241341056
- Imprint: Penguin General UK
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 304
- RRP: $22.99
Everything is Figureoutable
The #1 New York Times Bestseller
The Tropicana Orange
The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply.
My mother has the tenacity of a bulldog, looks like June Cleaver, and curses like a truck driver. She grew up the daughter of two alcoholic parents in the projects of Newark, New Jersey. She learned, by necessity, how to stretch a dollar bill around the block and is one of the most resourceful and industrious people you could ever meet. She once told me she rarely felt valued, loved, or beautiful, but she held tight to the promise she made to herself that, once she was old enough, she’d find a way to a better life.
As a kid, I remember going through the Sunday paper together and cutting coupons. She taught me all the different ways to save money. She also taught me to pay close attention to the free stuff that brands would send you—like recipe books or cooking utensils—if you saved up and mailed in a “proof of purchase.” One of my mom’s most prized possessions was a little transistor radio she got from Tropicana orange juice, for free. The radio was the size, color, and shape of an orange, with a red and-white-striped antenna sticking out the side like a straw. She loved that little radio.
My mom is one of those people who is constantly busy. As a little girl, I knew I could find her somewhere around the house or yard by listening for the tinny sound coming out of that Tropicana orange. One day I was walking home from school and heard the radio playing off in the distance. As I got closer, I realized the music was coming from above. I looked up and saw my mom perched on the roof of our two-story house. “Moooom! Is everything okay? What are you doing all the way up there?!”
She yelled down, “I’m fine, Ree. The roof had a leak. When I called the roofer, he said it would be at least five hundred bucks, probably more. That’s friggin’ nuts! I remembered seeing some extra asphalt in the garage and figured it would just take a few minutes to fix it up.”
Another time, I came home from school and heard the radio buzzing from the back of the house. Mom was in the bathroom, surrounded by tools and exposed pipes. Dust particles filled the air. “Mom, what’s going on?!”
“Oh, I’m just retiling the bathroom,” she said. “I saw a few cracks and didn’t want it all to get moldy.”
You’ve got to understand, my mom is high school educated and this was the 1980s. It was a pre-internet, pre- YouTube, pre- Google world. I never knew where I’d find her or what she’d be doing, but all I had to do was follow the crackle of that radio.
One fall day, I came home late from school and something was different. Everything was dark. There was an unusual silence. Something was wrong. I quietly walked through the house afraid of what I might find. Where was the sound of the Tropicana orange? Where was my mom? Then I heard clicks and clacks. I followed that sound and saw my mom huddled over the kitchen table. It looked like an operating room. I saw electrical tape and screwdrivers, and spread out in front of her were countless tiny pieces of a dismantled Tropicana orange radio. “Mom, are you okay? What happened to your radio? Is it broken?”
“It’s fine, Ree. No big deal. The antenna got busted and the tuner dial was a little off, so I’m fixing it.”
I stood there for a second, watching her work her magic. Finally, I asked, “Hey, Mom, how do you know how to do so many different things that you’ve never done before, without anyone showing you how to do it?”
She put down her screwdriver, turned to me, and said, “Don’t be silly, Ree. Nothing in life is that complicated. You can do whatever you set your mind to if you just roll up your sleeves, get in there, and do it. Everything is figureoutable.”
I was transfixed, reveling in and repeating those words in my head: Everything is figureoutable. Everything is figureoutable. Holy shit, yes . . .
Everything Is Figureoutable!
This phrase and philosophy took root in my soul. Since then, it’s become the most powerful driving force in my life.
It helped me end a physically abusive relationship. In college, it helped me win highly competitive and rare work-study positions to pay for room and board and get into the exact classes I wanted— despite prerequisite policies and wait lists. Even as a kid, it’s why I kept trying out for sports and cheer teams, even after getting rejected year after year.
It’s helped me land every job I’ve ever had, from bartending at the most coveted restaurants in Manhattan to lucrative oddball gigs—selling glow sticks at megaclubs—to trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, publishing at Condé Nast, teaching hip- hop, starring in workout videos, producing and choreographing on MTV, and becoming one of the world’s first Nike Elite Dance athletes—despite no formal dance training. It’s helped me climb out of debilitating debt, extricate myself from dead-end relationships, and save my most precious ones, often in record time.
It’s what gave me the audacity to start a business at twenty-three and build it into a multimillion-dollar, socially conscious education and media company from the ground up—with no clue, experience, investors, graduate degree, or connections. It’s what fueled me to start filming videos using my first-generation webcam, which would later evolve into an award-winning online show seen by tens of millions of fans in 195 countries. I don’t say this to brag. I say this because deep in my bones I am that certain everything really is figureoutable.
Yes, even if you’re starting from scratch. Even if you’ve already tried and failed. Even if you don’t have a clue what the hell you’re doing or why things keep going wrong. Even if the world has told you time and time again that you can’t. Even if you’ve been born into extraordinary challenges or find yourself with the deck stacked against you.
Maybe you’re wondering whether this idea can help you confront a harrowing reality. Like when you’re in the midst of despair or a sense of endless futility. Experiences like:
- A frightening and life-altering diagnosis
- The tragic loss of a child or loved one
- Mental illness and recovery after abuse
Yes. Everything is figureoutable helps us face hard truths consciously. Throughout this book, you’ll hear triumphant tales of everyday people confronting loss, illness, and heart-wrenching pain. These “Figureoutable Field Notes” illustrate how this one simple idea helps us find resilience, resourcefulness, and hope—especially when we need it most.
No matter what you’re facing, you have what it takes to figure anything out and become the person you’re meant to be.
Despite what society, your family, or your mind may have led you to believe, you are not broken. Nothing is intrinsically wrong with you. You’re not a mistake, or a fraud, or a fake. You’re not weak or incapable.
Quite simply, none of us were given an owner’s manual at birth. Our educational system doesn’t train us to harness the power of our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and the wisdom of our bodies. It doesn’t teach us how to develop winning mindsets, perspectives, and practical habits not only to meet and overcome life’s challenges but also to experience real joy and fulfillment. It fails to show us how much intrinsic power we all have. Sadly, we get very little (if any) practical training on how to use our gifts to make a difference.
It’s up to us to fix that, here and now. As the great Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Which is why I’m thrilled you’re here. Because this book will help you do both.
WHY IT ’S IMPORTANT YOU’RE READING THIS NOW
Everything is figureoutable will change your life. You can use it to solve mundane problems like a busted washing machine or a flat tire. You can use it to build a company, reshape your health, or create financial freedom. You can use it to save (or end) a relationship or create the most magnificent, passionate love story of your dreams. You can use it to find your way out of chronic stress, grief, anger, depression, addiction, anxiety, hopelessness, and debt. You can use it to invent a breakthrough technology, learn a new language, become a better parent or a stronger leader. Most important, you can use this idea with others—in your family, organization, team, industry, community, or the world—to create positive and significant change.
Individually and collectively, we’re confronted by events and circumstances that can no longer be ignored. Political, social, environmental, and economic forces are upending life as we know it. Less than one-third of US employees are actively engaged at work, a trend that’s continued for years. The dissatisfaction people feel right now is having serious global economic repercussions, which says nothing of the emotional, psychological, and spiritual costs straining our souls and society. An estimated 350 million people around the world suffer from depression, which is the leading cause of disability and a major contributor to the burden of disease. In the US, suicide rates are at a thirty-year high.
Every day we throw away more food in our homes, restaurants, and supermarkets than it would take to feed the nearly one billion people who go hungry.1 As a species, we choose to spend more money each year on ice cream—a whopping $59 billion—rather than provide the basic human dignities of education, health care, and sanitation to all humans on earth, for a mere $28 billion.2 We haven’t even touched upon the systemic racism, corruption, pollution, violence, war, inequality, and injustice that continue to cause pain across every corner of our planet.
Yet there can be no significant change in the world unless we first have the courage to change ourselves. In order to change ourselves, we must first believe we can.
Together, we’ll use this one simple belief, everything is figureoutable, to activate our inherent ability to transform our lives and, by doing so, instigate meaningful change around us. Which is exactly why this book is in your hands right now.
We need you. We need your heart, your voice, your courage, your joy, your creativity, your compassion, your love, and your gifts. Now, more than ever.
1. Tristram Stuart, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal (New York: W. W. Norton, 2009).
2. “Ten Great Reasons to Give to Charity,” The Life You Can Save, accessed March 15, 2019, https:// www.thelifeyoucansave.org/learn-more/why-donate#collapseFAQs.
In late 2010, Nish Acharya arrived in Washington, DC, ready to work. President Barack Obama had appointed Acharya to be his director of innovation and entrepreneurship
These days the origin of the universe is explained by proposing a Big Bang, a single event that instantly brought into being all the matter from which everything and everyone are made.
Every one of us is born with the ability to lead the change we care enough to make.
Business. Read the textbooks and you’re in no doubt that it’s a sensible career of deep dullness.
Our destination was four kilometres from the village of Hommes, 210 kilometres south-west of Paris, and half a planet away from Sydney, Australia.
If little girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice, then adult women are basically pavlova. Early in womanhood we are taught to please others, whether that is our parents or our teachers or our peers.
Like many people, I had sought a solution for my anxiety in therapy and medication.