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The Best of Barbara Oakley

3 min

Dr. Barbara Oakley has been an inspiration to me ever since three years ago when I discovered her massive open online course (MOOC) on Learning how to Learn. She has been a lighthouse who shined the light on how I want to live and has inspired changes in my actions.

For the purposes of this letter I’m going to call her Barb. I’ve never met her in person, but I feel like I know her by how much I have learned from and been inspired. 


Thank you Barb for sharing your story of how you got to where you are today. When I first found you, I had recently left my job out of college as an analyst at a risk insurance company. I abandoned my old definition of success with my finance degree, and felt lost. You helped me realize that the dreams up in my noggin could be a reality. You modeled the way of what a courageous life could look like.

Let me explain further.


This past year, I turned 25. I felt this pang of needing to mature while wanting to flee back to being a child again. The uncertainty I felt ahead as an adult was unwavering.

In this podcast with Shane Parrish, you spoke about your persistence to do wacky things. That more and more opportunities on your path opened up as you started to say yes to them. You spoke about itching to do more once you began. I crave that very same wackiness as well.  

Your playfulness as an adult has sparked a joy in me to not take life too seriously and laugh at life more often. This year when I was setting intentions for 2021, I decided that a core pillar I’d focus on was being more playful. This has given me the permission to be a beginner in life again in so many different avenues under the sea scuba diving, in front of waves surfing, strumming my ukulele, and in the kitchen crafting up tofu spring rolls. 


Around my age, you found a way to study culture through enlisting in the army. Moving to Russia on the coast of the Bering Sea to learn Slavic language and literature is how you followed your curiosity. After doing that exciting adventure you went to Antarctica to be a radio operator where you “had to go to the end of the earth” to meet your husband.

These foreign seeming places you ventured to inspired me to give myself permission to do wacky things like move to the other side of the world to Hawaii. Similar to you I feel like the more I say yes to serendipitous things that excite, the floodgates of unknown opportunities present themself to design a better life. This path wasn’t predetermined or in the plans, but I know that any reward worth reaping takes a risk.


Later after returning from Antarctica you had an open mind and got curious about math and science despite a limiting belief of not being born with the genes to make such a drastic switch. Teaching yourself how to connect what you already know to the new language of numbers by going back to high school algebra takes humility and that inspires me.

It started off a chain reaction of reasons why I have been such an avid follower of your work is because of how inspiring your journey has been.

The main three reasons I look up to you in my life is because you have modeled the way of giving me permission to follow my core values of being playful and adventurous spirit, curious drive, and patience with experiments.

Thank you Barb for enriching my life and allowing me to follow your story and transform my own life by believing in what I thought was impossible. 

Never stop learning or doing wacky things ❤️

Yours truly,



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