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Who am I?

A white female living in Portland, Oregon by way of NYC (mostly) and a bunch of other places. My first book, Can You Learn to Be Lucky? Why Some People Seem to Win More Often Than Others, was a Fast Company best book of 2018.

I wrote my second book, Making Numbers Count: The Art and Science of Communicating Numbers, with Chip Heath. (Heath is the New York Times bestselling author of Switch and Made to Stick; I am an elder millennial with student loan debt.)

My current mission

Why the self-help industrial complex—and so many psychology studies—are bullshit.1 Most books on productivity, self-development, and “getting things done” are written from the vantage point of privileged workaholics who fail to keep in mind the simple fact that other people’s lives are much different. Great success depends on a perfect storm of events coming together—which is largely due to luck—but we’re all blind to the things that come easy to us.


  • We’d all read Brad Pitt’s advice on dating (clearly he must know what he’s talking about—look at his success!)

  • His simple formula would be comforting and catchy (go to a place where there are women; wait)

  • It would be woefully incomplete for 95% of humanity

In other words: “Thought Leaders” are incarnations of privilege. They tell us to “rise above your surroundings,” without understanding the dynamics that affect people differently. They tell us how to be productive, but are often workaholics or have live-in domestic operations managers.

Only listening to a few privileged voices means that we’re not getting the full story that other people need. Specific advice is only useful for people coming from the same place going in the same direction, with access to the same resources, an idea summed up here:

These books are written for and geared toward a very specific audience of privileged individuals who have their life decisions affirmed and their failures explained away. The specific assumption they make is that everybody comes from the same sort of background - that they communicate in the same way, that they grow up the same way, and that, much like the world of advice articles and hustle culture, your failure to succeed is only a result of you not working hard enough.

And then there was psychology

Psychology! It was once my North Star to understand humans, until I realized that most of the problems with psychology stem from the woefully simple fact that scientists are biased.

What sets the sciences apart is that they claim to construct reality but not to be themselves constructed. -Emily Martin (1998)

Feel free to say hello at


Karla Starr
Author, MAKING NUMBERS COUNT (w/ Chip Heath) & CAN YOU LEARN TO BE LUCKY? Just a single 🐶 mom trying to make it in this world 🌎