"What is the most meaningful object in your life and why?"

It's a simple question, but the answer can never be so. From the murex-shell pincushion Cheryl Strayed's mother gave her, or the pocket atlas Ta-Nahesi Coates keeps to remind him of what possibilities exist, or even the championship trophy Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks won in 2011, the things we keep may not be precious in the value sense of the word, but they are no less vital, says Bill Shapiro, the co-author of the upcoming What We Keep, a collection of 150 objects and the stories behind them.

"If you can keep your North Star on this thing that motivated you from early on and had ultimately held truth for you, that's a guiding light for some of these successful entrepreneurs. It keeps them focused on what's really important to them," says Shapiro, who in his book posed this question not only to entrepreneurial luminaries and celebrities but also to regular people like an Iowan steakhouse owner or a fly-fishing guide in Colorado.

"We all have these stories," says Shapiro, who is a former editor of LIFE magazine. "These items come to represent and physically embody these really powerful stories that tell us who we are, make us who we are and keep us true," Shapiro says.

Here, are just two tales--excerpted from the book, out September 25--from a couple of the more famous entrepreneurs Shapiro and co-author Naomi Wax spoke with.

Melinda Gates, co-chair,  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

This Apple III was a gift from my father, who was an engineer working with NASA. I was about 16, and we were all supposed to share it, but I took it over almost immediately and persuaded my parents to let it live in my bedroom. I spent hours on it playing games and learning to code, and  my dad more or less had to ask permission  to use it. But he didn't seem to mind; he was  always incredibly supportive of my interests in science  and computers.

After I took a job at Microsoft, I had the Apple III sent to Seattle because it reminded me of how a computer changed my life. Our dream was to revolutionize the way billions of men and women lived and  worked, and it was nice, as my career went along--I eventually oversaw Expedia and Encarta--to have a memento of my own journey.

There were a lot more women getting computer science degrees when the Apple III was released in 1980 than there are today. When I talk about the urgent need to help more girls see a future in technology, it's not just because I think it would be good for those girls--though I do. It's also because I think it would be better for society. Even now, as we run our foundation, the Apple III is a symbol of our conviction that innovation makes the future better for everyone--and we all benefit when there are more voices at the table making decisions. It turns out that one of the single best predictors of whether a woman goes into a STEM field is whether or not her father believed in her when she was growing up. Well, my father did, in spades.

\n

Mark Cuban, owner,  Dallas Mavericks;  \"Shark\" on Shark  Tank

\n

In  the NBA, every year there is one winner and 29 teams that tie for last place. To climb that mountain, to reach the pinnacle of the NBA, was incredible. Not just for me and the organization but for Mavs fans around the world. There are few industries that can bring millions of people together to celebrate; they don't throw a parade when Apple or Amazon has a great year.

\n

I've been a basketball junkie for as long as I can remember. Some people travel or bike or cook  to clear their head and calm their nerves. I shoot baskets, play pickup. That's who I am. The feel of the ball leaving my hand. The arc of a shot. The sound of the ball swishing through the net is cathartic. Hitting a game winner against a kid half my age in pickup will put a smile on my face for the rest of my day.

\n

When I was a kid, I never dreamed that any of this would be a possibility. Seeing our trophy every day is a reminder of just how fortunate I've been--and I never want to take any of it for granted.

\n

\n

Note: This article contains affiliate links that may earn Inc.com a small fee on purchases originating from them. They do not influence Inc.com's editorial decisions to include mention of any products or services in this article.

","inc_code_only_text":null,"inc_pubdate":"2018-09-25 02:30:00","inc_promo_date":"2018-09-25 02:30:00","inc_custom_pubdate":null,"inc_feature_image_override":"","inc_feature_image_background_color_override":null,"inc_show_feature_imageflag":true,"inc_feature_image_style":"pano","inc_image_caption_override":null,"inc_autid":0,"inc_typid":1,"inc_staid":7,"inc_serid":0,"inc_prtid":0,"inc_activeflag":true,"inc_copyeditedflag":false,"inc_flag_for_reviewflag":false,"inc_lock_articleflag":false,"inc_react_displayflag":true,"inc_filelocation":"anna-meyer/why-melinda-gatess-most-prized-possession-was-made-by-apple.html","inc_override_url":null,"inc_hide_article_sidebarflag":false,"inc_custom_sidebar":null,"inc_show_read_moreflag":true,"inc_display_video_at_bottomflag":false,"inc_autoplay_videoflag":true,"inc_full_width_read_moreflag":false,"inc_custom_footer":null,"inc_custom_teaser":null,"inc_hide_video_prerollflag":false,"inc_custom_css":null,"inc_custom_javascript":null,"inc_canonical_url":null,"inc_meta_keywords":null,"inc_column_name_override":null,"inc_newsworthyflag":false,"inc_notepad":"Bill Shapiro, author and former editor-in-chief of LIFE magazine, got to interview Shark Tank star Mark Cuban and instead of asking the billionaire investor for typical business advice, Shapiro asked, \"What is the most meaningful object in your life and why?\"\r\n\r\nTo Shapiro, this was his own way to ask Cuban for business advice-- but it was directed at getting to something deeper than hiring practices or financial landscape trends. His question was about getting at what gives people purpose in what they do. Do find that out, he asked about the physical embodiment of that purpose-- the object you'd save from that hypothetical house fire or flood.\r\n\r\n\"If you can keep your north star on this thing that motivated you from early on and had ultimately held truth for you, that's a guiding light for some of these successful entrepreneurs. It keeps them focused on what's really important to them,\" Shapiro says.\r\n\r\nShapiro and his girlfriend Naomi Wax have spent the past three years traveling across the country asking questions like this to celebrities like Cuban, as well as to everyday folks like an Iowan steakhouse owner or a fly-fishing guide in Colorado. After pondering the history of a locket they found at a garage sale, the couple wanted to find out about the stories behind the most meaningful object for astronauts, nuns, marijuana growers and more. Luckily for them, people were eager to talk.\r\n\r\n\"Most people had never been asked a question like this, and stuff spilled out,\" Shapiro says. He notes that for celebrities, their rehearsed responses went out the door as soon as they started bringing up the history behind their object that predates their fame.\r\n\r\nShapiro and Wax compiled the book 'What We Keep' of 150 objects and their stories after completing over 300 different interviews. The objects are sometimes shocking-- like the bullet a soldier would've used to commit suicide had his mission gone south-- and others are heartwarming generational hand-me-downs-- like a butcher block table with divots from the wear of a butcher's grandfather's work.\r\n\r\n\"We all have these stories, and these items come to represent and physically embody these really powerful stories that tell us who we are, make us who we are and keep us true,\" Shapiro says.\r\n\r\nBelow are two excerpted stories from 'What We Keep,' which publicly comes out later this month on September 25th.\r\n\r\n[Insert Melinda Gates Apple III Photo here]\r\n\r\nMelinda  Gates, co-chair,  Bill & Melinda  Gates Foundation-- \"This Apple III was a gift from my father,  who was an engineer working with NASA. I was about 16, and we were all supposed to share it, but I took it over almost immediately and persuaded my parents to let it live in my bedroom. I spent hours on it playing  games and learning to code, and  my dad more or less had to ask permission  to use it. But he didn't seem to mind; he was  always incredibly supportive of my interests in science  and computers.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAfter I took a job at Microsoft, I had the Apple III sent to Seattle because it reminded me of how a computer changed my life. Our dream was to revolutionize the way billions of men and women lived and  worked, and it was nice, as my career went along--I eventually oversaw Expedia and Encarta--to have a memento of my own journey.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThere  were a  lot more  women getting computer  science degrees when the  Apple III was released in 1980  than there are today. When I talk  about the urgent need to help more girls  see a future in technology, it's not just because  I think it would be good for those girls--though I do.  It's also because I think it would be better for society.  Even now, as we run our foundation, the Apple III is a symbol  of our conviction that innovation makes the future better for everyone--and we  all benefit when there are more voices at the table making decisions. It turns  out that one of the single best predictors of whether a woman goes into a STEM field  is whether or not her father believed in her when she was growing up. Well, my father did, in spades.\"\r\n\r\n\r\n[Insert Mark Cuban Trophy photo here]\r\n\r\nMark  Cuban, owner,  Dallas Mavericks;  \"shark\" on Shark  Tank-- \"In  the NBA, every year there is one winner and 29 teams that tie for last place. To climb that mountain, to reach the pinnacle of the NBA, was incredible. Not just for me and the organization but for Mavs fans around the world. There are few industries  that can bring millions of people together to celebrate; they don't throw a parade when Apple or Amazon has a great year.\r\n\r\nI've  been a  basketball  junkie for as  long as I can remember. Some people travel or bike or cook  to clear their head and calm their nerves. I shoot baskets, play pickup. That's who I am. The feel of the ball leaving my hand. The arc of a shot. The sound of the ball swishing through the net is cathartic. Hitting a game winner against a kid half my age in pickup  will put a smile on my face for the rest of my day.\r\n\r\nWhen I was a kid, I never dreamed that any of this would be a possibility. Seeing our trophy  every day is a reminder of just how fortunate I've been--and I never want to take any of it for granted.\"","inc_track_changesflag":false,"time_updated":"2019-01-16 16:01:14","channels":[{"id":530,"cnl_name":"Inspiration Chronicles","cnl_filelocation":"the-inspiration-chronicles","cnl_featuretype":"None","cnl_custom_color":null,"cnl_calculated_color":null,"cnl_contributor_accessflag":false,"cnl_custom_article_footer":null,"cnl_global_nav_background_color":null,"cnl_global_nav_background_gradient_start":null,"cnl_global_nav_background_gradient_end":null,"cnl_iflid":0,"sortorder":null},{"id":468,"cnl_name":"Startup Life","cnl_filelocation":"theinclife","cnl_featuretype":"None","cnl_custom_color":null,"cnl_calculated_color":null,"cnl_contributor_accessflag":true,"cnl_custom_article_footer":null,"cnl_global_nav_background_color":null,"cnl_global_nav_background_gradient_start":null,"cnl_global_nav_background_gradient_end":null,"cnl_iflid":0,"sortorder":1},{"id":374,"cnl_name":"Wire","cnl_filelocation":"wire","cnl_featuretype":null,"cnl_custom_color":null,"cnl_calculated_color":null,"cnl_contributor_accessflag":false,"cnl_custom_article_footer":null,"cnl_global_nav_background_color":null,"cnl_global_nav_background_gradient_start":null,"cnl_global_nav_background_gradient_end":null,"cnl_iflid":0,"sortorder":2}],"categories":[],"primarychannelarray":null,"authors":[{"id":6176,"aut_name":"Anna Meyer","aut_usrid":0,"aut_base_filelocation":"anna-meyer","aut_imgid":376701,"aut_twitter_id":"annavmeyer","aut_title":"Web producer, Inc.com","aut_blurb":"Anna Meyer is a Minneapolis native and J-school alum from The University of Kansas with a keen interest in how technology and innovation will shape tomorrow. During her time as The Riveter magazine's digital editor, her work appeared in print and online covering a variety of topics within the scope of women's lives and interests. She has also been a featured guest speaker on the Professional Humans podcast, and has written for Fast Company and Shine Text.","aut_footer_blurb":"Anna Meyer is a Minneapolis native and J-school alum from The University of Kansas with a keen interest in how technology and innovation will shape tomorrow.","aut_column_name":null,"aut_atyid":1,"aut_newsletter_location":null,"authorimage":"https://www.incimages.com/uploaded_files/image/100x100/annameyer-author_376701.jpg","sortorder":null}],"images":[{"id":370730,"sortorder":null}],"inlineimages":[{"id":52162,"sortorder":0},{"id":52165,"sortorder":1}],"photoEssaySlides":null,"readMoreArticles":null,"slideshows":[],"videos":[],"bzwidgets":null,"relatedarticles":null,"comparisongrids":[],"products":[],"keys":["Inspiration Chronicles","Startup Life","Wire","Anna Meyer","Inc.com staff writer"],"meta_description":"In an excerpt from Bill Shapiro and Naomi Wax's 'What We Keep,' Mark Cuban and Melinda Gates share their most personal and inspiring possessions.","brandview":null,"internationalversion":{"asean":"http://inc-asean.com/the-inc-life/mark-cuban-would-save-this-one-thing-if-his-house-was-burning-down/"},"imagemodels":[{"id":370730,"img_foreignkey":"872172082","img_gettyflag":true,"img_reusableflag":false,"img_rightsflag":false,"img_usrid":0,"img_pan_crop":"{\"x\":603,\"y\":135,\"h\":634,\"w\":1366,\"img_h\":1333,\"img_w\":2000}","img_tags":null,"img_reference_name":"getty_872172082_200013331366634603135.jpg","img_caption":null,"img_custom_credit":null,"img_bucketref":null,"img_panoramicref":"getty_872172082_200013331366634603135.jpg","img_super_panoramicref":null,"img_tile_override_imageref":null,"img_skyscraperref":null,"img_gallery_imageref":null,"credit":"Getty Images","sizes":{"panoramic":{"original":"uploaded_files/image/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135.jpg","1230x1672":"uploaded_files/image/1230x1672/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","1940x900":"uploaded_files/image/1940x900/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","1270x734":"uploaded_files/image/1270x734/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","0x734":"uploaded_files/image/0x734/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","1150x540":"uploaded_files/image/1150x540/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","970x450":"uploaded_files/image/970x450/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","640x290":"uploaded_files/image/640x290/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","635x367":"uploaded_files/image/635x367/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","0x367":"uploaded_files/image/0x367/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","575x270":"uploaded_files/image/575x270/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","385x240":"uploaded_files/image/385x240/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","336x336":"uploaded_files/image/336x336/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","300x520":"uploaded_files/image/300x520/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","300x200":"uploaded_files/image/300x200/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","284x160":"uploaded_files/image/284x160/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","155x90":"uploaded_files/image/155x90/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","100x100":"uploaded_files/image/100x100/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg","50x50":"uploaded_files/image/50x50/getty_872172082_200013331366634603135_370730.jpg"}}}],"formatted_text":"<p dir="ltr">"What is the most meaningful object in your life and why?"</p>\n<p dir="ltr">It's a simple question, but the answer can never be so. From the murex-shell pincushion&nbsp;Cheryl Strayed's&nbsp;mother gave her, or the pocket atlas&nbsp;Ta-Nahesi Coates keeps to remind him of what possibilities exist, or even the championship trophy Mark Cuban's&nbsp;Dallas Mavericks won in 2011, the things we keep may not be precious in the value sense of the word, but they are&nbsp;no less vital, says Bill Shapiro, the co-author of the upcoming <a target="_blank" href="https://www.amazon.com/What-We-Keep-People-Meaning/dp/076246254X/?tag=wwwinccom-20"><em>What&nbsp;We Keep</em></a>, a collection of&nbsp;150 objects and the stories behind them.</p>\n<p dir="ltr">"If you can keep your North Star on this thing that motivated you from early on and had ultimately held truth for you, that's a guiding light for some of these successful entrepreneurs. It keeps them focused on what's really important to them," says Shapiro, who in his book posed this question not only to entrepreneurial luminaries and celebrities but also to regular people&nbsp;like an Iowan steakhouse owner or a fly-fishing guide in Colorado.</p>\n<p dir="ltr">"We all have these stories," says Shapiro, who is a former&nbsp;editor of LIFE magazine. "These items come to represent and physically embody these really powerful stories that tell us who we are, make us who we are and keep us true," Shapiro says.</p>\n<p dir="ltr">Here, are just two tales--excerpted from the book, out September 25--from a couple of the more famous entrepreneurs Shapiro and co-author Naomi Wax&nbsp;spoke with.</p>\n<div class="inlineimage inlineimage-52162 inlineobject inc_editable inline-fullwidth" data-editor-class="InlineImageEditor" data-label="Inline Image" data-content-type="inlineimage" data-content-id="52162" data-parent-class="bodycopy" data-parent-content-type="article" data-parent-content-id="218878"><img src="https://www.incimages.com/uploaded_files/inlineimage/630x0/WhatWeKeep---Melinda-Gates--40_52162.jpg"><div class="inlinecredit">CREDIT: Gates Archive</div><div class="clearme"></div></div>\n<h2 dir="ltr">Melinda Gates, co-chair, &nbsp;Bill &amp; Melinda Gates Foundation</h2>\n<p dir="ltr">This Apple III was a gift from my father, who was an engineer working with NASA. I was about 16, and we were all supposed to share it, but I took&nbsp;it over almost immediately and persuaded my parents to let it live in my bedroom. I spent hours on it playing games and learning to code, and &nbsp;my dad more or less had to ask permission &nbsp;to use it. But he didn't seem to mind; he was &nbsp;always incredibly supportive of my interests in science &nbsp;and computers.</p>\n<div class="inlineimage inlineimage-52165 inlineobject inc_editable inline-list" data-editor-class="InlineImageEditor" data-label="Inline Image" data-content-type="inlineimage" data-content-id="52165" data-parent-class="bodycopy" data-parent-content-type="article" data-parent-content-id="218878"><img src="https://www.incimages.com/uploaded_files/inlineimage/130x0/GettyImages-930596646_52165.jpg"><div class="inlinecredit">CREDIT: Getty Images</div><div class="clearme"></div></div>\n<p dir="ltr">After I took a job at Microsoft, I had the Apple III sent to Seattle because it reminded me of how a computer changed my life. Our dream was to revolutionize the way billions of men and women lived and &nbsp;worked, and it was nice, as my career went along--I eventually oversaw Expedia and Encarta--to have a memento of my own journey.</p>\n<p dir="ltr">There were a lot more women getting computer science degrees when the Apple III was released in 1980 than there are today. When I talk about the urgent need to help more girls see a future in technology, it's not just because I think it would be good for those girls--though I do. It's also because I think it would be better for society. Even now, as we run our foundation, the Apple III is a symbol of our conviction that innovation makes the future better for everyone--and we all benefit when there are more voices at the table making decisions. It turns out that one of the single best predictors of whether a woman goes into a STEM field is whether or not her father believed in her when she was growing up. Well, my father did,&nbsp;in spades.</p>\n<p><iframe allowtransparency="true" class="instagram-media instagram-media-rendered" data-instgrm-payload-id="instagram-media-payload-0" frameborder="0" height="746" id="instagram-embed-0" scrolling="no" src="https://www.instagram.com/p/ZauUSMO21T/embed/?cr=1&amp;wp=540&amp;rd=https%3A%2F%2Fpreview.inc.com&amp;rp=%2Fanna-meyer%2Fwhy-melinda-gatess-most-prized-possession-was-made-by-apple.html#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A2561.7999999994936%7D" style="background: white; max-width: 540px; width: calc(100% - 2px); border-radius: 3px; border: 1px solid rgb(219, 219, 219); box-shadow: none; display: block; margin: 0px 0px 12px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0px;"></iframe><script defer="defer" src="https://www.instagram.com/embed.js" type="text/javascript"></script></p>\n<h2 dir="ltr">Mark Cuban, owner, &nbsp;Dallas Mavericks;&nbsp; "Shark" on <em>Shark &nbsp;Tank</em></h2>\n<p dir="ltr">In &nbsp;the NBA, every&nbsp;year there is one winner and 29 teams that tie for last place. To climb that mountain, to reach the pinnacle of the NBA, was incredible. Not just for me and the organization but for Mavs fans around the world. There are few industries that can bring millions of people together to celebrate; they don't throw a parade when Apple or Amazon has a great year.</p>\n<p dir="ltr">I've been a basketball junkie for as&nbsp;long as I can remember. Some people travel or bike or cook &nbsp;to clear their head and calm their nerves. I shoot baskets, play pickup. That's who I am. The feel of the ball leaving my hand. The arc of a shot. The sound of the ball swishing through the net is cathartic. Hitting a game winner against a kid half my age in pickup will put a smile on my face for the rest of my day.</p>\n<p dir="ltr">When I was a kid, I never dreamed that any of this would be a possibility. Seeing our trophy every day is a reminder of just how fortunate I've been--and I never want to take any of it for granted.</p>\n<p dir="ltr"></p>\n<p dir="ltr"><em><strong>Note:&nbsp;</strong>This article contains affiliate links that may earn Inc.com a small fee on purchases originating from them. They do not influence Inc.com's editorial decisions to include mention of any products or services in this article.</em></p>","adinfo":{"c_type":"formattedarticle","showlogo":true,"cms":"inc218878","video":"no","aut":["anna-meyer"],"channelArray":{"topid":"530","topfilelocation":"the__inspiration__chronicles","primary":["grow","startup","wire"],"primaryFilelocation":["grow","startup","wire"],"primaryname":["Grow","Startup","Wire"],"sub":["inspiration","inclife"],"subFilelocation":["the-inspiration-chronicles","theinclife"],"subname":["Inspiration Chronicles","Startup 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