Friday, March 11, 2011

Update: New Eduventurist WEBSITE!

I have finally managed to create a website for this project! Thanks to help from my friend Ryan Villanueva who took time off from his spring break to teach me the art of domain hosting, Wordpress, and other important things associated with website creation!

I will therefore be posting from, and you can continue to follow me by clicking on my RSS feed at the top of the website (I didn't know what RSS was myself before now, what a useful tool!)

I also just added a new post, so check it out! And I would appreciate any comments, questions, or feedback on my posts so far :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Brock leMieux: My First Profilee!

I recently had a skype conversation with Brock leMieux, a “global nomad” who is only a year older then me and has already fit in a plethora of experiences during his 20 years of life. Our skype conversation spanned from San Francisco, where I am, to Oslo, Norway, where he is currently based. However, Brock grew up for most of his life in a small rural town in Northern Minnesota (where he described himself as "a big fish in a small pond"), and a lot has happened in between his time there and his current location in Scandinavia. His path truly represents a self-designed, liberal arts, interdisciplinary education. A whole novel would have to be written in order to capture everything he has done in the past few years of his exciting, unconventional path, so for now I'm just going to include a few thought-provoking selections of what came out of our conversation. 

Brock really began his eduventure in high school, when he studied abroad during his sophomore year in the south of Spain through Rotary Youth Exchange, and then attended an innovative, public performing arts boarding school in Minneapolis where he studied theater. After reading two inspiring books that lead him to think more about his path (Taking Time Off and A Whole New Mind), Brock decided to take a year off before deciding whether or not to attend university. In our conversation, Brock talked about his own process of discovering what he wanted to do in life:
"I thought 'I am seeking and I will find.' If you don’t know what you’re seeking, it will come, because I’ve always said, trust your gut, trust your instinct, your intuition, because the right opportunities come along and they’ll bring you to the right places.
It’s also a lot about self observation and self inquiry. That was really big learning for me, why was I traveling around and why was I stopping? So, people need to ask, for example, “Why am I going to university? Is it because my parents told me to? Is it because that’s what everybody else does? Is it because I don’t know what else to do?” I mean, all those are fine answers but you must accept them before you do something. You can’t just go to university or do something, you have to ask yourself why."
·      So, Brock took his life savings ("that wasn't much," he says, as he describes himself as a hard working self-starter who grew up working in various jobs), and in the next few years he traveled, worked, and lived in various places around the world. He eventually decided not to attend university after that initial first year "off," although has not entirely ruled it out for his future. A few of his various eduventures include volunteering in India for two months, teaching english and working in a bookstore in France, participating in a famous walking pilgrimage in Spain, squatting with circus performers in Montreal, attending conferences around the world, volunteering for an interesting NGO in Morocco, and being a student in Amsterdam at Knowmads, a creative and well-regarded year-long learning program that educates changemakers for the future. 

At the end of our conversation, I asked Brock in his opinion, what were key components for learning in the future. He responded with three points:
  • Entrepreneurship. "The entrepreneurial spirit should be taught no matter whether or not you want to get into this business or not. It’s not about business, its just having the entrepreneurial mindset in whatever you do."
  • Personal Development. Like he mentioned above, an important component of learning is self inquiry and reflection, and finding out what you are truly passionate about and capable of. 
  • A project-based, small group setting. "The classroom would be like a living room, people would be coming and going, and it would have 18-98 year olds. It would bring in a lot more wisdom from older people and projects with people in the 'real world.' It would be a learning community almost like a family."
Although there is a lot more to include on his story and reflections, I am going to save that for the larger book/project. If you want to follow more of Brock's path, follow him on twitter (brocklemieux) or his blog.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

One step at a time: Twitter

The first time I heard about Twitter, I couldn't quite understand why people would be interested in writing quick "microblogs" about their life, or read other people's for that matter. Facebook status' served that purpose well enough. Most of what I've heard about Twitter in the media is associated with celebrities tweeting things either about their newest splurge, a party they attended, or or information on their personal life. So, I never thought it was important for me to join.

However, since I've realized how much of a role social media and networking sites play in the new world of work and even social change (which is what I'm trying to further study during this time off), I decided to take the plunge and sign up!

And..... how is it? Is it as superficial and trivial as I had always suspected?


Of course, people will tweet random things like "I just ate a big bowl of strawberry yogurt" (I just made that one up as an example, but seriously, things like that are apparently important enough to be shared). But the people I have chosen to follow or even view are tweeting amazingly interesting links, facts, and reflections. It's an amazing way to also quickly view the web of connections, and who has influenced who. I've already learned about several websites, conferences, and people that fit into what I am pursuing in this project, and who knows if I would have ever found out about them without Twitter!

It's a little confusing to figure out the "rules" of the twitter game. There seems to be a whole sort of language used to write a tweet, where you are only allowed to use a certain amount of characters and therefore things need to be abbreviated (see the above picture for an example. I'm totally the bird on the far right). However, my dad, who also happens to be increasingly interested in this "new" world, bought a book on twitter that I am hoping to read to get the hang of things more easily.

One of the best things about Twitter is that it seems to be this filter of a lot of the junk that is on the internet, and the stuff that shows up is hand-picked and curated by people who I know or admire, and so of course I find it worthy to spend time on.

If you're interested in following me, please do!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Some thoughts after a great convo yesterday

Yesterday I met with two other friends of mine who were taking time off from school. They had both reached that "breaking point" that I and many other eduventurists are familiar with, and have taken this time off to learn "the art of being" and are taking some much-needed time to do some reflection and self discovery. It seems that a common problem is that all too often, taking time to work on one's self is seen as selfish and unproductive. Yet, this is something I am increasingly beginning to realize is most needed in our systems of learning.

I co-facilitated a youth retreat for a high school social change/philanthropy club that I had been a co-founder for back when I was in high school (which I hope to blog about in near future!). My co-facilitator and I decided to structure the retreat into 3 sections:
  • Who are we as individuals?
  • Who are we as a generation?
  • Who are we as a club working on social change in our community?
A lot of our inspiration for the design of this workshop came from the "Wake Ups" organized by an initiative called Generation Waking Up, which I definitely recommend checking out if you haven't before. Some of the exercises included finding a partner and staring them in the eye for two minutes in silence, telling each our life stories and things that had impacted us to see the world differently, and standing on a spectrum of agreeing or disagreeing on a given statement (such as "Everyone needs to pick what they want to do in life, and stick to that plan").

Although I had participated in retreats like this before, the realization once again hit me that this self-discovery and reflection within a group or individually is so fundamental to the positive development of our society and our world, and yet it is left out of the education system, especially beginning after elementary school.

The conversation that ensued between my friends and I yesterday reinforced these feelings, and we ended up all agreeing that this time off, although difficult to make initially, was such a beneficial decision in the long run. I hope that more students begin to have the confidence to take that same leap if they are feeling the need for a change, or simply deeper reflection before continuing on their life path. 

P.S. I'm still working on writing up some of highlights from the amazing, insightful interviews I have collected to date. Stay tuned :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Have we really gotten to this point?

My mom sent me the link to this article in the Huffington Post, which talks about how a Boston parent posted an ad on Craigslist saying that they would be willing to sell their various body parts in exchange for money to pay off their child's student loans, totaling $200,000! If this isn't a sign that we are headed in a wrong direction when it comes to tuition prices, I don't know what is...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Discovering Our Passions

I want to first thank everyone who has shown enthusiasm and interest in this project, I have had a variety of people reach out to me already! It just goes to show that many people have an opinion on this subject matter, which just reinforces my own motivation to give this topic and conversation increased visibility. I will be posting on some of the interviews I have conducted thus far as soon as possible, hopefully later this week. Until then, I want to talk about a few things that have been on my mind this past week.

The first of these thoughts is on the concept of career exploration. When we enter college and begin the process of picking a major, we are forced to think about what we're going to do with our lives, and the major we pick "should" be related to that. How are we supposed to know what we want to do at our age? As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are those lucky few who just know that they want to be a doctor, or an interior designer, or a chef. But what about the rest of us? For the most part, traditional schooling does a poor job not only in career exploration for students, but personal identity development. By discovering who we are as individuals- our skills, passions, values and beliefs- we discover what career could potentially be our passion, something that drives us all as humans. This concept of career exploration and mentoring should not be considered handholding... it's something that all high schools and colleges should pay more attention to, especially since a major stress factor that I hear coming from friends and acquaintances is the fact that we are having to make these important decisions without much inspiration to guide us. 

One of the additional problems with this is that the job landscape has radically changed and will continue to change more rapidly. And I'm not talking about in terms of the availability of jobs due to the recession (although that is another important factor weighing upon our generation). I'm referring to the fact that the top 10 in demand jobs of 2010 didn't even exist in 2004, something I learned from this great video. Fortunately, I grew up in a family that emphasized self exploration as well as learning about all the possibilities that exist in terms of "lifestyle design," including career possibilities. Many times students and young people talk about our role models, or when we hear of someone doing something amazing in their life we say "that's what I want to do!" But we don't really hear how that person got from point A to point B. I was excited to learn of a group of young changemakers who decided to do something about the lack of conversation and teaching on this issue. 

Mike Marriner and Nathan Geghard were students at Pepperdine University in Southern California during the late 90's, and just like myself and many of my peers, they were struggling with the decision of what they wanted to do in their lives. What they were each respectively studying in school (Biology and Business) was preparing them to follow traditional professions suited to those majors, but they just weren't passionate about those professions. They realized that they weren't sure what they wanted to do in terms of their life paths, and they didn't have a very good idea of what the options and opportunities were for them. So they had an amazing idea:
"Why not take a road trip across the country and talk to dozens of people who followed amazing roads and discover how they got to where they are now. Maybe they were once as lost as we felt." 
So, what did Mike and Nathan do? They wrote to a bunch of people for ideas and connections, and ended up getting funded to "climb aboard an old RV, paint it green, and traverse the country with the purpose of interviewing people who inspired them by living lives that centered around what was meaningful to them." They interviewed a whole bunch of successful people, from the chairman of Starbucks to the director of SNL, to Madonna's stylist and even a lobsterman from Maine. Along the way, they picked up and brought other college students with them to attend the interviews and become inspired. 

I just finished reading the book that they published which included a bunch of the interviews, with flow charts at the beginning of each interview representing how that person came to be where they are and who they are today. And the thing that was most surprising was that the majority of these "leaders" of today did not follow the traditional path, especially when it came to education. Many dropped out of college to pursue other oppurtunities and explore the world, or even flunked out of courses in subject areas that they are now leaders in. Some majored in things totally unrelated to what they do now. Of course there were also those whose learning style was actually well-suited to college, and as I have said in the past (and want to remphasize), college is definitely a good fit for some and not for others . The point is that as I read this book I became more confident in my belief that alternatives to the norm have if not more, at least equal value, and the popular narrative in our society that "intelligence and success is only fostered by the norm" is merely a myth. 

I want to share a few of the things that stuck out to me the most: 
  • Ben Younger, Screen Writer and Director
    • "During my freshman year at Queens college I had no idea where I was going. How are you supposed to know at that point? You have so little to go on. Electives are not really introductions to career paths, and it's very hard to make the connection between classes and a line of work... In hindsight I wish I'd taken two years off and then gone to school. I did well in college but I didn't understand what a privilege it was." 
  • Randy Komisar, a "virtual CEO," and former lawyer for Apple:
    • "When you speak to people who have all the trappings of success but are really unhappy, there’s a common syndrome: They’ve crossed a lot of hurdles, but they weren’t their own hurdles. They were someone else’s hurdles.” 
    • "Now here's the dirty little secret: You don't need an ultimate goal. A lot of people we celebrate as successful didn't have an ultimate goal. So when people look like they have these nicely laid-out lives and they look like they have accomplished all this stuff, by and large he reason that it happened is something that they figured out in retrospect. It won't happen the way you plan it. It just won't. The path is never linear going forward. It's only linear in the rearview mirror."
  • Mike Egeck, Former President of The North Face: 
    • “Expose yourself to many different careers as you can. You don't have to pick one and stick with it. You can always change. Sooner or later it will come down to your gut" 
    • “Networking is so important. SO many career decisions are based on who you meet and run into. It’s important to know a lot of people. Try to find others whose lifestyle you admire and who seem to enjoy what they do, and investigate why.”
  • Beth McCarthy Miller, Director of Saturday Night Live
    • "I learned more in a day at the radio station than I did reading about it over a semester in a book. When you have hands-on experience, when are are physically in the world, you learn so much more. It adds another layer to your understanding."
  • Laurie Coots, Chief Marketing Officer of TBWA/Chiat/Worldwide
    •  “Now I have a son who’s a sophomore in college. He’s so creative, but I worry about his last two years of school. A lot of juniors and seniors don’t read the newspaper every day. They get myopic. They are out of touch with the world, and when you do that you lose touch with your intuition. A lot of students coming out of school have had the intuition just beaten out of them. To follow your bliss you must know what your bliss is, and the only way to know that is by trying new things and having different life experiences. If you’re too disconnected, you run the risk of eliminating choices before you ever see them. That’s sad to me.”

There's so much I could add, but to learn more, go to, and you can learn more about what these awesome people have done with the program!

Monday, February 21, 2011

People age 18-25: I need your input!

The following letter is for my friends and peers of my generation. I'm hoping to receive input and feedback on my project!

Hello amigos!

As some of you may already know, I am taking a semester “off” from school. “Isn’t that risky? Won’t you get lazy?” is a common question I get from a lot of people. This immediate reaction (which I battled with myself before choosing to do this) stems from the societal belief that school and learning are the same things and cannot be separated. However, it is my belief that in this time of being “unreasonable and risky” I can continue to learn in different, unique, and innovative ways that traditional education couldn’t entirely offer me. Sound interesting? Keep reading!

One of the biggest components of my gap semester is working on a self-designed book project where my ultimate goal is to be able to produce a source of inspiration that ties together the collective wisdom of a diverse set of people living in this crazy/amazing time in history. The book would consist of:

  • 15-25 profiles of young people who are exploring alternative educational paths (the definition for this is flexible!) and
  • 15-25 profiles of inspiring “older” people with life experience and wisdom to offer our generation on creating our life and learning paths, and how they got to where they are today.
  • If you know of any potential profilees, please let me know! Even if it’s yourself!

Leading up to now I have done a TON of research and networking, from attending the 2011 TechSoup Conference at the Microsoft Headquarters (can you find me in the picture to the left?), to meeting with Dacher Keltner, the Director for a UC Berkeley center that researches the science of a meaningful life. I want to see what other options for life are out there, and help to share them with everyone else! Some of you have engaged in conversation with me where we have debated the importance of getting the “right” major, or the “right” job, or even the “right” choice of what to do with ourselves at this point in life. But I want to explore the element of our designing of our own lives, which Joseph Campbell has put so well into words: “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls."

So, what am I exactly asking for you to do? Take 15+ minutes of your time, and give me feedback, using the attached questions as your starting points! If you don’t have time to write out your answers, I can set up a time to skype with you instead. The questions or this project in general may strike a chord with you, inspire you, intrigue you, and hopefully not bore you J You could even do something creative as a response, such as write a poem, upload a video interview, sing a song, make a collage, WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT. If I end up getting this project published or distributed in any way, I will be sure to give you a shout-out! I’m also keeping track of my progress on this project in this blog, so people can keep up to date on it.

If you disagree with me on any of these points, I totally respect your opinion, we all have different life experiences and goals. Whether or not this rings true for you, I want to hear from you. It would make my day. It would be like finding out that my friends had all joined in and threw me a surprise party (which, as we all know, definitely makes us as people feel good). This is something I am truly passionate about, and I love hearing what my friends, acquaintances, and even absolute strangers have to say. Whether you feel like you know a lot on this subject or not, your input is highly valued! Hope to hear from you!



FYI: Don’t feel obligated to answer all of these questions, but the more the better! Please send your answers to If you want to set up a skype call instead, please let me know!

1. First of all, tell me a little about yourself! What is your major? What are your own personal interests or hobbies?

2. Do you have an idea for what you want to do “when you grow up?” If so, how did you come to decide on this ? Was there any particular point or story of inspiration? If not, please tell me a little bit about the reasons for why you may not feel like you know what you want to do.

3. What advice do your parents give you on your future plans for life, career, success, happiness, etc? Have you ever thought that you couldn’t go into a certain profession due to societal/family/peer pressure? Explain.

4. Since graduating from high school (or even before), what do you believe is missing from our society, in terms of helping us as a generation prepare for the future?

5. Say you’re given an investment of a million dollars to be an entrepreneur and start a service of some sort for our generation. What do you believe is needed most and how would you create it?

6. From where do you think you’ve learned the most about “life paths” and career options? What do you believe are the top 5 most essential skills for the future?

7. Is there any particular friend or family member you know of that didn’t follow a traditional path? What is their story? Are they happy? Are they “successful?”

8. What do you think defines a “successful life?”

9. In which type of setting/teaching style/etc. do you believe you learn best? Does your school address these learning styles/needs? What other experiences in life have taught you critical skills/knowledge?

10. Do you believe that your college is preparing you well enough for the future of our world today? What does it do best, and what does it need to work on?

11. Do you feel that the college you attend now is worth the amount of money you are paying? Do you think you could create the same learning experience elsewhere for cheaper?

12. Do you think that higher education will be forced to drastically change its model in the future? If you could advise your school on how to be best prepared for the future of our world, what advice would you give?