Ignore the Bullshit Highlight Reels


One of my former students has fallen into the vacuous void of chasing Instagram celebrity. Having opted out of an education at an Ivy League school, he’s joined at least one “startup.” I think it has something to do with blockchain technology, but couldn’t tell you anything other than that.

What I can tell you is that he travels around the world in first and business class. And he drives around in Bentleys and other ultra-premium cars. And he sends Snaps from clubs with bottle service nearly every weekend, which seems to last four days in his universe.

The romanticization of entrepreneurship and the “startup lifestyle” started long before The Social Network premiered in 2010 and Silicon Valley drew millions of eyeballs to HBO starting in 2014. But frankly, I’m not interested in tracking when the mental image of an entrepreneur shifted from “Crazy Uncle Ed” with his get-rich-quick schemes to a 22-year old overnight billionaire.

The point is, that it has. And it seems to be getting worse. And it’s warping the reality of what it means to be an entrepreneur.

I feel like I have a unique vantage point. Working with high school students gives me insight into the mindset that they’re adopting.

For four years, I have been helping a wide range of students. Some of whom know they have an interest in business, but are unsure where to start. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve worked with and advised some awesome, incredible students who have started their first ventures.

The difference between the successful students and those who start and fail is mindset.

Consider the stories of two students with whom I started working around the same time, about 2 years ago. Both wanted to start ecommerce clothing companies. Neither had any family wealth or financial backing. They both had the same starting line.

The first has worked his butt off building a 11,000+ Instagram following, slowly expanded his product line, reinvested his capital in creating picture and video content, and is moving merchandise on his online store and in a few retail locations.

The second started with a more ambitious product idea, and after weeks of sourcing, found a manufacturer in China. After months of prototyping, he pulled the trigger on a $6,000 order. Rather than create content, post pictures, and wear the products constantly, he’s posted on Instagram a handful of times, and has done only a handful of sales. But he sure does love calling himself an entrepreneur.

I’m not telling these stories to mock. I’m telling them with the hope that they can inspire you, even if the point is lost on the original founders in the stories.


Whether you’re in high school, like my students, or college, or in the professional world, you have a choice. You may have class, commitments, home work, and other obligations, but you ultimately control how you use your time.

It’s your choice to crack open a beer and watch cartoons — a perfectly valid choice, too! If that’s what makes you happy after a long day, go for it!

It’s also your choice to hit the reset button after a long day, pull on a pair of pants that your startup is selling, take 10 pictures of yourself, choose two to edit, write copy for Instagram, and schedule posts for the next day.

It’s all about mindset and priorities.

The Challenge: The 30 Day Nonhighlight Reel

If the majority of consumable content for entrepreneurial motivation and storytelling resembles highlight reels, what else are students supposed to rely on? If there’s nothing else to consume, who can be blamed for people following it?

Here’s the challenge, over the next 30 days, take one picture per day at a progressive hour every day and tag it #nonhighlight.

Tomorrow, my day will start wicked early with a 6:00AM flight to St. Louis and I’ll start this experiment myself. Day One, picture at 5:00AM. Day Two, picture at 6:00AM. Day Three, picture at 7:00AM. And so on for thirty days.

You want to see what a day in the life of an entrepreneur looks like? I can tell you that you’re going to see a lot of boring pictures of me at a desk, staring at emails, calendars, spreadsheets, and WordPress dashboards. I’ll do my best to add descriptions about what exactly I’m working on each day.

I challenge you to do the same over the next month. First, I want to shed more light on how much more work is put in than what’s ever shown. Second, you may start holding yourself more accountable. When you start taking pictures of yourself on the couch for 7 consecutive days, say from 5PM to 12AM, you may start changing your daily routine.

Thirty Day Nonhighlight Rules:
1.) One picture per day. Post it to the social network of your choice with #nonhighlight.
2.) Choose an hour of the day for Day One, it doesn’t matter when. The following day, take a picture at the next hour. Continue to go around the clock, skipping hours when you’re asleep.
3.) Don’t skip a single day. The point is to make a 30-day photo journal.
4.) Don’t lie! Don’t misrepresent what you’re doing and plan fun, appealing, or interesting work for the exact hour you’re supposed to take a picture. Don’t whip out your laptop and pretend to be coding at 7PM on a Wednesday if you’re really watching Jeopardy and drinking red wine.
5.) Document. Write a description of whatever you’re doing for context. If you’ve honestly changed your working routine, make note of it.

The more founders that participate in this experiment, the more data points can be generated. While I’m sure that some pictures will end up showing the awesomeness of founders — after all, we are talking about a extremely motivated, talented group of people — I’m overwhelmed with curiosity what else it will disclose.

So bring it on, and let’s see your nonhighlight reel!

Frank is the founder of the All-American Model UN Programs, Managing Director of Whiteboard Youth Ventures, a suffering New York Jets fan, and survivor of Boston winters.