A Journey told from End to Beginning: Lessons in Failure, Inspiration and Success

November 8, 2018

Leonard Medlock, CEO of Playback Worldwide, ponders how to begin to tell his story.

Kravis Lab hosted Leonard Medlock for the “Dinner with World Changers” series. The dinner brings students together to learn from some of the world’s most innovative social entrepreneurs. Leonard’s breadth of experience attracted a variety of students with different outlooks, majors, and interests which led to a robust conversation.

Leonard prefaced the discussion by describing his life journey from the end to beginning. Through this, he was able to show student’s the hidden and crucial stories behind each of his achievements. Leonard is currently the Chief Executive Office of Playback Worldwide, a company that aims to produce better student-athletes by combining life skills and elite training skills. Through different partnerships with successful athletic trainers, Medlock’s company attracts young people to the app to receive athletic training from well-known trainers in a variety of leagues. Throughout their training within the app, the users receive career, financial, and life education shaped around the common theme of sports. At the time of the talk at Claremont McKenna College, Medlock spoke about a recent grant he received that will allow him to build his vision for Playback Worldwide. The grant is contingent on his work as General Manager for a startup cohort.

Prior to Playback Worldwide, Medlock talked about his work at Edsurge. He was a founding team member and witnessed the growth of Edsurge from two employees to seventy. Even though he talked about his successes, Medlock also explained some of his mistakes or moments of regret at Edsurge. This was an important message for college students to hear. At an elite college where everyone exudes an image of success, many students feel abnormal when they face failure. Failure, Leonard emphasized, is just a normal part of the creative process. He also discussed his failures when he attended Duke where a student asked him how he dealt with not succeeding as he had hoped there. Something that was very striking is he explained that students have to learn to define their own brilliance.

Before Edsurge, Leonard studied at the Stanford University to receive a master’s degree. This is where he realized his passion for design thinking. But before going to graduate school, Leonard was unsure of where his passions lied. After a period of unhappiness while working as a consultant, he took time to self-reflect while travelling abroad. Leonard realized he had the privilege to decide his life’s path because of the education he had received. From his friends back home, Leonard was the only one who had attended a magnet middle and high school, which prepared him to attend an ivy league college, which led to an attractive consulting job after graduation. From the beginning, his education set him apart from his friends. Not because his friends were less intelligent, but just because he had gotten lucky in terms of placement into a college preparatory school at an early start. Through this revelation, Leonard realized he wanted to improve education and extend its reach.

I really enjoyed having Leonard come to campus, going to such a rigorous college and hearing how someone can succeed with failure in their journey is very refreshing. I think we often get overwhelmed on campus and when we make minor errors we make them seem more catastrophic then they may actually be. In addition, myself included, it is important to hear others journeys as no one has a straight line to where they would like to end up, also no one has the same definition of success. I like to remind myself as Leonard said, you define your own success and what achievement means to you. Leonard was extremely personable and truly moving to listen to. He, like I am sure many others has faced hardships, and how he has been able to overcome them is truly is so inspiring to hear. Students truly seemed intrigued by his Medlock’s journey and how he discussed it. I hope he will be back to campus soon to talk more to us about his amazing journey and to see where life leads him next.

Written by Salomé Lefort ’21.