Reflections on 2017
Last year, in a similar post, I set the goal of doing better, not more in 2017. While I did a lot over the past 12 months, I found unprecedented clarity on a few topics that matter most to me. It feels like much of my energy is pointing in a direction that I’m excited about going. I can’t quite put it into words, but it has to do with education, entrepreneurship and empowering young people to take action on their ideas.
Below are some of the many amazing things happened in 2017. At the end I take a step back and examine the bigger picture and set a new intention for 2018.
Director of Dual School
This fall I became the director of a soon-to-be non-profit called Dual School. Our goal is to augment existing local high schools by providing world class experiential learning opportunities to all students. In our first cohort we welcomed 15 students from 7 local high schools (public, private and charter). Students applied with ideas like creating a financial literacy program for low income youth, or 3d printing a drone, or improving homeroom classes to reduce prejudice in schools. Dual School’s job was to help these students make their ideas happen.
The role has been the perfect mix of passion and challenge. I get the opportunity to do what I love (crafting learning experiences) and the opportunity to learn by doing and collaborate with my incredibly smart colleagues.
The fall was just a pilot, and after a successful 10 week program, we’re looking to scale up in the spring! Look out for more updates in the Dual School newsletter.
The World Changer’s Handbook
In May I released my first book, The World Changer’s Handbook, on Amazon. I invested a lot of time and resources into the book during the first five months of 2017 and seeing the listing live was an amazing feeling.
The best part of writing the book has been the notes I’ve received from readers about how the book encouraged them to start blogging, perform an act of kindness or rethink what it means to lead an impactful life.
Along with these personal notes, the book has sparked some other opportunities. Horn Entrepreneurship at University of Delaware bulk ordered the book to give to all their incoming freshmen entrepreneurship majors and hosted a workshop about world-changing 101. Ursuline Academy, a local high school, also bulk ordered the book and invited me to speak to their entire school about creativity. Tim Collins interviewed me about the book on his podcast which you can listen to here.
Startup Island — Young Entrepreneurial Leaders Weekend
In June, I was invited to attend my first Startup Island trip. Startup Island is a company that organizes trips for entrepreneurial college students across the country. I traveled to upstate New York to spend two nights in a cabin on Lake Brant with a dozen other young people all working in entrepreneurship ecosystems across the east coast.
It was a powerful time to connect with a tribe I didn’t know existed. I made some great friends and gave one of my favorite workshops to date. The topic was about running engaging meetings and I gave it on a beach, looking out to the lake fresh off a great game of volleyball. I’m still in touch with many of the people from the trip and look forward to working more with Startup Island in the future!
University Innovation Fellows Student Leader
In November, I returned to Silicon Valley with University Innovation Fellows after being selected as one of 23 student leaders for an international meetup of 300+ students innovating in higher education. It was an amazing opportunity to immerse myself in creativity and design thinking. I spent just shy of a week at Stanford’s d.school (Hasso Plattner Institute of Design)
I gave a talk at Google about rapid prototyping your life purpose.
I co-led a workshop about the growth mindset while being coached by professors at the d.school. I co-facilitated a five hour design sprint about how we might integrate more music into K-12 education.
The trip pushed me to imagine how we might apply best practices of innovation work in Delaware. I came back from the journey exhausted, but energized to get back to work and infuse playful creativity back into my life.
The trip also reinvigorated my belief in the power of teams. I served as a student leader along with 22 others. I’ve never worked with a more supportive, passionate and inspiring group of people. Together we ran a 4-day event for 300+ students. A bunch of humans working as a unit accomplished a super-human task and that feeling still touches me to this day.
20k Passions Round Two
Last year I thought I was saying goodbye to 20k Passions, but as the spring approached and no one wanted to take over, I stepped up again to try leading from a different posture. My first step was to organize a team of people interested in helping out. We sat down together to brainstorm how we wanted the event the look and met for an hour each week to plan.
It felt different this year. It felt like if I didn’t show up, the event still would have worked. I still participated and enjoyed my role, but the team I brought together carried a lot of the weight. They are what made this year’s event many times more successful than our first year.
San Antonio and Austin
Continuing our tradition of seeing a new place each year, my girlfriend Sophia and I went to San Antonio and Austin in January. It was a pleasant break from the winter cold and a fun couple cities to explore. We found plenty of delicious food, saw some great sights and had a lot of fun.
In San Antonio, we loved starting the River Walk at the Pearl District, and would recommend that area to anyone visiting. In Austin, we enjoyed Gourdoughs donuts and exploring South Congress street.
For spring break, Sophia and I went to Montreal with a couple friends. The United States is an enormous country and we think about places like Vermont and Maine as the upward boundaries of civilization, but in reality there are big cities north of our borders. Though it was still cold in March, Montreal was a cool place to explore.
Most of the trip highlights were the amazing food. Our favorites were the Montreal style bagels, poutine, donuts and beer.
I’ve also been exploring the importance of local travel. Many people talk about how powerful it is to travel and I echo that sentiment. It can change your life. But I challenge the notion that travel means taking a long, expensive flight to a foreign country. You could drive ten minutes and end up in a place that feels unfamiliar.
Since graduating and officially living in Delaware, Sophia and I have been exploring locally to find new places. Travel isn’t about how far you go; it’s about seeing things differently.
Last year, in a similar post, I wrote that 2016 had been my happiest and healthiest year on record. I wish I could say the same about 2017, and I probably could about the first half, but the transition after college is difficult. Working full days, commuting and getting acclimated to life in “the real world” leaves little time for other essential activities.
I love the work I do, but during the fall I struggled with making time to exercise, eat well and meet new people. In college, I had a great balance of these things, but now there are new barriers for me to overcome. In 2016 I set an intention to do better, not more in the new year. I feel that I’ve lived that intention and now it’s time for a new one: Stay more active.
I want to do get outside more, do more yoga, hike more, bike more, run more, play more sports. The other stuff will come. The emails will get sent. The blog posts will get written. Those habits are ingrained and now it’s time to add more healthy tendencies back into my life.
This year has been a monumental one, and I am excited for what 2018 will bring!