What does it mean to learn?

If you type “Learn” into Google, you’ll receive nearly 3 billion results in less than half a second. And at the same time, Google will have learned something about you.

But what does it actually mean to learn? Does a 31 on your ACT mean you learned a lot in school? Does showing up on time and attending class mean you’re a good student? And does getting the job you went to school for mean you’ve succeeded? How do you measure if someone is learning?

At BDW, we RE:learn

I’ve complained plenty about the chaotic system that is BDW, but no matter how much I complain I can’t say that I haven’t learned. Over the past year I have learned so much I literally couldn’t tell you everything I’ve learned. And it’s so much more than just skills to put on my resume.

More than simply becoming a more skilled creative, I’ve become a better man

When I first decided to move to Colorado, I made the jump without a job or any idea of what I was going to do. I knew that I had been lucky enough to be accepted into BDW but didn’t have any plan for how to pay for the $25,000 tuition price tag. Hell, I didn’t even know where I was going to live until two weeks before I moved.

When I made the move I had a little over $3000 in my bank account, about $5000 in mutual funds and a U-Haul full of all my belongings.

My parents were so adamant about me not moving that they wouldn’t even take time off work to help me move — to this day they still have no idea where I live beside the fact it’s in Boulder, CO.

Nowhere in the contract did it say “You will succeed.”

The first six months here were brutal. I barely had enough money for rent let alone gas for my car, food to eat, and tuition. Luckily I landed a job at 24 Hour Fitness as a personal trainer very quickly.

I earned enough to pay my rent, make payments on tuition, and to eat enough to keep me awake. I lost 15 pounds in the first 2 months, and not because I was trying to lose weight. I didn’t have money for gas, so I biked everywhere. I had just enough money to go to BDW and study.

Every time I called my parents they reminded me how big of a mistake I made. They’d remind me how much cheaper things are in Nebraska. How if I were in Nebraska I could live at home, save up money and do it the “right” way. And weaved between every sentence were the words “drop out.”

So I stopped calling home

With no option other than to succeed, and no one besides my stubborn self to be supportive of what I was doing, I pushed every day to make it happen. I was waking up at 5am and going to sleep at 11pm, working non-stop. And all this to zero out my bank account at the end of the month. I was literally waking up to survive.

By the end of October I had to quit my job at 24 Hour because between the workload at BDW, biking everywhere and the inconsistency of having clients that trained at separate one-hour sessions throughout the day I literally wasn’t making enough money to make working worth my time.

At that point I pulled out as many credit cards as I could. Luckily I had good credit at the time, so I got a decent amount. However, it wasn’t enough.

By December, I had to zero out all my savings and my mutual funds I had been building since I started working at 14 years old in order to make this happen. I pushed all my chips in and laid my cards face up — I was all in.

I can’t say there weren’t nights when I broke down because I just wanted to quit

For about 4 months I bugged Corban, one of our instructors at BDW, about working at Made Movement. I spent Christmas break studying up on their tech stack and their client roster. Talking to him, it sounded like I could definitely get on at the beginning of the new year. But that wouldn’t happen til much later than I thought.

About 6 months into moving to Colorado, towards the end of March when I was at the point of not knowing how I was going to buy my next meal, I finally landed a spot at Made. I thought for sure I’d be set to finish the year strong at BDW.

Never get comfortable

That thought changed when I went to pay my tuition in April and the card I thought I was going to put my tuition on got declined. Not because it didn’t have the funds, but because the school didn’t accept that specific type of card. That put me $4000 behind, with almost no free time to make up the difference. So I had to make the free time appear.

Luckily I had rationed myself with the extra income I was making and was able to shift funds around enough to make it happen, but it wasn’t pretty.

Now it’s June

By now I’ve paid the last of my tuition payments and the only roadblock ahead of me is finding a new spot to live. I’m two weeks away from having to move out and still have no idea where that will be. I also don’t have much for flexibility when it comes to funding the move.

I had originally planned on living where I’m at for the next year as well, but our landlord decided that he wants to move back into his house. That means I’m stuck finding a place a month before I’m really a professional making a professional salary, which has made the application process super tough. But, just like I’ve done all year, I’ll make it happen.

No matter how hard this last month will be, it’s nothing compared to where I’ve been all year. And after the next month, when I get a job and have a place to live, life will feel like a cake walk.

What does it mean to learn?

As with any school, you can learn to be a textbook but that will only get you so far.

The greatest thing I’ve learned at BDW has nothing to do with anything we’ve actually learned at BDW. But that’s what BDW is really about.

As tough as this year has been on me, it’s changed me significantly and prepared me for a better future. It’s pushed me to my limits and made me do things I never thought I’d have to do. It’s made me patient in ways I never thought I could be. And it’s taught me that in life all you can do is appreciate what you have and learn when things go wrong.

The biggest thing I’ve learned at BDW is how to get comfortable when life gets uncomfortable

So next time your internet goes down, be thankful that you can afford internet service and a computer. Next time you’re at dinner and you get served a meal that you didn’t order, be thankful that you can afford eating out. And next time you see the sun rise, be thankful that you’re alive.

And just remember: All we can do is learn.


If you liked this article, please recommend it so others may stumble upon it as well!

I am currently a student in BDW’s 50 week program. Check out what I do on my site, The Joe Toscano Experiment.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram or find me on LinkedIn as well, if you‘d like to connect.

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