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Education MVP 2.0 . . . or is it 3.0?

A New Direction (For Education and For Me)

As with any good startup, the time has come again to pivot.

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I have been throwing up random ramblings. Sometimes about education. Sometimes about entrepreneurship. Sometimes not really about either of those. I didn’t have a direction. Then I spoke with Ellen Leanse. She used exciting words like “brain hacks” and “nanospark”.

After explaining my perspective on education, and my efforts to be more deliberate in including women in entrepreneurship education, she said “you should be the voice of inclusion in entrepreneurship and education”. I hesitated at that opportunity – it got real deep real quick! Ellen then shared these words with me, from Lao Tzu:

Watch your thoughts, for they become your words.

Watch your words, for they become your actions.

Watch your actions, for they become your habits.

Watch your habits, for they become your character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

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 A New Beginning (For Education and For Me)

I’m going to focus my ramblings through this platform. I know, I’m sure I’ve said that before. But Ellen kicked me in the ass and now I really mean it! I will write about and invite others to write about:

  • Successes and failures at entrepreneurial approaches to education
  • Principles and theories and such surrounding how to construct a meaningful education system that is inclusive above all else
  • How to engage students (methodological perspective)
  • Tactics in the classroom (assuming the goal of guiding young adults toward a career)

All of this I undertake with a basic assumption: Our higher education system was originally created out of the need to create efficient cogs in a big machine. It thus focused on forecasting and planning and similar activities.

Today is not a world of big machines that need cogs. It is not a world of forecasting and planning – at least not in the way it was hundreds of years ago. Our education system has not adapted. I want to expose how it hasn’t and how it has.

What are your thoughts: how should our education system adapt to prepare students for today’s career marketplace?

Loss Sucks

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My Loss

I had a couple running mates taken from me in my teens. The street got ’em.

I had my sister taken from me at 24. Cancer got her.

I had my first child taken from me at 26 (miscarriage).  Not sure why.

I had my first dog taken from me at 35. Other priorities got her.

I guess by the language above, I blame someone or something.  The streets, the doctors, little dogs. Because I place blame, I’m angry. I don’t do so well with the emotions, instead preferring to surround myself with cognition. But no matter whether it’s thinking or feeling, loss sucks.

I realized today that I’ve never dealt with any of this. Any of the losses. I cried a bit at each one, then tucked it away, stood up, and got on.

I realized today that because I’ve never dealt with any of these losses, those close to me have been robbed of the full me. Not that I’m all that and a bag of chips or anything, but I do think I’m pretty cool with a lot to offer. My loss has translated into their loss, because I’ve been selfish and not wanted to get messy.

Loss sucks. But it’s up to us to not let it perpetuate. It’s up to me to end the cycle.

Your Loss

What have you lost?

Have you dealt with it, so others have the full you?


The Next Disruption For the Young Entrepreneur

Inspiration disrupts my daily existence, sometimes at the right time and sometimes at an inopportune time. I can’t plan it, but I always welcome it and try to leverage it.

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Disruption From the Outside

Not sure which this one is, but after attending the 99% Conference, I have yet again found disruption. I’ll quickly highlight this two-day extravaganza:

I had the pleasure of visiting the Quirky offices, heard their story, shared the internrocket story with the dude who founded Canvaspop.

Joshua Klein explained the future of networking is about who you know.

Sarah Lewis shared her perspective on failure as part of the creative process.

Wendy MacNaughton (who is ridiculous, just in general) gave us a glipmse of how to document our world.

Oliver Burkeman gave us the upside of uncertainty and failure.

John Maeda discussed the intersection of design, tech, and education.

Tina Roth Eisenberg shared her incredible journey of designing, coworking, temporary tattoos, and mostly, of fun.


Robert Brunner shared the story of Ammunition and of designing products that change the game.

Joanne Wilson explained how to have a rich life while building great businesses.

Susan Gregg Koger shared her story of passion for fashion (Modcloth) and building a business around/with a community.

Jason Fried and Scott Heiferman talked about connecting with people (employees), about respecting people, and the challenges of entrepreneurship.

Seth Godin answered a few questions.

Shantanu Starick shared his journey around the world using only a camera and a smile.

Hank Willis Thomas brought out the truth (about race and other topics).


Marc Ecko slayed us with the idea of staying true to our vision and values.

It was gloriously exhausting!

Where My Disruption Leads

I talked with Makerbot Academy Executive Director Jennifer Lopez about raising $1,000,000 to put a Makerbot in every single Chicago Public School.

I talked with a Wagner College grad, trustee about building an Institute for Social Innovation there to impact the students, faculty, and surrounding community.

I have a plan of (1) how to coordinate and manage the growing (350+) group of ridiculous women, and (2) how to coordinate 5 higher education institutions to help me redefine entrepreneurship education.

I have a cool idea (to me anyway!) of how to work with my son to visually document our daily existence using father-and-son Lego minifigures we build.

I get inspired by chaos, by noise, by groups of people. I am not a fan of silence, of retreating into anything to find inspiration or that creative muse. My muse, I guess, is other people’s creative energy. I love it – can’t get enough!

If I am disrupted once per day, and inspired once per day, that’s a full day. I was (both) for two solid days. It was amazing.

What inspires you?

What is your disruption?

1 Reason I’m Tired of Numbers

Seems like everything I read nowadays is numbers.

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I’m tired of list posts because they are often shallow and stop short of giving the reader the meat and potatoes. And nobody (at least in their right mind!) likes getting stood up after being teased with the veggies. Quit teasing me with numbers!!!

6 Things Wrong With . . .

5 Essential Traits of . . .

10 Mistakes to Avoid When . . .

We need list posts to tell us to list post! Just tell me the story. Tell me why I shouldn’t be a lean startup, don’t give me a list. Weave me a story that draws me in and engages me learning to overcome the common mistakes in running lean startup experiments.

I like numbers – I understand and appreciate that numbers rule the world. But it’s the story surrounding the numbers that holds the power.

Why do the numbers exist?

How do I use the numbers?

What do the numbers mean?

Go deeper than the numbers. Look at the last post that is a list post. Is the meat and potatoes there? If so, kudos to that author. If not, ask that author “so what?”; make them give you more than the numbers.

What The World Would Be Like If Entrepreneurs Didn’t Exist

NOTE: This is a group blog exercise while I’m attending the kickoff reception at the 99% Conference. I played the “why” game; I asked the first random attendee the title question, then gave the second random attendee that answer and asked why, and so on.

It wouldn’t be. Period.

no entrepreneurs
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Entrepreneurs imagined, developed, and built everything physical.


Entrepreneurs have been responsible for some of the natural things we see and use.


They create.


Entrepreneurs don’t know how to do anything else.


Creation is in their DNA.


They’re weird.

There you have it. Next time you’re talking to an entrepreneur, say “thank you”. Yes, we’re weird at times, and we’re really intense at times. Ignore that  or embrace that. Whatever. Just be sure to say “thank you”.

Why “Form or Function” Sucks for Entrepreneurs

Form and function have been on my mind lately. I’ve been reading about them, about design and use, about adoption. As David Kelley of IDEO and the Stanford fame has illustrated, form and function are both critical to a product’s adoption and use. Entrepreneurs need to understand this – a product should not ship without satisfying criteria for both. Form, function, design, adoption; all of these topics are admittedly interrelated. I get frustrated, thinking to myself “what entrepreneur really cares about this chicken-or-the-egg debate?”

Form is Important

Something can look cool/beautiful/simple/epic.  Or something can look lame/ugly/complicated/regular.

The luge sled looks awesome.

Form and function
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I love the toaster (weird, I know, but whatever).

Form and function
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Function Is More Important

Bottom line, though, as an entrepreneur, I want my product/service to deliver on my and its promise.

As a customer, I want to get shit done.

Product must function.

If not, the person on the luge (luger??) probably dies.

If not, your toast is burnt.

Nobody likes burnt toast (in other words, don’t get distracted by the shiny objects or the squirrel).

The good and the best about being an educator … there is no ugly here



Note: I am using voice to text for this post so if there is anything offensive or ridiculous here I blame my phone not my fingers.

The beauty of being an educator

I spend a lot of time bashing my profession recently have had caused to smile about my profession. Actually I always have cause to smile when I am engaged in with my students. I do what I do because I love giving back and helping my students find their passion and with their passion.   the other day one of my students, are young woman, told me that she is graduating in a couple weeks and is completely unsure of what she wants to do after college. She is getting an HR degree but when talking to her I pulled out of her that the things that she’s really passionate about and loves to learn about in practice have to do with beauty and makeup. No this is not one of my areas of expertise I know this is shocking, so I started reaching out to colleagues of mine in Chicago who may be able today introduced this young woman to people in the beauty industry. Lo and behold instantly the number of my colleagues in Chicago we’re willing and able to introduce this young woman to people in the beauty industry.I believe that this process will help to change this young woman’s career path from something that she would settle for to something that she could live for. That’s an impact. That’s why I’m here. That’s the beauty of what I do. It doesn’t usually happen in the classroom during class time. Sometimes it does, when those light bulbs pop on. But more often it happens outside the classroom, during deeper discussions about purpose, passion, and uncertainty.

Educator’s impact is outside the classroom

I have had these discussions with many students in the few years I have been teaching. I have students who have found their way, on my urgent, to Boston. They ventured out on their own because they wanted something new, something exciting, something challenging. They were willing to face uncertainty and to take full advantage of what it offers. I have other students who are working their dream jobs in the Chicago area. They did not find these jobs with a resume, a cover letter, or any other vehicle that would make them seemed like every other robot coming out of college. They found these jobs because they were willing to stand up, speak up, and take a chance that somebody would be willing to help them figure out where they wanted to go and how to get there. I was willing to help.

Educators should do more than educate

I get excited when I see students excited. I rarely see students as excited in the classroom we’re talking about class related material as when I am talking to them trying to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their does not take anything very special to make a dead in these young men and womens futures. it takes listening to them, asking difficult questions, supporting their fear, in their passion, and being there champion. Is that so hard? Even if it is I would argue it is the most meaningful experiences an educator can have.

The best part of being an educator, in my humble opinion, has nothing to do with education per se. it has to do with supporting our students in their search for meaning, for challenge, for security, for fun, and for the future that is fulfilling. That cannot be accomplished through traditional means of education and in a traditional formatted classroom.

My challenge to educators

I challenge all educators to change their view of what our role can be and should be in the students lives. And to think through how we can have an impact and be responsible champions for our students in their pursuit of a meaningful future.

what are you doing? What could you do better? How are you impacting your students in lasting waves? If you are not, shame on you. If you are, please share how you do that so the rest of us can learn and can be better at what we should do.

New Structure in Education = New Results in Education

Education Isn’t All It Could Be

Let’s say you walk into any big box electronics store. You’re not quite sure what you’re looking for but know you want some kind of media device. Remember: you’re the customer. One of the “experts” approaches you and starts telling you about this huge TV.  It’s waaaaaaaaaaay too big for your apartment.  He’s giving you all the details, all the background about how it was built. Lots of big words you don’t understand. You have no choice but to buy that TV, take it home and put it on your wall.

Crazy? Of course it is. But this is what we expect our students to deal with. Students who are the customers. Students are expected to come into a classroom, to listen to an “expert” give them information (that often times makes no sense to them because the “expert” doesn’t help them understand how to apply it,) and to take that information without doing much questioning. Oh yeah, and they have to pay for it.

A New Approach

What to do? We (teachers and administrators) need to let the students investigate what they want to learn. They come in with a general idea of their interest, their passion, and a potential path forward. We need to give them a lot of tools to do investigate, to question, to challenge, to apply and try. We need to take a back seat in their learning process and be their champions in finding experiences to apply that learning.

Can You Take a Back Seat?

Mentors Can’t Get The Job Done

Champions Can Save the Day!

I was talking with Shawna Butler about how to bring more young women into our entrepreneurship program here at Illinois State University. As a little background, I have talked to roughly 300 female entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and small business owners since Christmas about this issue.  On almost every phone call with every one of those women, they have pointed out the importance of including a strong mentor program into our program.

Shawna shocked me, which is not easily done. She said “we don’t need mentoring, we need championing.” As she explained, a mentor, for the most part, will usually tell or help a mentee figure out how to do something. A task. A learning goal. There’s a whole lot of supportive and exploratory talking. It is a valuable relationship, no doubt about it. But Shawna had a great perspective I never thought about to be honest. Blew my mind!

Instead of introducing a mentor program, she suggested introducing a Champion Program. A champion will help someone he/she is working with in the task/goal arena just as a mentor. But wait, there’s more! A champion will also put his/her name and reputation on the line for another person. They will advocate for that person. They will champion that person’s future (in the case of college students).

Mentors Talk the Talk, Champions Walk the Walk

As a young college student, I had some idea where I was going. I had mentors helping me figure out my goals. They helped me learn certain tasks that are very valuable to this day. Only one of them stuck their neck out for me, and put their reputation on the line for me. She was my champion, and it made all the difference in the world. Shawna, you’re a genius! Thank you for opening my eyes.

PS – If you are a mentor, should you be a champion instead?

PPS – Do you need a champion?


The purpose of education is . . .

I just finished a TEDx talk at Heartland Community College about my visions for the future of education. It was a high point of my life; watching TED talks have provided me so much inspiration and to have that opportunity was incredible!  I spoke to the audience about how to change the education system so that a college experience can realize it’s intended promise to prepare students for the real world. I spoke about the generic purpose of education being to prepare young people to be responsible and productive citizens and lifelong learners. Specifically, I think the purpose of education is to help students find answers to their meaningful questions.

Thoughts on Education

I asked the attendees to answer the question “What is the purpose of education?” on a paper airplane, and at one point in the talk to send me their airplanes. Here are their answers:

Turn dreams into reality.

Foster the art of asking questions.

To inspire students to learn from on their own, and to prepare them for the world (Sam Ferrante)

To teach you how to think.

To inspire and evolve how we think.

To expand minds.

To get a bette ridea (Carol Hahn)

I have no idea about the education thing. . . I just want to be cool enough to live in a red house. . . and I will have a red plan also (sidenote – my wife and I live in a red house, which is very rare in our town where all the houses are beige)

To question. To be aware. To be courageous (Carol Hahn)

To open minds, inspire creativity, and to teach us how to live in the world (Jean)

To help them discover their true potential (Alejandro Montesdeoca)

To expose people to skills and knowledge that will allow them to lead happy and productive lives (Jon Shackley)

To discover and pursue interesting questions

Improving people’s lives (George Mueller)

To teach people of all ages relevant skills and provide them with relevant knowledge. Education can be delivered via many modes! FOR FUN . . . education should not be confused with training. You wouldn’t want your kids to take a sex training class, would you? (Doug Minter)

For individuals to better themselves and build a future/career. Expand on their knowledge and better themselves as a whole (Arianna Shipley)

To educate (Antonio Montes de Oca)

Knowledge is power (Antonio Montes de Oca)

Education is a forum for new ideas seen through the lens of the ideas of others

To teach people to think

To challenge yourself and become a better asset in the world (Kali Lewis)

Give the ability to explore (Ravi K.)

People say education prepares you for the real world, when in fact education is the real world. While being educated, kids are and should be allowed to truly think and create (Kayley K.)

“So that employees can follow written instructions” So sorry for being jaded (Marcus)

To get smarter (Julie Shackley)

An opportunity to gain knowledge, build self-confidence, know who we are and increase awareness of our surroundings and our world (Linda Walter)

To advance one’s self to the benefit of one’s self and community

To provide students with the tools and creativity to go beyond their own expectations (Cecilia)

Foster all ideas in a non-judgmental setting

To bankrupt parents!

Education is to help us discover the purpose of life

To prepare a student to be successful in their future (Brent R.)

To learn to love learning (V. Sittig)

To teach how to think, question, and create (Robyn Walter)

What do you think is the purpose of education?