Hi, I'm Victor.

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Learning to Risk. Risking to Learn.

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Higher education through real-word experience


A community of people taking risks to change their world.


Everyone needs a Seth


I first met Seth Kravitz in 2009.

He had moved to Chicago after launching an incredibly successful venture. Once he got settled here, he started a blog about entrepreneurship, and I was hooked. In the sidebar of his website, there was a link that said: “Let’s Get a Beer.” It was something he did every Thursday. So I took him up on it…several times.

Seth quickly became one of the most important voices in my life. When I was considering an MBA, he was the first to tell me it might not be right for me. When I was designing the Leap Year Project, he suggested I create an understandable format for my year so people could follow along, which led to 12 projects, 12 months, in 2012. And when I was starting Experience Institute, he suggested that I eventually launch a few programs under the Ei brand (ie: Leap Year, Leap Summer, etc.).

It’s no wonder why I’m one of Seth’s biggest fans. And while I was focused on education, Seth has spent his days becoming one of the most helpful and generous connectors in Chicago. He built Technori into the 3rd largest monthly startup event in the country. He advised a slew of successful companies and leaders. He connected a ridiculous amount of founders, funders, and friends. And he did it all of it with tact and humility.

Now, Seth is handing Technori to another great leader and team as he pursues a new endeavor. Next Tuesday is his last time on the Technori stage, and he’s asked me to be the Keynote Speaker for the topic of the night: The Future of Work. If you’re in Chicago and available on the evening of May 31st, you should be there. I have a hunch it’s going to be a special night. Snag your tickets here.

It never ceases to amaze me how a person becomes an influencer. Often, we think it has to do with resources, intelligence, luck, or massive networks. Yes, all of those things are contributors, but if Seth has taught me anything, it’s that listening closely, bringing people together, and helping others succeed will lead you to the best places. Go out and find people you can do that for and find a person who can do that for you.

In other words, everyone needs a Seth.



One of my best friends also happens to be my writing partner.

Let me explain.

For two years straight, we wrote to one another nearly every night. The challenge was simple:

  • Sit down and write 250 words about anything. If you get stuck, just start with Dear ________(insert partner’s name).
  • Add the writing piece to a google doc and tag the partner.
  • Do it by midnight, five nights a week
  • If you miss a day, add $100 to our private paypal account.
  • If/when we reached $500, we would donate the money to a non-profit focused on helping kids write more (826 Chicago).

That’s it.

For two busy entrepreneurs who travel often, it was no easy feat. I missed at least twice.

Still, I decided to start publishing one of my better writings each week on a blog. He’d help me choose which ones were worth posting. And that’s how Wednesday Words was born.

Then, my partner decided to make things even more challenging. He decided to write a poem every single day for the last days of his twenties. 190 days to be exact.

That’s 190 poems – back to back.

Every morning, I’d wake up to see a new poem in my inbox. I’d make comments or suggestions – and he’d either accept them or defend his work. It was an incredible banter.

Now, he’s doing something that takes even more courage: he’s bringing a group of artists together to interpret the best poems through photography and design. Together, they’ve created a beautiful book called Rambles, and the project is nearly funded on Kickstarter. I couldn’t be more proud of him and the artists that have rallied around him.

My writing partner is Dane Johnson. He’s a truly special guy. And if you’re reading this, I think you might enjoy this book. You can back the project here. He only needs $1,400 within the next 15 days to hit his goal.

In any case, if you’re considering doing anything that challenges you, find a partner…set a tangible, specific goal…create a consequence and/or reward…and do the thing you were meant to do.

You’ll never know what will come of it, but I have a hunch the leap will be worth it.

Where do you hope to land?


When I was 10 years old, I thought frozen custard was amazing.

Nothing made me happier than stopping by Springfield Missouri’s famous Andy’s and indulging in a concrete – a full cup of custard blended with any decadent toppings of my choosing.

By the time I could drive, Andy’s became a routine stop for my friends and me.

As I grew up, I learned more about health and wellness. My favorite pastime was playing soccer and I eventually made it onto my college team. I started taking exercise more seriously and decided to begin living a healthier lifestyle on and off the field. By the time I graduated college, I was in the best shape of my life.

Last weekend, I traveled back to Springfield to visit my family. I must have passed the ol’ frozen custard shop a dozen times. I didn’t stop once. In fact, I didn’t even think about it until I sat down to write this note.

Where do you hope to land?

If you’re taking a Leap, you’ve spent time looking back at where you’ve been and how you got to this point: how you were raised, where you went to school, what things in the world inspired you, moved you, frustrated you, and the times you’ve felt most alive.

Those questions may have surfaced positive memories or challenging thoughts; but remember, where you’ve been doesn’t have to determine where you go. Decide where you want to land and let this short project become a new way to better understand yourself, your work, and your world.

This is the moment where you take a few steps back, lock your sights on where you’re leaping to, and prepare to sprint forward.

Start by envisioning what you’ll make and where you’ll be – whether it’s an anthology of poems, a dinner made from home-grown vegetables, art night for friends, or a presentation to peers and colleagues. Try thinking about where you’ll land visually. Grab a pencil or markers and sketch a picture of the end of this project. Don’t worry about making a masterpiece. Stick figures and simple shapes are just fine.

Here are a few questions to get help you begin:

  • Imagine yourself at the end of your project. Where are you? What are you doing? Who else is there? What did you make and how did you capture and share it?
  • What skills or abilities did you develop along the way, and how will you keep using them?
  • Imagine your Leap is being covered by an author, blogger, or newscaster. What would the headline be, and what photos would they include?

For those of you who’ve been following along on my Leap, I hope to read the first draft of the children’s book to a group of friends and their kids by my 31st birthday, June 5th. I also hope to have few sketches of the main characters. But most importantly, this project continues to give me a new, whimsical lens on the world – seeing my surroundings in an animated and narrative fashion – something I needed at this stage of my life and work. I’ll share more about that soon.

Alright, your turn.

Where do you hope to land?

PS: On May 18th at 4pm, we’re hosting a small Storytelling Night for a team of Leapers from Leo Burnett. They’ve been prototyping Leap Kit as a professional development program within the company. They’ll be sharing short talks about what they attempted and learned along the way. Space is limited, but we’d love to meet you there. Click here to snag your ticket.

PPS: If you’d like to purchase a Leap Kit, stop by our store.

5 Whys


Doing a project for the sake of doing a project is foolish.

If you want to waste a lot of time, do something only to gain someone’s approval or meet expectations you don’t really care about. Chances are, you’ll fail to inspire anyone, including yourself.

Action isn’t the beginning.
Knowing why you’re acting is the beginning.

Most projects, especially in traditional education, are created to help you learn a discipline or better understand content. Sometimes that’s helpful.

But the projects you remember – the ones that move others to action and celebration – are the ones where you know why they matter. You’re driven by purpose. You’re fueled by your understanding of and belief in that purpose.

This concept isn’t novel. One of the most watched TED talks in history is all about the power of Why. And one of the most successful political campaigns in history was led in tandem with this storyteller – a Harvard professor who teaches the process of organizing communities by using story to help people understand the why behind a movement.

Whether you’re narrowing down your Leap, or you’ve started working on one, you’ll take flight and stay in the air when you know why you left the ground in the first place.

An exercise to help you identify the importance of your Leap is simply asking “Why?” five times and placing each answer on an individual sticky note. Here’s an example of what this might look like. In this example, the Leap is to: grow a garden in 90 days and host a dinner using primarily food from the garden.

5 Whys

Why is it important to me to grow a garden?
I want to better understand where my food comes from.

Why is that important?
If I better understand where my food comes from, I’ll be more aware of the choices I make when I eat.

Why is that important?
When I’m not aware of my choices around food, I know I’m often supporting farming practices I don’t believe in.

Why is that important?
I want to leave the world a better place than I found it for my kids. And I know that many  commercial agricultural practices strip the land of nutrients and use harmful pesticides that pollute the land and water.

Why is that important to you?
I love my kids, and I want to create a better world for them and teach them how to care for their environment.

“What’s your Leap?” is an important question. But the one that you’ll visit more often – when you’re tired, when you’re busy, when you’re uncertain – is “Why are you leaping?”

Answer that. Then, keep going.

PS: Thanks for those who joined our first Leap Kit CrowdCast LIVE yesterday. If you missed it, you can catch the recording here. And if you’d like to purchase Leap Kit, snag yours here.

New Experience


There are four ways to handle a new experience:

  • Run
  • Stare
  • Poke
  • Embrace

These may sound familiar. Here’s how I’ve been thinking of them lately:

Run. Your first response is “Nope, not going to happen.” And you head in the other direction.You distract yourself, hide behind excuses, make yourself busy, or maybe even physically run away.

Stare. Sometimes, you just look at the possibilities…closely. You examine every angle, make up every hypothetical situation, and talk to everyone about it. But, you never actually do anything. You just stare.

Poke. You decide you’re going to go for it, but really…you barely begin. You poke it, taste it, do it just once, and then you blame something or someone for not completing it. You’re kinda satisfied for trying, but you’re left wondering if you really gave it your all.

Embrace. You research and prepare. You’re uncertain about the outcomes, but whatever happens, you’re sure you’ll learn something. You set a few tangible goals, and go for it. There are challenges. There are failures. But you decide they’re part of the experience…so you keep going. There’s an occasional success or victory. You gain momentum. Sometimes, you’ll end where you wanted. Other times things will go wildly different than expected. But, you’re ok with it. This is a story you’ll tell – something that challenged you and taught you. Something that pushed you to see yourself and your world differently.

It’s not likely you’ll Embrace every experience. Just be honest with yourself and where you truly want to land.

You know the options.

Go for it.

All of the ideas


It’s true.

Choosing a Leap feels daunting. It’s not just you. Anyone who’s considering making, doing, or learning something new is going to feel the pressure of possibility.

The idea of “Leaping” often evokes thoughts of major life changes like quitting a job, starting a company, making something amazing, or creating a routine that will last forever.

Those perfect visions seem nice, but they will keep you from getting started. Trust me, I know.

When designing Leap Kit, nearly everyone we met enjoyed the beginning stages of Leaping: time to consider what inspires them, moves them, and what they hope to know, feel, and do someday. But when it came to choosing a specific Leap, the options seemed too endless. All of us were curious how to help.

But then we realized…those ideas are a good thing!

Rather than choose one Leap, start by listing everything you might do. Seriously. Anything goes.

We’ve dubbed this practice, Leap Storm.

Time yourself for a few minutes and write every. single. idea. This is an especially great exercise to do with a partner or team. Focus on one person’s Leap and brainstorm for 8 minutes by yourselves, then reconvene for 7 minutes and share all of your ideas.

Then look at everything that you’ve written regarding your Inspiration and Future Me. Consider which Leaps align with where you’re coming from and what’s realistic within 90 days.

Lastly, within a few minutes of reviewing…go with what sticks out most to you. Just go with it. Take that idea and begin plotting your next steps (if you have Leap Kit, take that sticky note and flip it over to continue planning). Now, you’re on your way.

Don’t worry, things may change. But, you just simplified that grand vision into something smaller and doable. And the best way to test whether it’s going to work, is to quickly move forward with it.

Alright, Leap Storm.

Future Me


I’ve been staring at my cursor for a while. This is tough.

Last week, I wrote about the “Inspiration List.” This week, I planned on sharing a helpful next step for Leaping: envisioning your “Future Me.”

But I’ve recently received news that my dad is really ill, and it’s been hard to think about the future. Things seem bleak. I’m actually posting this note while making an unplanned trip home to see him and my family. I’m nervous, sad, and kind of scared.

What in the world should I share today??

But if there was ever a time to encourage you to envision your future, it’s now – when life seems especially short and valuable.

It’s easy to get caught up in daily routines and usual rhythms. Every so often, you need to be jolted out of those regularities in order to re-calibrate and make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

What do you really hope to know? Feel? Do? And, are you spending your days getting there?

Future Me is your chance to answer those questions before you Leap. It’s a way to place the sketches of yourself on paper. As you design your Leap, it will offer a different sort of motivation – not just inspiration for why you’re starting, but direction for where you’re going.

Keep in mind a few things:

  1. Drawing can be helpful as you envision your future. There is a lot of research about how sketches help you think differently, generate a variety of ideas quickly, and foster deeper discussion with your community. Don’t worry about being perfect. As you can see in my own images below, anything goes. These are yours.
  2. Try timing yourself so that you focus, but don’t over-think it. In the Field Guide, we suggest that you set a timer for 15 minutes and write/sketch anything and everything that comes to mind. The more the merrier.
  3. At the end of those 15 minutes, pick the most important ones, the ones that seem most true to you, and attach them to your Map.
  4. If you need help getting started, try finishing any one the following sentences:

A topic or industry I hope to know more about is…
Someday, I hope to be able to teach or write about…

A group/team that I’d like to work with is… (Imagine what they’re doing, and the role you’d play on that team)
Someday, I will have created or made…

In the future, people will describe me as more…
I will describe myself as…


Here’s a glimpse of a few things I envision myself doing in the future.

Future Me- Victor

Alright, your turn…

Future Me Blank

Looking Back. Looking in.


I knew we were lost. But, we didn’t want to admit it. We were sharing lively conversation, enjoying the sights, and just taking our time.

As afternoon turned to evening, we realized it was time to head home. Even though we were teenagers out on a Saturday, we knew our parents would worry about us if we stayed in the woods too late.

But the challenge ahead of us became dauntingly evident. We didn’t exactly know how to find our way back to the main road.

We tried to simply go “back” the way we came; but we’d gone fairly deep into the wooded area and we were turned around. Everything looked the same and the ground was dry, so there weren’t exactly “steps” to follow.

The sun seemed to be setting faster than usual.

My friend and hiking buddy had an idea. “Let’s just go back to each of the lookout points we visited. Eventually, we’ll find where to go next.”

This would mean we’d have to hike for a longer amount of time. Going back to each site was definitely more ground than cutting straight to the road. But, the lookout points were easier to find and were short distances apart. It was our only hope as night was fast approaching.

Thankfully, we weren’t far from our most recent stop. From there, we traced the sights (or what we could make of them) and even recalled our conversations.

“I remember seeing that view!”

“And, that’s when you tried jumping over that log and didn’t make it!” [insert boyish laughter]

“That’s where we sat and talked about college decisions!”

Sure enough, we made it back to the road, just a few feet from where we’d parked.


Knowing what to do next usually begins by looking back or looking inward, not looking ahead. Study where you came from and things will always become more clear.

This is why taking a Leap starts with Discovery…and specifically, with Inspiration.

Paying attention to what has inspired you – caught your eye, piqued your interest, caused you to pause – is a great clue for what you value and where you ought to go. It fuels you through ups and downs by reminding you where you came from and even why you began.

In the Leap Kit we break it down into four  prompts:
Stories or Media
People I admire and respect
Some of the times I felt in my element
Things I wish were different in the world

Here’s an example taken from my own Leap Map:

Next up… Future Me.

Once you look back, then you can look ahead to where you hope to be someday (Future Me). But don’t worry, we’ll get there.

For now, start with inspiration…

Building Something Meaningful


There’s a lot of hype about how great it must be to “build” or “make” your own thing – companies, products, services, super-secret-dinner-gatherings-in-obscure-places. But like most things that get hype, it’s much easier said than done. Not because it’s actually that hard, but rather, it’s easy to get in your own way.

Doubt and fear are powerful enemies to creativity. They have a way of inflating what you’re making into something with much more weight than it really has or deflating it into something you think will be worthless. Both of those feelings lead straight to excuses. You find yourself saying you’re too busy, you don’t have enough resources, or you’re not talented enough.

Recently, Ei’s good friends and accomplices at Drink Tank – Annie Swank & Kate Garmey – asked me to share more about what it takes to build something meaningful. As part of their new company focused on innovation through collaboration, they’re creating a video/blog series that illustrates responses to various questions from makers and builders.

So two weeks ago, Annie stopped by Experience Institute. She turned on the recorder, and in just one take…this was my reply to her question:

Take a look.

And if you’re so inclined, think about the prompt and reply with how you would have answered Annie’s question.

Then, keep leaping.

Now Shipping


There once was a school of shapes.
Not like a school of fish that flow together,
but an actual place where squares, and circles, and rectangles
could learn to be the shapiest shapes ever.

For some reason, I never grew too old for children’s stories. I love the whimsy…the imagination…the adventure. I’ve been curious about creating a kid’s book of my own, but I’ve never been quite sure enough of my creative ability to pull it off. But as Leap Kits begin to ship this week, I’ve decided to finally pursue a project over the next 90 days as a Leap of my own and the words above are a rough start to the story.

I’ll share how I’m designing and pursuing the project along the way, but I’m curious: What is it for you? What have you hoped to learn, make or change?

This Spring might be your chance to begin.

Here’s a look at the tool that the Ei team and I designed to help you take those Leaps and how you can participate with a project of your own:

A Simple Process | Discover, Prepare, Act, Share
Discover: Leaping begins by exploring what moves you. Reflect on your past, examine your present, and brainstorm different leaps worth taking.

Prepare: As soon as you have a Leap in mind and a place you hope to land, take inventory of the resources and skills that will keep you in the air and the people who you’ll invite into your project.

Act: Leaping may seem like a grand endeavor; but, like all great things, it’s really just a series of small and thoughtful steps. Use this section to make your plans, set your goals, and roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Share: Each phase of your Leap will provide you with a set of valuable lessons, newfound skills, and new friendships. Documenting and sharing your journey will help keep you accountable to your goals and give others a chance to participate in the journey with you.

A Few Delightful Tools
If you’ve ordered the kit (or are considering ordering the kit), here’s a quick video about what you’ll receive and how to get started.

(note: try to do this first piece with a partner!)

A Growing and Caring Community
While making Leap Kit, we learned that nothing is more valuable than the people who support you. As soon as you choose a Leap, find 2-5 friends and set a regular time and place to work on your projects together.

Ei is also working to support and connect Leapers in different cities. You can share a tweet, Facebook update, Instagram, etc with the hashtag: #MyLeapand our team will reply. It’s also a great way to document your own Leap. Click on the image below to see what other Leapers are up to!

Screenshot 2016-03-22 19.17.00

We’ll also be hosting “Leap Nights” on the 29th of each month to gather people in local communities. If you’re interested in hosting a Leap Night in your area, just send a note to hello@expinstitute.com

What happens when I complete my Leap?
There will be three submission dates for your Leap Stories: June 15, September 15, and December 15th (roughly every 90 days). We’ll compile stories into a publication to share with students, friends, families, companies, and Leapers in all corners of the world. Someday, we hope to host Leap Talks to give you a stage to teach what you’ve learned and share stories of how you grew along the way.

Why does any of this matter?
For the past few years, a couple of friends and I have come to believe that education isn’t just something you consume, it can be something you create. It should be rooted in how you see the problems around you and the vigor by which you pursue learning how to solve those problems. If we think about education in that fashion – as something that can be made through thoughtful experiences – then anyone from any background can have access to a world-class education at any season of life.

Yes, it takes a different kind of thinking, a larger community, and a nudge to move beyond our uncertainties; but we have to start somewhere. Leap Kit might be that starting point for you.

If you have any questions feel free to send a message online and we’ll be here to help. In the meantime, I’m back to writing about shapes.

Keep Leaping,

PS: Order your Leap Kit at leapkit.expinstitute.com

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