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One Thing at a Time

02/15/2017

There’s an unspoken expectation of everyone in society. It’s so prevalent and so common, that we’ve all been poisoned and no one knows it.

Every so often, someone will point it out. We gasp at its presence and vow to avoid it at all costs. Yet, as quickly as the air rushed into our lungs, we forget and accept it.

It’s the expectation that we should do more.

It drives us to want to create more things. Make more money. Cram more into each day. Complete multiple tasks at once.

It’s why we text and drive.
Try to schedule two meetings with different people around the same time and place.
Open multiple tabs in our browsers.
And why our task lists and folder systems and notification settings are all overly complicated…(or even that there are programs specifically designed to handle those things).

Everyone is expecting more of you. Your parents. Your peers.Your managers. Those who went before you. Those who are watching you.

Because you are privileged.
You are smart.
More translates to better.
You should be able to do more.

This is tyranny. The expectation is enough to not only drive you mad, but also keep you from your best work and relationships.

There is a reason that when you see the finer things in life, they are more simple.

Healthy dishes, well-made cars, timeless furniture, solid crafts. There is less involved – less ingredients or bells and whistles or “extras.” Our best products or experiences bring about a sense of calm. And the few details that remain have been agonized over. That’s why they are considered sophisticated, elegant, smart. The maker decided “more” wasn’t their target. Instead, they aimed for excellence and longevity.

As you can, do a few things well. The less the better.
You’ll fly further, higher, and be able to help others do the same.

Empathy

02/08/2017

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled Thoughts about US. It was one of the most widely read and shared pieces I’ve written. Even though the readers of these Wednesday Words hold an array of varying beliefs, every response was gracious, thoughtful, and kind. Some of you even chose to create your own list of centering beliefs. It’s been great to read your thoughts. Thank you for replying and sharing.

One of my friends and someone I greatly respect wrote the following response. It’s a helpful critique and addition:

I don’t know if you’re conscious of it, but there’s an unwritten word woven through every thought in this essay: empathy.
It should be the filter through which we as humans view every interaction. While I like the somewhat simplistic mantra of ‘all you need is love’, I think the real key to bridging divides is by challenging ourselves to see the world through the eyes of another without judgement. It seems simplistic to have to articulate this fundamental truth, but people have a really hard time setting aside ego and personal preconception, and just listening. Lord knows I have to be reminded from time to time, but when I do, in general, I find my life enriched and my connections stronger.

Thanks for the inspiration. We’re gonna need a lot of it in the days ahead.
– Timothy Hogan

Those words have stuck with me.

Empathy is the act of listening. But not just listening – it’s pausing, placing yourself in the other person’s shoes, and staying there with your eyes wide open.

The longer you stay there, the more you’ll see and feel the world in the same way as that person.

It’s the best kind of listening.

There’s been a lot of anger over the past few weeks. Understandably so.

But our greatest act of growing together as a community is pausing to see where others are coming from and why it matters to them. It’s a gift that settles the most tumultuous situations.

Because the opposite of anger is not being more calm.
It’s being more empathetic.

Leap

02/01/2017

She didn’t know it would be so high. All she knew was that it felt higher than she’d ever been.

She looked down.
Stepped back.
Walked to the edge again.
Looked down again.
Stepped back.

She repeated this sequence several times.

Every so often, the fear would steal her breath and replace it with doubt.

She was too old for this.
She wasn’t in the right shape.
She’d never done it before.
She could get hurt.
It wasn’t worth it.

“It’s easy to walk back down. I saw someone else do it. That’s what I should do.” she thought to herself.

She stopped standing at the edge.
She felt safer a few steps back.
She leaned on the railing.
She contemplated.

She couldn’t go back now. She was here. Others had gone before her. They were better for it. She knew this wouldn’t be easy before she came. The decision to back out now would follow her. She’d regret it.

“This won’t kill me. At least, I don’t think it will.”

1…
[breathe]
2…
[step]
3…

Leap.

Your turn.

___
Inspired by Ten Meter Tower, a mini-doc by Maximilien Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson that was recently featured in the New York Times.

 

Thoughts about US

01/25/2017

After the events of the last few months, my head has been swirling and my newsfeed has been dizzying.

So I started writing a few very clear, common-sense things that could help me re-center. Good and simple truths about democracy, community, and country. I think I’ve taken our freedoms for granted and one way to change that is by wrestling with the issues with pen and paper (and keyboard). I ventured into some tricky territory, spaces that I’m still navigating, but here’s where I am so far:

I believe…

If you have a different sexual orientation than me, you deserve just as much love as anyone else. In abundance.

If you are of a different race or color or from a different socioeconomic background, we still have more uniting us than dividing us.

Someone being from the Middle East does not mean they are a terrorist. I know this well.

I believe women deserve respect. And so much more than respect. Equal pay. Equal rights. Equal everything.

If you’ve done something wrong, you deserve a second chance. If you keep doing things wrong, I want you to get help.

I believe if you’re a child from any part of any city of any size, I think you should have access to the same, quality education as a child from any other family in your city. And it should be great. Which means we need to invest heavily in our teachers and their success. Not just money, but our time. A family’s goal should not just be to afford education, but to be involved in one another’s learning and development.

If you are my neighbor, I think we’re better as allies than enemies. One of our greatest contributions to this world is exemplifying how to coexist, despite our differences.

If a bully kicks someone while they’re down, we should do something. We may not be able to fight everyone’s fight, but we can rally our friends and inventions to be helpful when others are in need.

The earth is changing, and not for the better. A lot of that is because we take too much from it. We need to be thoughtful about what we use and how much of it we use or else it will stop giving. We are smart enough to create new ways of reusing, sharing, and even giving back to the earth. Doing so will ensure a longer and happier life for our kids and their kids. This means changing our habits and definitions of success. That seems impossible. But if we do this together, it will be easier and it will be worth it.

If you’ve earned a lot of money because you worked really hard for it, you shouldn’t be targeted to give it away. That should be up to you. But sharing a planet, a country, and a community comes at a cost, for all of us. If we consume less and give a little more, more of us can be more healthy and cared for. That’s good for you, me, and everyone around us, too.

The rules surrounding governance are complex. But I believe we shouldn’t pass those complexities down to the people they are meant to serve. Our most delightful and helpful technology and designs should be pointed at helping all people navigate basic needs.

The job market is changing. An expensive four-year degree gained in a classroom is losing its relevance and seeding generations with more debt than anyone can or should handle. We need to create more bridges into the marketplace through internships and apprenticeships earlier in higher education. Those experiences ought to be a frequent and fully accredited part of education. Educating people is about more than just vocation. It means guiding students to think, to question, to appreciate beauty, to understand history, embrace difference, and be comfortable with ambiguity. Education should prepare people for jobs, absolutely, but also for living thoughtful, empathic, fully human lives.

And society is moving and progressing too fast for us to simply cram all of our education into our younger years. Learning is not a product, it is a practice that ought to be directed by the learner and celebrated by society as a whole.

Things like democracy, country, and freedom are complex. The past few weeks and months have proved that. Each of us needs to wrestle with those topics on our own and with our communities. Or else we will get swept away by party, religion, or a figurehead and, in turn, never understand or or strengthen our own beliefs. That’s when democracy begins to crumble and fear and hate rise – when we have no foundation in basic truths that ought to be fundamental to democracy.

So when does freedom come under fire? What is worth fighting for? Which belief is preference and which ones help a country create a place for people to live happy, meaningful lives?

 

Find the time to recenter yourself around a few truths that you believe. Find people who are doing the same. Meet them. Disagree with them. Decide what’s foundational to democracy and freedom…and celebrate those things. And when you differ, remember what unites you.

– Victor

Ps: Special thanks to Dane Johnson & Michael Lawrence for helping me edit this piece, and more importantly, discuss these topics with me.

Let it go

01/18/2017

Sometimes, it’s just not right.

But because you have it, you want to keep it.

It serves a purpose. And replacing it means starting again.

You’d have to…

Sell
Move
Leave
Draw
Design
Explain
Return
Email
Call
Build
Invest

And after all of that, it might not be any better. It could be a huge waste of time and resources.

But if you know it’s not right, deep down. If you feel it in your bones. If your thoughts continuously veer to how it could be better…

Let it go.

With time you may find something better. Or you may stumble on the very same thing again with fresh eyes and see it as just right.

But even if you never replace it, you’ll be better off knowing you took the first step. The hardest step.

You learned to listen.
To yourself.

Coming Back

01/11/2017

Taking a break can feel like too much work.

You have to prepare, plan, communicate, and try to put all of your worries aside. Sometimes, it seems easier to not take breaks.

But deep down, you know that’s not healthy.

Taking breaks is like anything else – you need to practice in order to get really good at it.

Last year, I began learning to take breaks. Short ones. Long ones. Breaks from specific things. And then sought to come back with greater vigor and focus.

Most recently, I’m coming off of a break from social media for the month of December. And as I gear back into writing-mode, here are a few things I hope to remember from the final days of 2016:
___

+ Books & Authors are great mentors. Reading is on a short list of things that ought to be part of every day.

+ On that note, reading poetry challenges the way you think and write. I hope to learn how to say more with less.

+ Two years ago, in December 2015, I needed the help of a friend who changed my social media passwords for me to make the break from social media happen. This year, I did it on my own. It felt good realizing that I have the willpower to say “no” to things that I think I want. In fact, growing your “no-muscle” is more important today than ever. I wonder if focus will be the rarest commodity of the 21st century.

+ Happiness is wanting what you have. And a lot of what’s online causes you to look longingly at what you don’t have. You need to counter those voices with a lot of time in reflection and gratitude.

+ Facebook/Instagram REALLY misses you when you don’t login for a while. By the end of the month, I was receiving daily communication about what was happening online without me. It was a reminder that we are the ones they need, not the other way around.

+ If you run yourself ragged, you can’t weather life’s storms. As you know, my father lost his fight with Pancreatic Cancer on December 6th. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever encountered. I’m still having trouble processing the loss and all that it means for my family and I (seriously…I have a dozen half-written posts…and then I just get stuck). During the weeks that followed, I was completely spent. If I hadn’t planned for taking periodic breaks throughout the year to get to that point AND planned for a December break away from my rhythms, there would have been a looming cloud of work and obligations. And I wouldn’t have been as present with family and friends.

____

For now, it’s time to run again. I’ll share more about the path ahead in the coming weeks. Several of you shared wonderfully helpful feedback at the end of November. That was really insightful as I consider ways to support you and your work from my corner of the world. Thank you.

And for today, more than resolutions or projects or tasks or even Leaps, my only question to you is, “When is your next break?

Plan it. You’ll be glad you did.

See you next week,
Victor
Ps: A dear friend of mine, Sam Rosen, has begun this same practice of writing every Wednesday. You can read his first Wednesday Words here. If you’re interested in writing every Wednesday with us, just reply with a link to where you post. I’d love to follow along.

Taking a Break

11/30/2016

Hey, I just wanted to say thanks.

2016 has been a roller coaster, and this little outlet to write about life, learning, and the making of Ei has been a simple way to stay connected to remarkable friends and acquaintances from around the world.

I’m really grateful to be doing this work with and for you. Thank you.

And, now for a little break…

Each December, I take a pause from writing and social media. It gives me a chance to clear my head and plan for the coming year. And it gives you one less message to read during the crazy season.

But before I go, could you share where you are in your life through this short survey? It’ll only take a few minutes, I’ll keep responses entirely confidential, and you can remain anonymous if you choose. This is just a simple way for me to learn more about you and explore how to create more helpful things in the coming months.

So, enjoy December with family and friends. I’ll see you next year.

Your Wednesday Writer,
Victor

Take me to the “Where I’m at” survey.

What to talk about this Thanksgiving

11/23/2016

I’m currently on a road trip with two hilarious and delightful people. The three of us love Thanksgiving as much as the next high-metabolism-home-cooked-meal-eating-young-adults.

But we agree that there is a sense of collective national trepidation walking into Thanksgiving conversations. Kids are worried about traveling home. Parents are worried about extended family members making outlandish claims. And everyone just wants to make it through the rest of this week without any relational casualties.

Wherever you stand on the issues, chances are you need other things to fill the time besides discussions about politics and the state of our future. So, Miranda, Jay, and I have created a short list of topics that aren’t quite as heavy or contentious – all of which has been compiled and delivered from the back seat of a light gray, 2012 Honda CRV while driving along Highway 55.

Thanksgiving Topics:
What should Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year have been? 2016 was Post-Truth.

What’s going to happen in the next season of Stranger Things?

How about the next season of West World?

Why did Kanye West cancel his world tour?

Would you have applied for Mars One?

Re-watch the Cubs World Series…especially Game 6 and 7.

Mannequin Challenge youtube videos.

Discuss which podcast are you listening to right now? If you’re listening to political podcasts, move on.

Google everyone who was just given a Medal of Freedom by Obama. Inspiring.

Teach everyone at the table how to Dab.

_____________________________

Whatever happens, don’t forget to simply share how grateful you are for the people and moments you hold most dear. Relationships are the most powerful engines for change. Be good to those closest to you and that goodness will spread.

Thanks for being good to me.

Happy Thanksgiving.

From the back seat,
Victor

 

How to Make a Decision

11/16/2016

Because of the nature of my work at Experience Institute, I spend a lot of my days around people who have to navigate an array of decisions. They want to grow in their career, learn new skills and mindsets, or change something important in their life. In other words, there’s a lot of:

“OMG WHAT SHOULD I DO NEXT?!?!”  

And thanks to the internet, everyone is comparing their life to someone else’s. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) used to just be a phrase used when missing an event. Now it feels like something used for life as a whole.

Ugh…I wish I would have gone to that Coldplay Concert.
vs
Ugh…I wish I would have become an Engineer.

If you’re facing any type of decision, here’s a short list of things that may be helpful:

1. Trust your gut.

I know it seems ridiculous to turn to your stomach for a big decision, but it’s a great place to start. It’s not like your brain that’s trying to process a gazillion things all at once. Your gut relies on intuition. It takes all of your subconscious experiences and, when faced with a fork in a road, gives you a simple yes or no.

Is that too simple for you? Alright, fine. Keep reading.

2. Play out the scenarios quickly.

Take yourself through each decision, all the way to the very best possible ends. Write or draw them so you can see them in one glance.

Next, imagine a big magic button appearing next to you. Pressing that button would fast forward to one of those ends without any of the pain or challenge of getting there. Which decision would you choose?

Go with that one.

Sure, that perfect ending may not happen, and it certainly won’t happen without overcoming grand challenges along the way, but if that’s what your subconscious mind is thinking about, you’ll start steering towards that end once you make that decision. Even if you don’t reach the perfect conclusion, you’ll be on the right path.

Still stuck? Awesome. Let’s keep going.

3. Research.

This is a more advanced version of the previous route. Instead of you playing out all of the scenarios, find a few people you admire who’ve had to make a similar decision. What did they do? If anything has been published about their stories – articles, biographies, videos, etc – devour them.

You’ll never be in the exact position as someone else, so you can’t transfer everything perfectly. But you’ll find similarities that may help you make your decision.

4. Look inward.

Think through the last time(s) you’ve faced a similar decision. What did you do? Were you happy with the outcome? What would you have changed? Take time to reflect and write about your past experiences. Compare those moments to your current situation and let them help you navigate your tricky situation.

Another way to look inward is to lean on a few close family members, friends, or colleagues. Take them out to coffee and share what you’re thinking. Ask them for their perspective. And be sure to give them the brutal, honest facts. I’ve known too many people who use conversations with others as a way to validate a pre-made decision. If you have someone who truly wants the best for you, be open and let them into the entire situation.

5. Advise a friend.

Sometimes, these things are way too emotional. And emotions can cloud your judgement. So give  the decision to a friend and remove yourself from the situation. If you were in the role of an advisor, what would you say?

6. Exercise, Eat, Sleep

These are three very good decisions. Not only should you be doing these regularly, but doing them amidst times of uncertainty will give you clarity of mind. And the momentum of doing a few simple, good things will help carry you in the right direction.

In fact, if you haven’t done these three things recently, you probably shouldn’t decide anything important at all.

7. Flip a coin three times.

Because if you’ve gotten to this point, one flip won’t be enough to satisfy you.

Just pick something and go all in. You’ll be ok.

Really. The secret with most good decisions is that they have little to do with external factors. They’re dependent on YOU and how you move ahead. If you work hard, stay positive, stay empathetic towards others, take care of yourself, and put yourself around others who do the same, you’ll be fine no matter what you choose.

The worst thing you can do is make a decision and then second-guess yourself from the moment you make it. That constant, nagging question of “What if?” is the thief of all joy, happiness, and sanity. The only way to put that to rest, is to stop looking back, and go all-in with the decision you’ve made for a period of time. You can always revisit it later. That’s normal. But after you make it, put it to rest for a while and go full steam ahead.

Overtime, you’ll get better with making decisions. You’ll become more wise, patient, and confident in your ability to make the best out of any situation.

So keep going. And if you need a coin to flip, I got you.

Victor

PS: This list is by no means comprehensive. If you have something you think I should add, send me a note on the internet. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’ll be able to find me.

 

Getting Lost

11/09/2016

I took another left turn. Everything looked the same, farmland for as far as the eye could see.

The sun was setting.

I was looking for a street sign with a mix of numbers and letters. But signage wasn’t a priority in this little community.

Another left turn. I felt like I was driving in circles.

Night had officially fallen.

The event was supposed to start in thirty minutes and I was supposed to be on stage shortly after. I wanted to drive faster, but I had to do the opposite.

Then cell phone reception dropped. No GPS. I drove with two hands on the wheel, as if I was trying to feel my way through the night.

I was so lost.

I happened upon a sleepy little gas station. Two pumps. One bathroom. And a gray-haired attendant. He could tell I wasn’t from the area.

I explained the place I was looking for. He had heard of it!

We shared a quick laugh about how hard it is to navigate these roads.

He gave me my bottle of water on the house, along with a map where he’d handwritten my directions.

Within twenty minutes, I saw the gleaming lights and heard chattering voices.

I’d made it.

Being lost always comes before finding your way. There’s no telling how long it will last, but move slowly – pause if needed, take care of yourself, be surprisingly kind to others…and keep going.

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