Hi, I'm Victor.

Higher education through real-world experience.


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I recently ran into a great friend. She’s the kind of friend I know really well, but rarely see. She’s an incredible picture of leadership, kindness, and creativity.

To my surprise, within the first few moments of our conversation, she said, “You’re so good at doing your thing. It seems like every time you start something, you really do it.”

I was taken back. I quickly tried to hide behind the kind words with an overly humble response, “It’s easy to say that when you can’t see the graveyard of my work.” 

“But you keep…making.” she replied.

Those words have stuck with me for the past several days. They meant a lot.

It’s important to grapple between how much we should create versus how much we should consume.

Society celebrates the creators and makers – engineers, entrepreneurs, artists, developers, etc. But it also tries to convince us that the more we consume, the more special we are.

Excess has become synonymous with security, and what we purchase has come to define our identity. But those mindsets stunt our development, cognitively and socially.

When you focus on consumption, you are at the center. Your world shrinks and your ability to relate to others atrophies. When you focus on making, your object or audience is at the center. The very nature of making helps you see beyond yourself. It gives you a new perspective on your world and surroundings.

So one of the greatest and most tangible signs of growth is when you learn how to make more of the things you consume.

This is why you enjoy seeing a friend trying a new recipe, or celebrate when you see someone perform something they’ve been practicing, or why you feel great when you finish working on an idea you conceived.

Making is a sign of progress.

Of course, you will also consume. A lot.
Food, music, books, technology, films, furniture, clothes, and so on. But the more you make, the more you see those things differently. You choose more carefully knowing that everything has a maker.

Three things to remember as you start making more:

GO. Get started on the hardest parts. Right now. Just do it. The sooner you start, the better.

BURSTS. You can’t always be making. Working longer doesn’t equate to better work. Schedule short bursts of time. Work hard. Then go do other good things to fill your head & heart.

SHIP. Set the deadline and the audience and then send your thing(s) into the world. Do it often. Even if it’s not perfect.

Alright, keep…making.

A Challenge: New Year’s Letter


In just a few days, on October 1st, we’ll begin the final quarter of the year. If we were running the mile on our high school track, this would be the last lap of 2016. And per usual, these final months will go quickly.

Seasons will change.

Kids will get inundated with activities.

Goals and quotas will stare you in the face.

Holiday plans will be discussed.

Family will come and go.

Before you know it, it will be January 1st, 2017.

But before the pace quickens and we get there, I’m going to ask you to pause.

In fact, I’m inviting you into a new small challenge called New Year’s Letters. The challenge is simple:

Handwrite a letter to yourself that you will open on January 1st. The letter is due by the end of day on October 1st. Seal it in an envelope and keep it somewhere safe.

That’s it.

Well, mostly. Here are a few more details to help give this some shape:

1) Schedule time to write the letter between now and Saturday. 30-60 minutes should do.

2) Handwrite the letter. Get off your computer/phone. Grab a pen and piece of paper. Handwritten letters are always more fun, especially when it’s your handwriting.

3) Place your letter in an envelope. On the front of the envelope, write Dear ____(your name)______. And the words “Do not open until January 1st, 2017.”

But what should I write about?

There are no limitations here. The audience is you. What do you want to remember about your year thus far? What have you seen? Who have you met? How have you changed? What do you wish were different? What have you celebrated recently? Where do you hope to be this time next year?

Compile all of those memories, thoughts, and bits of wisdom before the year speeds to an end. Use the sunlight of the Summer and the freshness of the Fall to capture important words before the cold takes over and the noise of “resolutions” rises. Then, as you start 2017, you’ll have your own words as clues and guides for your next step.

If you choose to participate in this little experiment, can you leave your name/email address here: bit.ly/newyearsletter? I’ll send a quick reminder this Saturday and again on January 1st.

Alright, schedule those 30 minutes.
I’ll be doing this one with you.

Speed Kills


I used to work with a tall, slender communications director and business consultant who always seemed to be calm and collected. He and I would often spend our lunch hours together. One time, we were playing pool and each of us had one ball left on the table. After he missed his shot, I was perfectly set up to tap my last striped ball into the pocket and finish the game with the eight ball. My target was so close to the edge, a gust of wind could have blown it in.

Instead of tapping it lightly, I reared my pool stick and gave it a confident and unnecessarily forceful thrust – so hard that when the cue ball struck my striped ball, it quickly dribbled back and forth between the edges and never entered the pocket. I couldn’t believe it. When I looked up at Steve, he simply said one of his most famous lines: Speed kills.

I’ve never forgotten that moment, or those words.

We live in a fast-paced world where speed is celebrated in everything from technology to service to food. But I think what makes things truly great isn’t speed, it’s momentum.

Speed is about pace – the rate at which you move.
Momentum is about activity – the quantity of motion.

If you want to do something fast, don’t spend a lot time on it. Rush it. Move from one step to the next step quickly. You will be speedy.

If you want to build momentum, do a lot of something. Spend time with it. Try it in different ways. Learn how to do it well and then do more of it. You will build momentum.

In business…
You can grow fast, which is often celebrated.
But businesses that last and make an ongoing impact, are more concerned about momentum – adding well-researched updates, features, campaigns, gatherings, teammates, messages – that delight their community again and again.

In health…
You can’t get fit really fast, no matter how many pills you take or diets you attempt. But if you go to the gym regularly and for a while, you build momentum. Your physique changes, but so do the rest of your habits.

In daily life…
Speed leads to forgetfulness, accidents, fines, and frustration. But a speedy day is different from a full day focused on the right things. The latter leads to peace of mind and productivity.

In relationships…
New friendships, teammates, significant others that spin up within a few moments may seem magical; but they need time and activity to truly blossom. The amount of energy and commitment applied is what builds lasting relationships.

In art…
You can’t create a body of work quickly. It needs thoughtful and consistent action. The results of that action need to be shared over and over again. As you create more work, styles are defined, patterns emerge, and a community will inevitably form.

Momentum needs time. Speed doesn’t.
Yet, momentum inevitably leads to speed, just a healthier kind. Speed is what I do when I hurriedly ride my bike home through traffic at the end of the day. Momentum is what I experience when I peddle quickly for 30 miles along the lake at the break of dawn.

And of course, there is a place for speed. Trying new ideas quickly and simply can save you loads of time and resources. Quick tests create space for learning important lessons early. So yes, there is a place for speed, but I’d say, it’s in service to momentum.


Aaron & Access


Last night, I spent the evening with one of our partners in crime at Experience Institute, Aaron Wilson-Ahlstrom.

Aaron is in his early forties and one of the most interesting men I’ve ever met.

A son of an architect and an educator, Aaron has traveled the world and studied multiple languages. He is well-versed in art/culture/music, can facilitate dynamic workshops with everyone from educators to designers; is good at math, athletic, introverted, and able to hold a conversation with anyone of any background. When he’s not working at Ei, he leads anti-racism workshops and participates actively in his local community.

I think this is where I’m supposed to use the hashtag, #mancrush.

Aaron is married to a beautiful woman (Hi, Alicia!) and together they have three incredible children: Langston, Malcolm, and Mayana.

Last night, Aaron and I left work early just to go rock climbing and share a meal to discuss life beyond the fast-paced work of building Ei.

I so enjoy hearing him talk about his three kids. Mayana (3) loves to read and is learning how to spell. Langston (8) loves soccer and is really excelling on the team (that Aaron helps coach. Sheesh!) And Malcolm (10) is finding his place among the gamers, makers, and inventors.

Most of my friends have kids and I’ve spent a lot of time with families. It’s one of my greatest joys. But something struck me last night as I listened to Aaron.

He and his wife are doing an incredible job helping his kids access an array of amazing, new experiences – everything from sport’s teams, to Chinese language camp, to raising chickens, to a monthly subscription for inventive puzzles.

With each new experience, his kids’ lives are always changing for the better. Their minds are expanding and they’re gaining an ever-growing picture of what’s possible.

It was a reminder that learning anything new starts with access – the ability to see, touch, and interact with things that are entirely foreign, yet exist in the world around us.

As I rode my bike home after the conversation, I began to think about how different the world would be if each of us opened our doors a little wider to those who were curious & helpful. How might our communities and relationships be stronger if we invited people to travel into our spaces and embark upon new experiences by learning what we do, exploring our challenges, and contributing to the solutions?

Yes, it takes time and it may even cost something, on both sides. But the return on that investment goes far beyond monetary value. It propagates curiosity, courage, creativity, and action.

Experience is not just for parents and their kids, or employers and young adults, it is for anyone of any age. It does not require a classroom or an exorbitant amount of money. It begins with a question, it needs a community, and it should always lead to action and reflection.

That’s for all of us. That’s for you. Today. Always.

So, what do you need access to in order to learn and grow?
And how can you open your door for others to experience your work and world?

Have a great Wednesday,

PS: We just welcomed 14 amazing graduate-level students into Ei’s 2016-2017 Leap Year Fellowship. If your company or organization is interested in remarkable talent for 3-6 months apprenticeships, just complete this short form. Thanks!

Life. Work.


The words unexpectedly left my mouth…like a boy saying “I love you” out of impulse.

I could tell my good friend, a man in his late fifties, was surprised.

I don’t know many people your age who would use those words about their work.

It had been a long few days full of teaching, meeting with students, producing videos, preparing for last week’s graduation.

When my friend asked me if I was enjoying all of it, I didn’t say yes or no, I simply said, “It’s been my life’s work.

I know. I know. That was a slightly dramatic response. I’ve barely started my thirties and I’ve only worked on Ei for a few years. It’s been a blink.

But over the past month, our team and I watched the third class of amazing individuals finish our year-long Fellowship. Their stories are incredible. Then last week, we welcomed this year’s new class. The first few days together were packed with meaningful learning and growth. All the while, our team is leading three new group experiments around the intersection of education and vocation. The past few weeks have been an exciting time around Ei, to say the least.

But when did this go from an idea…to work…to sputtering the words “life’s work?” And is that a good thing??

Life. Work.
It used to be that your family and location determined your vocation. Only in the past century, and more specifically the past fifty years, have we been afforded so many opportunities at every turn. Now, those opportunities present themselves every single day, multiple times a day. At the drop of a hat, you can switch from a barista, to a software developer, to a cobbler, to a the founder of your own company.

Opportunities are great, until you have too many. Then they can become haunting, nagging, joy-stealing ghosts that follow your every commitment. The number of vocational/life options combined with a world that’s advancing and changing rapidly makes it daunting to determine what work you should do and for how long you should do it.

There is no formula for landing in the “right” life & work. But I’ve spent a lot of time with people who are at points of transition. A few patterns continue to emerge:

Values: This takes some soul searching. What do you care about? Deep down…what matters most to you? It doesn’t have to be every major global issue. Start by examining where you spend most of your time or money. Pay attention to what things catch your attention regularly in the media. As those things surface, ask yourself “Why?” A lot. You’ll find your values in that exploration.

Energy: What activities energize you rather than drain you? When do you get lost in time because you enjoy what you’re doing so much? If you haven’t felt that, try different things for short periods of time and see what sticks. It may be working with your hands, creating art, raising a family, counseling others, etc. As soon as you experience that kind of energy, call it out.Remember it and tell someone you’re going to try focusing more time there. Then, start spending more of your days doing those activities for something you value.

Community: Who inspires you? Who do you respect? Find ways to work with or for them. They’ll teach you new things and validate your progress. You’ll need to do the same for them. Create a rhythm of producing work even when its not perfect, helping others in similar areas, getting feedback from people smarter than you, and sharing what you learned after a project is finished. You’ll find that your community is where you’ll feel the fulfilling switch from “student” to “doer” to “teacher” and back again.

Resources: What are your most important needs? Make sure they’re met and do your best to keep your desire for “More. Bigger. Better.” in check with your values. If money was one of the major things you value (which is totally ok), that may determine much of what you pursue next.

And remember… life’s work doesn’t mean you have to do it forever, nor does it entail quitting your job tomorrow. It’s something worth putting your life into – your best time, energy, and resources – for a consequential period of time.

That’s when you’ll find yourself doing work that gives you life. And living a life that works.

Looking Up



Last weekend, I was such a kid.

The air and water show was taking place in Chicago and it was a perfect day. So I grabbed a few snacks, a water bottle, called my friend Zak, and made my way to the beach.

As we arrived, the entire lakefront was packed from end-to-end – picnic blankets, tents, lawn chairs and the most diverse audience imaginable filled every square inch of the lawns and beaches. Kids sat on parents’ shoulders while young couples sat hip-to-hip. Groups of friends clanked their drinks while families prepared their picnic meals.

The one thing in common?

Everyone was looking up.

Planes of all shapes and sizes were flying past us at an unusually close proximity. The old carriers flew low to the water and shared their deep groans, while the smaller trick planes flipped and zipped through the air like circus acrobats.

We. Were. Mesmerized.

Zak and I spent most of the day with our arms outstretched, pointing at spectacular moments and laughing at the amazing sounds and sheer power we were witnessing.

But why? Why are we so drawn to amazing feats?

As I began to listen more closely, I heard a local radio station announcing the show. The broadcasters were speaking like sports announcers, going into great detail about how difficult the maneuvers were. They were painting a picture of what each pilot was doing – stepping on rudder pedals, yanking side sticks, keeping their bearings at breakneck speeds and multiple flips.

Then it hit me.

There is something special that happens when you know that there is a person, a real-life-human-being just like you, in the cockpit. You don’t just see a plane, you think of someone who has spent their life getting to a place where they can do something so difficult so well. I sincerely believe the show would be way less interesting if the planes were simply computer programmed drones.

The story is in the people – doing something they love and believe in – in a new, creative, and courageous way.

That’s what makes us look up.
That’s what makes us gather, point, and cheer.

The same goes for the Olympics. Simone Biles. Usain Bolt. Katie Ledecky. Michael Phelps.

They made us look up.

I’m not sure about you, but there are a lot of things happening in the world that make me want to keep my head down and just get through the day. But I think we’re better with our heads raised, looking to the horizon and seeing what’s possible. If you’re reading this, I have a feeling you do to.

What do you believe in?
What do you love?
What should you attempt to new a new height?

Sure, you may not flip a plane through the air or break an Olympic record; but if you do your thing with curiosity, energy, and commitment, you’ll be infinitely better for it.

And so will we.

Up you go,

PS: This Saturday, August 27th at 11:30am, we’re holding our annual event for Experience Institute. EXPO is a chance to gather our friends, families, peers and mentors to celebrate the past year of incredible learning and growth of our graduating Fellows, all while welcoming the incoming class. This year, the event will be held at City Winery in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. Lunch and wine will be served. Stories will be shared. And Ei’s dear friend, Katherine Darnstadt, will be giving a closing address. There are only 34 spots left. We hope you can join us.

I promise…you’ll look up.

Save your spot here: https://ei-expo2016.eventbrite.com.



The greatest gift you can give someone is the belief that they can be great.

Support that belief at all costs – when they’re building, when they’re down, when they’re successful – and they’ll pass it on. It’s contagious.

I know because several of you have done that with me over the past year and I’m incredibly grateful. Thank you.

To everyone who’s coming into our world as we end one amazing year at Ei and start another, know that our community and I hope to do the same with you. And cheer you on as you do the same for others.

Keep Leaping,

ps: The final day to register for our new guided online course is this Friday. I hope you’ll join us: www.LeapCourse.com.

Learning to surf


I’ve always dreamed of surfing.

My first attempt to learn how to surf was in 2012. It was an impromptu trip with a few experienced surfer friends. I spent the entire weekend wrestling the board as they did their best to shout advice. Every once in a while, I’d look up to watch them effortlessly glide across the waves, in slow motion.

By the end of those two days, all I’d learned was how to sit on a board in the middle of the ocean and watch the sun set. I was sore and dejected – but I loved the moments of nearly standing up. And catching those sunsets on the water made the pain worth it. I was determined to try again someday.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I booked a short personal retreat to the Bay Area and decided to give it another go. This time, I did some research, scheduled a surfing lesson, and convinced a couple of friends to venture to Santa Cruz with me.

Two weeks ago, on July 29th…
After squeezing into our wetsuits and learning a few basic steps, we grabbed our boards and started walking to the water. Along the way, I began chatting with one of the instructors, Richie. He happened to be the son of the owner of the surf school. Richie had recently graduated high school and was about to take a year between high school & college as he considered his next step. Obviously, we bonded quickly.

Before wading in, we spent a few more minutes on the beach learning where to lay on the board and how to pop up into proper surfing position. The steps were simple and familiar, but hearing Richie’s analogies and trying the steps before we got into the water were surprisingly helpful.

Finally, it was time to surf.

As soon as the first wave rolled in, all of the lessons we’d just learned were forgotten. We fought the swells and flailed with our boards.

Richie and the other instructors were patient and reminded us of the basics. At times, they even positioned us just right to catch the wave.

One by one, each of us eventually stood up on our boards and surfed all the way to the beach. It was almost more fun to watch my friends and the rest of the students get the hang of it as it was for me. Almost.

Along the way, I was reminded of a few helpful tips for those moments when you’re considering learning or attempting something new.

  1. Try it quickly and cheaply. You’ll probably fail, but make sure you like it enough to give it more effort and resources.

  2. Do it together. If you decide you really want to learn, team up with a friend or two interested in learning the same things. They’ll make the process way more fun.

  3. Learn from someone. It doesn’t have to be in-person, but you’ll learn faster if someone who’s experienced truly wants you to succeed.

  4. Start with the basics. Even if you think you know something. It doesn’t hurt to repeat what you know. Repetition reinforces what’s most important.

  5. Stay close. When you’re in the middle of it, keep your friends nearby. They’ll reiterate the things you forget and share a few laughs about the falls.

  6. Celebrate small victories. When other people start to get it, celebrate! It’ll keep you in the right frame of mind. Then, when you get it (and you will get it), also celebrate!

  7. Then, decide. After you start to get it, decide how deep you want to go. You don’t necessarily have to become the next surfing champion, but if you like it enough – start learning more and consider your next step, trip, or move.

Wherever you are, if you need a few friends and instructors along your journey, we’re starting a new course on August 23rd. Registration is open for another week. Learn more and join us here: www.LeapCourse.com. We’ll begin together in just under 2 weeks. And if you’re not sure, meet us on Friday for a quick chat about the course (more details below).

In any case, don’t wait much longer. The tide is low and the swells are just right.

Back in Chicago,

In any case, don’t wait much longer. The tide is low and the swells are just right.

Back in Chicago,

PS: This Friday, August 12th, at 2pm we’re hosting a live broadcast to discuss the Leap Course – our new mini-experiential masters without the massive debt. We’re using a nifty tool called Crowdcast so you can join us for free from anywhere in the world.

If you’re interested in learning more about Leap Course or about navigating your next career/life move through meaningful experiences, click here. The conversation will take place at 11am PST / 1pm CST / 2pm EST.

See you then!

Leap Together


Last March, a few friends and I decided that if we really believe anyone can grow in their careers and personal lives by designing short experiences, we should each choose a Leap of our own. I mean, practice what you preach, right?

So as a team, we went through our very own Leap Map, chose Leaps, and began meeting nearly every Friday at noon to share our progress. Each person began working on something specific and interesting and it was inspiring to see ourselves move beyond our comfort zones to learn and grow.

One of my friends, Tom, has spent a lot of time working with startups and entrepreneurs; but he was curious about finding new creative avenues to expand his thinking and have a little fun.

Since his wedding anniversary is during the summer, roughly three months after we were starting our Leaps, Tom chose to learn the guitar and play a song for his wife – specifically, “Luckiest” by Ben Folds Five. He set up a routine to start learning and practicing when he and his wife weren’t together.

But that was just the beginning.

As Tom learned how to play and sing the song, he decided to change the lyrics so it was more specific to he and his wife’s relationship. He asked for feedback from a few of his musical friends and began rewriting most of the song. Each week, Tom met with our group of friends and shared quick updates on how far he was coming along.

Hang on. This gets better…

Tom realized he’d rather give the song to his wife in a more unique way than just singing it to her (because you know…serenades are so 1998, I guess.) So, Tom enlisted the help of his brother to professionally record the song. That way, his wife could play it again if she’d like.

At this point, I think Tom is a winner: learning guitar, writing lyrics, recording/producing the song. Leap = accomplished.

Nope. Not Tom.

He then began apprenticing with a local woodworker so he could make a music box for his wife. The idea was that when she opens the box, the song would quietly begin to play. He spent the next two months spending two days/week learning everything he could at the wood shop: box building, wood finishes, how to engineer the lid so it would automatically play the special song he just learned, wrote and recorded.

I promise, I’m not making this up.

Tom just finished his Leap and gave the custom music box to his wife. She was incredibly moved (to say the least) and pretty much wanted to walk down the wedding aisle with him all over again. Shoot, when I saw the box, I almost asked him if he’d marry me too. Not only that, but he’s gained a few new helpful skills, a deeper relationship with his wife, and an amazing story to boot.

After it was all done, Tom thanked us for helping him along. But we’d hardly done anything. He’s the one who took the Leap. All he needed was the nudge, a process, and the community.

And chances are, that’s what you and your Leap needs to.

Wherever you are in your career, whomever you hope to learn with/from, and whatever you hope to make…I hope you’ll join us next month for the start of our 90-day Leap Course.

We’ll be leaping together.





Across from you


Earlier this week, I was catching up with an old friend.

Out of the blue, this person began apologizing for something that happened a long time ago, something I’d forgotten about and something I also should have apologized for.

It was a surprising, yet simple part of our conversation – full of goodness and kindness. After those few words, we carried on and the night was sweet.

I know the world seems like a mess…because it is. But I’m beginning to believe the way to make things better is by caring for the people across from us really well, no matter where they come from or what they’ve done.

It starts with those simple moments: getting to know someone who you’ve been ignoring, apologizing to a coworker or family member, writing a letter to someone you love just to let them know how grateful you are for how they make you feel.

Those moments may seem small, but in most cases, they’re actually really challenging. They cause us to look inside ourselves and notice the changes we still need to make. So with each of those small acts, momentum builds. They expand and spread and become the places from which we can see new possibilities. They may lead you to inviting your neighbors for dinner, exploring gatherings and initiatives in your community, pursuing that creative idea that’s been dormant for too long.

No matter what is happening in your world, however grave or maddening, you have the power to spark those small changes.

And any of them can begin on a random Wednesday, in July.

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