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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Entrepreneural thinking squashed at school

A follow up to the previous blog about how entrepreneurship is not taught in our schools... This story actually shows how this type of thinking was squashed.

Back in 7th grade, we had these "assignment notebooks." These were booklets, with each page printed front and back with columns labeled "Subject" "Assignment" and "Due Date." We had 9 class hours in a day, so 9 rows were below each of the columns. Every day, we were to fill in our 9 subjects in the first column, our assignment for the class in the second column, and the due date in the third column. Our Reading teacher would check on our assignment notebooks one by one and grade them.

Well I got sick of writing the same subjects every day in the first column. So I put a cover on my assignment notebook, and in the front flap I wrote down my subjects. Every day, I would flip the page and tuck it into the front flap, and then voila! The subjects would already be there. So now what to do about the right side pages... I created a strip of paper like a bookmark, wrote my class subjects on it, and connected it to the cover. Then I could flip the page and fold the connected bookmark down, and voila, I'd have all my subjects showing for that day.

My Reading teacher took one look, shook her head, and said "no no no. None of this." And gave me a C+ for the book.

It's this kind of thinking that needs to change in our schooling system. In real life, this type of thing could be patented, sold, and made a lot of people's lives better.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Best response to my leave of absence yet

So word of the pending personal leave of absence is starting to spread around my project teams... Most people have a hint of jealousy, one colleague said "You're lucky, I hafta wait until I retire and the kids get out of college before I can do that." Yes, one other reason why I'm doing it is just because I can. I have no baggage... I'm single, unattached, and only have a goldfish that depends on me.

I had this IM exchange with a co-worker:

Him: I hear you're going on a sabbatical
Me: Yup, gonna take some time off just because I can
Him: Rumor has it that it's paternity leave.

I told him I wish I was bad ass enough to hafta deny it, but no one would believe it anyway!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Career Day

I was recently asked to speak at a Career Day at a local High School. For my corporate career, of course, not my entrepreneur career. I was so glad to see a school have a career day. My High School never had a formal career day. It was an eye opening experience that showed me we are failing our youth by not giving them the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves.
The purpose of this blog is to speak to those who are starting to see more and want more out of their own efforts. For most of us, it came from direct learning in our 20's as we started to work full time in the corporate world. I wish there would have been more resources like this blog and the other blogs we have been able to connect with when I was just starting out 9 years ago.
I think since seeing Career Day, there is a big point I have been missing. Most of us who are or want to be corporatepreneurs have now gotten into the habit of seeking out and finding our own sources of information. From our personal life experiences, there are those of us who reject the normal careers or normal life as the best that could be done with our talents and interests. We have learned to stand firm in our beliefs when faced with those who ask "why couldn't you be happy climbing the corporate ladder and achieving a comfortable living by all normal means?" Once you convince yourself that you want more out of life, it is easy for you to avoid the onslaught of social pressure to just live a normal life. That does not mean we don't feel the social pressure, which has been the topic of many recent blogs, but we at least know enough to balance that with what we hear within ourselves.
The point is we are failing our youth because we do not give them enough support and information to let them feel comfortable with choosing their own path rather than forcing them to take tests to fit their interests into preexisting career paths that will leave them longing for more by their 30's. The reason for this is because we do not even give them enough information and tools to learn enough about how the real world works.
When my brother in law was looking at colleges and majors, I sat down with him for a night talking about life. I was so jealous of the information he had access to at his finger tips. Online, we were able to get information about the various costs of schools he was considering. We were able to go to Salary.com to see the starting salaries of the types of careers he was considering at the time, and even print out sample paychecks for budget planning. From Rent.com or any Housing sites we were able to look up the types of houses he could afford on a given salary and even look for new cars he could afford. This is an amazing amount of information to have at your fingertips. I never had this much access growing up. If I had I am sure I would have spent hours upon hours playing Fantasy Real Life.
From the types of questions I got at Career Day, it was quite clear to me that no one was sharing these tools with kids to help them begin to understand the impact of their choices. Especially these days when kids expect to get onto MTV Cribs but have no idea how to get started.
I think as corporatepreneurs, we are used to searching far and wide for our tools and information because no one shares any information and the perfect plan for one of our businesses may not reapply at all to another business we may choose to start. While always looking to improve my corporatepreneur life, I have been able to at times look back and enjoy the journey for what it has been. I do see giving back as a big part of my corporatepreneur plans and one reason I jumped at the chance to speak to a High School. I have already created a scholarship at my Alma Matter. But, now I think we need to start share our life lessons to more of our youth, to share with them the tools we have learned about how to live your own life.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Entrepreneurship just isn't taught right

One of the hardest things I've had to deal with about entrepreneurship is that I just plain don't know how to do it. I've been taught to go to school, get good grades, work for a big company, get a good pension, and retire. My dad, who on the one hand tells me I need to work for myself because it sucks having a boss telling you what to do, also gets scared when I talk of the goal of becoming one full time (or taking a 3 month personal leave of absence to try it out). My schooling taught me how to take a derivative, F=ma, how to identify a subject and a predicate, and how to spell (how irrelevant does learning how to spell well feel now as I right click and fix my spelling error). All my friends (prior to finding out that some of them were closet entrepreneurs) worked in the corporate world.

My one entrepreneurship class taught me how to write a business plan... Basically a document to attempt to inspire someone to just give me money for my pie in the sky idea. I made BS financial projections, entered in gory details about how I plan on marketing on TV and radio, and all this "planning" stuff... In the military there's a quote: "No plan survives the battlefield."

I've always wanted to teach a class to students who are currently working to show them that entrepreneurship isn't about that. It's actually part of the reason for starting this blog. I've come across the blog of Bill Wales, an entrepreneurship professor at Skidmore College who GETS IT. Hopefully more classes will be taught like the way he's teaching it.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The rise of the amateur professional

Sometimes large companies create products for profit - or for a specific business model. This talk argues how the BEST products are designed by the users - the people who want the product. An example here is how the mountain bike was not designed by a large bike company - but by the biking enthusiasts. No longer can companies design products and then get a read from "passive" consumers who say they like it or not - now I believe the call is for entrepreneurs to design in collaboration with consumers.

In this deceptively casual talk, Charles Leadbeater weaves a tight argument that innovation isn't just for professionals anymore. Passionate amateurs, using new tools, are creating products and paradigms that companies can't.


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