Hi, I'm Victor.

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Learning to Risk. Risking to Learn.

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A community of people taking risks to change their world.

VISIT

Collaboration

05/27/2015

Collaboration is messy.
The more you try to work with people, the more opportunity there is for challenge and change – frustration and failure.

But, that’s not all collaboration is.

It’s surprising.

If you thoughtfully invite others into your work or step into their world, you’ll find yourself amidst a land full of opportunities. New eyes, extra hands, and fresh legs will help you see and do things you wouldn’t have imagined.

The danger lies in what humans do when they’re desperate, left out, or belittled. If you care for the people around you and value them, then collaboration has the potential to build the most beautiful things in a manner that will outlast everyone involved.

Perhaps, we shouldn’t just look for the work we’re passionate to do or the roles we’re excited to fill, but rather, we should search for the people we want to work with and simply find ways to join or invite them.

It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it.

Questions

05/20/2015

What if I told you that you would never have to work again? Would you cheer or would you be sad?

Let’s say money was no object and home was offered to you, what would you make? Where would you go?

What if I invited you on grand adventures and promised nothing more than interesting stories and a fortune of friendship? Would you join me?

What if I told you that your dreams would take years to build, would you stick with them?

If I said that someone would fall in love with you as soon as you truly loved yourself, how long would it take for you to stop trying so hard?

If I shared the secret to happiness would you believe it to be true or just find a way to prove me wrong?

What if I offered you a glimpse of the end of your life, would you look or pass? Would you embrace today more fully and enjoy what matters more freely?

What if you had the opportunity to see the world at the cost of never seeing yourself again? Would you consider it?

And, if the world seemingly denied what you had to offer, would you still share it?

I hope so…

I am Human

05/13/2015

I am Human.
I have heart.
I contain soul.
I carry fear.
I mirror imperfection.
I bury yesterday.
I paint tomorrow.

I am Human.
I live for connection.
I wish for acceptance.
I hunt for love.
I die for belief.
I impress for affection.
I strive for justice.

I am Human.
I savor taste.
I crave rest.
I remember aromas.
I sing with hope.
I reach for the future.
I listen to the past.

I am Human.
I hope to create.
I build to provide.
I share to enjoy.
I give to feel.
I work to become.
I love to see.

I am Human.

Just climb the wall

05/06/2015

Over the past few months, I’ve ventured to a new place for recreation: the climbing gym.

It’s an intimidating place. The walls are tall. The holds are oddly shaped. The challenges are endless. And everyone is beautiful, strong, and cool.

It’s the type of place that makes me very aware of how much I have yet to learn.

The walls are rated at 5.x.
5.5 is the easiest. 5.15 is the most challenging.
The bouldering rating system is slightly different. V0 is the easiest. V9 is the most challenging.

The ratings escalate partly due to the decreasing size of the holds; but mainly, they signify the level of problems one must solve while trying to reach the top.

It’s interesting to consider that someone created the route knowing precisely what moves are necessary to reach the top. You can stare at the route all you want, but until you’re in the middle of the problem, you won’t know how to navigate it. And, while you’re struggling through it, the person who created it may be watching and chuckling down below.

[Thanks Mr. Smart-Buff-Rock-Climbing Person. Hope you’ve enjoyed the view.]

If you’re bouldering, you’ll simply fall to the mat – sometimes a long distance.
And, if you’re top roping with someone acting as your belay, you’ll dangle as the problem stares you in the face and everyone stares at your backside.

It’s a thrill.

I enjoy feeling like I’m in another world, learning new techniques, and trying to clear new challenges. There is great joy in watching other people succeed. I’m challenged to work harder and smarter. But, the greatest challenge is moving past what I can’t do. Yes, I wish I was stronger, more agile, and I wish I could be more calm when routes get difficult.

But, more than anything, I wish I didn’t wish so much. I just want to climb the wall. That’s when it’s the most fun and I do my best work.

Don’t worry so much about everyone else’s abilities and expectations.
Start with what you have and do what you can.

Then, keep climbing.

Build All Ways

04/29/2015

Build because you can
Build because you should
Build because the world is grand
Build because it’s also good

Build to the sky
Build to the moon
Build so so high
you can touch neptune

Build with love
Build with care
Build to show
Your heart’s share

Build slowly
Build like it matters
Build boldly
Or it’s just clatter

Build with hope
Build for days
Despite the slope
Build all ways

See yourself. Show yourself.

04/22/2015

[Written in Chicago on February 3rd]

I rode my bike today. It was 10 degrees. The roads were a mess: ice, slush, puddles, black snow. I arrived to my destination looking disheveled and used my gloves to brush the salt and muck from my jeans. I tried to straighten my trendy black overcoat, but couldn’t remove the brown splotches. My backpack took the brunt of the mess, looking as if it had been bathed in mud.

It takes everything in me to not feel embarrassed – to walk confidently into meetings and convince myself that people don’t care about appearances. I’ve arrived to share my ideas, to invite them into a mission, to connect others to remarkable people. Forget about looks. There is something bigger at play. Right?

In my mind, however, I know what it’s like to judge someone by their looks. I have noticed the messy bike rider and actually thought to myself, “I hope I don’t look like that.” The truth is that sometimes, I do.

But, I’m also the guy who sticks to what I value.

I don’t need a car.
I like to travel on my own schedule.
And I believe exercise is sweeter than being crammed on a bus or train.

So, I shook their hands. They toured me around their beautiful office. They fed me an amazing meal cooked by their in-house chef. We shared our stories, dreams, and hopes — most of which revolved around taking risks and learning.

I don’t know if they’ll join my work. But, I do know that they didn’t care about my splotchy jacket or my muddy backpack.

Show people what they should see and they’ll look past the rest.

Update: That team is now collaborating with me to build something really special.

I’m a gambler

04/15/2015

I sat there…staring at the screen.

The words and numbers seemed to have a life of their own – taunting me, laughing at me.

I read the email again, just to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood.

“I’m sorry, Victor. I know I said I could…but I can’t.”

We spent weeks talking through all of the possibilities of how we might work together – sharing concepts, discussing  angles, and making plans. Phone calls. Trips. Dinners. Hurried bike rides through the snow.

All of that time and money, seemingly down the drain with one, digital, immaterial sentence.

People are a gamble.

You can do all of your due diligence. You can start slow and make sure everything is reciprocal from the start. You can share coffee meetings, find references, and even move slowly by starting with small projects.

No matter how cautious you are, if you’re dealing with people, you’re taking a risk.

People are messy and unpredictable. Even the most stable-minded person can rethink a commitment and decide other things are more important.

But, I love it…

Students
Staff
Instructors
Organizers
Clients
Donors
Connectors
Friends
Mentors
Partners

It seems my life is full of bets.

I’ve lost big. But, I’ve won bigger. The parts of myself that I love the most are the ones that have been shaped by people who’ve taken a chance on me. Their time and energy, even when they didn’t know if I’d follow through, has multiplied my hope, softened my heart, and inspired me to do the same with others.

People are unpredictable.

But, to me, they’re a gamble worth taking.

Adventuring

04/08/2015

I love adventure. On most days, I find myself wanting time to simultaneously fast forward and move more slowly – to see and savor what will come of the journeys ahead.

I believe many of us, on some level, have a desire to feel as if we’re embarking, venturing, or exploring. Whether literally or figuratively, we want the chance to pack our bags and hike a trail that hasn’t been cleared. But, doing so will lead to unfamiliar places.

We will get cut by the brush.
We will get chased by wild animals.
We will lose our way.
We will wonder if we should turn back.

But, adventure doesn’t just consist of challenge.

The sky will inspire us.
The horizon will lure us.
The conversations will warm us.
The curiosity will fuel us.

And, eventually, we will reach a summit. Time will force it.

When we do, we’ll see another trail ahead. We’ll look around and question whether or not it’s worth it. In most cases, it will be.

Therefore, this adventure…today…is merely the continuation of the last trek and the spark of many more.

Let us live as such.

Experimenting

04/01/2015

I deplaned at San Francisco International Airport. As I stepped into the trendy, bright terminal, I teetered between confidence and doubt.

Did I really belong as a guest at Stanford?

I brushed off the doubt and committed to enjoying the ride by conversing with anyone who had the time. The next seven days of that fateful spring week in 2013 led to some of the most formative conversations of my short career, many of which included my gracious host, Erik Olesund.

Now, two years later and after a few more collaborations, I’m packing my bags and preparing for another project with my heroes and friends at the d.school, including Erik himself. This time though, the stakes are a bit higher as they include projects, presentations and trips to Berlin and Paris, all of which begins this Monday. But, let me back up before I continue…

Ever since stumbling into the space of designing education through experience, I’ve wondered what it might look like to support thousands of people who need to design a leap of their own. Experience Institute has become our anchor – the school where pioneering thinkers, makers & doers dive headlong into this concept. The school has been a landing place for some of the sharpest and kindest people I’ve come to know.

But, what about individuals who can’t make it here? How do we reach them? What type of helpful tools and resources should we create?

Now that 2016 is around the corner, Ei’s surrounding team and I have wondered if Leap Year 2016 could be the year to package everything we’ve learned and share it with others.

During a recent trip to the d.school, I popped into an all staff meeting and hinted at the idea. It seemed to strike a chord of excitement and curiosity. A couple of months later, they found a way to continue including Ei and this Leap Year concept into their work around researching the future of higher education, building upon Stanford 2025.

This time, we’re part of the d.school’s Experimenter Studio, and it’s as awesome and mysterious as it sounds.

For the past two months, we’ve been scheming with various staff and students. Part of the plans have included prototypes of a Leap Kit – tools that might guide someone through creating their own season of learning and growth. We’re also writing a workshop to help leapers get started and developing a way to train individuals who want to start a leap group in their own community.

All of this will begin taking flight on campus with small groups of students next Tuesday and Wednesday. Then, I’ll join a team entitled d.global as they explore new types of design thinking methods in Berlin and Paris. At times, we’ll even combine d.thinking and leaping into one evening.

The friends involved have been working harder than ever to prepare for the experiments. We’re designing, printing and assembling kits, running through plans, promoting events, and preparing for the gatherings. It’s been a season of dreaming+building and we’re loving it.

I’ll keep you posted as things take flight, but if this work interests you and you’d like to help, could you consider spreading the word about open applications for Ei’s Fall Class? We’re looking for a special group of students to join us in Chicago to design their education with more tools and brilliant teammates than ever while also being on the ground floor as the next Leap Year Project takes flight. Simply share a tweet or send an email pointing someone to this blog post (ie: “Applications are now open for @expinstitute’s 2016 class. Learn more at: http://bit.ly/1C5dPMT”)

And, wherever you are, if you’re building something that feels bigger than yourself, and you’re teetering between confidence and doubt…just start a conversation with the next person you see, listen closely, and enjoy the ride.

You never know where it will take you.

Stop yelling

03/25/2015

It was the end of a long day. I had to attend one more meeting, then I could unwind.

I hopped onto my bike and began my journey down the busy streets of Chicago. Luckily it was one of the city’s first warm days in months. The sun was shining and the air seemed fresher than usual.

I pedaled faster.

The street I was riding didn’t have bike lanes, which isn’t abnormal for Chicago. However, this is an especially busy street where some sort of delineation between cars and bikes is needed.

As I was pedaling up a slight incline, I veered just slightly to my left, only to be greeted by a car that was weaving in between lanes to get ahead of traffic. He gave me a startling honk and whizzed passed me within millimeters of my handlebars. The sound and wind nearly knocked me over.

I was furious.

As I watched the car speed away in reckless fashion, continuing to aggressively switch lanes, I wondered if I could catch the driver and set him/her straight.

I pedaled faster than ever, powered entirely by my anger. As I rode, I squeezed between cars and dodged pedestrians like a madman. During this focused car-chase-mode, my mind rehearsed every possible scathing thing I could say or do if I caught up to the imbecile who had the gall to nearly kill me.

To my surprise, the vehicle came into my sights at a red light. I quickly made my way to the driver’s side of the car and noticed the window was cracked open.

This was my chance.

Then, during the final moments of approaching the old Honda hatchback, an odd sense of perspective came over me, “What would yelling/screaming/cursing do? What’s the point?”

As I began to open my mouth, all I could say in a gentle voice was, “Hey, sorry about that back there. There’s no bike lane, so it get’s tricky on this street. I’ll try to stay further to the right.”

The man, dressed in a slightly wrinkled blue button-up shirt, was probably nothing more than a young business professional on his way home to a newborn, or an evening event with a significant other, or an important work meeting. Perhaps, he was simply frustrated by something else that happened earlier in the day.

Whatever the case, my remarks caught him completely off guard. All he could stutter as I began to ride away was, “Yeah…no bike lane…tricky. Thanks!”

I pedaled more slowly for the rest of my ride. I thought about the sour mood I would have been in if I had reacted in the other manner. My actions may have followed us for the remainder of the day and made us even more upset. Instead, this stranger and I were in a slightly better state of mind.

I know the world isn’t always a great place; but, I’m not sure yelling at it will make it any better. Take responsibility for your part in being here and do your best to make it a little sweeter.

Life will be better for you…and, probably for the rest of us too.

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