Putting yourself out there

It has only been one week since I showed my Open Master’s plan to a few close friends.  I wasn’t sure how it would be received and I was admittedly a little nervous about showing it to the world.  But I have been blown away by the number of great developments and suggestions streaming in since then.

One friend that I have known for a few years now- Allison Basile- even commented that she felt like she knows me better after reading this plan.  How cool?

I can’t wait to open it up even more this week and see what other ideas people have.

Here are a few of the great things that have emerged in the short space of a week:

Art of Making Things Happen

Two friends (John Britton and Jeff Bordogna) sent me suggestions for online courses that perfectly matched some of my goals for this section and I signed up for two them for this Fall:

  • Model Thinking – a coursera course on understanding and applying models when thinking about the world.  This fits very well with my goals for learning more about systems thinking.  As soon as I signed up, I posted it to Facebook and a few friends joined as well.  The debate among my friends seems to be which courses and how many they can take, more so than whether they want to take one!  Aside: My friend Alex Denny is trying an interesting strategy: signing up for three and treating the first few weeks like a add/drop period.  What’s your strategy?  Expected effort: 10 weeks, 4-6 hours per week
  • How to Be in Business Forever – A Lesson in Sustainability – one of Skillshare‘s new hybrid classes – meaning there will be some things we’ll do together online but then we will also form a face-to-face group to complete some “workshop” activities in person.  This is a five week course taught by Fred Wilson, the legendary VC, and is focused on using the business model canvas (a tool already in my plan) to develop a sustainable business model.  I’ve already found that there are a few friends in NYC and DC that enrolled in the course too and we plan to collaborate for the workshop section.  Expected effort: 5 weeks, 1-2 hours per week.

Meanwhile, the hunt continues for an opportunity to work with and learn from an incubator, accelerator, residency, fellowship or any other program supporting social innovators.  This is the best way I can think of to find the praxis of learning and doing for this section of my plan, and will likely be my main focus for this year, if I can make it happen.  But this plan has apparently been helping me get word out about that!  I have been finding some interesting possibilities and my hopes are high.

Art of Communicating Big Ideas

There have been some great developments here for helping out with my writing and sketching skillz this year:

  • A friend- Michael Williams- recommended a class on freehand sketching and drawing at Omega Institute.  It costs some money but is well worth it for getting from zero to sixty with sketching.  I’ll keep it on the docket as a possible reward at the end of the year, and Laura White is interested in doing it with me as a reward for herself, too.
  • I wrote in my plan that I want to create a Citizen Circle this year using the Little Red Schoolhouse materials from a course I took at UVA.  Now it looks like a friend, Mike Durante, would be interested in doing that with me.  Background: the Little Red Schoolhouse is a great collection of resources and exercises that helps understand not just grammar and styles of writing, but also goes into the cognitive science of how people actually perceive, process, and remember words, sentences, paragraphs, etc… helping you write prose that is more easily understood and remembered.  There are some very practical pieces of advice in these materials that are worth repeating to burn them into my memory.  It looks like Mike and I (and anyone else who is interested) will be getting together at some point this year to work through some of these exercises together.
  • Mike also recommended reading some of John Ruskin’s works– which are apparently some of the seminal works on drawing and sketching- and trying out some of his exercises together as a group.  Apparently he and some of his other friends from Compass Partners have already been discussing doing this this year, so it looks like a peer course is coming together… maybe next Spring?
  • I was fretting over my lack of photoshop and its outrageous price, so I put a gchat status up (“looking for photoshop”) and got some great help from friends finding alternatives to buying the Adobe Creative Suite outright.
  • My sister offered to make me a home-made sketchbook!  Who could ask for anything more?

Art of Hosting

I confirmed a contract last week to put on more social entrepreneurship retreats with Sullivan Foundation this year, ensuring that I’ll have some opportunity to practice these skills.  Hurray!

Art of Being

Michael Williams provided some helpful feedback and pointed me to two possible resources- the blog Zenhabits and that author’s book Focus– and started encouraging me to think about focusing my plan more on my “unique ability” (“What is it that you could do all day long and not get paid for it and be energized at the end of the day?”)… in other words, he thought this plan could benefit from some focus.  I rewrote and added a more focused intro my Purpose section of this plan and I’ll also have a post forthcoming about that in response, Michael.  Thanks!

Also, I started using a great new iPhone app called Lift for helping cultivate good habits.  It’s great.

Other Reflections

After my first week starting to work on this plan and signing up for courses, it’s becoming clear that, besides what I’ll be able to learn and practice through work experiences, I’ll probably need to plan on allotting at least one evening per week throughout this year- if not a full day- for planning, correspondence with mentors, writing a reflective blog posts, and course homework, otherwise it won’t happen.  But I think this is time well-spent.  Writing this blog post, for example, is a good exercise and worth doing; It’s a little bit of work but it’s also helping me synthesize what I’m learning and I bet I’ll get some useful feedback from it.

However, I may want to start experimenting with recording reflections on soundcloud or other less time-intensive options as well.  Any ideas?

Thanks again for everyone’s help this week!

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