Assignment Two: Use Vision. Defeat Fear.

Recap: In our first meetup we discussed Assignment One. We came up with some pretty amazing answers. We discussed the Four Questions, and made action plans. We toured two locations of a local fitness business and analyzed them both from ideation (the idea and mission) to iteration (to what you see now).  Then, we started building vision.

Vision and art of entrepreneur AJ Leon
Vision and art of entrepreneur AJ Leon

It’s hard to build vision. Everyone has dreams. Rarely do people act on them. Our unclassmate told a story. “My dad wants me to be a nurse or x-ray tech. It’s a really secure career.” Dad’s no dummy–dad’s worked hard to get where he is. Dad doesn’t want suffering.  Dads are like that.

“Are you interested in the medical field?” I asked.

“No. I want a business.”  Our unclassmate pitched her business. She sold her idea in three sentences flat. We spent an hour discussing it. She pitched it so well that if she were ready and I had a pocket full of cash, I’d have invested.

Her business idea had all the qualities of a good business:

1. It was her dream, passion, and vision. 

2. She could clearly see what it looked like in her mind. 

3. She knew who she wanted to serve, and that there is currently nobody serving that market. 

That’s a gift–knowing yourself so well that you can dig deep and pull out the vision. Many people can’t do this–people who are much older and farther along in life.

Fear produces nothing.
Fear produces nothing.

“Why would you want to train for a career you’re not interested in, if you have this passion?” I wondered.

“Because I’m afraid I won’t have money,” she said.

Good answer. It’s an answer that stops most of us from following our dreams.  In The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit, former financier AJ Leon discusses this very topic. AJ was financially successful but unhappy. Four days before his wedding, he walked out of his Manhattan job. He and his wife are now traveling the world, changing it for the better.

“Yeah, but how does he eat?” Also a good question–he relies on his talents, and makes things happen. He converts vision to reality, pulling people together, networking and creating. He has the confidence to find areas where society needs him. That’s what success is. You can either build these ideas yourself or work with others who have done so. Either way, be where your vision lies.

Author, blogger, financier, and very funny man James Altucher jokes that he’s lost $15 million dollars, twice. If you know James, you know that this isn’t a comedy routine–losing a million dollars a day isn’t something I normally laugh about. What James learned and teaches is that if we’re in balance and preparing, we can overcome fear. In his essay, Why You Need to Quit Your Job Right Now  he discusses this. He doesn’t mean you should flip off your boss right now and go running into the street, he means that you should develop your vision and use every moment of your time to get there.

If you’re in a job you like, great. If not, use that time–observing, thinking, planning, and learning everything you can. Develop skills.  Follow your vision. Never intentionally put yourself in a situation “just for money.” Don’t spend 45 years in a job you hate. You’ll wake up at my age with the smell of french fries on your shirt, punching the clock.  I’ve made a lot of fries. I’ve done decades of jobs because getting paid and eating are nice things to do.

Getting paid and eating is not following vision.  We all have fear. We all start on the same playing field. Some start out as better athletes, but everyone can throw the touchdown pass. It all comes down to determination–to getting out there and executing. If you’re too scared to step on the field, and you just sit there memorizing the play book,  you’ll never be the star.  You might as well fill the water bottles for your whole life. Some of us spend years filling water bottles before we get the courage to step up. Don’t waste that time.

Our classmate above has vision. You probably have vision, too.

Assignment Two–Vision  Write this down.

  1. Your idea of the perfect job or career. What do you do all day? What is the purpose of this job? What skills do you need?
  2. Is there a need for what you’d like to do? Can you spin your vision in a way that no one else does exactly what you do? How can you be the best of what you do? Can you layer another idea or service on top of what you do to make it even better? For example: a doctor that makes house calls, second shift daycare…do anything common in a way no one does it and you will succeed.
  3. How do you get there? How do you develop your skills to get ready? Who do you need to help you? Who, right in your community, could you study? Think outside the box for this one–In Meetup One, we did a case-study of a fitness business. We transferred qualities over to the fashion industry. Look for things like quality, customer service, market need.


[images:  AJ Leon, Pursuit of and]

Assignment One: Who Am I?

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 7.53.38 AMThis is the hardest assignment: Answer the following. Don’t be dishonest. You may not get very far the first time around:

1. Who am I? Who am I when I look in the mirror? When I’m honest about my innermost thoughts, dreams, aspirations? Do I take care of myself, love myself, propel myself forward to great things? Do I think that I can achieve great things or that “great” is reserved for people on TV? What do I believe I can do? Do I hold myself back with limiting thoughts? Am I the one preventing myself from being great?

2. Who do my friends see? My really close friends–the ones that I let in past the guard? The closer friends that I tell my hopes, aspirations, and fears?  Do they support my goals? Do they cheer me on or bring me down, saying “That’s stupid,” and distract me from my mission? If the idea is, in fact, stupid, do they give me honest feedback and help me develop a better idea? Do I have excellent, encouraging, positive friends–do I surround myself with visionaries–friends who will make me great?

3. Who does social media see? Do my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram show someone the world will think is great, or someone who brings the world down? If I were a future boss, investor, partner, or friend, what would my first impressions be of my profile? Does the image I am projecting to the world show a person who is going to be great? Are there questionable or confusing messages coming from my feeds and profiles? If I were to be judged for eternal salvation based on my feeds alone, what would the result be?

4. What are my talents? The things I do best. The things I don’t give myself credit for? The things, that if I could create my own job around, would make work feel like a permanent vacation? Do I have talents I don’t give myself credit for? Things people tell me I’m good at and I don’t take the compliments well? Things I love but want to improve? 

It’s a lot to think about. The first step in figuring out where you are going in knowing where you are. In my day, we had maps for this. I had to drive with the map on my lap, and if I took a turn, flip the map upside down to avoid being disoriented. Now, GPS tells you everything. You can walk through life braindead, obeying instructions, feeds, calendars, and obeying your friends and teachers. It’s easy to get lazy.

This exercise is about digging deep. About not getting lazy. About asking yourself some of the hard questions. This isn’t a one hour assignment, it’s a lifetime assignment. Start now. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one or two solid answers and a heap of denial. That’s okay. Continue to dig deep. Make one change at a time, recognize a hurdle, challenge area of opportunity. The rest will show itself.

Why are we doing this? Because in order to be successful, you have to define success. Before you can do that, you have to look inward, and see what you’re made of–with honesty.  Define your truth. Then live it.

This will be the topic of our first discussion. Be prepared with some thoughts and one or two action steps you might take. You can use the suggestions below:


  • Give yourself credit for your talents.
  • Identify the five closest friends you have that encourage you and spend more time with them.
  • Clean up and craft your social media.





Why you’re here…

Welcome UnClass! There’ll be no grades. You will do work. You’ll show up on time. We’ll answer the following questions–asked by you, “Why didn’t we get to learn these things in school?”

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 7.06.38 AMIn regular class, you learn what you “need to learn.” If you’re very lucky, there’ll be enough time left over to do a little something extra. There’s a lot of pressure in education these days, coming from all directions. But more and more you tell me you feel rushed. You feel there’s things we’re leaving out to get through “the things we need to get through.” You feel you could learn more. Let’s learn more.  First, you have to ask yourself the following question. What’s school for? World famous author, entrepreneur, and marketing genius Seth Godin says that best. If, after you’ve invested a moment learning the history of the number two pencil and factory education, we can agree that’s not what school is for, let’s get some idea about what real learning is, and what it can do for you…Because that’s what UnClass is all about!

Real learning applies to your life. You must be able to take what you’ve learned and find a creative use for it, connect it to things, and make it work for you. No one cares if you can beat them in trivial pursuit. They care if you can function in today’s tough and competitive workplace. To do that, you must be constantly able to adapt and provide innovative solutions.

Real learning gives you the skills you need for success. More and more, the world is  changing. The economy is different, we live at a faster pace, technology is standard, and people don’t work the same types of jobs as their parents and grandparents. My grandparents worked one job, were loyal to The Company and retired with a watch and  a picnic. After a generation, a shift occurred. My parents had mid-life career changes, working two jobs, and now worry about things like medical insurance. Another generational shift occurred. I entered the workforce. Things were different again. Jobs were being outsourced, and “corporate loyalty” disappeared. No job is secure. You must add value to any position you take, but you must also think “What’s in it for me?” honing and crafting your skills until eventually you call the shots. That’s the goal: you want to call the shots! The perfect education gives you the skills to do just that–to be flexible, adapt, innovate, and create your own path. In no generation is this more important than yours!

Real learning invokes your deepest interest. If you’re going to have to create your own path in life, or at least remain flexible enough to innovate your way out of a tough spot, you should be learning things you are passionate about. In that way, you will continue to learn, and you will stay ahead of your competition. Learning is a habit–it never stops. 

Real learning makes you want to learn more. This UnClass is proof. What newly-graduated senior in his or her right mind wants–more school. You. That’s who.

Real learning frees your mind. Too often, school tells you what you should learn. Sometimes these suggestions are important–you need these skills to survive. Some of us, who have fought a couple rounds with life, can attest to that. We’re just trying to save you the trouble. But you should never be limited to learning only certain things. Learn everything–related, unrelated, on the fringes–it all comes together in the end.

That’s why we’re here… 

That’s the objective of UnClass. You’ve asked questions about life, success, business, and what successful people do to create that success. You’ve heard me joke that I’m the dumbest one of all my friends…not because I’m dumb, because they’re smart, successful, and innovative. You become a success by studying success. That will be our approach.

Success only comes with hard work, failure, and the dedication to get back up again and move forward, no matter how many times you fall down. You will see that it is a system, attainable by anyone willing to do the work…and it will surprise you.

To get the most out of UnClass you should: 

  • Read the blog posts, especially the links. If I give you a book, read that, too. Find other books and posts on your own. Read them. Contribute to our list.
  • Research successful people in and out of your field. Read their books, bios, and study their success.
  • Attend the group Google hangouts.
  • Show up for the in-person meetup(s). Don’t worry, I’m buying the coffee or lunch. It may be the only time in life you get a free lunch. Enjoy.
  • Engage with the group. Talk, offer ideas, work on each other’s projects.
  • Do some networking, research successful people who spark your interest. Tweet them, contact them, send them an email. Build your connections.
  • Take some chances. Risk is hard for everyone. If you see an opportunity, present it, then take it.

Let’s get it started…