Tuesday, April 1st Chris Brogan spent the entire day at Burlington High School. During each of the seven periods he presented, Chris spoke to an audience of approximately 75 to 100 students. This was the second year in a row I had the chance to hear from Chris and observe first hand the impact he has on students, teachers, and administrators. Burlington’s Assistant Superintendent Patrick Larkin was so impressed by Chris’s presentation that he wrote a post about it on his blog this past Tuesday.
With his new book, The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth, coming out later this month, I didn’t know if Chris would be able to make it to Burlington, but fortunately he had the first open. I knew that my Help Desk students would be excited to hear from him, as they all have a vested interest in technology and some are considering a career in entrepreneurship, but I also wanted to extend the invitation to everyone in Burlington. Chris has a message that all students should hear: when it comes to doing something that you love, you don’t need permission to start.
Over the course of the seven periods that he presented, Chris shared his insights on what it takes to succeed specifically in the area of business. Chris’s approach to business and marketing is quite different than many other media and consulting firms, which is partly why he is so successful. Rather than focus on data and examining the marketing strategies of the competition, Chris consults with companies on how they can be more “human”, how to communicate and connect with their customers from a distance. For a business, even a large company like Sony, becoming more human has never been easier thanks to social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and blogging. An example of this personalized business approach Chris shared was the consulting work he did with Sony. He created their Digidad Project and the “Summer of 100 faces” campaign which allowed dads to document time spent with their children over the summer using Sony’s gear. Chris reminded us all that ultimately, no matter how advance technology gets, human relations and social interactions will not change. This is why Chris recommended students take college courses in sociology. According to Chris, successful entrepreneurs must have strong human relations skills. They should first focus on helping people and solving problems and then eventually their name will “start glowing.”
Because entrepreneurs deal with many contracts, Chris also recommended taking a business law course. When creating a business, the owner must decide its legal structure, sole proprietorship, LLC, S-Corp, and so on. Being able to understand and negotiate a contract is more affordable than paying expensive attorney fees. A third course that Chris recommended was journalism. Chris explained we are living in a “communication economy” and advised students to set up and start writing their own blog or develop their own website. This is a piece of advice I hope all Burlington students will seriously consider. While many students create blogs as requirements for their classes, Chris was promoting the development of a personal blog so a student could show off his or her uniqueness, or “freakishness” as he might call it.
Chris’s Take On Education
As a fifth grader, Chris shared the story of how he was often sent to the principal’s office. His offense? He would question the teacher as to the relevancy of what he was learning. This shows that even from a young age, Chris was a believer in self-directed, independent learning, which happens to be the mission of many 21st century schools. Chris encouraged students to “choose their own adventures” and seek out their own learning opportunities. When Chris mentioned this, I couldn’t help but think about the mission of Burlington’s TED-Ed Club. This organization is designed to allow students to research their passions and share their ideas in a TED-like presentation. Additionally, Burlington’s 1:1 iPad environment provides every student with access to a device that encourages them to learn, create, communicate, and collaborate anytime, anywhere. In Burlington, our students are fortunate because they have the ability to connect with the world. This has tremendous benefits in helping them become the next generation of thinkers and leaders.
Chris also discussed the nature of the social web. He encouraged students to use platforms like Twitter and Google+ to connect with interesting people who they can learn from and network with. As a member of a band, Chris spoke specifically about the fact that musicians can now start their careers on Sound Cloud or folks like Lindsey Stirling can become YouTube sensations. Want to write a book? Go ahead and self-publish. What are you waiting for? But as a word of caution, Chris did not promote the idea of overnight stardom. In fact, he said that students, especially those who want to become entrepreneurs, need to be prepared to fail “a billion times” and learn to persevere through the failure. He pointed out that Walt Disney’s idea for a theme park was rejected over 100 times and that Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded. Disney and Jobs are two people who revolutionized several major industries and areas of our society as a whole. They are certainly considered experts in their field. Yet, both failed miserably throughout their careers. Chris stated that the “experts are the ones who make all the mistakes first” and that students shouldn’t be afraid to go out and try something new. Perhaps they too will fail enough to one day be considered experts?
The difference between entrepreneurs and everyone else who “settles” is that, and this was a quote that really stood out to me, “entrepreneurs spend 80 hours a week so they don’t have to work 40 hours a week.” In other words, Chris encouraged students to go after what they love, what they really want to do in life (once they figure it out), even if there are people in their lives saying they can’t, or shouldn’t, or they won’t succeed. Those who do go after their passions are the “freaks” Chris is talking about in his new book and his prediction is that they will be the ones to inherit the earth.