About a year ago to the day, I saw the Manifesto for the first time while searching for a new direction to take myself. My life had been taking dramatic turns very quickly; I was about to graduate, my relationships were evolving as I was quickly getting older, but I was not feeling like I was really “growing up.”
I was browsing through a list of entrepreneurs, trying to narrow down the five that I would beg to let me work for them. And then, I saw the Manifesto. I must have read it ten times in a row. I knew from that moment on, regardless of where life took me, the words on the Manifesto would always have an impact on my life.
Later that same night, I had a date scheduled, my first with this particular girl. As I sipped my margarita, I remembered the words on the Manifesto, and decided to be myself: open, naive, and to put all my awkwardness right on the table.
“I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to change the world. Do something crazy. I just applied for these programs. I’m either going to Cali or NYC. I have to get out of here and take a risk on something.”
“That’s awesome! I think you should explore outside of the Midwest.” She replied. “I want to teach Earth and Space Science…and shave my head.”
Our Mexican meal turned into hours of talking about life, death, fears and passions. I credit a large portion of our conversation on the Manifesto. It pushed me away from typical ice breaker questions and down a path of intellectual exploration, which led to genuine interest, insight and sparked amazing conversation.
“If you don’t like something, change it.” How true.
I’m in NYC. She’s bald and beautiful. And life is short.
Apprenticeships for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
This week’s #passion post is about something very near and dear to my heart: education. It’s what brought me to New York City and to Holstee in the first place.
“Enstitute is a new way to think about post-secondary learning. The two year on-ramp to the tech sector could occur before, after, during, or instead of a traditional college experience. The program combines the learn-by-doing benefits of an apprenticeship with individual and cohort learning experiences: an applied MBA.”
With a new class beginning in the fall, applicants will have a choice between working in Tech, Digital Media & Advertising, or Non-profit/Social Good.
Applications are open until 4/30/13.
via WordPress http://bit.ly/ZZjgKR
Launching the Holstee Fellowship - jump start your dream project!
We’re launching the Holstee Fellowship and will give out $1000 every month for someone to make their dream project a reality. Apply until April 10th.
A lot at Holstee is about taking positive, mindful risks as described in our Manifesto. Above you see co-founder, Mike, carrying our first round of Holstee tees on a warm summer day in 2009. Starting Holstee was a big risk for us. We had no idea where this journey would lead us.
And we were humbled by all the support we got from you guys. Our community has been supporting us in ways we could never have imagined. For example, when first starting out, someone in the community provided us with office space, for free. Holstee would not be where we are today without your ongoing feedback, support and excitement.
That’s why it’s essential for us as a company to give back as we continue to grow. We have really enjoyed our partnership with Kiva - and are proud to have provided a micro-loan to 489 people since starting out.
Now we want to help YOU take a Holstee-spirited risk and launch the project of your dreams. Today we are launching the Holstee Fellowship.
Every month we will be giving out a grant of $1000 to someone in our community that has been thinking about that incredible idea for a while. We want to be standing next to you and encourage you to take the leap now. Go for it!
Who can apply and what else will Holstee Fellows receive? All the details can be found on our Fellowship page. We are open for applications - and would be honored if you shared your dreams with us. We are accepting the first round of Fellowship applications till April 10 - so apply today!
The journey continues - join us!
Every now and then, I’m going to write a post about something that I’ve seen in the city that inspires me and is not necessarily tied to education or my cynicism. Enjoy!!
Could you live on $1 a day? I sure as hell couldn’t. Have you ever gone a whole day without food? Yeah once after the first annual Copeland Open- because I was too hungover to eat. Worst day of my life (Great night, though!).
Four American students- 2 Econ and 2 Film- decided to move to Guatemala for 56 days to better understand how some 385 million…thats right- million people live on less than $1 a day. They presented their documentary, “Living on One” a few weeks ago in NYC. Please check it out. Help them do great things. Help them change lives. I’ll buy you a drink.
To donate to Living on One, click here.
What I learned in Oaxaca- Part I
A story about pizza and ignorance:
I finally decided to do it- to go off to explore the foreign land of Oaxaca City, Mexico, alone. My goal was simple: to find pizza and then my way home (obviously my goals do not change much regardless of what country I’m located). But it was more than that. I wanted to get lost, to get out of my comfort zone and be forced into a learning experience.
Here goes nothing.
"Hola! Bueno’s dias. Qui ciara dos pepperoni, pour favor" I said to the friendly looking gentlemen standing between me and my Mexican meal. He smiled, turned to grab my food and then threw a curve ball- a response…in Spanish. Shit. My first lesson learned.
When you address someone in their native tongue- they somehow get the impression that you can then continue to speak in that language. He caught me off guard, but I understood the last word- “caliente”. I knew it meant hot (or that he was coming on to me) which I indicated by mumbling something to the effect of “caliente…? duhhhhh…hot? oh, hot!”. He was of course asking if I wanted the pizza warmed up, which he then repeated by saying “yes uhh hawt? or cold like dis?”.
Being half embarrassed, half ecstatic that I had communicated with another human being semi successfully, I took the pizza cold and thanked him. He asked me something else, to which I nodded wide eyed, probably drooling on myself/my pizza. It was at this point that my new found Padre Juan’s friend realized that I spoke Spanish about as well as he spoke English. During this moment, I feel we had an instant understanding of mutual respect, ignorance, and effort from both parties.
I realized in my few weeks in Mexico that while I did pick up on some vocabulary, that was not my main area of learning in regards to the language.
Living in NYC, I’m use to being surrounded by hundreds of people speaking anything other than English. But I can at least read the signs around me. In Mexico, I had nothing to go off of. On top of that, the learning barrier was all on me. After all, I was the foreigner who didn’t know the native tongue. I began to truly listen to people when they spoke: their inflections, their tone and any single word that I could catch to gain a little more context as to what they were trying so desperately to get through to me. I began to really pick up on body language and facial expressions. For some reason it’s actually a lot easier to tell when people are insulted or annoyed with you when you don’t speak their language. The barrier forced me focus on their facial expressions and tone so much that their frustrations couldn’t be drowned out by bullshit white lies and word play (like when I frustrate most Americans).
The pizza situation, as well as numerous others, helped me appreciate the things I do know, as well as give me motivation to learn even more about the world outside of my own. Seeing my colleagues navigate through general conversation while also not being fluent was very inspiring and gave me hope for myself in the future. Time and time again, I’ve found that the best way to learn is by doing. Which also goes hand in hand with that old phrase “The best teacher is experience. And Mexican pizza parlors”.
Do you have the Holstee Manifesto hanging in your home or office? Have a picture of you holding it on the Brooklyn Bridge or atop Mount Everest?
We want to see it! Post it to Instagram with the hashtag “#holsteemanifesto.” We will be picking our favorite one each week and sending the winner our latest Letterpress Card! We’ll be uploading our favorites to our Facebook, so be sure to check our page to tag your pics!
Photo credit (top & bottom left): Instagram user @rikkeb_.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, this was the video portion of my Enstitute application. I compensated my good friend Max Hoven (in beer) to edit it. I figured I had nothing to lose and wanted to make an impression by being different. It worked. Enjoy
*for the record, the program is pronounced “Institute” not “ee-institute”- I’m an idiot, basically.
Why every company should consider spending 1 month a year in Mexico.
We just returned from a magical month in Mexico. The whole Holstee team relocated for most of February. The first two weeks we spent in the beautiful city of Oaxaca working from the Hub Oaxaca, then we relocated to a house directly on the beach, in the middle of nowhere between Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel.
This sounds, of course, like fun. But then again, the whole trip cost us slightly over $10k in flights, accommodation and food. We weren’t at the “office” for a whole month. Our team was separated from their families and loved ones for almost a month.
Was it worth it?
Here is why every company on the planet should consider it.
Get out of our own universe.
I believe every company is in itself a whole universe. There is a billion things we could do, should do, have to do, want to do, plan to do. At the same time there is little time and hardly any resources. It’s easy to get lost in your own universe. There is just so much to do that it can feel overwhelming. You forget to see what’s just beyond the border (literally in the case of this trip) - and what truly matters in our lives and for our company.
Spending a month in a non-familiar environment allowed me to see all our actions and ongoing behavior with some healthy distance. Often what matters most to the success of a startup can be reduced to a couple of priorities.
Breathe. Think bigger. Focus.
New York City is one of the best cities on the planet to build a new company. Why? Because so many ambitious people are there, as an international hub new people are always passing through, and there are no shortage of events that bring people and their interests together. While this is invaluable for a startup, this also means a lot of distractions. There are so many amazing people to meet, and events to attend. While being part of the NYC ecosystem is essential for us at Holstee, many projects actually got done faster and with more clarity in a remote house with intermittent internet connection to the sounds of the beach.
Being in Mexico gave us an amazing zone of no distractions (with the exception of dolphin sightings!) that allowed us to focus and get work done. As an example, we are working on publishing a book out of selected MyLife stories. I spent some days for 5 hours just reading stories. I could have never done this in NYC, I would have gotten pulled away by a meeting, a lunch, a friend in town or a million other tasks.
Mexico allowed us to breathe and think bigger. Having a month “away from it all” allowed us to talk a lot about the big picture. What otherwise happens in strategy sessions or monthly board meetings was happening all the time, in the beautiful courtyard of Cafe Brujula over cappuccino, sitting in the astonishing library of design and art in Oaxaca or taking a walk on the beach. Free from our normal context, no ideas was too big or ambitious. We are coming back with tons of new ideas and a clear roadmap for 2013.
There is, however, a significant difference between Holstee’s February in Mexico and a classical retreat. We went to get work done, not to talk about strategy. That happened as a by-product.
Take a family trip.
This is the second year in what surely will become a key Holstee tradition. And every time we come back I feel so much closer to the rest of our team. We eat together, we cook together, we brave the Mexican stomach problems together, we watch dolphins swim by our house, we drink (too much?) Mezcal. These shared experiences and memories together break the bounds of a typical coworker relationship and we become more and more a true family, with a shared vision and goals.
The reason we all work at Holstee is that we all share the values of our Manifesto, and spending a month in Mexico is clearly another “manifestation” of these values.
Thanks to Helen, Mike, Dave, Deirdre, Tom, and Cody for their inputs and revisions on this post!
Luci- A solar powered spark of genius
Upon my first trip to NYC ~7 months ago, I was introduced to a crazy light prototype- Luci. Recently, that prototype has come to life.
Luci is a solar-powered light designed by MPOWERD that delivers a beautiful balance of sustainable design that is aesthetic enough for your home, while also providing light to those living in “energy poverty” all around the world.
The design allows for the light to be flattened for easy storage, or inflated to use as a light-weight lantern. It can be strapped to clothing to build up a charge during the day. After 6 hours, the device can provide up to 12 hours of light, which is better than my smartphone/laptop.
Check out the specs below. Support them on Indiegogo.
- Charging for 8 hours — under direct sunlight or even an incandescent bulb — yields 6-12 hours of light
- A single charge can be maintained for 3 months
- Ten Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) create a beautiful white light
- Two brightness levels conserve battery life and the flashing-light setting is useful in emergencies
- Delivers up to 80 lumens, providing 15 sq ft of light
- Rechargeable lithium polymer battery pack is durable and safe
- PVC enclosure makes Luci waterproof
- Minimum lifespan of 2 years
Test scores are a rough proxy for learning. Tests imperfectly examine selected domains of skills, so that we can infer what students know. Real learning occurs in the mind of the learner when she makes connections with prior learning, makes meaning, and retains that knowledge in order to create additional meaning from new information. In short, with tests we see traces of learning, not learning itself.
A new study by the University of Sussex finds that the repetition is important for little learners.
Dr. Jessica Horst and her researchers say that children who were read the same story three times back-to-back, instead of three different stories, actually retain 3.6 of the new words they’ve been introduced to instead of the 2.6 of the “variety” group.
From calling home to human-powered transportation to cooking, there are things we all know we need more of.
To celebrate these beautiful moments in life, we’re drafting up examples of things we love and staking claim to having #moreofthis. The uber talented Helen Williams (aka your very own Community Love Director) will be hand illustrating them, starting with the one here.
Have a #moreofthis moment or experience we should highlight? Recommendations are warmly invited: send us your tweets, and be sure to hashtag!
A time tested tool for positive change is to focus on the outcomes we want, rather than to dwell on the things we don’t. Lets see #moreofthis.
Why didn’t anyone tell me I wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Growing up I had a few ventures in entrepreneurship. The only problem was, I had no idea what I was doing. And no one bothered to tell me.
Around the age of 9 or so, I began to notice an abundance of bikes for sale in the area. I also noticed that the price of bikes was very arbitrary. The make, model, age- those things didn’t matter too much when it came to used bikes for sale by owner. The amount of personal attachment was what made the difference. Some people were willing to let go of their bikes for very cheap, while others may sell the same bike for 2-4x the cost. Most of them, however, still sold. A light bulb went off in my head. What if I went for those who were selling the bikes at a low cost, cleaned them up a bit, and then sold them just below the sentimental asking price for a profit? My first business venture was born. Why didn’t anyone tell me I wanted to be an entrepreneur?
At 14, I was too young to get a “real” job, so I did what I could: I cut grass for the elderly people in my neighborhood. After a few summers, I had about 7 lawns I would cut on a regular basis, with a few random yards every now and then. I came up with a plan to loan out my spare lawn mower out to the kid from down the street. He would cut some of the yards and in exchange for letting him use the mower, he would pay me $5 out of the $20 made from each lawn. I didn’t do a thing except let him use my mower, the grass got cut and I made $5. Still, I had no idea what I was doing and no one else seemed to notice.
My senior year of high-school, my family moved and I noticed that twice a year the town had a “big trash pickup” where people were able to throw away their larger unwanted items at no cost. All they had to do was put whatever they didn’t want on the curb. I saw a bunch of shit that I wanted, and sprang into action (perhaps this is why I get along with the Holstee guys. “You’re going to throw out that milk? It’s only been expired for a week! Fine but save the container, we can use it to hold water/plant a flower/cure disease somehow). I noticed that lots of people were throwing away furniture. Good furniture too! I had seen things in worse condition than this go for $50 at Goodwill, at least! Another light bulb. Gather up as much gently used furniture as I could, wait 2 months until summer, host a huge yard sale in my backyard where I sell couches for $50, chairs for $20, desks for $15, you get the picture. Again, no one said a word about my endeavors.
At 17, I started working at The UPS Store as well as the Macy’s across the street at the mall. One job I unloaded trucks and unpacked boxes, the other I did the opposite. My hatred for cardboard grew quickly. I noticed at Macy’s that we were throwing out a lot, and I mean a lot of packing material- Packaging peanuts, Styrofoam, air packs, etc. At The UPS Store, we were giving people discounts to bring that stuff in for us to use. Then it hit me- I could start a process where I collect the material from Macy’s and take it over the The UPS store, saving the store money, Macy’s dumpster space, and the landfills a little less non-biodegradable bullshit. It didn’t have to stop there either! There were 2 other anchor department stores at the mall, plus a whole town of people that could participate as well. I had all the pieces in front of me, but failed to see the full picture. Why didn’t anyone tell me!?
My last endeavor came during my later years at school (I actually learned something in a classroom!). What I learned was that there was an easy formula for writing papers, but that most kids didn’t care to do it. Some even hated it so much that they were willing to do slightly unethical things to avoid having to do it altogether. I, however, loved writing papers (and doing unethical things!). So, I went for it. I made roughly $500 in my later days of education spitting out papers using the assembly line method I had perfected for the perfect 89-91% paper. Is it something I’m proud of? No (yes) but it happened and I can’t change it.
I’ve never really talked about this time in my life, for fear of institutional backlash. But now I realize, what are they going to do, take away my diploma? It’s still in the envelope, unopened, I’ll go ahead and save them the trouble and send it right back (I will be invoicing them for the postage, though). And even if they did that, they can never take away my education. That’s the beauty of it. They can take your money, house, car, clothes (your hair), but no one can take away what you’ve learned along the way. I’ve learned that I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to create and help others create. I’ve learned that some of the most valuable lessons you will ever learn will not come from school. They come from trying something, failing, and trying again. Now why don’t they ever tell you that?
How Twitter took Holstee to the beach. Sort of.
It was February 9th when the snow began to blanket the city. Our flights were immediately cancelled due to the storm. Half the team was now stranded in a snowstorm, just hours away from paradise. I had to act fast, so I called the airline. They couldn’t even put me on hold because the lines were blowing up. I tried to rebook our flights online, but the site kept crashing as my frustration continued mounting. Then Dave had a brilliant suggestion: Tweet at them. I couldn’t get ahold of them any other way, so why not try a public request? I used Holstee’s twitter account, since it has quite a few more followers than my personal account. They called me within 20 minutes. The airline called me! The public plea for help worked.
I typically get annoyed that I don’t have very many characters to work with in a tweet (I have a lot of ranting to do), but this time I believe it may have worked to my advantage. The fact that I had a limited number meant I couldn’t waste words complaining about my situation. I had to get right to the point. A great blend of efficient and effective communication. And when our second flight was cancelled, I repeated the process. Same results and another satisfied customer.
I had never used Twitter prior to coming to NYC and at the beginning I was very skeptical. “Another site to maintain a presence on?”. I rolled my eyes at the thought. It was just quick blurbs and a bunch of pound signs! Not at all like the Facebook I was use to. I fought hard at first. But now, it’s my number one choice for quick content based on a few key interests- ranging from comedians and tech entrepreneurs, all the way to adult film stars and back to the newest trends in Education (“I have NO idea why my account retweeted PornHub, Mom…that is weird!…”).
On Twitter, I don’t get as lost in the randomness/creeping/cats as I do on Facebook, and tend to find interesting articles to read/potentially share rather quickly. Then when I want to be social and make sure the world hasn’t run out of memes, I jump back to FB for way longer than is necessary or acceptable.
With Twitter Ads API opening up to allow easier advertising and hopes of a more successful IPO than Facebook in the near future, I’m interested to see what’s next for the social media giant… as well as the bots that my roommate creates for them.
Plus, every now and then an interesting account gets hacked on Twitter, which is just entertaining as hell.
The view while I typed this post #PuertoEscondido