50 Questions Founders Should Ask Themselves About Investors

I have received investment in my business from top tier VCs and investors.

I have narrowly avoided taking investment from the wrong investors.

Now, I’m the CEO of a profitable and rapidly growing company.

I could not have achieved this if I didn’t pause and start to ask myself and potential investors better questions.

So if you’re thinking about taking investment from investors…

STOP!

Before you do, I implore you to think deeply and create a list of questions to think about. The questions that follow aren’t necessarily for you to ask your investors, they’re designed for you to think about, and to help guide you as you select what investors you want to work with.

That simple act can save you years or decades of confusion and pain.

And the right investors that you need… Those dream investors who can help you succeed…

They will thank you for asking better questions.

These questions have helped me slow down and think more clearly. It’s my hope that at least one of these questions will help spark an insight or realization that helps you find the perfect investor(s), avoid the wrong one(s), and achieve massive success in business and life.

Before we dive in, let me explain how we developed this list. The foundation of this article was developed from years of being and living amongst founders and investors in Silicon Valley.

As part of our research, we spent a week working with Founder Institute.

The Founder Institute helps tech entrepreneurs build a business and raise funding with the help of experienced startup mentors, advisors, and investors. They have chapters across 180+ cities and 6 continents. You can learn more about their pre-seed startup accelerator here.

During our time collaborating with their team, we had the opportunity to interview and chat with hundreds of successful founders, mentors, and investors. It is through these discussions, our own research, and years of personal experience that we compiled this list.

And now, 50 Questions Founders Should Ask Themselves About Investors.

1) Why are they doing VC instead of building another company? (Supposedly Jeff Bezos asked Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz this when they asked him to be an LP at Andreessen Horowitz)

2) When decisions or companies have they backed that are truly doing good in the world?

3) As F. Scott Fitzgerald says, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Can they do that?

4) The best founders and investors can be quirky, but also effective. Do the investors you want to work with embody this originality and quirkiness? And are they effective?

5) Why are you excited about working with these specific investors for the next 5–15 years?

6) Are you prepared to get to know who this investor is by having multiple conversations and hangouts with them? Are you excited when you get to hang out or spend time with them?

7) How will their expertise, knowledge, and connections specifically help you and the company?

8) What are their goals (business model) and how will your expertise, knowledge, and business specifically and strategically help them achieve their goals?

9) Could you take feedback from this person that is extremely honest, critical, and blunt (while still respecting them)?

10) Have they built and sold a company?

11) Was that company or outcome something you admire, and will the domain knowledge they gained in the process be complementary with what you’re trying to build?

12) What evidence is there that they are willing to bet on who you are (and are becoming) as a person? In other words, are they confident that no matter what happens with the business, you will be able to figure it out?

13) Are they fundamental or dogmatic in their thinking? Or can they, and do they, regularly change or adjust their beliefs?

14) What personal belief have they changed in the last year or so, and why?

15) What’s the most valuable thing they’ve learned in the last year?

16) The now classic, “what important truth do [they] believe that few people would agree with them on?”

17) Who are there mentors? Who do they learn from?

18) Have they had a job or time in their life where they were humbled? What evidence is there that they can check their ego, roll up their sleeves, and chop wood and carry water?

19) What type of questions do they ask you? Are they asking what your childhood was like (a first principles approach to discovering who you are), or are they only focused on the present and what you’re currently making?

20) What proof or evidence have they given that they thoughtfully read through your deck, or are listening to what you’re saying? Plenty of investors haven’t set up proper filters or systems and get mired in a deluge of inbound. Because of this, they have a tendency not to listen on the phone or read the decks or emails you send.

21) Do they take care of themselves physically and mentally?

22) What addictions do you suspect they have and do they have a substance abuse problem? (I’m serious here- plenty of investors have more than one skeleton in the closet, and even something small like a daily overdose of sugar or caffeine can signify they’ll never be able to lend cognitive capacities to you that aren’t befuddled by adrenaline or a sugar crash.)

23) Do they want to back founders like you? Sadly, there are still many investors who actively look for founders who are borderline psychopaths that will do anything to “win”. What type of founder do they back?

24) Have they had a successful long term romantic relationship in their life? This is one of the most undervalued tells to discover what people are really like, and how well they collaborate with others.

25) Do they respect you? Do you respect and want to learn from them?

26) What portfolio investments have they been the first or lead investor in? Do they have a track record that shows courage and conviction? Are they lemming-like? Do they spray and pray, or do they back the truck up when they have conviction?

27) Have they had an exit that was more than an aqui-hire?

28) What type of compensation structure is their firm rumored to follow? Are they choosing a lower salary in exchange for a larger upside or carry?

29) Who are their LPs, and are you excited about making these people or institutions more money? If you can’t find that information, do research, or ask them. Understand if they can’t disclose all of them, but you should at least be able to turn up a few. Do you want to work your butt off to generate returns for these LPs?

30) What are the economics of the potential investment they would be making in your company, and what result do you need to generate to make it a success? For example. If they’re investing out of a $1.3B fund, do you have a coherent answer for how the piece of your business that they would own will grow to be worth $5B+ within the timeline they need to return capital to LPs?

31) What is their response when you explain to them how you’ll reach your first hundred million or billion in revenue?

32) How well are their other investments in their current or previous fund performing? Are there past or present funds up by an incredible multiple (say, ~7.7x times) that’s better than industry averages? You should want to be on a winning team just as much as they do.

33) How much do they usually invest, and who else do you have to bring into the round to make it easy for them to say yes?

34) What percentage of the companies they back go on to raise subsequent funding rounds, exit, or IPO? Are they known for making (or being willing to make) extremely large follow on investments in their winners?

35) Do they have investments in portfolio companies that are working on big challenges (AI, human augmentation, preventing war, fighting cancer, education, space, hard science, etc…). Or do they have a lot of vanity investments in Series D rounds of popular unicorns?

36) Ask people they’ve worked with how this particular investor balances helping when needed and leaving the entrepreneur alone when it’s not.

37) What is the philosophy of their boss and the firm they work for? Do their philosophical beliefs and actions align with your own?

38) Do they ever express any of their personal philosophies publicly, especially if it’s different from that of their boss?

39) Reference Check: Connect with 3 founders of successful companies they’ve invested in, and get their take on the investor.

40) Reference Check: Connect with 3 founders of companies they’ve invested in that have failed, and get their take on the investor. Bonus points if you do a reference check on the individual founders who failed (it’s easy to blame your investors for what you failed to do).

41) Do their portfolio companies inspire and intimidate you (in a good way)? Are they important for humanity and society? Or, are most of their investments in things to just amuse humanity to death on the way to extinction?

42) Do they spot serious challenges, opportunities, and perspectives about your business that you haven’t thought about?

43) What are some of their daily habits and rituals?

44) Do they use buzzwords and phrases or substantive ones?

45) Wise men have said that “the world is made of language.” Several of the best investors in the world have started to hint that they are only looking for founders who speak indefinite future tense about what they will accomplish. What type of language does the investor you’re pursuing use? Do they make vague, indefinite comments? Or do they make definite, strong statements? Can they speak about your business indefinite future tense along with you?

46) Are they willing to trust or defer to your expertise or analysis of a market? Or, do they want a scientific study done by ‘experts’ about each observation, metric, theory, or insight you’ve discovered or generated? The devil’s advocate can be helpful if he wields logic and data, but if they can’t handle being proven wrong by you… you might want to run!

47) What type of people do they want to invest in and why?

48) What do they prioritize when investing: markets, tech, ideas, or people?

49) Are they willing to get to know you well enough to gain enough context to invest in you as a person, or make the necessary effort to do (smart) character and reference checks on you? If not, how can you ever develop a positive working relationship or friendship with them?

50) Who are the five people they seem to spend the most time with? They’re becoming like those they spend time with — just like you…


For a deep dive into these questions and more, listen to:

Mission Daily: Ep 208 — Questions to Ask Investors Pt.1


Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please share it with a founder who is thinking about taking on investors.

Ask Me Anything — The Mission Daily Edition

Welcome! This is The Mission Daily, and today’s episode is our first AMA. We’ve got questions in person, email, socials, and through our speak pipe link, where you can leave a question via voice. So, I’ve picked out some of the most interesting questions, or the ones we get the most often, and tried to answer them and expand on some of them here.

If you have more questions, comments, or anything you want to see me cover in the next AMA, let me know. You can reach out via socials, where we’re @TheMissionHQ and I’m @ChadGrills, or you can leave a voicemail through our speak pipe link in the podcast show notes. And let us know if you want a shoutout! For now, we’re just going to go the anonymous route unless people specifically ask for the shoutout.

To listen to this episode on the podcast (and all our other episodes), you can subscribe to The Mission Daily on iTunes or Google Play.

Let’s jump to it!

I like The Mission Daily and the format, but you mentioned it’s an experiment and it will keep changing. How so, and will you have more guests?

Thanks, we’re treating The Mission Daily as an experiment. So yes, expect a bunch of different formats and micro-episodes and shows like this AMA. We’ll also have bonus episodes with guests, or maybe we’ll transition over to having way more episodes with guests. Let us know what you like, and although we’re experimenting a lot, we’ll do our best to incorporate your feedback. The goal of The Mission Daily is to create the best daily podcast in the world. We’re on our way there and need your help. Share with one friend or online friend who gets it.

What future topics will you cover?

LOTS! So we’re creating a number of different podcasts, shows, fictional series, and worlds right now. We’re always doing that and chipping away at it behind the scenes. Some of the main topics are:

  • Technology and Science — Startups, software, hardware, apps, VR/AR/MR, the IOT, machine learning, engineering, robotics, nanotechnology, bio-engineering, material science, and breakthrough technologies that are helping abundance become ubiquitous
  • Explorations — Personal challenges, tragedies, triumphs, travels, emerging physical and mental trials, new sports, innovative types of entertainment and art, seafaring, spacefaring, along with asteroid identification and mining
  • Improving the Human Condition — Rebuilding our crumbling culture, developing the developed world, optimizing ourselves, promoting empathy and love, health and longevity, personal mastery of our bodies & biome, neuroscience, helping politics and systems of cooperation evolve, and promoting more voluntary evolution

What’s the mission of The Mission?

Mediate voluntary evolution.

What does The Mission do as a company?

We create stories in written, podcast, and video form. We partner with some of the best companies in the world — like Salesforce — to help sponsor these creations. We’re building a network of a lot of podcasts and shows like this. We’re also working on stories and corporate mythology designed to last hundreds of years. If your company is interested in sponsoring one of our podcasts, series, or is interested in something custom, you can connect with our creative team here.

After hearing many of your podcasts, I noticed you are always so full of energy and passionate about whatever you’re speaking about! What are some tips for more energy?

Thanks! Here’s a bunch off the top of my head: At 3pm, try apple cider vinegar. Always try equalizing your blood sugar before you try caffeine. Try cycling on and off caffeine. Try catching up on sleep for an entire day one weekend — so stay in bed for most of the day. More cardio, high intensity interval training, and lifting heavier weights. And now, I need to go do all that stuff because it’s been too long. So those are some starter ideas, but ultimately, the most energy seems to come to me when I’m working and making progress on the right projects, with the right people. So, work that is meaningful seems to provide all the energy I need!

Do you meditate? Do you practice some mind habits (e.g. no negative thoughts)?

Meditation is like every other word. Different people have different ways of defining meditation. I do sometimes, not often, and don’t feel guilty when I don’t. I really try hard to mindfully filter and let go of different thoughts. I always try to choose and focus on those thoughts that help serve and empower me and discard the rest.

Do you eat healthy, follow some sort of special diet, take supplements, nootropics, or something else?

Sometimes. I always try to prefer healthy fats to sugar. Try to drink lemon water in the morning, take some supplements like iodine, skate and butter oil, black chia seed oil… but let me stress that it’s not every day, and I don’t get upset if I miss some days, fall off the wagon, etc.

I also cycle on and off of many supplements (like coffee), which is vital. I also try to prefer anything that’s been around for a long time. Just the fact that it still exists is usually proof that it contains something good, although not always.

Could you please share some things you believe are fundamental to high-performance and general well-being?

Sure. Who you spend time around. The information you consume. The thoughts you choose to focus on. We are ultimately what we dream we are and become. We’re all becoming, and you might have more power than you realize.

There are plenty of people who choose to see the universe and this world as something random, where you’re just a blip and you’re gone. You can choose to see humanity as chimps with tools, a horrible mistake, etc… Or it’s a simulation, humanity is an experiment gone wrong, etc. You get the point, and obviously, there are those who live in that negativity. They literally create a hell and mental prison for themselves. That’s easy to do, and you can see how well that approach works.

Or, you can choose to imagine definitely optimistic thoughts. Imagine better futures for yourself and those you care about. Explore the idea that the universe and this world we’re living in are far more benevolent than you might think.

When negative thoughts do creep in or you think things don’t matter because it’s just a simulation, etc., really try to get creative with it. Is it a simulation with no point? Of course not. It’s a mystery, a drama, a novel… that is personalized for you. There is a reason, there is a maze. Imagine that you can figure it all out, and you will. Imagine that life is fatalistic and you have no power, and you won’t. Choose wisely.

I’m new to TMD. What episode should I start with first to really get the jist of what this is all about?

Start with the trailer and first episode. Listen to as many as you like. It’s about redeeming and saving humanity… and the day-to-day stuff to help you get healthier, wealthier, wiser… etc. That type of thing. But generally, listen at your own risk, and choose your own adventure.

Where do all your trivia and tips of the day come from?

Our resident oracle, Lacey Peace.

Awhile ago, in one of your written pieces, you said The Mission had investors. Who are they and why did you take investment?

Yes. Some of the best investors in the world! Founders Fund Pathfinder, Founders Fund’s early stage investment vehicle was and is our first investor. Founders Fund and their team are amazing, and they’ve invested in companies like Airbnb, Lyft, Palantir, SpaceX, Spotify, Stripe, Wish… and dozens of others!

Are you hiring, and if so, how do you pick and bring on new hires?

Yes, we are hiring. We are interested in finding the best people. So, in HR speak, we’re looking for a good culture fit, what drives the person, what experience they have, and what proof of skills they have.

What important truth do you believe that few people agree with you on?

Many. Here’s one new one.

I think hardly anyone realizes how deeply the concept and idea of original sin has permeated our culture, media, education systems, etc. It’s EVERYWHERE.

I don’t mean “original sin” in the way a priest or church might define it. But I mean original sin in the concept of an idea system and practice of always feeling guilt about something. I think the cultural water most of us have been swimming in from birth has been guilt. In our modern world and society, there always seems to be many people and many groups who know what we should be doing and who carefully try to stoke people’s mental fires of guilt and shame for simply existing or not doing something perfect (that often, people have never been trained or taught how to do!). And if people could recognize this original sin in their own lives, let it go, forgive themselves, and move forward with morals but not needless guilt all the time… the world would be a very different place for the better.

So, here’s a quick example. Recently, I was having a conversation with someone about disasters, specifically how to survive and thrive after them. So whether it’s an EMP attack, coronal mass ejection, asteroid, etc… you get the idea.

We were talking about the really bad and rough stuff — not a fun or light conversation.

And what struck me was this person’s first, instinctual response, which was, well, if that really did happen, what would be the point of trying to keep going?

This person basically said, “Well, don’t worry about that happening because after that, it would be okay to just give up, die, go extinct… yeah… give up.”

Man, did that crush me. People are so guilty over imagined transgressions that they feel guilty just for living and breathing, and that is so deep that people have literally lost the will to survive and keep going. Something worse than original sin happened, and people are so hurting, so disconnected, and so traumatized that they’re not sure surviving is a good thing. Hearing that crushes me, and one of the things I want The Mission Daily to do is help you crush any type of guilt, shame, and any unnecessarily limiting beliefs. Because some people let those programs run in their voices and head for their whole lives, and they don’t have to.

I like the idea of developing excitement about existence and our own human history so that we believe humanity is a force for good and loving ourselves enough so we do decide to overcome really large challenges and obstacles when they come our way.

Abraham Maslow famously said that if he was dropped in the ocean a thousand miles from land, he would still swim and try to make it, and he would despise the one who gave up.

I love that. That’s my philosophy and motivation. I’m always going to keep swimming, and I’m going to do my best to have compassion for those that are drowning, but I’m sure as hell not going to let them pull me under with them.

Cast off all guilt and shame. Forgive yourself. You’re not guilty, and you have to get that out of your head if you want to find real freedom and become everything you can be.


SO! That’s it for today’s first AMA. If you have more questions, comments, or anything you want to see me cover in the next AMA, let me know. You can reach out via socials @TheMissionHQ or leave a comment here.

See you next time.

Secrets To Make Technology Serve You

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Humans are the reproductive organs of technology. We multiply manufactured artifacts and spread ideas and memes.” –Kevin Kelly



Everywhere around us in modern American culture are bright and shiny machines. All of these different types of devices and technology are becoming cheaper and more ubiquitous every single day. So why are so many people dissatisfied, depressed, or distracted? The cold truth is that many of them are becoming servants of these devices, social networks, and technologies they purchase. They have failed to adopt the mindset to ensure that the technology they use serves them. In our modern era, if we want to be mission-driven, we must seek to master technology. We thrive when we use technology as our servant and suffer when it becomes our master.

Portals to Anywhere & Everywhere

“The internet makes dumb people dumber and smart people smarter.” –Kevin Drum

We’ve seen that technology is anything which allows us to do more with less. By itself, technology is neutral; it doesn’t do much of anything until we interact with it. It’s up to us to make sure we interact with it in a way which increases our abilities and productivity, and not the reverse.

Most people have no heuristics, rules, or tests set up to assist in deciding what technology to adopt and what to avoid. Creating rules about adopting technology prudently doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s as simple as being honest and objective about assessing if the technology or service we’re using is making us happier.

Once we have an idea about the pros and cons of what technology provides us, we can selectively choose the specific technology we want to adopt. Consider the Amish– the extreme example of “slow” adopters. But what appears as slow adoption to us is really just methodical. Each community has to vote on what to allow or disallow. We don’t have to go to a communal for a vote, but we should take a vote with our self. Does (this device or social network) make me mission-driven? If so, great! Keep using it. If not, consider taking a break from it.

The goal of this section is to remember one core heuristic: we should be masters of technology. “Master” in this case means being able to select, utilize, control, and adopt technology that makes us mission-driven, or a better human, in some measurable way.

This may seem like a lofty goal as there are examples all around us of people being used by technology. We see people hunched over their phones, incessantly tapping the screen for quick hits of dopamine. Even when we’re driving in the car, there is a good chance that the person in the next lane is only partially interested in the road. The people driving with their phones over the wheel are unknowingly seeking quick hits of dopamine from the bright lights and notifications of their phone. This is a complete demonstration of addiction. Ever since the first televisions came into American homes, people have talked about how they would bring in wonderful educational content. Millions of hours later, that’s definitely questionable. Many families went from no TV in their lives to devoting 4–8 hours each day to watching TV. Technology will always let us do more, but it’s up to us to make sure that “more” leads to a virtuous outcome for everyone involved. It’s up to us to decide what we want “more” of. This requires work, strategy, and setting up systems on our part.


Skills for Mastering 21st Century Technology

The three following ideas and concepts can help us use technology to find meaning, instead of distraction: Curation, Filtering, and Synthesis.

Curation

This means personally regulating, adding, dismissing, or testing the technology we use so we exercise mastery and awareness over what it brings to our daily lives. This might mean we have a Kindle to read with no apps on it to ensure we read only what we intend. Or, it might mean we’re highly selective about the newsletters we subscribe to.

The most important idea behind curation is that in order to justify the use of a new technology or technological service, we should be able to articulate or measure what that technology is allowing us to do, and how it is helping us become who we want to be. Or even more simply, “Is it making me mission-driven?”

Filtering

After we thoroughly consider which technologies we will use and why, we can then selectively use other technologies to create barriers that filter what we consume. This helps mitigate the downsides of using technology.

By introducing the mindset of filtering, we can develop heuristics such as “never pick up a portal to everything without specific intent.” This heuristic can help control our impulses of mindlessly picking up our Smartphones when we’re bored. Or, we can set a specific time of the day to check our messages and notifications.

We can also use simple filtering mechanisms on our computers like Rescue Time to turn off the Internet while we are working. We can use filters such as Feedly to consciously select content and put it into a single feed. These filters can prevents us from wading out into the noise of the Internet and getting distracted.

People as Curators and Filters

One of the benefits of living in an interconnected world is that the best content is being curated for us. There are people, websites, and influencers who are motivated to help find the best and most useful information and present it to you. This is an immense benefit. By finding trusted sources for content relevant to us, we don’t have to continually expend extra resources sifting through old mainstream news and information sources.

Why does developing a mindset primed to filter what comes through our digital devices matter? We’ve already covered the concept of Willpower, and we each have a fixed amount of it to use each day. Dr. Kelly McGonigal explains that as we encounter distractions throughout the day, we slowly decrease our finite amount of willpower for choices. This means that as we distract ourselves and the day wears on, we slowly degrade our ability to concentrate and do what matters. By using filters and curation sources, we can keep out the inputs that will degrade our willpower, saving it for choices that matter most.

Synthesis

We want to be actively thinking about what we’re creating with the technology we’re using. Are we taking full advantage of it? Are we using it to fuel new creations? Or are we using it to consume and distract ourselves?

Synthesis is the process of using technology to help zero in on the resources and information we need. It urges us to find specific tidbits of knowledge that we can use to plug gaps in our skills, which will help us reach our goals. The goal is to synthesize every interaction we have with technology and direct them towards the outcomes we want to create.

An example of synthesis might be studying our use of technology and seeing if we’re using it to create new things. If we’re only using it to consume, how can we change this? Often, with better curation and filtering, we’ll find ourselves naturally taking the next step to use what we’re learning for creation. It also doesn’t have to be a tangible physical creation; we might simply be seeking answers to a specific question we have. Either way, we begin to synthesize what we’re taking in from technology when we can cite specific ways in which it’s benefitting our lives.


“It’s hard to say exactly what it is about face-to-face contact that makes deals happen, but whatever it is, it hasn’t yet been duplicated by technology.” –Paul Graham

“Blow up your TV, throw away your paper…” –John Prine

This strategy and action section offers some ideas to help curate, filter, and synthesize technology. Feel free to use these ideas, discard them, or put your own spin on them.

Television Mastery

The idea to master our use of television starts with placing a buffer between us and the content from our television. Cable TV is largely a gateway to reruns, commercials, or news. By eliminating cable, we effectively set up a buffer between our minds and advertising-based content. Now we can take control of the technology and add an application to our television to synthesize what we take in. An example might be to connect our television to the Internet, or link it up to Netflix, Amazon Video, or a Google Chromecast. Now, we have a barrier where we’re forced to make a conscious decision about selecting what to watch instead of just turning on the television and consuming.

Computer Mastery

Rescue Time: This app lets us turn the Internet on our computers on and off for a predetermined length of time. I like to use Rescue Time to turn off the Internet on days like today, when I’m writing and don’t want the temptation to start looking things up online that can interfere with my work. Rescue Time helps filter out the noise which would degrade our willpower first thing in the morning. When we control the Internet on our devices, we make conscious choices about how we’ll use it.

The Game Changer

The most valuable ways I’ve found to control and drive my use of a Smartphone and laptop are as follows:

  • At night, before bed, I create a to-do list for the next day on a 4×6 note card.
  • From that list, I will select or write in the three most important things to do. The idea is that if I get nothing else done, and only complete these three things, I would still make progress towards a goal or outcome I want to create.
  • The next day, before I do anything online, before I even TOUCH my Smartphone, I do those three things. No outside stimulus until they’re done.

This is a simple way to get where we want to go, without derailing ourselves or chipping away at our willpower first thing in the morning. This is an act of defiance towards always being connected; it’s a way to refuse to be a servant of technology.

Content Curation and Filtering Online

Feedly: This app brings all the feeds from your favorite websites into one place where you can read or share select articles and content. Simply login and add the specific sites you want to get news and updates from. The app doesn’t bring in advertisements, so you’re able to read things without constantly seeing display advertising. If you’re learning something, or trying to break into a new industry, simply add those websites of curated content from influencers into your Feedly. Over time, you can use Feedly to build a custom stream of highly relevant, amazingly useful content which will save you hours of time.

Upside Exposure: The best and most scalable way to increase our exposure to opportunities is to set up online social media accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn. Depending on your industry, using Medium might be helpful, but we don’t need to worry about that for now. These accounts allow us to capitalize and create opportunities where we are using technology instead of it using us. If you don’t have a personal website at this point, don’t worry. LinkedIn can hold your resume and be the hub of your online presence, while Twitter is a more specific opportunity generator.

An opportunity generator is something we set up which can advertise and promote ourselves while we’re not directly working. In business, we might call the creation of these opportunities “lead generation.” In our personal lives, many people just call this smart. Many people have grandparents who told them to never look for a job, but always look for an opportunity. Having social profiles set up to work on our behalf to uncover and expose us to opportunities would make our grandparents proud.

Platforms as Opportunity Generators

By investing small amounts of time into building or improving opportunity generators, we can reap huge rewards. These rewards may include: new friends, business connections, job offers, expertise requests, help with starting a business, and much more. The idea is to interact with others, send cold emails, write articles in our industry, and link them back to the platforms containing our resume, proof of skills, or even work that shows proof of our imagination.

Twitter: You don’t have to tweet, but by having this set up, you’ll be able to claim your name and prepare for when/if you do tweet. Just sign up and post a single tweet. This helps in case anyone on Twitter searches for your name, and this single tweet can direct interested parties to the appropriate place.

“Thanks for stopping by! Too busy to tweet at the moment, but let’s connect (link to your email address or your LinkedIn profile).”

The link to connect can go to the places we mentioned above, or to your profile at your current company, your personal website, or even a short 30- to 60-second video introducing yourself, your skills, and, if you’re a job-seeker, what you’re looking for.

LinkedIn Profile: If you’re looking for a job, opportunity, or promotion, this is the place to start. Recruiters scour LinkedIn all day long looking for applicants. There are a million free resources online showing how to optimize your LinkedIn profile, so I won’t bore you with details here.

The idea is to set up a LinkedIn profile and, over time, add more than 500 connections. The LinkedIn publishing platform is still in its infancy, and it’s a great time to use it to begin writing industry-specific articles. The publishing platform will likely grow even larger and more esteemed as time goes on. Getting involved now and having a public place such as your LinkedIn profile to write and become noted in your industry is a great way to generate opportunities and serendipitous connections.

If you need a job, make sure your LinkedIn profile is cleaned up and your resume is posted. Then, on LinkedIn’s publishing platform, write a post titled something along the lines of “Ten Things I Didn’t List on My Resume.” Include everything, such as stories or decisions which have built your character.

You can follow up that post with “10 Reasons I’m Ready to Work at (company name here),” citing what you bring to the table. Or something like “10 Ways For (company name here) to Increase Their Sales.” The idea is to stand out from the traditional channels of resume spamming and find opportunities before they’re advertised to the market.

LinkedIn’s long-term goal is to turn up contextual economic opportunities for the right people, at the right time. If you’re not 100% sure what this means, look it up and write a post about why the long-term vision of LinkedIn is important. If you get it right, LinkedIn will likely want to promote your writing. If you’re a horrible writer, record what you want to say and have it transcribed, or hire an editor on Upwork to proofread your work. LinkedIn is a platform which can unlock thousands of opportunities.

Personal Website: This isn’t needed at first, but for specific creative types (artists, designers, or engineers), this might make sense. The credentials of the future involve being able to cite proof of skills at a moment’s notice to show a potential employer, friend, or business partner. Creating a personal website by using an incredibly cheap and full-service solution provider like Squarespace is perfectly suited to showcase our proof of skills.

Launching a personal website is also a great excuse to grab the domain name for your name. Most .com domains will be taken, but there is a good chance you might be able to find a .co or suitable alternative such as (www.YourFirstName-YourLastName.com). If you want to blog or start a business and sell products or services from a personal site, Squarespace lets you sell digital products and services using the awe-inspiring payment processor, Stripe.

A Few Notes on Platforms

Ensure congruence across platforms. Make sure that all your social media profiles display the message you want to convey. For the advanced folks, or those who already have LinkedIn and Twitter accounts set up and are using them well, you can consider other opportunity generators such as Medium or AngelList.

AngelList will be incredibly useful as we dive into reverse engineering entry into high-growth technology fields in the next article, so if you’re interested in this, consider setting up a profile there.

Medium: This is where you can write about certain industry or life-specific topics and give those writings exposure to a large audience. This is an alternative or supplement to publishing on LinkedIn, and might be a bit more useful to those interested in startups, technology, design, art, or writing.

AngelList: This is where you can learn all about startups and technology businesses and discover how to land jobs with them. If you’re a qualified angel investor, you can start looking for companies, funds, or syndicates for investment. Anyone interested in technology should become familiar with this site. AngelList is the best platform on the Internet to connect early-stage businesses with funding and employees. They’re also building index funds for investing and are beginning to raise large amounts of money to invest in startups. You can always find where the future of industries are heading by studying where investment dollars are going on AngelList.

All of these platforms we have mentioned can become opportunity generators if used appropriately. Once you’re set up, at least on LinkedIn and Twitter, you’ve embraced the mindset of exposing yourself to good things. Now, when you start seeking out opportunities, you have an online presence to capture opportunities and introductions as you go.



Higher Education Innovation: 25 Examples of Excellence

“As leaders in education, our job is not to control those whom we serve, but to unleash their talent. If innovation is going to be a priority in education, we need to create a culture where trust is the norm.” –George Couros

As technology advances and the job market becomes more competitive, what it means to receive “a good education” is changing rapidly. A number of colleges and universities have quickly adapted to the change and are preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow. The fields of studies offered at these innovative universities are expanding to include: artificial intelligence, new media, engineering, bioscience, and even food innovation.

These higher education institutions are innovating, and that’s why we’ve decided to celebrate these 25 examples of excellence in the field.


This article is brought to you in partnership with Vemo Education, an educational technology company that creates custom income share agreement programs for world class universities.

Vemo Education is changing education by working with higher ed institutions to implement income-based financing programs that more effectively use institutional resources. If you are interested in bringing these solutions to your college, get in touch here.


Arizona State University

Arizona State University has been a technology pioneer and innovator for decades. Since 2003, ASU has filed 2,700 invention disclosures, issued 800 tech licenses, and helped launch more than 100 startups.

Whether it is their Knowledge Enterprise Development or futuristic initiatives like Project Hieroglyph, they’re one to watch. Let’s take a quick look at these two fascinating areas of ASU.

Knowledge Enterprise Development program

ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise Development program “advances research, innovation, strategic partnerships, entrepreneurship, and international development.” This program is one of the fastest growing research enterprises in the US.

By encouraging interdisciplinary research and an entrepreneurial approach in all its students, ASU has become a haven for cross-discipline, out-of-the-box projects, such as a recent study which combines engineering and biology to analyze protein structures in a new light.

Project Hieroglyph

Can science fiction serve as inspiration for actual innovation?

Yes, it can, and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has started Project Hieroglyph to help bring those ideas to fruition.

“The name of Project Hieroglyph comes from the notion that certain iconic inventions in science fiction stories serve as modern ‘hieroglyphs’ — Arthur Clarke’s communications satellite, Robert Heinlein’s rocket ship that lands on its fins, Issac Asimov’s robot, and so on. Jim Karkanias of Microsoft Research described hieroglyphs as simple, recognizable symbols on whose significance everyone agrees.”

The project challenges students to think inventively and imagine a better future — gleaning inspiration from anywhere and everywhere, including the science fiction stories and content that provide a bit of a roadmap for future innovations.

Syracuse University

Syracuse University is a selective, private research university that only takes chances on those who dare to dream big. Its pioneering history dates back to 1870, and the school is known for its forward-thinking veteran education programs.

Vet Programs

In 1944, Syracuse University played a key role in establishing the original G.I. Bill. Since then, they’ve been honoring that legacy through the creation of new veteran education programs.

One such example is Syracuse’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families(IVMF). The IVMF is the first interdisciplinary higher education institute solely focused on assisting military veterans and their families.

Syracuse University will also soon be the home to the nation’s first National Veterans Resource Complex, currently under construction. This center will be “dedicated to advancing academic research, actionable programs, and community-connected innovation in service to the nation’s veterans and military-connected families.”

Cal State East Bay

Ranking as one of the most diverse four-year public colleges in the nation, Cal State East Bay is taking a new, more diverse approach to education. This year, U.S. News and World Report ranked CSU East Bay №1 for ethnic diversity in regional universities of the West. And in 2017, the Chronicle of Higher Education elected it the “Most Diverse Public Institution in the Continental United States.” Thanks to their distinctive MBA program, it’s also a leader in global innovation.

MBA for Global Innovators

CSU East Bay’s MBA for Global Innovators is a unique kind of MBA program — it creates an incubator environment that mimics the international business world. This program allows MBA-seeking students to work with experienced professionals and entrepreneurs to learn the ins and outs of global innovation.

The MBA for Global Innovators program focuses on: teaching global awareness of business opportunities and how to pursue them; expanding worldview of the global economy; teaching how to respond to dynamic situations as an innovator; honing leadership and collaborative skills; teaching how to manage and motivate others in complex environments; and teaching how to develop sound business plans and present ideas effectively.

Purdue University

Since 1869, Purdue University has long been committed to providing students with quality education. It is the #1 destination for international students in STEM disciplines and home to the “Back a Boiler” program.

Just last year, 15 startups were founded based on new tech owned by Purdue faculty, staff, or students, and 21 companies were launched using Purdue intellectual property.

Back a Boiler

Purdue’s Back a Boiler program utilizes Income Share Agreements (ISAs) to make paying for college more affordable.

ISAs allow colleges to pay a portion, or all, of a student’s tuition up front. In exchange, when the student graduates and is able to find a job past a certain minimum income threshold, the student begins making a certain number of payments until they are finished. These payments are a small fraction of their salary. Once the student has completed the payments, they keep 100% of their salary.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is a nationally-ranked public university that is consistently recognized as one of the nation’s best values for graduates’ return on investment. Driven by its core philosophy of “Learn by Doing”, students are challenged to put what they learn into practice in a real-world setting.

Innovation Sandbox

Cal Poly’s Innovation Sandbox is a shared workspace that allows students to “play” with the latest prototyping/ideation tools, explore new subjects, develop technologies, and share knowledge.

The space is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, educational programs, and student mentors from all disciplines. Students are encouraged to use the Innovation Sandbox to not only apply what they’ve learned in the classroom, but to collaborate with others to develop their own theories, experiments, and projects.

The Dairy Innovation Institute

Fun Fact: Cal Poly is also home to The Dairy Innovation Institute, a globally recognized institute for dairy foods research and education.

Students can study cheese science and technology, dairy foods quality, dairy ingredients technology, and novel process technologies. Lactose intolerant folk, beware!

University of Southern California

University of Southern California is a leading private research university and a global center for arts, technology, and international business. Their Health Sciences campus also houses cutting edge research in cancer, stem cells, regenerative medicine, orthopedics, and sports medicine. USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies is also making waves, working with studios like Warner Bros and Sony Pictures Entertainment to study how people engage with simulations and to develop more realistic CGI in movies.

Outside of the classroom, USC is the largest private sector employer in the city of Los Angeles and is responsible for $8 billion annually in economic activity in the region.

Masters in Business Veteran Program

USC’s Masters in Business Veteran Program (MBV) is a fully accredited one-year graduate degree created specifically for military veterans, active duty, and reserve personnel. It provides an understanding of all business disciplines and is designed to leverage participants’ management and leadership experience already gained during military service.

Mixed Reality

Mixed Reality (MxR) is part of the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. The project explores techniques and technologies to improve the fluency of human-computer interactions. Their current prototypes focus on immersive systems for education and training simulations that incorporate both real and virtual elements.

Oberlin College

Oberlin College has been changing education since day one. They were the first to admit African Americans AND the first to admit women. Oberlin College is known for its intense energy, creativity, and, according to historian Geoffrey Blodgett, “stubborn moral idealism.”

“With a top-ranking liberal arts college, a world-class conservatory, and a first-rate art museum all on a single campus, it is the ideal laboratory in which to study and design the world you want.” About Oberlin

Creativity & Leadership

Oberlin’s Creativity and Leadership Program challenges students to hone their intellectual and artistic passions. The program provides support by offering academic courses, funding for project development, guest lectures, and experiential learning opportunities.

This program reflects Oberlin’s commitment to artistic excellence, academic rigor, and preparing students for leadership and civic engagement.

The Oberlin Project

The Oberlin Project is just one way Oberlin College is encouraging better care of our environment. The goal of the project is to create “a resilient, prosperous, and sustainable community” by shifting the city and college to renewable energy sources.

Full Sail

Full Sail offers accelerated degree programs that allow students to graduate in approximately half the time required to complete a traditional bachelor’s degree program. Their fast-paced courses are designed to build upon each other, making it easier for instructors to provide an individualized educational experience.

Dan Patrick Sportscasting Program

An innovative education model is combined with Dan Patrick’s years of industry experience in these hands-on courses. Dan Patrick Sportscasting Program includes on-camera experience in voice training and live presentation and covers behind-the-scenes skills such as journalism and multimedia storytelling. There is also a heavy focus on emerging tech and broadcast opportunities such as gaming, virtual reality, and augmented reality.

Master of Science: Innovation & Entrepreneurship

This degree dives deep into product design and development to suit the needs of our rapidly growing and changing global marketplace. Students tackle real-world projects that teach them how to apply their skills and innovative strategies to existing businesses in need of fresh perspectives.

Babson College

Babson College provides students with a top-of-the-line business education, including global research projects that are used as key benchmarking indicators by supranational authorities around the world. It’s no surprise that their MBA and MS degrees are highly ranked.

Entrepreneurial Thought & Action

Babson’s Entrepreneurial Thought & Action methodology is highly respected in the business world. The college has been the number one leader in entrepreneurship for 25 consecutive years. Through their “Act, Learn, Build” motto, students learn experimentation and creativity with a deep understanding of business fundamentals and rigorous analysis as the ideal approach to creating economic and social value.

Social Innovation Lab

The Social Innovation Lab at Babson connects people and ideas in order to prototype, evaluate, and prove new social innovation in real-world contexts. It’s the hub of a global, interdisciplinary community that is dedicated to building a better world.

Olin College

Malcolm Gladwell loves this innovative school. It’s a “new kind of engineering college” that believes “engineering is a creative enterprise that begins and ends with people and their desire for a better world.”

Transforming Engineering Education

Olin College is passionate about Transforming Engineering Education. The school was “founded to become an important and constant contributor to the advancement of engineering education in America and throughout the world.” Faculty members engage in education research, education consulting, and the development of innovative, research-based student learning opportunities.

Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship

Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship, or ADE, is one of Olin’s year-long senior capstone programs. It can also be taken as a one-semester design depth in which faculty and students work together to improve aspects of human life. These include food security, education, air quality, and many other areas of importance.

University of California — Berkeley

UC Berkeley is the number one public university in the nation and the number four public university in the entire world. Their research “crosses disciplines and illuminates new ideas”, pioneering since their expeditions to Egypt in the late 1800s.

The University of California System (which includes all of UC’s 10 campuses) is responsible for filing 2,382 patents from 2010 to 2015, 33% of which were granted.

SkyDeck

SkyDeck is UC Berkeley’s startup accelerator. It has a dedicated fund that donates half of all profits back to the university at large and accepts applications from companies in all industries to foster a well-rounded program. SkyDeck is “where entrepreneurs come to create the innovative companies that will better our world.”

Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership

The Fung Institute for Engineering and Leadership is “transforming engineers and scientists into leaders who develop technical, social, and economic innovations”. It expertly combines leadership coursework with intensive study for a truly innovative program.

Ivy Tech Community College (Indiana)

Ivy Tech Community College offers hands-on experience with some of Indiana’s most advanced technologies and training facilities. It has more than 1,000 online classes and more than 40 locations.

Innovation Day

Ivy Tech’s Innovation Day was created last year in order to improve all areas of the college and the real world. Participants bring their most innovative ideas before a panel of judges who are looking for one or more powerful ideas for which they can provide funding.

Iowa State University

Iowa State University has earned the title of “the nation’s most student-centered public research university” through its revolutionary research in numerous areas of study. Cutting edge technology meets innovative ideas in its various laboratories.

Nanovaccine Institute

The Nanovaccine Institute is “revolutionizing how we prevent and treat disease”, one day at a time. Coordinated by Iowa State, 68 researchers at 20 universities, research institutes, national laboratories, and companies are merging immunology, nanotechnology, materials science, microbiology, neuroscience, cancer biology, clinical science, and social science to create a better world.

Bioeconomy Institute

The Bioeconomy Institute “seeks to advance the use of biorenewable resources for the production of fuels, energy, chemicals, and materials. The Institute will assure Iowa’s prominence in the revolution that is changing the way society obtains its essential sources of energy and carbon.” In essence, we will reduce our dependence on petroleum by using biomass as a renewable resource to “sustain economic growth and prosperity.”

Greenville Technical College

Greenville Technical College is one of the largest public two-year colleges in South Carolina. It collaborates with community and business leaders to drive economic growth through workforce development, training students who are dedicated to lifelong learning.

Center for Manufacturing and Innovation (CMI)

Greenville’s Center for Manufacturing and Innovation (CMI) builds on an educational partnership with Clemson University and is strongly supported by area manufacturers. This innovative curriculum features project-based learning experiences on real-world projects. Programs are flexible and customizable, allowing students to find their unique place in advanced manufacturing. The CMI offers machine tool tech, CNC machining, mechatronics, and much more.

Ohio State University

Ohio State University ranks 16th among the nation’s best universities and 1st among Ohio publics in academics. Additionally, they have 57 active startupsin their portfolio. Between their unprecedented affordability commitment and their excellent health care system (Wexner Medical Center has been named one of the country’s best by U.S. News & World Report for 25 years), innovation is front and center at this school.

CubeRRT

CubeRRT is Ohio State’s first satellite, launched on May 20th of this year. The project was named after “Q*bert”, one of the most popular video arcade games of the 1980s. CubeRRT’s creators aim to improve how scientists collect data from Earth.

Innovate

Innovate is an annual conference that brings together educators, admins, and tech industry pros. Over the course of the event, they explore recent advancements, best practices, and provocative approaches to teaching and learning with tech.

University of Maryland University College

University of Maryland University College specializes in high-demand academic programs, making this school a convenient option for busy professionals who are looking to gain experience. They take pride in their achievement-based admissions process, which does not require SAT, GRE, or GMAT test scores. And to top that off, their Center for Innovation in Learning and Student Success is “leading the search for next-generation learning models.”

Adaptive Learning

The college’s Open Learning Initiative Pilot applies adaptive technologies to meet students’ unique needs. This field “has the potential to address each student’s unique preferences, needs, and capabilities.” Adaptive technologies include intelligent use of learning management systems and sophisticated stand-alone tools that can be integrated into course learning environments. Though this program is still in its early stages, the school is confident that it will transform the way we view learning.

Predictive Analysis

UMUC’s CILSS is an industry leader in analyzing big data “to identify appropriate and effective learner interventions”. The program is bringing learning analytics to many student concerns, including choosing courses and making the most of study time.

The University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is one to watch. It’s currently ranked #3 in national universities. According UC President Robert J. Zimmer:

“The nature of rigorous inquiry at the highest level, in both research and education, requires an environment that fosters sustained open discourse. A commitment to such inquiry as our highest value has been an essential part of the University of Chicago’s culture since its inception.”

UChicago Empower

UChicago Empower is a new initiative that will no longer require standardized tests scores to be admitted as part of your application. The program is aimed at under-served and low-income students, for whom the prices of taking standard admission tests leave them with few options. Along with eliminating the testing mandate, the program will also offer a bevy of financial aid packages and more for those who might otherwise have been left out of the education process.

Michigan State University

Michigan State University is a top research institute that is acknowledged globally as a leader in international engagement. It’s also been recognized as one of the best value universities in the United States.

MSU is “advancing the common good in uncommon ways,” and their exceptional financial aid programs help assist all students do just that.

The MSU Spartan Advantage Program

Sometimes outside grants and scholarships don’t cover all of a student’s college tuition and expenses. That’s where MSU’s Spartan Advantage Program (SPAD) steps in.

SPAD “reduces the educational loan debt of our neediest Michigan students” by providing students with institutional grants, scholarships, and work-study opportunities. SPAD supplies students with the final financial assistance needed to fully cover tuition, fees, room, board, and even books.

Spelman College

Innovation is at the core of Spelman College. This school is “a global leader in the education of women of African descent.”

ExxonMobil WISE

ExxonMobil WISE uses funding from ExxonMobil to sponsor the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Scholars Program. It “provides scientifically talented students from groups underrepresented in scientific and engineering fields with the opportunity to pursue undergraduate studies in science and engineering in the highly motivating and supportive environment of Spelman College.”

Stanford University

Stanford University is a magnet for innovators and entrepreneurs, named the most innovative university in the world. It was a Stanford professor who designed the basic communication standard for the Internet, and alumni have founded companies such as Google, Intel, and Netflix.

From Reed Hastings to Peter Thiel to Larry Page and Sergey Brin, there’s a long line of former Stanford students who have changed business and the world. From 2010 to 2015 alone, Stanford filed for a whopping 636 patents, 40% of which were granted.

As can be seen by the type of people their program attracts, Stanford is truly “a place for learning, discovery, innovation, expression and discourse.”

Stanford Interdisciplinary

At Stanford Interdisciplinary, “collaboration is a way of life.” Faculty members seek out diverse patterns on the path to innovation, with interdisciplinary institutes spanning departments. Students are encouraged to take on research projects that cross traditional boundaries, and collaborations between these students and faculty members are central to the school’s culture.

Howard University

Howard University is an HBCU in Washington, D.C. Their motto is Veritas et Utilitas, which means Truth and Service. Howard University is thoroughly committed to this motto and to the education and advancement of underrepresented populations.

Verizon and Howard Partnership for STEM

Howard University and the Verizon Innovative Learning Program teamed upto offer STEM and technology courses to local minority male students in middle school.

“Every young man deserves access to a better future. That’s why we’ve launched the Verizon Innovative Learning Program for minority males — a dynamic, three-week summer program for middle school boys, where they’ll design thinking, 3D printing, augmented reality and social entrepreneurship.”

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University is America’s first research institution. The school lacks a core curriculum, which they believe “fosters academic freedom.” Johns Hopkins has put more money into research than any other academic institution, 38 years in a row.

Around since 1876, Johns Hopkins University has been at the forefront of medical technology innovation. The university introduced the rubber glove, discovered saccharine, and developed a treatment for sickle cell anemia.

Social Innovation Lab (SIL)

The Social Innovation Lab (SIL) supports innovative non-profits, mission-driven companies, and disruptive technologies that aim to create change and opportunity in Baltimore and beyond. The lab is open to Baltimore-area world-changers, faculty, students, and staff, and provides social entrepreneurs with funding, mentorship, office space, and workshops.

Rice University

Rice University “practices need-blind admission, meets 100 percent of demonstrated need for admitted students and is consistently heralded as one of the best values in higher education.”

It is #3 in Best Undergraduate Teaching, was the nation’s first university to create a space-physics department, and recently had a team develop liquid batteries!

Bioscience Research Collaborative

Through Rice’s Bioscience Research Collaborative, scientists and educators from Rice and other Texas Medical Center institutions work together to perform leading research, benefiting human medicine and health. The program encourages interdisciplinary interactions among interinstitutional researchers and performs cutting-edge laboratory, theoretical, and computational investigations. According to their website, “… BRC is a catalyst for new and better ways for researchers to collaborate, explore, learn and lead.”

Allen University

Allen University is an HBCU in South Carolina that teaches “the mind to think, the hands to work and the heart to love.”

Honors Program

In Allen’s Honors Program, creative inquiry begins freshman year and ends with a capstone research project. Students receive special instruction in honors-designated courses and seminars and have the opportunity to attend conferences and participate in community outreach and experiential learning. They also participate in sustainability and campus beautification projects. The program offers a heavy focus on advocacy, activism, and art.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has an “appetite for problems — especially those big, intractable, complicated problems whose solutions make a permanent difference.” According to Reuters, it is the second most innovative college in the world after Stanford.

Since its founding in 1861, MIT has become the school for all things tech, math, and science. The school was granted nearly 600 patents from 2010 to 2015. MIT is also the home of MITx, an open-source platform that allows students all over the world to enroll in free online classes taught by the institute’s professors.

(Fun Fact: Their mascot is the beaver! It was chosen because of its “engineering and mechanical skill and habits of industry.”)

MIT International Center for Air Transportation

The MIT International Center for Air Transportation exists to improve the safety, sufficiency, and capacity of domestic and international air transportation and its infrastructure. It utilizes information tech and human-centered systems analysis to research Air Traffic Management, Air Transportation Infrastructure and Economics, Aviation Safety and Weather, Airline Management and Operations, Human Factors, Flight Instrumentation, and Environmental Impact of Aviation.


Interested in making your higher education institution more innovative? Connect with Vemo Education and learn how you can bring income-based student-financing solutions to your school.

Your Call to Adventure

He was born into poverty.

By age 14, he had lost both parents.

Left with only one brother, he was taken in by a local priest. The priest was a good man and taught the young boys the power of a disciplined, spiritual life.

His days were dark, but faith that the future could be better than the past kept him going. He became fascinated with languages, and soon he had mastered Latin and Greek.

Each day, the young man grew better at learning. He would read for entire days. Next, he was writing his own stories. Then, he was creating his own languages. He would band together with his friends and practice speaking the mythical languages he had created. The young man’s imagination was a fountainhead that inspired those around him.

But all of that changed in 1914.

Source

A political leader named Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austria-Hungary throne, was assassinated.

A month later, Germany declared war on Russia. Fear gripped world leaders, and soon World War I was raging.

Unlike many of his friends, the young reader and writer didn’t join the military at the first chance. Instead, he went to Oxford to finish his degree and continue his study of languages. While he studied, he kept writing and inventing new stories and worlds.

He loved his studies, but something was missing.

He had spent his life in the safety of the Church, of Oxford, and in the company of a small band of friends. The thing that was missing was direct experience in the real world. He had read about the world, but up until this point he had been too fearful to venture into it.

Was he a coward, he wondered? Was he brave enough to face and fight the evils that lay outside the safety of his small, peaceful community? He read the reports in the papers about the war. There was a wave of evil on the march, and if it was not stopped, soon it would be at the gates of his small world.

The young man joined the British Army as a second lieutenant.

Source

He arrived on the Western Front just in time for the Somme offensive. There he discovered a new band of friends and was soon closer with them than any of his friends from home. They all had to bond quickly because the threat of death was constantly in the air.

Four months in, he came down with a form of typhus called trench fever. Crippled by the illness that caused fevers, rashes, and migraines, he was sent back to England. During those first months home, he wrote letters to his friends. He was delighted each time he got a response and felt a bit less guilty for leaving them to fight on their own.

But the frequency of the letters from his friends trickled to a stop. What replaced them was news of his friends’ deaths. One after another, the news of their deaths arrived. It wasn’t long before all of them had been killed.

The man was distraught, and turned back to his books and writing to try and endure the madness of evil and war. Although his friends were now gone, he decided that their inspirations and souls must be placed in fiction that would outlive them all. His writing was more than a calling, it was a mission to give life to the memory of his fallen friends.

When he recovered, he returned to academia as a professor. He took a position at Leeds College first, then landed a position at his alma mater, Oxford. There he met new friends who were readers and writers just like him. His wife that he had met when he joined the British Army supported him the entire time, and soon they had a family.

Now his stories weren’t just for his fallen friends, they were designed to entertain and protect his children from the horrors of the world.

The teaching, research, and the exchange of ideas at Oxford invigorated him. But grading exam papers was soul crushing.

One chilly evening while grading papers, he found himself staring out the window at a cold and bleak Oxford winter.

Life has a funny way of bringing answers to those brave enough to seek them.

He forced himself to return to the task at hand — grading. He opened a student’s answer book and started reading. As he flipped the pages, he noticed that the student had left one page blank.

Without even thinking, the professor wrote ten little words on the empty page.

He leaned back in his chair and examined the words. They surprised him. They were the starting point he needed for one of his stories.

Like a bolt of lightning, he was back to writing his story, and new life was coursing through his veins. When he was finished, he rushed home to share the beginning of the tale with his children.

When he had a manuscript ready, he shared it with his group of writing friends and professors called the Inklings. His best friend Clive encouraged him to submit it to a publisher.

Months passed, and eventually, a London publisher read his manuscript. She was intrigued and passed along the completed manuscript to the managing director. The man took it home and began reading it to his ten-year-old son. His son read the entire manuscript while his dad was at work at the publishing house. That ten-year-old boy became the first official fan of the epic tale.

So what were those ten words that brought all of the man’s imagination to bear on a single tale?

They were…

“In a hole in the ground there lived… a hobbit.”

The man and veteran who penned them was, of course… John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

Source

J.R.R. Tolkien, who went by Ronald among his friends, brought the hero’s journey to life like no other author before him. His good friend Clive that encouraged him was none other than C.S. Lewis. The two friends had found their way to immortality through fiction, and Bilbo and Sam would go on to inspire a generation of young people. The tale would encourage them to leave the safety of the shire, go on adventures, and fight evil in the real world. That was the only way to become the type of people who one day could save the shire if evil tried to attack it.

If evil will be faced, fought, and overcome, we need heroes in the world.

Source

Tolkien showed us a path where each of us can become heroes. It’s not necessary for us to look like the heroes in movies or on TV. We don’t have to be perfect, or fearless, but we do have to be brave enough to face the fear and act anyway. We have to be brave enough to face overwhelming odds and have faith that good can triumph over evil.

No matter how lost you feel sometimes, or how trapped in the darkness you might be, there is always a way out. It is through that faith that you’ll have the courage to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. When your journey gets dark, remember these immortal worlds of Tolkien:

“Still round the corner there may wait

A new road or a secret gate

And though I oft have passed them by

A day will come at last when I

Shall take the hidden paths that run

West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”

Secrets, mentors, allies, amulets, and hidden paths await those who are brave enough to leave the shire.

So no matter how wonderful the safety of your shire is at the moment, remember that it’s not promised forever. Evil is alive and well in the world, and it is on the march. You can choose to stay in comfort and pretend that evil will not eventually overtake your shire…

Or you can band together with your friends, go out into the world, and face, fight, and overcome evil in all of its forms. That is the ultimate call to adventure.

That’s his story. What’s yours going to be?

The 7 Secrets of Writing From the Best Writers in the World

Despite what certain companies might want you to believe, writing well, by hand, is one of the keys to a satisfying life and a healthy mind. Writing by hand and then publishing digitally on platforms like Medium is the perfect combination. You get the tactical feedback and ability to write things down manually, and then decide what parts of it you should publish into the digital ocean. Sidenote: when you do decided to publish into that digital ocean, please feel free to submit your piece to The Mission! If it’s a good fit, we’d love to help promote your work.

November is national novel writing month (NanoWriMo) abroad, and locally at The Mission, it’s our Reading and Writing month all month long! Make sure you’re subscribed to our daily newsletter so you don’t miss any other ideas, tips, and tactics about reading and writing.

Without further ado, here are 7 little known secrets from world class writers.

1. The best writers fight to master themselves

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Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself –Publilius Syrus

Either you’ll be a loser that always relies on inspiration from others to get to work, or you will rule over yourself and do what you set out to do. If you’re going to write, rule over yourself. Nobody is perfect at it, but the writers who are even modestly successful at ruling over themselves are the ones that dominate the industry. Be a tyrant over yourself, but also give yourself a break. Remember that even Dostoyevsky couldn’t stop himself from gambling!

2. The best writers are the ones that read the best books

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Read a lot. Reading really helps. Read anything you can get your hands on. –JK Rowling

She’s not joking. If you don’t consume the best raw material and inputs, how could you possible create any great outputs? Read the best books you can find, and don’t be afraid to read them many times (even the books you loved from your childhood!).

If it’s a good book, anyone will read it. I’m totally unashamed about still reading things I loved in my childhood. –JK Rowling

And remember, if you’re not feeling one book, drop it and go onto the next one. If it feels like reading is a chore, keep searching for the right book.

If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book. –JK Rowling

3. The best writers are those that get direct experience in the REAL world

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Michael Crichton’s books, movies, screenplays, and non-fiction writing was decades ahead of his time. I often wondered about how he got some of his ideas for his fiction writing. When I finally got around to read his autobiography, it was instantly clear.

Crichton was a huge advocate of “direct experience” in the real world. He believed that the digital filters, information sources, and media was clouding our view of the real world and experiences we could have in nature. Almost every single fiction book that Crichton sold (out of the 250M or so he sold!) was inspired by some form of “direct experience” he had in the real world.

I eventually realized that direct experience is the most valuable experience I can have. Western man is so surrounded by ideas, so bombarded with opinions, concepts, and information structures of all sorts, that it becomes difficult to experience anything without the intervening filter of these structures. And the natural world — our traditional source of direct insights — is rapidly disappearing. –Michael Crichton

Seek out new adventures and experiences. Get direct experience without the digital filter of your smartphone, friends, or anyone else. Get lost in nature, and you’ll be forced to come face to face with new ideas.

4. The best writers write, every single day

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It’s a cliche, because it’s true. One of the most prolific and obsessive daily writers is Stephen King. You can’t writer hundreds of novels unless you write, every single day.

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.―Stephen King

5. The best writers aren’t afraid of showing their emotions

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No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader. –Robert Frost

Write what moves you emotionally. Believe that you can write something that will make yourself cry, and you will. Believe that you can surprise yourself with your writing, and you will. That astonishment will carry over to the reader.

6. The best writers write what society and culture hates

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You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children. –Madeleine L’engle

Culture tends to turn it’s nose up at emotions that are not convenient for culture. Most parts of society and “culture” are, in fact, a cult. The second you write anything that makes the larger group uncomfortable, watch out. For writers, the only safe way to share controversial ideas is through stories that are so simple, they appear as “children’s stories”.

7. The best writers don’t have formal education in writing

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The imagination cannot and must not be policed. –Camille Paglia

The writers who get more “education” before they write end up creating books that resonate with those who have had the most education. Education, if left to it’s own devices, becomes the practice of first limiting, and then policing the imagination.

The best writers do not police their imaginations. They do practice prudence, and they do censor themselves sometimes when they publish work publicly. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t hide esoteric ideas inside exoteric stories.

In closing, the best writers…

  • Master themselves
  • Read the best books
  • Write every day
  • Aren’t afraid of showing emotions
  • Write what society hates
  • Don’t have formal education

Becoming A Monopoly Of One With Skill Layering

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood.” –Terence McKenna



We’re living in a time period where it’s never been easier to become a polymath. But in practicality, there are many cultural and social hurdles to this achievement. The idea of becoming an expert at many things seems daunting to many people, so they never begin. As time elapses, it’s easy to fall prey to many fallacies that prevent us from ever exploring our own ambitions. This is foolish because the earliest time we have to begin anything is in the present moment. Personally, I believe that there is always a hidden path waiting for us to begin, no matter what age or life circumstance we’re at. This hidden path always stands ready and waiting, and it’s our own failure of imagination that prevents us from starting on our own unique path of perfection.

So why is it so difficult to become a polymath or monopoly of one today? First, if we aren’t careful about our relationships and assert our intentions or large ambitions publicly, we’ll likely meet warnings to “slow down” or “just focus on one thing first.” This can sometimes be prudent advice. But oftentimes the people who voice their concerns about ambition have bought into the lie that we must dream small so we’re never disappointed. Those who wish to be mission-driven must never be afraid to keep dreaming big after every setback they face. In many cases, it’s actually better to ratchet up your ambitions after you survive a challenging ordeal, since now, you have more experience and information!

The secret that all polymaths know is that it becomes easier to learn when we increase our workload. When we have many things going at once, we can cycle through projects appropriately. In order to tap into the full power of our brains, it helps to have the right amount of projects (sometimes dozens) going at once. We can start slowly, but by moving in and out of overwhelm, we’ll be able to increase our mental capacities to handle it all.

There have never been more low-cost learning resources available to speed up our learning. Just consider the humble podcast, for instance. This is something many take for granted, yet the technology behind it is extraordinary. On any given day, online or directly on our phones, we can listen to the best teachers in the world from any given industry or field of study. This morning, I listened to an interview with a technology entrepreneur that I follow. She has created immense value in the world and radiates contentment and joy. I was able to pick up much of her wisdom and many of her insights at almost no cost. She wasn’t just answering questions; she was distilling wisdom that’s potentially life-changing if it’s applied. We might not be able to personally hire someone like that for coaching, but we can listen for next to nothing thanks to a podcast. Podcasts are an incredibly undervalued way to receive digital mentorship from the best in the world. For those who have the faith, willpower, and patience to teach themselves, the time to learn how to learn is now.

The standout men and women of history have all been self-taught, skill layering, life-long learners. Consider Leonardo DaVinci, Lucius Seneca, Ben Franklin, Mother Teresa, Elizabeth Holmes, and Elon Musk. Many of these people started far behind where we are in terms of resources, familial love, and technology that we now have access to.

Each of these monopolies of one suffered through adversities and were able to prosper without all the advantages we have in front of us today. They managed to become self-taught masters of many skills. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in right now, others have triumphed over worse.

But how did these guys and gals do it? The simple answer, which we covered earlier and that most ignore (even after hundreds of years of it being repeated!), is that they learned how to learn through doing and taking massive action. They read, they wrote, they experimented, and they sought to be around others who were doing the same. They came up with ideas and then figured out how to begin pursuing them with the limited resources they (initially) possessed. They started small projects, they tinkered on and allowed their creativity to guide them from one project to the next. They didn’t look for their passions; they looked where it was easiest for them to invest huge amounts of effort and willpower.

To get started on this path, it can be helpful to begin rotating through many small projects in a strategic fashion. We can see for ourselves where we work the hardest and where we are the happiest. When it makes sense, we’ll know when to double down and go all in on a singular pursuit. Along the way, we shouldn’t judge ourselves for leaving projects unfinished. Learning to quit and leave some things undone is a healthy skill. We’re free to allow this learning and skill layering to ebb and flow based on our interests.

One of my favorite cartoon strips of all time is Calvin and Hobbes. The creator of the cartoon strip, Bill Watterson, rarely gave interviews. During one of those rare interviews, he was asked about creativity, productivity, and recharging. Watterson said,

“Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery — it recharges by running.”

This phrase can feel overwhelming until we stumble over the power of it for ourselves. When we find work or a pursuit that is making the world a better place, serving others, or spreading meaning… ten-hour days of work can feel short! Or, if we don’t have that luxury right now, we can explore recharging by coming home from our job and immediately switching over to a creative pursuit. The body and mind will revolt at first, but if we keep going, we’ll soon find a blissful, mission-driven state of rejuvenation.

One of the last hurdles to beginning to learn is that some people think we have to become world class at something before it gets interesting. They severely overestimate how long it takes to become skilled enough before new skills will provide us with meaning.

This hurdle is unfortunate because there are many things we can become “expert enough” at within only a few months. Expert enough means that we learn enough that we can begin to create valuable work that makes us feel mission-driven.

The process of skill acquisition on the road to mastery has been discussed extensively by several authors and researchers. These notable authors include Malcolm Gladwell, Timothy Ferriss, and Robert Greene.

Gladwell says it takes around 10 years to become world class. Greene takes a more strategic, Machiavellian-meets-Aristotelian view and says 10–20 years. But Ferriss comes in with the exciting reality that if we use the right stakes and incentives, we can become expert enough in a few months.

Mastery: top .01% of a field — takes 20 years

Budding Master: top 1% of a field — takes 10 years (outliers)

World Class: top 3% in a field — takes 5 years

Expert: top 5% in a field — takes 1–3 years

Expert Enough: top 10% in a field — takes 3 months to 1 year

More authors and researchers are beginning to emerge showcasing that “expert enough” can be accessible after only a few months of highly concentrated effort, stakes, and incentives. In his excellent book SmartCuts, author Shane Snow advocates studying the outliers or “fat tail” top performers in order to uncover the most sustainable paths that are both short and smart. Our culture has likely left us with warning alarms going off in our heads at encountering advice like this. Shortcuts? Taking the easy route? If our intentions are in the right place, and we’re seeking our mission, why wouldn’t we take every smart cut possible? From the Presidents of the United States, to CEOs of world-changing companies, it’s often the youngest and least experienced person that doesn’t know the “way things are done” who figures out the way things SHOULD be done, and then does them.

We’re also prone to underestimating the small victories that we’ll unlock along the way towards “expert enough.” Those small victories will compound. Compounding is, as Ben Franklin said, the eighth wonder of the world. Humans have a hard time imagining the sheer joy and meaning of their skills compounding, so they never begin.

At the expert enough level, there are plenty of ways for us to be compensated for our newfound skill or service. Also, consider how we can make the math part of the mastery equation work in our favor. To become the top .01% in a given field, it may take 20 years. But we can become the top .01% in a brand new field we create that combines several skills together. This is why becoming a monopoly of one doesn’t take nearly as long as traditional mastery in old, tired fields. Our mission lies in boldly exploring new combinations of skills for greater service.

Think about the person who chooses a few skills which are in high demand. They become expert enough at them, reap the rewards, and then repeat the process again and again. They might be one to three years into their learning, but they are not competing on the same playing field as the person who has focused on one thing, sunk in eight years of agonizing investment, and is wondering why he’s gone nowhere.

To become a monopoly of one and create a fulfilling and opportunity-packed life, we only need to concentrate on becoming expert enough at that first high-demand skill, break it down to a pursuit that only takes a few months, and then layer it with the next high-demand skill. This path makes the most sense logically and competition-wise. Why on earth would we want to spend 20 years devoted to becoming a master of a field overwhelmed with competition? It would be nearly impossible to become the leading computer scientist in the world without putting in at least 20 maniacally-focused years. But if we want to get started on becoming a world class polymath in technology, we could start learning the new iOS programming language, Swift. In only a few months, we’ll have a skill people will pay us for. Then, we could layer on the ability to port apps to Android, and we will be a hot commodity. Instantly, we unlock more options to work at more companies, freelance, or start a business of our own. Later on in our path, we can layer on JavaScript and other languages and competencies. In a short period of time, the person who does this will become a world class, full stack-developer. The person who takes the 20-year path to become an expert computer scientist will likely be eating ramen noodles as a teaching assistant while the person who layers her skills is busy reimagining a brighter future for us all.

The Premiere 21st Century Mindset, Goal, and Path

Some people hate the word “goal.” I agree that sometimes the definition can be murky. If we only focus and work towards one goal, we can find ourselves in a perpetual state of discontent. We tend to grow frustrated because we haven’t achieved it yet, then once we do, we become bewildered when the initial euphoria of victory passes. This is why a diversified set of goals, interests, and massive future projects are so important. With a basket of smaller goals, we can break each down until they are a series of little steps, with little victories, in order to consistently achieve the euphoria of “winning.” Once we begin spreading and breaking down our goals into manageable chunks, we can then pick out hyper-specific skills to begin learning. There are many small skills we can teach ourselves on the way to achieving broad and overarching goals. By starting with a massive goal, skill set, or pursuit, we can then get busy breaking it down into small, localized “goals” that we can begin learning. From there, we can learn the next skill, and then the next, until we gradually check off all the small goals necessary to achieve our big goals. On a path of learning like this, we’ll eventually find ourselves with an immensely valuable and unique set of skills. We’ll likely be at a place where competition is scarce. If we keep up the practice long enough, we’ll find ourselves as a monopoly of one.


“…Every business [or for our purposes, individual] is successful exactly to the extent that it does something others cannot. Monopoly is the condition of every successful business.” –Peter Thiel

“I’m not trying to find nobody else to beat.” –Drake

In this strategy and actions section, we’ll cover more examples of skill layering to become a monopoly of one.

If we want to become a world class designer, we might first practice sketching user experiences, learn Sketch and Photoshop, take on client work, and then build our own UX for our own apps. As we learn each skill and offer it to clients or the market, we’ll discover where the biggest margin lies: wherever there is an inefficiency in the market.

If we want to become a world class speaker, we could start offering gigs on Fiverr, Upwork, or ACX for voiceover work or narration. We could then find some speaking gigs by starting for free, and then begin to take free work with the condition that it’s recorded. After that, we can start charging a fee while sending out our recorded proof of work, or even take a sales job that forces us to speak articulately at length.

Examples of a Skill Layering Path in a High Demand Field

1. Learn the Apple iOS Swift programming language.

All we need to know about Swift is that its way easier to learn than its predecessor, Objective C — it’s a great time to get in! Apple will be the first trillion dollar company, so it might be a good idea to learn the languages they’re building.

Existing Swift developers have said the language is a huge simplification which creates an amazing entry point for anyone who wants to get started in the industry. If we learn Swift, we immediately have a skill people will offer us money for. At this point, we know we’re literally helping make the United States economy more efficient. We can even get started with a free book Apple has published detailing the Swift language. There are also online classes focused on Swift available via Thinkful and Udemy.

From this point, we could learn Sketch or Photoshop in order to do a little front-end work (if we are design inclined), or we could begin learning more about back-end work and APIs. This is just my non-technical explanation and brief skill layering overview, but you get the idea.

2. The next skills to layer onto the existing competency of Swift would be perfecting your app’s look and feel in the storyboard and becoming an auto layout guru.

3. From there, JavaScript can be extremely useful for learning the back-end of the apps we’re building.

4. Next, we can learn Amazon Web Services to become completely deadly and either start our own business or work to build apps for others. But at this point, there is a much better chance that we’ve received offers we can’t refuse and are being paid $150,000-$250,000 a year at a Silicon Valley technology company (and having breakfast, lunch, dinner and childcare paid for while we work).

5. Want to layer more skills? We can keep going and learn how to efficiently convert the iOS apps we build to Android via a tool like AppFolio. Now, we’ve moved even further toward creating a monopoly of ourselves.

6. From there, we go deeper into learning the existing skills we have. By this point, we’ll have found several niches with great margin and unique opportunity. Maybe we see an opportunity to layer on skills that involve learning sensors, HUDs, and wearable technology; the opportunities are endless.


The exercise below is to search for existing opportunities to start layering skills. Start below by writing down a skill people will pay for, then practice writing out skill layering progressions. How will we progress so that with each step, the air becomes more rarified, and we compete less and less?

We can even get technical and look up specific skills to estimate how many other people are proficient with them, and then study future projections and demand for them.

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Some additional questions we can ask ourselves when going through this exercise:

Is there a combination of skills we possess that no one else in the world has? Where have we already devoted 10,000 of our hours (intentionally or unintentionally)? Oftentimes, the answers we need about our own unique talents have been staring us in the face for years.

From this point, what brand new recipes of skill layering could we create?

If we’ve become proficient at teaching a specific type of class or skill, how can that directly translate into another sector? Is there a simple skill in this new sector that we could layer onto our existing training to reduce competition even more?

Now, let’s start looking extensively at places where we have an unfair advantage of practice. Maybe we are amazing parents, communicators, artisans, or great listeners. Or, maybe we have an analytical, left brain mind, with an obsessive attention to detail. Maybe we’ve worked and built things with our hands and are fascinated by building and machining.

Below, try the sample skill layering practice again by starting with where we already have invested time or have expertise. Feel free to continue to go through this practice. When our minds continually think in terms of finding less competition, our service to ourselves, those we love, and all of humanity continues to increase.

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