Like I blogged about earlier this month, the stories of entrepreneurship coming out of my home away from home, Blacksburg, are growing by the minute. It’s extremely exciting to see, especially on the national level. Last night’s episode of the popular ABC show Shark Tank is a perfect example of exactly that.
Jack and Alley’s company, Taaluma Totes, has an absolutely extraordinary mission, and I’m proud to have been a supporter of theirs ever since I learned about them back in 2013, and was introduced to their product directly through the Innovate community in 2014.
It’s a story I tell often. Way back in elementary school, I was elected as the student body president during my 5th grade year. That was a defining experience. The most defining project – irrelevant then, but very meaningful now – was a group project working toward placing new mulch at the front of the school. That notion of community service was small, but the experience stuck with me. About a decade and a half later, I still reflect on that experience for really getting me engaged with community service in a meaningful way at a relatively young age.
Throughout my public school years, more events came and went, but the real next monumental moment was learning the meaning and the value of “Ut Prosim” – my university’s motto. And if you’re reading this blog, I doubt I have to go into that. :)
So, when I saw an invite come through to HESONWHEELS earlier this month for a program put on by the organization Voices for National Service, I immediately chomped at the bit. The organizations they were affiliated with and had done great work with – like Americorps, City Year, and the federal Department of Education amongst others – were organizations that I know try their best to instill service as a value in young people; which is identical to my own personal mission, too.
I remember growing up and learning what the internet was. I remember the gradual developments, from a dial-up modem where no one else in the house could be in the phone, to Ethernet that was way faster and seemingly always connected. And then came Wi-Fi in residential settings and man-oh-man was that a game changer. And then Wi-Fi became accessible and FREE in so many places. Then 4G and LTE came along, making it possible for us to load things and seemingly Wi-Fi speeds without even having Wi-Fi (let me go ahead and admit that I JUST got 4G in late 2014. I know. Late bloomer)! And, now, there are just options on options on how to access data and look something up quickly, ESPECIALLY if you own a smart phone.
So with the introduction of a revolutionary company and initial concept like Google, it’s safe to say that all of our lives were changed, and that Google was just the beginning. I am a firm believer in the use of technology, and I guess more specifically the internet, to change the world. Just yesterday I was reading an article all about how “fashion trends” are no longer a thing, one author wrote, because of the advert of social media and the elimination of boundaries to information flowing. I think using fashion as an example is a bit elementary (and unfortunately I couldn’t find the article for this blog) but I still completely agree!
With the determined, passionate leaders and individuals I know throughout the community who are great “boots on the ground” champions of town and university entrepreneurial success alike, I’m happy it’s a place that I call home.
Check out some of my favorite Virginia Tech start-ups at their websites, linked via their logos within.
In June 2014, I had one of the more transformative experiences of my entire life. I decided to attend the Firefly 2014 Music Festival. Thanks to Mauricio, a great Hokie friend of mine, my reservations about entering an environment where I would not be able to shower and also be rolling around in a giant dust bowl without super-convenient access to electricity were basically made non-existent. Check out the blog post about Firefly itself to learn more about that.
However, one of those main things is what we’ll zero-in on for this post: the lack of super-convenient access to electricity. At Firefly, they had cell phone charging tents on-grounds where … you can go to do exactly what it sounds like: charge your cell phone! While charging my phone, this particularly day I remember well becuase it was the same day as a big World Cup game for the U.S.A., I ran into a man named J.P. J.P. was my 1 new person that day.
So as you can see there, J.P. sent a meaningful note about a blog named Farnam Street. Later that summer when I began to use the news-agreegating app Feedly, I made sure to keep perusing Farnam Street. Farnam Street’s focus on culture and reading interesting books really grabbed my attention – as those are two things that I’m constantly become more engaged with and familiar with myself. It just struck me as a great blog, almost immeadiately.
Now, fast forward this past week. Uber-popular entrepreneur and space advocate Elon Musk did a “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session on Reddit, and while I didn’t catch it while it was active, it was all over my social media after the fact. I decided to scroll through it and catch some of the highlights, and ironically enough, all of the news coverage that I saw about the AMA session afterward were precisely my favorite parts about the entire session.
While I’m not too much a fan-boy of of Mr. Musk (admittedly I have not taken a ton of time to learn about him outside of the things that everyone knows about him: that he is from South Africa, is CEO of SpaceX, a co-founder of PayPal, a co-founder of Tesla Motors, and super innovative and risky in terms of his thoughts on transporatiton), I super-duper respect him because I know he care a lot about education. I think this one quote that he shared during his AMA session reflects that succinctly:
One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.
Yesterday, Farnam Street posted a great three-and-done highlight of what they thought was most interesting from Musk’s AMA session and I agreed with every single one. You can find their post here. Really though. Check it out.
Shoutout to J.P. for showing me Farnam Street and shout out to Shane Parrish for the great work he’s doing over at Farnam Street. It’s websites like these that make me excited and happy to get push alerts on my phone. Because I know that there’s a change they aren’t going to be a pointless note from Twitter about things the people I follow are retweeting. I know that I might open my Feedly to be greeted with something thought-provoking, intellectual, and head-scratching. And I think THAT is what the internet is all about: information discovery and knowledge gathering.
At the end of the day, I always have thought the real question is: how do you manage all of that information…knowledge…and stuff?
With one of my many passions being education, I spend a ton of time interacting with students and their educators. While my day job doesn’t allow me to do it quite as much as I would like I use my personal time, including a ton of time on social media, to meet students “where they are” when it comes to trying to understand them and the challenges they face. And quite frankly, I use the term “they” kind of loosely…I’m in my mid-20’s officially, but it still doesn’t feel like quite that long ago that I was where they were, worrying about the same things they were, whether it was my first big-boy job, moving away to college, losing all of my high school friends…the worry list could go on…
This month, I’ll be working on quite a few new contracts and speaking engagements, focusing on high school graduations for this summer. In order to deliver meaningful messages and really connect with these audiences, I’ve realized that it’s always best to do a little “research.” I occasionally will do some internet-based research outside of the social interactions that I have with students, most of whom are in middle and high school. I always lean on the social interactions, and I hardly ever take what I find on the internet as the overall truth…but this time is different. This guy hit the nail on the freakin’ head.
It’s funny because, for example, with Facebook – that’s definitely my “generation’s” form of social media. One of my parents came on board last year, every single one of my college friends has it, and uses it in an engaged way. But most of the students that I worked with during my graduate school years (who are graduating college in the next year or 2) use Instagram , just as he described. On the other hand, many of the high school students I interact with use Snapchat with each other. They ALL use Tumblr in exactly the way he described – without a firm identity. We all use WhatsApp to communicate with friends while they are away in another country where cell phone service would be radically expensive.
And I’m over here like “Forget all that. Can’t you just iMessage me?” Social media sure can be inundating sometimes!
And finally, although not as relevant to youth, the video below is one of my annual favorites. Although the 2014 iteration, in my humble opinion, isn’t as great as past versions it still provides a great visual and very updated statistics on how we are all interacting with social media (with a slight focus on advertising and marketing) as we are smack dab in the middle of the digital age.
Read the article above and then check out the video below!