May 11, 2022

Bought a Desk With a Story

I have a new desk. But it’s not what you think.

10 years ago, almost to the day, I was in Seattle for month #6 of my Leap Year Project. I was thinking about how I might graduate from this entirely self-designed Master’s when an email popped up. A large TEDx conference in Chicago was accepting proposals for talks.

In Search of a Desk!
To be considered, I needed to submit a written proposal with an accompanying video. With the help of my friends Samuel Stubblefield and Dan Cumberland, we conceived of an idea of carrying a school desk around town while I talked about my self-designed Master's. We scoured thrift stores and antique shops until we found one. And then spent a day lugging that old desk around town.

I’ve never shared the video of that proposal, but here it is:

Note: This was filmed in 2014, so get ready for some young-Victor.

Thanks to the TED team in Chicago, the proposal was accepted and the talk became a memorable way to culminate the project.

It seemed fitting to continue using the desk in various settings as the analogy for experiential learning. But I was back in Chicago and that thrift store desk I used in the proposal was in Seattle.

Finding a New Old Desk
Luckily a friend told me about a film prop store in Chicago. And with some digging, we found a desk we could rent!

For the next several years, I got to know that desk well. It became the cover of The Leap Year Project book and the homepage of Experience Institute’s first website. We used it in videos, photoshoots with Ei Fellows in the year-long program, press pieces, etc.

I offered to buy it several times, but the store owner never wanted to give it up. I’d clearly paid for it multiple times over through rental fees, and she knew I’d come back for more.

Eventually, we didn’t need the desk as much. Especially during COVID. So I’d lost track of it.

A Generous Gift
But last December, on Christmas Day, my partner walked me to our living room where a large object was covered by a blanket. And sure enough, it was the desk! She’d applied her charm (and an undisclosed amount of money) to acquire that desk. And now it was sitting in our living room.

If I’m honest, at first I was more shocked than happy. It’s a large, heavy piece. Where would we put it? What would we do with it?

But as the memories flooded back, I realized how special of a piece it’s been. And now, the desk is nestled in the corner of our home, awaiting its next adventure.

Looking Ahead
When I look at the desk, I continue to think about the ways school has (and hasn’t) changed since it was built. It still feels connected to the big questions Ei is asking about the future of "school" for our entire lives, careers, and the workplace. All of which has sparked some amazing conversations with many of you. So we’ll be incorporating it into our next project. Stay tuned!

For Now, What Should We Call It?
I think it’s fitting to give it a name. What do you think we should call it? Add your ideas here and we'll share them back with you. (Note: Desky McDeskFace has already been submitted.)

More soon!

PS: Special thanks to our dear friends Daniel Kelleghan, Grant Legan, & Kevin Von Qualen for capturing hundreds of photos of our work over the years! Each of them has been a deep well of creativity, inspiration, and support.

The Spark You’ve Been Looking For

Visit our store to find award-winning education tools used by individuals and teams around the world.