March 19, 2016

How will you survive Experience Institute?

I can hear the concern when people ask me questions about Experience Institute. I understand why people worry how my year is going to turn out. They’re concerned about me being safe and finding a place to stay. They picture my path becoming derailed or people taking advantage of me. They cannot imagine surviving a year like mine. They’re imagining the following scenes:

I feel the apprenticeship is slipping away from me me. Instead of learning about storytelling, I’m dealing with an uncomfortable situation. My boss is demanding I deliver things that are outside of my current skillset, while ignoring my educated warnings about this path. Showing up everyday to this tension will not lead to long-term learning.

I’m sitting in an Airbnb room in a converted dermatologist’s office; the room is not what was advertised. I’m exhausted from moving, unsure what my next move is and afraid I will run out of options.

I’m lost in a big city. It’s raining and I can’t make my phone work because I got water in the case. I have no idea which direction to go, so I start walking - in the wrong direction.

The Greyhound bus doesn’t show up. Not prepared to stand outside for two hours, I’m starting to think a popsicle might warm me up because the temperature has dropped. I’m having problems with my contacts and can’t really see. I’m overcome by the resolve of movement and need for stable footing. I wonder if I’m going to survive the year.

These are the scenes from my year that likely won’t show up in my capstone Experience Institute video. I didn’t document them, and the lessons feel shallow and self-defeating. Sometimes you have to wait for the bus—perhaps this bus is never coming.

It’s in these struggles that I see the secret of Experience Institute’s success. This program is not just about creating connections or becoming better storytellers. I see great value in finding the ability to continue onward.

We all face roadblocks in our lives. Sometimes they make us pause and reevaluate what we’re doing. A lot of times we try to navigate around them or we turn around and look for a less obstructed way. Experience Institute forces you to go through them.

The school’s secret to success is instilling in its students a sense of quiet confidence. This confidence is not worn as an emblem on your chest or a degree hung on a wall. This confidence is felt, but not seen.

Look for the signs in Experience Institute students and alumni you meet. It’s the hint of a smile when people ask a student if they worry about what might happen next. It’s the mischievous shrug of the shoulder by alumni when someone asks if they are worried about where life is heading. It’s the pause for air, just before I dive into the depths of another battle.

If you’re worrying about someone’s dark moment this year, take a second to reconsider. I certainly am becoming better by building this confidence. This program is sharpening me, rather than shutting me down. If this bus doesn’t show up, I’ll find the next one.

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