"What, um... what exactly is it that you do? Like, what's your job?"
I get this question a lot, and, to be fair, it's pretty legitimate. It used to be, "What, um…what exactly is your major?" and before that I heard things more along the lines of, "What's with all the ruffled shorts and overalls?" [The answer to that one, of course, being a youthfully misguided fashion sense.]
Because I'm always busy, I haven't always had good explanations for what I'm up to, but I've always been good for asking great questions. As luck would have it, that's what the real work of my life has become: one giant exercise in asking compelling questions about the world around me and my relationship to it -- and helping others do the same.
Sometimes we find answers to those questions, sometimes simply better questions for more investigation.
"Okay, no really. What do you do?"
Fine. As of today, I'm
For all this, Fast Company highlighted me a few years back as a thriving member of "Generation Flux" -- a group of young people who have rolled with the punches of the modern economy.
Here to find out some specifics? Let's break down what I'm up to.
Sidenote: At the bottom you'll find a mailing address to which you can direct all the coffee of which I'm clearly in dire need.
Writing has always been the way I sort through ideas for myself, so I have multiple outlets where I talk about my interests and what I've been considering lately.
The bulk of my writing actually happens on my blog, StayOutOfSchool.com. There I explore ideas and issues that really matter to me-most everything that isn't addressed in a typical public American education. The major themes are creativity, discipline, culture, writing, and I sometimes interview other creative professionals about that much-fabled reality, being a professional artist. It's an interesting place with a lot of lively conversation when I do, in fact, post.
I wrote my first book, Outsmarting the SAT (Random House/Ten Speed) in 2008. A few years later I co-authored Winning the Customer (McGraw-Hill 2011) with formed CMO of the New England Patriots, Lou Imbriano, and in March of 2015 I'll be releasing my third book, Acing the ACT, back with Random House/Ten Speed.
Down the line I'd like to write more about creativity and the influences of culture on education.
As much as I care deeply about Algebra best practices and equipping kids with grammar skills, I care far more deeply about everything else. For Gen-Xers and Boomers, the working world is in major upheaval. In the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, many of us are still in the process of sorting out our professional and private lives. We're under-employed, beginning entirely new careers, and renegotiating what makes a family and who is responsible for what within one. We're living in a global economy and in never-before-experienced levels of connectivity, communication--and competition.
While we frantically regroup and talk new strategy about who we are, what we're doing, what our gender roles were and might become, and generally redefine the American economy amongst our own peer groups, younger generations are getting lost. They have pioneering technology and opportunity, but they are lacking the solid mentoring that ensures their success.
AFEV takes on these cultural issues in a time of crisis and rebirth. Naturally, in this time of upheaval and redesign, education reform is critical, but most of the discussion about what needs reformation is focused on what goes on inside the classroom. Meanwhile, every research study into educational outcomes--and, by extension, life outcomes--cites outside influence (family, community, etc.) as a significant indicator of student success.
What students see and believe about their future reality dictates how they behave and the opportunities they seek.
It's still true that the average American spends over thirty-five hours a week watching television. Only one in five of us reaches a state of focus and creative flow on any given day. The majority of us oscillate between anxiety and boredom as a lifestyle. We cannot seriously expect students to lead and pursue lives fueled by curiosity, ingenuity, and grit, to bother with education at all, if what we as a culture model for them is anxiety, boredom, consumerism, and fame-for-nothing.
Agency for Emerging Voices, Inc. engages in projects that aim to influence American culture in ways that foster creativity, ingenuity, work ethic, and meaning. Our long-tail endeavor is to create and model relevance for young people in the hopes of helping them create a better future.
Since I've been working directly with teenagers since my very early twenties, (and since my early twenties were, sadly, not just last year) their interests, perspectives, and ideas have stayed close to my heart. I figure if I can get them to focus and actively engage on topics as dry as standardized testing, we can connect that much better over topics that matter to them.
I'm all about tips and insights that empower older students to take hold of their wildly changing brains and set patterns of awesomeness as early as possible. There are so many speakers who spout hopeful words about the future-and that's great. But it's not my thing.
When I'm teaching groups of teenagers, we talk about how to be relevant, to understand oneself, to think about real, relevant goals, and to develop fresh perspectives on the world around us.
As an extension of my research at StayOutOfSchool.com and my decade of teaching, I speak to adult audiences about topics related to education, culture, competition in the new global market, and cultivating quality of life. Specifically, I talk about:
We always end with actionable advice that can be implemented this week.
I also teach and offer workshops with entrepreneur Greg Hartle on skills for navigating the modern business and cultural landscape.
Then there's the test prep.
My tutoring company is a natural outgrowth of my book Outsmarting the SAT. I began prepping students for the SAT when I was 23 or 24. I'm one of those people who's just naturally good at standardized tests, and it didn't take me long to realize that I wanted to explain to students to see the tests the way that I saw them. After a few years of parsing out topics and skills-along with the help of some brilliant students who helped me refine my own thinking-I got really good at tutoring. Really good. Eventually that led to working with some of the finest tutoring companies in New York City and some incredible coaches from whom I learned so much. That led to flying all over North America and working with people whose names you'd recognize.
I'm the secret weapon of the most competitive students you know. Think Tank Education International, Inc. serves as a boutique outlet for test preparation catering to students from all over the world who want to optimize their chances to achieve entrance to a United States university. We serve students from Miami to Kuwait, from New York to Stockholm, and Los Angeles to Argentina. My hand-picked team and I provide completely customized online educational experiences that not only generate outstanding test scores but, more importantly, the discipline, focus, critical thinking, mental toughness, and creative problem solving skills that students can use once they arrive at their dream colleges-which is the whole point, anyway.
Everybody loves a little dish, so here are some extras about me:
For all inquiries, including keynotes, media appearances, workshops for your business, non-profit or gov't agency, and advisory roles please send me a message using the form below. I would love to hear from you!