Why do we do what we do?
The Fall semester has started and the new students have arrived. Something over 60 new brave souls have taken their first steps into the mentality of team learning and entrepreneurship. Eight of them landed in our company, Eventa Creative, to join the ranks of the world’s first Team Business working with the continuous model. Every Fall we take some new members and every December the most veteran segment of the team graduates and moves on. The ready-built company structure and the shifting of members give their own, unique aspect to our studies in Proakatemia.
The newcomers that end up starting their own companies with their teams must go through the legal procedures of settling on a name and listing their company in the registry before they can start planning for their services and projects. In Eventa, all of those hindrances are already taken care of and the first major question our new recruits are faced with as soon as they join our company is: What kind of business will you be creating? It’s not an easy question to answer, not even to those that are approaching their final semester of studies and nearing graduation.
The learning model of Proakatemia is heavily focused on learning by doing, where the purpose is to combine learning with creating business. Our aspirations can be to learn a new skill or to strengthen our existing abilities while simultaneously turning the products of our learning process into business applications. You want to develop as a leader? Gather information, take the role of a project manager and take your newfound skills to the test by trying to get the most out of your crew. Or maybe seek the position of the Business Leader of the company (CEO). The same goes for technical skills such as graphic design. Find yourself a customer, make a contract and then search out all the knowledge required to fulfill that contract.
This is how it is supposed to work. Far too often we say yes to different opportunities and realize halfway through the project that what you ended up doing is in fact not what you wanted to learn. Far too often we forget to set the goals to our personal development beforehand and only remember to look back after everything is done. Then we miss most of the things we could’ve learned. If we could start the project over with our focus on that specific area we want to learn, we could analyze the situation, find our strengths and weaknesses, use them to our advantage, make assumptions, test our assumptions out and take greater risks to learn more.
I spent a good part of my first year at Proakatemia doing things and looking back at what I had learned afterwards. During the summer, while struggling to find the motivation to work on a graphic design project that had run into trouble and required hours and hours of tedious work to catch up, I started asking myself why am I doing this? Why am I spending time doing something that I find dull and boring when I have the possibility to do whatever I want to? Was this entrepreneurship, selling myself to do boring and repulsive tasks just for money?
No, I decided. This is not why I took this project. I took everything I had done so far, took the plans I had made with the customer and deleted almost all of it. Then I took a new look on what it was that I wanted to learn and started putting it to use. I didn’t care what the customer wanted, I wanted to make the book look like it was made by me. I refused to do things the way I had done them before and instead forced myself to find new ways to make things. I found it interesting to work on the project again, as I didn’t try to stick to what I already knew. And it showed, the client was also excited by the new look things were getting.
Every team in Proakatemia will, at some point in their existence, have a serious discussion about Learning versus Making money. Some members of the team will be rooting for money to be the bigger and more correct motivator in choosing projects, while others will choose to stand by with learning as much as possible, even at the cost of the profit. Often, they are thought to be mutually exclusive, while they are nothing but different viewpoints. You can work on a project with profit as your only motivator and you will walk away with nothing but money. But if you replace the starting point of view to be reflective of your learning goals, you can walk away with not only the money but with something invaluable: real, personal experience.
The most critical skill in setting those goals is self-reflection. The skill of knowing yourself and analyzing your feelings and realizing when you lie to yourself. Our actions are born from feelings and to understand why we do what we do, we must understand how we feel. When we understand, what makes us get out of the bed in the morning, makes us smile to our colleagues and makes us work harder than ever before, we can use that knowledge to determine our goals. It could be the feeling of importance or the ability to help someone else that drives us forward. It could be being part of something bigger or simply exceeding yourself that makes us feel alive and invincible. There are over 1900 words for different kinds of feelings in the English language and there are countless feelings that we can’t describe.
Part of the mentality that is quietly preached around Proakatemia is to act before you think. It is only partly true. It is true, that getting stuck in making plans and having meetings is the death of every prominent idea, but it doesn’t mean we should act without a purpose. To get the most out of our endeavors, we should understand WHY we act. Planning is usually unnecessary when you understand why you want to do something, cause every decision will be based on that feeling and therefore, both is and feels right. There is no need to stop to second guess why should we do this or that when you already know to reason to every question you will face.
When you understand, what kind of feeling makes you tick and match your goals with it, there is nothing that will stop you from achieving your goals. You will find a way to achieve it, regardless of the resources available. You will have an iron strong belief in the fact that you can. The human resourcefulness knows no boundaries and necessity is the mother of all innovation. That is what entrepreneurship is all about: believing in your own idea, to take your dream and work until the reality matches with it.
It took me a year of studies and a lot of mistakes to learn. It took me a trip to Iceland and a moonlight discussion where I tried to explain a fellow scout what makes a decision wrong or right. I ended up saying out loud thoughts I didn’t know I even had. There is no difference between right and wrong decision or success and failure, what determines their existence is the way you look at them afterwards. We all have experiences in our lives where you could by many outside scales say that we made a terrible decision, still we feel like we made the right one.
So, my dear reader, don’t let yourself off easy. Question your reasons and uncover your lies. Search for knowledge not only from external sources but also from within yourself. Spend time thinking thoughts that shape your values and make you feel uncomfortable. You constantly evolve as a human being, so never stop. Get a friend to ask you why until you run out of reasons. Then trust the things that you find. Always aim to be able to answer without hesitation The Question: Why do you do what you do?