I have experienced more personal development in the past year than at any time before it. Through TKS I went from somebody who thought high school was the epitome of learning to nearly dropping out.
I used to watch stores about the latest big thing on TV each night. Now, I go home and working on making building the next big thing. The catalyst? The Knowledge Society (TKS).
When I first joined, I started to realize just how far behind I was. I wasn’t behind other’s expectations of me, I was doing well by conventional standards. But, I could be more than conventional and, I realized that I wasn’t maximizing my potential.
I went through nearly three months of the program without truly starting to internalize the key ideas. But then, after those first three months, I realized what I had been doing wrong.
I wasn’t actively taking action on what I was learning to deepen my understanding of my personal growth.
What I learned from this is that you’ll only truly adopt a new idea when you discover at least some aspect of it for yourself. Self-discovery is why the methods in high school aren’t effective anymore. It’s why TKS has accelerated my learning by years.
When I finally connected with experiential learning, it unlocked my ability to take on other concepts I was learning at TKS. I started pushing myself harder to take advantage of opportunities and new environments where I could mess up and learn new things.
The three biggest lessons I learnt from TKS weren’t about specific technologies they were about how to think and grow.
Lesson 1: You Can Figure it Out
Want to develop networking skills? Go to the conference. Better yet, speak at the conference! And if you didn’t know how to network, you’ll figure it out
As I began to pursue more opportunities, I also started to hit obstacles.
When I spoke with TKS mentors, the response I got was, “figure it out.” The fact that a concept didn’t make sense told me that I had to experience it first-hand to learn it.
A week later, I found myself at a massive conference with hundreds of professionals who were:
- wildly successful,
- much smarter than me, and
- way older.
The third one is what stuck out as a barrier. Other attendees weren’t there to talk to some 16-year-old kid.
I kept trying to reach out, and over and over, I got brushed off or ignored. Discouraged, I found myself wandering around when the private speakers’ room caught my eye. At that point, I made it my goal to figure out how to get in and network with some of the bigwigs; surely they would see past the age barrier.
It took me about 10 minutes, and I figured out how to hustle my way into the speaker section. Right as I walked in, I almost immediately felt a shift in the environment. I walked up to a group of millionaire VCs and introduced myself to test it out. They didn’t brush me off; they didn’t ignore me. I was just another person at the event to them.
Finally, the notion of “figure it out” had clicked. Nobody is going to give you the answer, and if they do, it’s probably too good to be true. You will always be the best person to solve your problems.
Lesson 2: You can learn anything
This past summer, I started putting my TKS education to work by pursuing some projects in AI that I found interesting. The problem was, the world tells you that you’re not supposed to be able to develop artificial intelligence at age 16. A lot of resources I came across didn’t take long to mention some obscure concept from a graduate-level calculus class or something.
But with my passion driving me to learn something cutting-edge and valuable, I remained persistent. I ended up cracking open a calculus book, on Google and started reading. And reading and reading and reading.
As I began to understand some of the math, I also started losing sight of how learning all these theory-based mathematical concepts were going to help me, even if I managed to wrap my head around some of them.
But when I returned to some of the articles or guides I was reading on neural networks; I found that things were a little bit clearer with a few hours of reading.
This practice continued to prove successful, over and over again. Instead of getting hung up on the fact that people spend years learning what I wanted to know. I learned first-hand that if you start googling, you will, at the very least, gain an awareness of what you don’t know. From there, it’s just a constant grind of reading and watching videos until it clicks.
Lesson 3: Think Big.
In TKS, our team would be working on some project or trying to solve a problem in a particular industry. When we finally settled on an idea, we’d be told: “think bigger.”
Oft, we’d sit there wondering; “wasn’t the point to solve SOME problem, not necessarily THE problem? How could we possibly solve climate change?”
But that last question is the closest thing to thinking big most of us had ever attempted. How could we solve climate change? What we didn’t realize was that people don’t just wake up one day and solve things like climate change by accident
“Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do.” — Steve Jobs
You can’t solve important global issues without asking hard questions. How do we mobilize and find homes for hundreds of thousands of refugees? Or, how do we solve world hunger? At TKS, we worked on these projects with companies such as Airbnb and Nestle, and the problems were intended to be virtually unsolvable.
The point wasn’t to get us to solve some minor issue; it was a full-scale, globally relevant issue that forced us to think about really hard problems. This idea resonated with me after my first hackathon experience at Hack the North, where my team and I created something that could disrupt technological accessibility for people with disabilities on a global scale. You can read more about the project on my website:
Simply joining TKS won’t teach you these things; you have to experience them first-hand to truly adopt them as your own. The only way to get the experience is to immerse yourself in opportunity and surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
Get out there and build something!