Read the full transcript of Episode 44 of the NAIS New View EDU podcast, which features co-authors sam seidel and Olatunde Sobomehin joining host Tim Fish for a discussion of their book Creative Hustle: Blaze Your Own Path and Make Work That Matters.
Tim Fish: We talk a lot on New View EDU about the purpose of school. What do we want for our students? What are we really preparing them to do and be?
Today, we’re going to dig deep into that question with the authors of a new book about bringing creative practice and discipline into our lives. We’re going to find out how to develop mindsets and skills in our students that will propel them to a sense of purpose, drive, ambition, and fulfillment — what our guests call “Creative Hustle.”
sam seidel is the K12 Lab Director of Strategy + Research at the Stanford d.school, and the author of Hip Hop Genius 2.0: Remixing High School Education and Changing the Conversation About School Safety.
Olatunde Sobomehin is the founder and CEO of StreetCode Academy, a nonprofit dedicated to bridging the digital divide by empowering communities of color to embrace tech and innovation. He’s also an Aspen Institute Scholar, a Praxis Fellow, and Social Entrepreneurship Fellow at Stanford University.
Together, sam and Tunde are the co-authors of Creative Hustle: Blaze Your Own Path and Make Work That Matters. I have been immersed in the book lately, and let me tell you, it’s absolutely transformative. I am so excited to welcome sam and Tunde to New View EDU.
Tunde and sam, thank you so much for joining us today on New View EDU.
sam seidel: Thanks for having us.
Olatunde Sobomehin: Tim, I love your energy. Can't wait.
Tim Fish: Well, thanks, Tunde. You know, let's jump in right away to the book and to this concept of "creative hustle." You know, I love it. I have read the book now twice. I bought copies of it for my own children. I am curious in a, in a sort of a short whatever summary, help our listeners understand. What is "creative hustle"?
sam seidel: I think you're asking conceptually what it is, but I'll say kind in terms of form, it's a few different things. It's a, it's a concept that the two of us connected around and we'll explain what that concept is in a moment.
It's also a course that we developed and taught to a mix of students from Stanford University and Street Code Academy, and we can talk more about those institutions. And then as you already mentioned, Tim, it's also a book. So it's taken each of these forms and now we're, since the book came out, it's also becoming living in the world in a bunch of new ways, through these conversations, through popping up at conferences, through being invited in to work with schools, districts, organizations, companies who are interested in better understanding and sharing the ideas of creative hustle.
So those are some of the forms that this has taken in terms of what it is and what it's about. The subtitle of the book, as, as I'm sure you've seen, it's right on the cover, is Blaze Your Own Path and Make Work That Matters. And part of our passion is saying to folks in any walk of life, don't just settle for the track that you've been put on by this society.
Really think about who you are, what you believe in, what kind of change you want to make and move in the world, and pursue it. And so our, our goal is to support people in those endeavors. And that's the purpose. Whether it's a course or a workshop or a book or a worksheet or a website or a video, it's really all about trying to help folks look at what they're doing and not necessarily toss anything out, but say, how can I be intentional about crafting a life that is really guided by purpose, that really brings in my own creative brilliance, and where I'm moving things in the world that matter to me.
Olatunde Sobomehin: As sam sort of eloquently and beautifully put, what our hope is for our own personal lives and for all the people that we're in community with to live into this, you know, independent expression of life. You know, there is a sort of hip hop, you know, energy to it, a, a bucking against what is already predetermined or what's expected. And so, that is a very difficult road for any of us in any genre. And I think what the book and creative hustle also speaks to is, look, this is not an easy road.
There are a lot of people who have done it, and here are the things that we've mined from the hundreds of people that we've observed, and many of them very up close. Here are things that we've mined. It has not been easy. It has not been a quick shot. This is not a microwave solution for kind of how you, how you live your own life.
This is, this is, takes time. It's a, still a journey. Everyone that we profiled in the book are in the middle of their journey. They're still going through it. There's, there's volumes of this that I think could be written. And we wanted to just be a mirror to some of that and to kind of codify it in a creative way.
And, and I think the last thing I'll mention is that, because we had, we worked with artists like Khristopher "Squint" Sandifer and Jori Tytus and, and Hope Meng, the book is, you know, more than just a book. It is, it is a very visual experience and we've tried to bring that visual experience every way that we can.
It's kind of hard on an audio podcast, but we'll do our best to represent the sort of energy that we feel like we've been able to capture in the book, in, in many of the experiences.
Tim Fish: I love it. You know, I love it and I want to hear more about this idea. You know, in the book you talk about how it all began with a class, right? It all began with sort of, and, and one of the ideas I love about the way you did the class is you brought these two communities together, students from Stanford, and also people you are working with in Street Code Academy.
And kind of smashed them together to create something new in this class. And tell us more about how that came to be and what you found when you, when you took that new opportunity and brought it forward.
sam seidel: I think that one of the things that Tunde and I connected on very early in our, our friendship, colleagueship, was how much better we, we believe our own lives are, how much richer they are, and how much more we've been able to do in the world by being able to move between parts of our society that are often really segregated. And, you know, we've both had this incredible opportunity to, to spend time in a place like street Code Academy in East Palo Alto, and also spend time in a place like Stanford University.
Which geographically are close, but in terms of access to resources and, and in so many other ways are kept very separate. And we connected on, in our own journeys, just how growing up we were able to be in multiple worlds that are often kept separate. And I'm particularly talking about sort of the ways that privilege of various sorts functions in our society.
And how can we open that up for more people? Because too often folks are, are, are just kept really separate by some of those boundaries and the walls. So how do we make those boundaries, those borders more permeable? And I think that the very first class that we created, that part of what we were interested in doing was puncturing, creating more portals in some of those, what can be really thick boundaries or borders between institutions, between communities in our society. So it was almost, I think that aspect of the course was almost as important as anything content-wise that the course was about. And in fact, they were quite connected, the content and that move, because as I said in the very beginning, we're trying to help other folks and ourselves really think about what it means to break down these kind of tracks we've been put on.
And part of that is bringing folks together to even connect and understand what each other are working on and thinking about. And that is part of how we're going to erode some of those tracks that have been deeply carved. So that, that was a part of the ethos. And really in everything that we do together, we're always thinking about how to break down and make those boundaries more permeable.
Tim Fish: Yeah. You know, it starts with, the book starts with this whole idea of you know, understanding your goals and gifts. You know, and as I started listening to it, it was reminiscent for me of one of my other favorite books that I listened to and read probably 10 years ago, which was Designing Your Life, another book that came out of Stanford and applied the design thinking approach to thinking about your life.
And what I love about what you've done with creative hustle is you've kind of put a new relevance on a lot of that thinking. And throughout the book, there's a journey that I went on, thinking about myself. And the reason I bought it for my kids is I was like, I think my kids are on a journey as well.
We're all on a journey, and that journey really begins with a recognition, some thinking, some reflection on gifts and goals. Tunde, tell me a little bit about that notion of gifts and goals and how there's an interplay between both of those.
Olatunde Sobomehin: The idea of gifts and goals was interesting because sam and I, let me just say that we have almost a probably understated appreciation for some of those marginalized or sort of underrepresented or overlooked populations. Like we both get a lot from those communities. I think about sam's first book, Hip Hop Genius, and how much attention he put to, you know, to folks and how, and, and you know, he called it genius, right?
There wasn't, it wasn't like a, a hip, you know, hip hop knowledge, it was like, yo, there's, there's, there's genius here, right? And so for me, I admire the communities that I serve in and, and I'm a part of. And to sam's earlier points, like oftentimes those are the ones that are disconnected.
And then we kind of look at like, all right, well our communities that are disconnected have a lot to gain from Stanford. But I think both sam and I know like, Stanford has a lot to gain from these communities. And one of those things is like, Man, look at how you've moved in the world to actually express out your gifts and goals.
Like that's a real admirable quality, even in the midst of obstacles, you know? We first got together, sam wrote this and it, it stuck from the class to the book to now workshops. He, he kind of captures Jay-Z's arc in a, in a few lines. And he had this line at the end of it that I really appreciated because he said, you know, here's Jay-Z, this, you know, multi-platinum. He's award-winning. He's a father, husband, he's, you know, the president of this, he's created, you know, all these businesses. And he's done this in the midst of systemic obstacles of oppression. Like, not little. Like, he was born in the projects. So sam brings that out. And like when you, when you can witness that, that's admirable. Because not only are you accomplishing these things, but you're doing it in the midst of all this other obstacles. Right? And that's, that's really admirable.
So I think when we first got together, we, we talked about, well, how does someone get like that? Right? We talked about people who we admired as creative hustlers. That, yes, it's very easy to see the obstacles for a community that has been systemically and historically oppressed. And even with those of us who have privilege, we still struggle with that too. And so we knew that both Stanford and East Palo Alto, as different as we make them to be, both shared this. How do I move to my goals? And that's an individual piece. You do it in community, but that's the individual journey that we all are on, no matter where we sit in society.
So that's the idea of it. I think the last thing I'll say about gifts and the nuance that I think about goals is that we've, we've been affirmed that us not being prescriptive to what your goals are, that you define them, is a real beautiful thing, right? This, we're not talking about your financial goals, we're also not excluding those, right? So there's this play around like how you define your goals, however you want to define them. And for me, who has several of these canvases sitting in front of me every day, I'm not at my desk right now, or I would show you like I have about four or five of these sitting at me because they all have different goals.
And it allows for that sort of dynamic life that we're all living to, to exist inside this canvas. And on the other side, with the, with the goals, it's very difficult. We found people to identify their goals and you know, we have some prompts and some ways to kind of hone those out. But we also identify that it's not things that you're just gifted in, right? These are things that you may have worked at, and almost earned as a way to have a goal. So we've made both of those really open-ended and allowing them to be, to grow along with you, so that what your gifts to goal sheet looks like at 35, may not look the same at 40, may not look the same at 36, may not look the same in a month, and that's OK.
We made it scrappy and we, we encourage people to, to make that a journey.
sam seidel: So when Tunde's mentioning the canvases that, that pertains to an activity that we've led in the class, that we lead in workshops and that the book actually is structured around, which is what we call the gifts to goals canvas. So when he's describing having them around, we're talking about this canvas that helps folks, readers, students, whoever we're engaging with, think about what their goals are that they're trying to move toward, what gifts they're bringing to that, and then, throughout the course of the class or the book or the workshop, we, we kind of break out these tracks along the way that help—we, we believe—move toward those goals.
So I just wanted to explain what the Canvas reference is, for anyone who hasn't yet read the book or been in one of the workshops or classes.
Tim Fish: What also taps into one of my favorite frameworks is the business model canvas. I'm sure you both have seen it, and this notion of a canvas, this notion of a single page where you just draft out some ideas, right? You just can scribble it together, and it's in its simplicity where the beauty is. Right?
What I also love about gifts in the book is, sam, when you're talking about your gifts, you talk about sort of two gifts. I think were critical thinking, I believe, and public speaking. And the critical thinking, you're like, yeah, I kind of, all my life I've had this critical thinking thing, and then you talk about public speaking and you're kind of like, yeah, it's a gift, I guess. But I'm also terrified every time I get ready for a talk, I also over prepare. I throw stuff out. And for me that is the power of it, right? Because a gift is not always something you just like, nail it every day, right? That a gift can be something that you're in this kind of pursuit of, that you, that you might love, but you're also imperfect in your understanding of it at this moment. Right. And so for me, that was a big revelation because I think these gifts are not just innate. They overlap with my goal of what I hope to be, as much as what I am at this moment, if that makes sense.
sam seidel: Yeah, it does, actually. And yeah, thanks for mentioning that part. And I, I do think if that's like one, the only contribution we were to make, I would feel good about it. I'm referring to the, the complication of the idea of a gift, not just being something you're born innately good at, but something that you for whatever reason, feel compelled to come back to over and over. Maybe you hold a higher standard for yourself on this thing than on anything else. But that actually, it can be a tortured gift. And I think when you talk about public speaking, for me, I, I feel that way. But helping folks to recognize that those are some of the things that even if they're extremely self-critical about, they are gifts for them to offer to the world.
Tim Fish: What I love about the book is that it's also not about the two of you. I mean, certainly there's a little commentary, there's a little bit of your ideas, but fundamentally it's about the stories of nine people that you admire. And you tell their stories about how did they get to it. And what I also love is that you say, this is kind of like a self-help book, but it's not designed to be a self-help book.
You've got this sort of complicated relationship with the, with this notion of, is this about self-help or not? So before we jump in to the stories of the nine people, how is it or is it not a self-help book?
Olatunde Sobomehin: Yeah, no, I, I want to give a peek behind, sam identifies, or at least I've heard him identify himself, as a recovering lyricist. I'm sure you get what that entails. And, and so we would be talking through a lot of these ideas and I feel like sam would bring some of that lyricism, that poetry. Capturing some of the nuance. You talk about his gift of creative thinking. And so just, I'm just, you know, peeling back a little bit behind the scenes of us writing the book and, and when sam kind of identified that we were really playing with these, this dynamic between, man, there's a lot of things that we want this to be.
And then also a lot of things that we don't want this to be, you know, we want creative hustle to be about economic empowerment and you being able to make a living doing the thing you love, but it's not really about the money. It's both of those at the same time, you know? And so we played that with a couple different notions, and you're right, one of 'em was this notion about, you know, self-help books.
And, and sam, I'll, I'll cue you up for that. Just given, just given the context.
sam seidel: Yeah. And, and this is probably, I'll just a little, if you'll indulge me in a little background story, Tim, or this was probably the piece we fought hardest to keep in the book. It kept getting cut out and, and we just kept being like, it needs to be in there though.
But anyway, to your question about it being a self-help book or not, we did do this little lyricist wordplay thing of saying it is, and then in parentheses, is not, a self-help book. And really what we were trying to get at is like, on the one hand, a book written to help people be better versions of themselves is a beautiful thing. Like why else should we write a book?
On another hand, the genre of self-help books often come across with this false notion of a meritocracy that's like, you know, if you just hustle a little harder, if you just optimize your life and act a little more productively, you could be successful like all these people. And ignores all of the social structures that have enabled certain people to quote unquote, succeed in the eyes of our society. Right? It's like, oh my re—so, so it's easy to read one of those books and say, I guess I'm just not working hard enough, or I'm not smart enough, or I haven't optimized myself or my life or my family in these ways. And very few of those books, I think, fully acknowledge the systems at play that have moved someone to be successful.
So it kind of leaves us in, in this conundrum where it's like, so should we write about how to think about our lives in new ways and, and how to become better versions of ourselves, or should we say no, there's all these systemic forces at play, so we shouldn't do that. We should just wait for those to change, and then we can think about how to move things we care about. And I think where we landed was like, yeah, systems do need to change. And systems are changed by people. We are those people. You know, the folks reading the book, the folks in the class. So what do we do? How do we move forward with love and care for ourselves and each other?
Not beating ourselves up or saying I'm not good enough, smart enough, hustling hard enough, anything like that. No, like how do we love on ourselves and love on each other and say, I actually want to see things be different. I don't want the next generation picking up those same self-help books and feeling bad about themself the way that I might have.
So we need to change some things. And this book is like our best attempt, and I'm sure it's not perfect. It doesn't give every blueprint, every code, every secret password. But it's our best attempt to say, here are some things to try. And to your point about the nine individuals we profile, here are some examples of folks who are moving in the world and not letting that stagnate them.
That doesn't mean they're pretending that those dynamics don't exist, or shaming other people who haven't been able to do the same things they're doing, but they're making stuff happen. And can we learn some things from them that will be fundamentally satisfying for ourselves, that it will allow us to live lives that we feel good about and proud of, and that might change some of those very systems that a lot of self-help books ignore.
Tim Fish: That's something I think is so important when you think about it. And it's something, that's why I think also as a father, that's why the book spoke to me about, as a gift to my own children. 'Cause I've been hesitant to give my children a gift, a book that says like, go push harder, rah rah, you know, grind.
You know, instead this is like, you know, just be on your journey, right? Take your next step, build your network, think about your principles, and really think about what is going to be your practice. Right? The part I love about the canvas is this idea that you got, you're moving from, from your gifts to your goals, right?
You're in that sort of, the gifts to goals canvas, and what's in the middle of that, right? What's in the middle is three really important things. Right. Your principles, your people, right, and your practice. So before we jump in and talk about how all this stuff we're talking about relates to education, tell our listeners a little bit about principles, people, and practice, and how those three things help in that gifts to goals journey.
Olatunde Sobomehin: Man, Tim, I had goosebumps hearing you reflect.
sam seidel: I did too.
Olatunde Sobomehin: Yeah, and I'm fighting emotion because, you know, I'm a father of four children. And on two fronts, right? One, every day I wrestle with where they are in the world. And even before we talk about their gender or their ethnicity or their race or their socioeconomic positioning or their…you wrestle with the universal pressure of expression, and them being themselves and, and them conforming, and how do you do that? And it's really tough as they grow through early, you know, early adults for some of my kids, and teenage years. And so just hearing you reflect on that just made me reflect on my own children.
And the second thing is that we were very intentional about writing something that spoke to the generation of young people that we're all connected to, and some of them are our family, our, our nephews and nieces. Some of them are our own kids. And so to have you validate that yes, this is something that does speak to them is validating. So I appreciate, appreciate that perspective. I think this is important to have both of our voices on, but I'll give you a quick sort of what I think about principles, people, and practice.
Creative hustle are these two notions, right? There's creative, which speaks to the ambitious part. It's the grand thought of where you want to be. It's the vision. And then you have people who, who center, centered that. And then you have the practice, which is the action. That's how you actually move it forward in the world. And you know, we often talk about, reference artists and people who have grand visions, but can, can get stuck in the, the grandness of those visions or can get stuck in the creative part and never really move it forward. And then folks who, you know, lose sight of the vision as they're moving forward. And we've had people who are retirees, right, who are saying, man, I wish I would've held onto those principles a little more because I made an entire career just moving. But I, I lost track of those principles, right?
So to your point, we tried to simplify. Capture the biggest way that you could think, right? What are my principles? What moves me? What grounds me? What am I going to hold onto in the moments of transition, in the, in the difficult moments, the challenging moments, and the moments that are really tempting for me to kind of steer left or right, what's going to really be my anchor? And that's the principles.
The people are the real centerpiece, right? Like any of all these folks, we, we do it in a community. sam was, was, I think really nuanced and wise to reference that when we talk about the us who's going to make the change, we're talking about the people who helped make this book possible, right? Our, our students helped make this book possible. All of our friends who inspired us helped make this book possible. People like you who are getting these ideas out there, make this book possible. So there's nothing we're going to accomplish without community of people. Some of those people will be in your circle tangibly, some of those people will be your reference points from history. Some of them live in the form of ancestors. Some of them live in the form of our visions for future generations. Some of them we've never met. Some of them we've only heard their audio book or only read it. So, but, but nonetheless, there's going to be a community of people that are going to help you move this.
And then the practice is like, what does this look like on a daily basis? And I know we're going to talk about education. Well, I'll leave it there. That's kind of the summary of, my summary of principles, people, and practice.
sam seidel: I think an important thing I just wanted to note is that in all of the folks that we talked to and interviewed for the book, many of whom we didn't get to include whole chapters on, all three are present. So even though we might profile Tesa Aragones in a chapter, or in a section of the book around practice, when you read about her practices, they're about her principles.
She has daily practices that help her stay in touch with her principles. And so it was, it was a challenge for us as authors to both make it clear why we were putting each story in the section it was in, but not erase a really important point, which is that everyone we talked to, and this is why these became the major themes, the major sections of the book, the major sections on the canvas. Everyone we talked to, whose creative hustle we admire, all three of those pieces were, were very present.
So I just wanted to say that because I think that in the, in a structural decision we made about the book, about putting people in sections that pertain to one of those words, there's a potential for there to be confusion. Like, oh, you just have to do one of these things really well. And that's definitely not what we're saying. Hopefully that came across, Tim, when you were reading it. But in fact, what we're saying is like all of these are essential ingredients. Every single person we talked to was able to identify those pieces, and that's why they became the big, the big themes in the class, on the canvas, and in the book.
Tim Fish: Yeah. I, I felt that, sam, innately as I was reading it, so just know that I think you accomplished that goal in making that separation.
You know, also as I was reading the book, and as you know, I'm passionate about thinking about schools and I'm thinking about how do we design and create the schools our students need? All of our students. And I reflect often back on my own school experience, and as I was reading the book, I was thinking about what did school do to help me become a creative hustler? You know, school, the institution of school, the kind of bell schedule and moving from class to class and so on.
And frankly, when I think about the canvas and I think about really understanding my gifts and really understanding my goals and thinking about my principles, people, and practice, there were some things that happened in school that I think helped me on that journey. But I think about the intentional design of school. I don't know that it really did help that much actually. In fact, it was about other people's goals. It was about what the teacher was telling me to do. It was more about compliance than it was my pursuit of craftsmanship.
And what I'm curious about is, as you think about this, and you, and so many of our listeners are school folk, they're in the, in the work every day, working in a school community. How can we help school people bring the notions of creative hustle to the K-12 school experience?
sam seidel: Well, I have a, a long history working with what some folks sometimes call alternative schools or innovative schools. The alternative word has kind of a double meaning historically in education in our country. So sometimes it's used as a code word for describing students who have been kicked out or pushed out or chosen to, to leave more traditional schools. And sometimes it's used to talk about the structure of the school itself and it being different from a traditional school. And in many cases both are true, right? It's a school that's set up differently for students who have had not good experiences in more traditional schools.
I have a, most of my career has been working with schools that would check off one, if not both of those boxes. A few of the things that I see happening in those schools, I think I would love to see happening in more schools. One is strong relationships, right? Tunde said a minute ago, people are the center of this.
Tim Fish: That's right.
sam seidel: Unfortunately in really large schools, you know, I, I myself graduated from a school with somewhere between two and 3000 students. It's easy to get lost. For there to be anonymity. You know, you've got a 43 minute period, the bell rings, you go to the next room. In the course of a day, a teacher has seen, you know, 120, 160 different students. Hard, as a teacher, to know, what was little sam's, what's he passionate about? What are his principles? What are, you know, and, and so we're missing that, that center, that Tunde was talking about, of people, in some cases, right? In, in large traditional schools.
And a lot of the alternative schools I've worked with, there's just a huge premium placed on people, on those relationships. So like at Big Picture, many Big Picture schools, there's different models within their network. You know, students will be in an advisory for four years with the same group of, you know, relatively small group of students and the same advisor, adult. That's a totally different opportunity to build relationships, to get to know a cohort of people, to build that center of your canvas, right? But also for educators to get to know students and understand, OK, what, what is this young person's principles, or what are they interested in?
What are they struggling with in terms of their practice, and what do they have figured out that they could share with others? And how do I, you know, help kind of cultivate both sides of that? So the emphasis on relationships is something that I think more schools are trying and, and we could certainly prioritize in education.
And there are real challenges to it, right? There are costs to smaller student to teacher ratios. There's time cost, of making time to build those relationships. So I'm not saying this ignorant of that. I'm saying I understand that, and I think it's worth it, and I think it's something we need to do if we want to help cultivate this for young people.
Another quality of many of those schools is an interest in students' interest. An interest in students' interest. So if, if it's a project based school, not just telling all of us, OK, you're in ninth grade, so your project is going to be on x, whether you care about it or not, but opening up space to say what are you, what are you passionate about? And there may be some parameters, there may be some academic criteria that we have to infuse. It may be, you know, we need to employ physics in some way in this. But within that, what do you want to take on? What's a challenge that's interesting to you?
So by, by creating those spaces in, even within an academic class, it opens up space for a young person to start to think about what their gifts are, their interests, their passions, their principles that are going to drive this work. And I think that in doing so, we open up space for young people to start building some of the muscles that often, by the time we get to a place in our life where we have to make some big decisions about our major or career, have atrophied. Because we just haven't been asked to do them. We've just been sent from one period, to the next, to the next, year after year. And then all of a sudden we're supposed to have a framework for making these big decisions. And we're out in the world and we need to have a network. We need to know what principles are guiding our decisions. We need to have built these resilient practices. But that hasn't been asked of us up to that point really, or invited.
And so it's really, you know, maybe a student cultivated that because of their family, because of their friend circle, their siblings, folks who have helped them see that, maybe they've used technology to, to learn about and figure some of those things out. But if not, in many cases, they haven't gotten it through their institutional education. And I think that that's something we could really address and do a lot more in the confines of even a pretty traditional school, to cultivate.
Olatunde Sobomehin: I want to bring out something that's, that is very alternative, and it is, you know, I could draw some connective tissue between the rise of homeschool after Covid and after the pandemic. And I can reference the work that we do at Street Code Academy, which is being what we call community centered and, and family based. And I could reference your testimony, Tim, of you purchasing a book for children that have long left the K-12, you know, institution.
And it's the notion of family. How does family play into the role of education? And I think as much of the, the horror that we hear from the pandemic, I think there is something that we can lose in many people's experience, which is that I got closer to my family, and because I had to, I didn't get to school, I had to connect to my family.
You see now an increase in homeschool, at least in the African American community, as a result of that, right? Because people found the beauty of families being connected to the education process. When we are at Street Code Academy, because we operate in the out of school space and we're doing, you know, technology education, but it's education nonetheless, by bringing in the family, we see the benefit of people. Because who knows our kids better than the families? Who knows our journey, who will follow, who will be there. We talk about class to class, but year after year we're changing teachers. We're, you know, every few years we're going on to a, sometimes a whole nother campus, right?
But who's staying with them is the, is the family. And so I think there are some institutions that are, that have been successful in bringing in families. And I think when we can do that, right, I, I imagine a world where teachers are considering the inputs of what happens with a family. I'm, as a parent of four kids, I know very early on, I'm talking about 12 months. I'm talking about two years old, three years old, seeing gifts, seeing, I'm seeing what, what, you know, to use sam's words, what continually comes up in their head, right? What drives them? What I, I know my daughter has pursued visual arts for years. I know she's taught herself guitar. I know she has an interest in those things.
I know my son, what he does at 10 o'clock at night, 11 o'clock at night, that's keeping him up. Teachers don't necessarily know that, right? And so your.... Imagine a world where we're bringing in that insight, we're working in tandem with what are the things that you know about our kids? What are, what are the things that kids are, are able to do in, in conjunction with their parents? What could they share in the learning process? And there are, there are, I'm sure, several examples of how people have brought in family and then extended family of community, that live at the core of who people are. Right?
sam seidel: I love that. Thank you for, for bringing that side of it in, Tunde. And I, I feel like hearing you say that, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the work that we do at the d. School through the K12 Lab, you know, the co-design work in involving students, families, and educators and education leaders to, to really try to push our schools out of some of the tracks that our schools are stuck in. We were talking about individuals at the beginning of, of the podcast, but you know, our schools can be entrenched in some of those same ways that are really hard to shake free. And at our best, you know, I think the work that my co-director Laura McBain and I have tried to lead through the K12 Lab is to, to bring schools through a similar process of saying, students are at the center of this thing. Tunde, to your point, what is driving them? What's keeping them up at night, and how do we build in a learning experience or learning experiences that bring that in and put it at the center? And so that is really what we're trying to do.
We may, we may not use in every endeavor we do with the lab, the, this exact gifts to goals framework or canvas. But we really are asking that set of questions and our, and our hope and intention is to open up possibility. And similar to what we are trying to do for individuals with this book, trying to help institutions bust out of some of those tracks that they may feel stuck in.
Tim Fish: Thank you both for those comments. And one of the things I was hearing in, in both of them was, was your notion like, in some ways for me, this is a less is more journey. Right? I think one of the things that I've noticed about my own life, when I was reading the book and I was reading about Tesa, and I was thinking about practice and I was thinking about these rituals that we each have in our own lives.
It made me reflect and say, I don't know I have enough ritual in my own life. I got a lot of stuff in my life. I'm super busy. Right? To quote Stephen Covey, I've got a lot of thick of thin things maybe, right? But do I have a lot of ritual? Do I put the time in to really connect with me and connect with who I am, and also to connect with others?
You know, I think the other piece for me that really has stuck through here and has come through, and it's a thread that I've seen in the schools that I believe are embedding and unlocking creative hustle in young people, is this idea that we are moving—and I think this, so much of this is in the book. We are moving from me to we.
Right? That I have my people. And I am people for others, right? Like I have the people in my network, and I am a member of others' networks. I have the responsibility for both, right? What does it look like for me to be in someone else's network? Right?
And that for me is this notion I've been playing with quite a bit, is this notion I think that we're kind of getting, there's an element of this, like grab as much as you can, get as much as you can. Go as fast as you can. You know, and I think one of the things that I'm wondering about as I think about the book is what I call, the meta P, possibly, right?
That when you think about gifts to goals and you think about principles and people and practice. Is purpose—this was something I wrote in the, in the margin—is purpose the meta P, right? The large P that we're sort of trying to get after as we, as we work through the whole canvas, right? Is that personal purpose, that how I live with and for others as much as myself.
Something I'm curious about.
sam seidel: I don't know if it comes first or it comes after, but that, that tries to explore what, what that looks like, what that, how, how one can articulate their purpose and how different it is in the end from what they're, what we're already guiding folks through, particularly like principles and goals.
Feels like between those two, we'd probably get somewhere similar, I think. But I'm, I'm really intrigued by it, Tim, and I appreciate the, another p, the provocation. And, and I'd, we're getting opportunities to, to work for longer periods of time with some folks around all this. And so I could see this being a next piece that we develop and, and try to explore with, with a group.
And by the way, we're, we're also starting to do a bit of work with folks thinking about school design and what, what does it look like to design a school around some of the ideas in this book and course. So there could be some interesting opportunities there to, to play that idea out. Thank you for it.
Tim Fish: I started my career teaching fourth grade. And I wonder about what if I had a gifts to goals canvas for each of my fourth graders, and they worked on it throughout the year, and what if I had parent-teacher conferences where the parents came in and the student was present, and we all sat down and the student started off the conversation by sharing their canvas. You know? And I just thought, man, what would that look like? What would that, how would that have changed the conversation with those parents? When, how did it work when I first started teaching in 1990? Well, it was me and it was the parents, and it was me talking about the kid, and it was me opening a folder up and showing them grades and showing them work samples and so on, which is important, how my child's doing. Learning to read critically is an important thing. But what if it was framed around the student and their journey and where they saw themselves? And I think one of the things often that we get stuck in is this idea that, well, it's going to, you can only do, well, you can only do a canvas when you're in high school, or you can only do a canvas when you're in college, right?
I'm like, no, man, like my, my fourth graders absolutely could have been empowered to think about that. What are my gifts? What are my goals? Where do I want to go? So for me, like, I just like, bring it in. Bring it in, and have conversations. I think about middle school advisors. What about, what if middle school advisors had the canvas as part of advisory with their students and they were just talking to them throughout the year about where they were? Having kids huddle up with other kids to talk about that. You know, simple little things I think folks could do to bring this forward is, could be super powerful.
Olatunde Sobomehin: Yeah, we've, we've, it's funny you've mentioned this, Tim, because I was brought into an elementary school in East Palo Alto to talk about the book, and it was so fun having, having those kids around and listening. And so I was given the students and would bring out the paper. And I think these were fourth and fifth graders, and it was both inspiring and very sad when we had to go through the exercise and so many students just had nowhere to start around their gifts or their goals.
And what really helped was people got into groups and teachers started telling the students what they saw in them.You know, you are one of the most hilarious students in there. Do you know how you get people together, and man, you're, you are brilliant when it comes to like, you know, how do we think about, you know, this science project?
Or you, you know, and people started to fill out their forms, you know, and then now you're looking at this canvas, where, where do you want to go? Well, you know, the go-to is like, I want to be a soccer player, I want to be a football player. But what else do you love? Like, what else do you want to do and what else can you see yourself? I mean, what, what's after soccer player? What, what's before, why, what are you going to do while you're a soccer player? And then other things start to fill out. And I think you're right, the context of like seeing, oh man, this is where I want to go. Again, this is not locked in. You can, you know, the next day new things can come. And I, I almost, almost have a memory of somebody, you know, 'cause we're, we're, we're in this work every day. Somebody coming up to me and saying like, oh, this changed. With excitement, right? Like as, as if that was a monumental sort of moment for them, that something that they wrote on their canvas, now it's different. And I think that's the beauty of it, right? It just gets you thinking about questions.
What, what do you want to do? What are your principles? And I don't have enough ritual in my life, is something you said a couple minutes ago. That makes me think, that made me think, do I have enough ritual? What, what do I, you know, and that's a good question to have, and so we're just offering some good questions, some good frameworks.
I think in schools, there's no question, it's an easy fix. Everyone should be asked some questions about what are your gifts, what are your goals? That's a very simple place to start, and I think if we all don't get time in our life to sort of ask that big question, we could end up like several people that we know, like several times that I've woken up and, and, and thought the same thing.
Am I off my purpose? Am I, am I off of where I want to be? Right? Call that goals, and that sort of reflection is needed across all ages, across all, you know, timeframes, against all fields, I think.
Tim Fish: Yeah, it's great. It was great. Well, Tunde and sam, I know we are, we are coming up on the end of our time here together today. I could talk to you all day about this, and look forward to more conversations as, as you continue to do your work around creative hustle. I'm curious if you just have a closing statement, something you'd like to leave our listeners with as we think more about this journey of working with young people.
sam seidel: I don't know if it's become cliche at this point, but the notion that you've gotta put the oxygen mask on yourself before you try to assist a small child traveling with you. And so I, as much as I'm eager to talk to educators about how to employ any of what we're talking about here in their classrooms with the students they work with, I also want to just give space for the educators who might be listening to take the time to employ it with them, for themselves. And, you know, I, I'm not, this isn't about you need to read this exact book or you need to do this exact canvas, but some of these kinds of activities, that kind of question you raised, Tim, about rituals, the thinking about the people who we surround ourselves with, the principles that guide us.
I think these are important. And if, if anyone is listening and feeling like, oh, I don't, I haven't done that in a while, or I've never done that, or, whatever the case might be, like, just want to encourage folks to take the time and space to, to engage in some of these pieces ourselves. Not instead of, it doesn't even necessarily have to be before, but at least alongside trying to create that space for our students, which, which is also, of course, immensely important.
Olatunde Sobomehin: Yeah, my last words is be encouraged. You know, I think I'm walking away from here, having an hour spent with you, Tim, and I'm encouraged. Because I hear your reflection right, of what you brought, and even years later, you still remember those fourth graders. Even, even now, you are thinking about your listeners and people in education. You're intently thinking about your, your, your children. You're even reflecting on yourself as part of that journey. And so my thing is, be encouraged, because this, this stuff is all going on. In the midst of all this, we're still doing it.
There's a part in our book where we talk about, you know, people huddle around a fire, figuring out how to stay warm and how we've all been creative hustlers, like throughout history, and how we've all done it to survive. And now how do we just kind of tune it in a little bit so we could thrive even more? And I think the encouraging part is that people are doing this, you know, even in the midst of our experiences at school, as critical as we can and should be, it also allowed us to be where we are. And it, and it, and it gave us opportunities to find our purpose, and sam brought up several examples today, and I'm sure your listeners all represent people who are doing this on a daily basis, so I'm just encouraged that all this exists. That all those creative hustlers that we profile in the book just represent hundreds of people that we've talked to and look to as creative hustlers.
And so I just, I, I'd say be encouraged. We're we're, we're headed in the right direction.
Tim Fish: What a great way to end. Thank you both so much for your time today. What a great conversation.
And I tell you, I'm just going to continue. The book will continue to sit on the top of my pile, and I'll continue to come back to it. And what I love so much is it has such simple ideas that you can really explore quickly, and then there's a whole lot more depth when you start, when you start peeling it back, when you start really thinking about what your principles are. It, it can lead to some deep, deep thinking. So thank you both so much
for spending time with me today, and thank you for spending time with our listeners.