Henry May spent his childhood playing with LEGOs. He loved the outdoors and harmless mischief. He thought his life was pre-ordained. He thought our paths are set for us.

This all changed the summer he joined Teach First. The two years he spent here, changed his thoughts on the education system and his role in the world.

After his time at Teach First, and a short stint at Procter & Gamble, Henry took a trip to Colombia through Teach Colombia and fell in love with the country. But he also heard horrible stories about the public schools there.

These were the driving forces that pulled him to leave everything he knew in London and to start CoSchool in Colombia.

In this episode Henry talks about why well respected jobs aren’t always right for us, why good ideas take time to develop, and why you need to stop waiting and put your ideas into action.

Here are three things you can learn from Henry:

Respected Jobs Aren’t Always the Best For Us

If you ask most people what they want out of life, one thing they will mention is a good career. They want a safe job at a well established company. They want stability and security. But that doesn’t mean a job at a well respected company is right for everyone.

That’s exactly what Henry found out while working at Procter & Gamble. While most people would be overjoyed to have a job at a company like P&G, Henry found it frustrating.

“It was such a different world from this real life, hard hitting world of being a teacher in a school in South London. To then be found in an office talking about selling razor blades, nappies, shampoo. I just couldn’t connect with the deeper purpose. I really respect an organization like Procter & Gamble for the success that they’ve had, for the benefit that they bring to the world… however I found it very frustrating to see so many intelligent, capable, caring people there who were using all of that talent and all of that brilliance to sell 1% more shampoo than their rivals.”

Just because a company is a good business, that doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for everyone. Sometimes our hearts just aren’t into it.

“Ultimately that’s the bottom line in an organization like that. They do a great job of developing people, and growing leaders, and making some fantastic business people, but I was a mismatch in terms of where my heart was.”

Sometimes Good Ideas Take Time to Develop

In the modern age, we want things to happen instantaneously. We have been conditioned to expect instant gratification. But sometimes good ideas take time develop. Sometimes we need to think things over before they can become a reality.

That’s exactly what happened to Henry. His dual passions for Huracan FC and CoSchool were on completely different journeys, but after thinking about it for a few months, the ideas converged.

“They were separate dots on… different journeys of my life that didn’t make a connection immediately. There wasn’t intentions. It took a process of reflection and iteration, and three or four months initially of thinking ‘Am I going to focus on the Huracan foundation? Is that my thing? Is that what I am going to do? And eventually CoSchool was born out of this process of stopping.”

We’re always in such a rush to get our ideas off the ground that we don’t give them time to breath. That’s why Henry advises aspiring entrepreneurs to spend some time thinking about their ideas.

“I think that if there’s something that I learned from that, there’s something I share with other people, with friends who are thinking about doing something entrepreneurial, the value of stopping and stepping outside of the white water, not just for a day or for a week, I mean I did it for three months. I gave myself the time and space to think, to explore, to consider, to evaluate, to analyze. I think out of that space, was the birth of probably my greatest moment of creativity.”

Stop Waiting and Put Your Ideas Into Action

We all have ideas we’re passionate about but far too often, we let them sit inside our heads. Instead of giving ourselves the chance to succeed we self-sabotage and do nothing.

Henry believes that if you have a good idea, you need to treat it with a sense of urgency. You need to talk to people about it. You need to test it, to write it down, and prototype it so you can learn as much as possible.

“Every day that you wait to make that idea a reality is a day less of your life to make your idea happen. So if you have an idea and you care about it, treat it with a sense of urgency. Treat it with the same sense of urgency that you would treat a ticking time bomb in your hand. You don’t know what might happen in your life or what things will go on and what circumstances might change, and you don’t know how long that idea might be in your hands for. So give yourself the chance to, if you really care about it and you really feel it in your gut, and you feel like it’s something you want to do, the how and route to success and execution, to creating a business plan and model and team, that’s not important. That’s not the most important first thing. And I think that’s a common mistake. People go ‘I haven’t got a plan. I don’t know how to make this a reality.’ Well, I think every single entrepreneur that ever had an idea probably had a moment like that… What you do is get an idea and speak to people. Test it. Write it down. Draw it. Try and prototype it in the quickest and shortest way possible to learn as fast as possible.”

If you don’t put your ideas into action, you’ll never know if they’re going to work. You can’t learn anything about your idea if it just sits inside your head. The best thing you can do is lean into your fear and take action.

“You can learn an incredible amount in about twenty minutes of your life, about ideas, by putting them into action. You can learn zero about ideas by just thinking about them. If you put them into action, act them out, listen to them, and role play them… all of a sudden stuff starts happening. So that would be my biggest advice and lean into fear. Take that step out of your comfort zone and go somewhere you haven’t been before. Take the idea with you. Let the idea lead you. Don’t be afraid of failure. I mean, learn. Learn, grow, test. See what happens.”

Shownotes

  • about Henry
    • founder/CEO of CoSchool
      • develop children’s leadership skills
    • from England, lives in Colombia now
    • passion for education
    • went through Teach First program in UK similar to Teach for America in US
    • taught in public school in London
    • short stint at Procter & Gamble
    • started CoSchool in 2013
    • solve Colombian education system
      • base education on skill development
  • interests as a child
    • loved LEGOs
    • loved football/being outside/harmless mischief
    • happy childhood full of adventures
  • what people would think of his transformation since he was a kid

10:36 “My view of education and of schools is that many schools prohibit kids from fulfilling their potential and even getting a glimpse into that potential.”

11:09 “I don’t think people would have really seen this entrepreneur that I think I had inside me. I think I showed glimpses of it, but really those glimpses were really shadowed by the need for results, of academic performance, and for competing in a competitive environment, and that’s what school is for so many people. I don’t think many people would have seen it coming.”

  • what he studied in school
    • went to university for education
    • studied Theology
      • most interesting subject
      • hard subject to crack
      • more than just learning facts
      • big questions that go beyond the classroom
  • beliefs before/after school
    • before
      • saw life as pre-ordained
      • pre-destined paths set out for us
    • his path
      • thought he would be a journalist
      • loved reading/writing
      • initial plan was to be a football journalist
    • changing his path
      • mom told him about Teach First
      • enjoying working summer camps
      • the challenge of Teach First
      • didn’t feel challenged in university

16:40 “When I saw Teach First, I thought, for some reason, that’s what I’ve been waiting for. Something where I’m going to be way out of my comfort zone. It’s going to be really hard, it’s going to be really new, and I’m going to learn a lot while I’m making a difference to the world. And so I saw it as a kind of win win. I’ll be doing something where I’m going to be learning a lot and hopefully I’m going to be making a little bit of a difference somehow.”

17:17 “The world tends to change you before you make any real impact on the world.”

  • Teach First program
    • theoretical knowledge/practical teaching practice
    • begin teaching full-time for 2 years
    • assigned to public schools based on certain criteria
  • Teach First experience
    • transformational, eye opening, inspiring, challenging, frustrating
    • gift of an experience and learning journey
    • found his passion for education
  • moments that stood out in his experience
    • Colin – 15 yr old Nigerian boy
    • big kid who got into mischief
    • was bright, but wasn’t into school
    • by the end of the year Colin became one of his success stories
    • Colin graduated early
    • next year, an assembly announced Colin being part of murder
    • went to jail
    • challenged his thoughts on teaching/education system
    • school was shut down
    • second year the school was in limbo
    • event caused anger/frustration towards the education system
  • coping with tragedy with former student
    • learning about Aristotle instead of life lessons
    • asked himself a lot of what ifs

24:52 “I probably couldn’t have done something in my first year that would have necessarily have stopped Colin from making those decisions that night… but we can spend our time as teachers so much better than we do.”

25:22 “Teachers are out there wasting time and wasting students’ time on teaching things that perhaps are not what really matters. And thanks to the education system we’ve set up, the way things work, we have these old-fashioned out dated systems in place that are stifling kids.”

26:16 “What if I had approached my classes differently? What if I had the freedom to teach what I wanted? What if I had the freedom to teach what my kids wanted to learn? What if instead of talking about schools and academics results we’re focused on developing kids as human beings? What if we really wanted to understand who are these amazing/talented individuals inside our class?… Instead of trying to secure these… grades in my school that ultimately are futile.

  • educational system
    • key ingredients
      • literacy at a young age – ability to read and write
      • basic mathematical skills
      • skill development – cognitive/character skills
    • system should have standards, but there are too many
    • came up with principles through combination of learning and designing  curriculum
  • after two years teaching
    • before joining P&G he worked recruiting and selecting teachers for Teach First
      • learned about what it takes to recruit successful people
      • look for many skills in their candidates
    • being able to learn on the fly
    • Teach First created world for each teacher that helps in skill development
      • these skills grow throughout the process
  • after Teach First
    • chose to do internship with Procter & Gamble
    • wanted to learn marketing
    • his experience at P&G was boring and lacking purpose

34:44 “It was such a different world from this real life, hard hitting world of being a teacher in a school in South London. To then be found in an office talking about selling razor blades, nappies, shampoo. I just couldn’t connect with the deeper purpose. I really respect an organization like Procter & Gamble for the success that they’ve had, for the benefit that they bring to the world… however I found it very frustrating to see so many intelligent, capable, caring people there who were using all of that talent and all of that brilliance to sell 1% more shampoo than their rivals.”

35:45 “Ultimately that’s the bottom line in an organization like that. They do a great job of developing people, and growing leaders, and making some fantastic business people, but I was a mismatch in terms of where my heart was.”

  • sense of purpose
    • big believer in Dan Pink’s Drive
      • talks about three motivators: purpose, autonomy, mastery

36:46 “Purpose for me is the biggest gift you can have in a job. To wake up every morning, to come out of every meeting… to see one of your colleagues do some great work and constantly have this feeling like just this big box being ticked going this matters to me. I know it matters to other people here. This really matters. This is really important and that belief is an incredible source of strength for someone that’s working. If you believe in what you’re doing, you’ll probably be around other people that believe in what you’re doing as well. And that’s an amazing thing to be a part of.”

  • going to Colombia
    • happened right after P&G
    • got opportunity through Teach Colombia
    • getting around Bogota hearing stories about public schools
    • knew he wanted to be there
  • why he chose Colombia
    • fell in love with the country during a previous trip
    • strange reputation of the country
    • great scenery and different types of cities
    • people are emerging into a new era feeling the change happening in the country
    • didn’t feel optimisim in London/England
    • knew he would go back one day
  • feelings before going to Colombia
    • ran marathon in Berlin 3 days before moving
    • asked himself what he was doing
    • felt fear and anxiety

43:31 “What can you do when you’re going to a new place, don’t know anyone, you don’t have a clear path for what life’s going to be like. You know that it’s going to be exciting, but you know it’s going to be a pain in the ass. It’s like walking into a dark room with your eyes closed. You don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s scary.”

  • knowing if he was in the right place
    • after being there for nine months, and going back to London to write a business plan for three months
    • first year summer camp
    • realized he could do it
    • he was doing something interesting and felt he was in the right place creating CoSchool
    • two journeys
    • education – developing kids skills
      • the lights went out for the kids there schools weren’t helping them fulfill their potential entrepreneurial journey
      • two moments  collided in CoSchool
  • what inspired his entrepreneurial journey
    • living in Argentina and following a team there
    • known for passionate fans
    • fell in love with the team
    • created a team inspired by Argentinian team called Huracan FC London
    • played amateur football in parks of London
    • 2010 – started a Facebook page
      • fans from Argentina liked their page
      • manager of Argentinian team wore their shirt
      • fans came to watch them play in the park
      • got press about their fans from Argentina
      • relationship grew between people in both countries
    • 2011 – played a game in their stadium
      • had 40k fans and got a standing ovation
      • got to speak to their board of directors
      • got to live a dream of being famous for two weeks in Argentina
      • started selling their shirts and making revenue from them
    • when they came back to London, they decided to do something more
      • support projects around the world through football
      • identified and supported projects around the world
      • created a global network of Huracan FC teams
      • 72k Facebook likes, raised 30k pounds
    • turned story of friends into a global phenomenon
    • 2013 – exploded to another level
      • combine it with his education initiatives
      • develop skills through football
  • creating something bigger by combining passions

55:18 “They were separate dots on… different journeys of my life that didn’t make a connection immediately. There wasn’t intentions. It took a process of reflection and iteration, and three or four months initially of thinking ‘Am I going to focus on the Huracan foundation? Is that my thing? Is that what I am going to do? And eventually CoSchool was born out of this process of stopping.”

55:53 “I think that if there’s something that I learned from that, there’s something I share with other people, with friends who are thinking about doing something entrepreneurial, the value of stopping and stepping outside of the white water, not just for a day or for a week, I mean I did it for three months. I gave myself the time and space to think, to explore, to consider, to evaluate, to analyze. I think out of that space, was the birth of probably my greatest moment of creativity.”

  • unexpected combination of ideas to create new ideas
    • fusion of two things to create new possibilities
    • collaboration as the bedrock for creativity and resilience
    • brainstorms being better with more people
  • lone creative genius
    • not completely valid, it’s possible to be creative by yourself
    • CoSchool was collaborative from day one
    • mix public and private schools
    • was only able to figure out CoSchool’s first iteration by speaking to other people
    • being challenged and questioned by people he talked to
    • couldn’t start it without co-founder Carlos
    • advocate of mentors
    • resilience requires other people

1:00:47 “I am probably the biggest advocate of mentors, of coaches. If you can surround yourself with people that will only give you good advice if you ask good questions and think so much stronger than if you decided to go alone.”

1:01:05 “I think there’s a misunderstanding about creativity being this solo genius up in a tower. I think it’s a misunderstanding in entrepreneurship particularly of perseverance… and being a solo sport.”

  • first CoSchool project and how it evolved
    • first project involved taking a group of 10-12 tenth graders and putting them in leadership development program
      • having those kids work with group of younger kids
      • giving them an experience similar to Teach First
      • discovered the program was not scalable
    • what has stayed the same
      • still use model of mentorship
      • still mix public/private schools
      • still foster learning from each other
  • evolution not revolution

2:57 “There’s always something you can learn from every experience. Iteration is a great word I think. Iteration repeats with small changes and that’s what being in a startup is all about. And you’re constantly learning. You have to set a course, a vision, and decide roughly where you’re going to go, and just be prepared for a bumpy and windy road and changes. That’s learning. That’s growth.”

  • parallels between education and entrepreneurship
    • students not going on entrepreneurial journeys in school
      • the path is straight and answers are laid out in front of them
        changing the education system through CoSchool
    • wanting to make impact at policy level
    • hoping for an education system that allows kids to fulfill their potential
  •  future of CoSchool
    • reach 1 million young people by 2025
      • will require learning, questions, and experiments
      • making training better, teaching local people to run programs
    • exploring, learning, and impacting
  • impact CoSchool has made
    • difficulty of measuring social levels
    • wants to see kids graduating and reaching leadership positions
    • Carla was shy girl in public school
      • didn’t have idea of who she was or potential she had
      • solving a local problem by the end, she was talking in front of a group for receiving a reward in diversity
      • led summer camp

9:05 “Kids are amazing and have such potential. They are usually so adept, and so ready to pick up new ideas, try things, and run with them. And if you put it in the right infrastructure. It’s about lighting that fire, about creating those moments and experiences for the kids to help them go onto people they want to be and can be.”

  • for people that have ideas but don’t know what to do
    • rapid prototyping with Tom Chi of Google Glass/Google X
    • Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer
      • watching granddaughter play and be engaged in the activity
      • beautiful image of kids being present

10:22 “Every day that you wait to make that idea a reality is a day less of your life to make your idea happen. So if you have an idea and you care about it, treat it with a sense of urgency. Treat it with the same sense of urgency that you would treat a ticking time bomb in your hand. You don’t know what might happen in your life or what things will go on and what circumstances might change, and you don’t know how long that idea might be in your hands for. So give yourself the chance to, if you really care about it and you really feel it in your gut, and you feel like it’s something you want to do, the how and route to success and execution, to creating a business plan and model and team, that’s not important. That’s not the most important first thing. And I think that’s a common mistake. People go ‘I haven’t got a plan. I don’t know how to make this a reality.’ Well, I think every single entrepreneur that ever had an idea probably had a moment like that… What you do is get an idea and speak to people. Test it. Write it down. Draw it. Try and prototype it in the quickest and shortest way possible to learn as fast as possible.”

12:15 “You can learn an incredible amount in about twenty minutes of your life, about ideas, by putting them into action. You can learn zero about ideas by just thinking about them. If you put them into action, act them out, listen to them, and role play them… all of a sudden stuff starts happening. So that would be my biggest advice and lean into fear. Take that step out of your comfort zone and go somewhere you haven’t been before. Take the idea with you. Let the idea lead you. Don’t be afraid of failure. I mean, learn. Learn, grow, test. See what happens.”

14:15 “Kids are absolute masters… of being present, being totally present, and living moments in the realest way possible. And that’s something that starts to get taken away from us as we get to age seven or eight, and we start going to school. We start seeing how other people dress. We start getting called names… and all of a sudden our sense of self starts to get buried behind our masks. And we start to wear mask after mask after mask. By the time we get to age 21 we’re behind so many mask we don’t even who we are ourselves.”

  • favorite quote
    • importance of taking responsibility
    • “When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.”  ― The 14th Dalai Lama
    • Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens. ― Carl Gustav Jung

16:23 “I feel like it’s we are brought up into a world where it’s so easy to blame and it’s so easy to be the victim. It’s not easy to take responsibility and to own things in your life. In my experience, the more ownership you do through expressing vulnerability, through admitting when you’re wrong, through saying sorry, through giving gratitude… that’s when you start to find answers and joy and peace. That’s when you awaken and that’s something for me, the journey of being an entrepreneur is a journey inwards and as much as it’s been about meeting new people and exploring a new part of the world… there’s been a journey inwards. A spiritual journey inwards. And of understanding who I am and understanding better what I’m like… and that comes about through owning it, and owning yourself and taking responsibility and becoming responsible for your life and not a victim.”

  • morning routine
    • plays with cat, go for run to clear his head
    • scrambled eggs/toast/fruit juice for breakfast
  • recommendations
    • Reboot podcast – startup CEOs/founders on their journeys
    • Switch by Chip and Dan Heat – changing things when things are hard
      • managing sides of your brain
    • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • creative people
    • Laura from CoSchool
      • connect things that he’s not able to explain
    • Elon Musk
      • forward thinking innovations
      • taking ideas most people don’t even dream of
  • definition of creativity

24:31 “Creativity is the ability and the practice of adding something new to the world. Every time you’re creative, for me it’s breaking into a new part of something that hasn’t been done before or maybe it’s been done before, but in a different way. It’s about creating a new world of creativity.”

  • challenge
    • 36 questions – if you ask these questions to someone you just met, you could fall in love with them
    • call someone to chat
    • say thanks for what you’re grateful for

CoSchool Twitter &  Facebook | Henry’s Twitter | Huracan FC Facebook & Twitter

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