when I left school and self taught to earn my diploma by 16, turned a construction job into a NYC banking internship at 17, used my non traditional experience to get into the Ivy League, arbitrated a labor case and negotiated collective bargaining agreements against lawyers when I was just out of undergrad, earned my MBA, and joined the X PRIZE Foundation to incent innovators to solve the world’s biggest problems, regardless of their resume qualifications.
While there, I led a prize development team (in spite of not having the usual Ph.D. in the field) in the Ideation phase of design of a $15M Global Learning X PRIZE, aimed at driving radical breakthroughs in the way people learn, with guidance from visionaries like Sir Ken Robinson, Sugata Mitra, Nicholas Negroponte, and the MacArthur Foundation.
I left X PRIZE to tackle one of the biggest problems I learned about during prize design: youth unemployment. After raising over $500k to start Qualifyor, a youth work skills program, we developed everything in house. We created applications, performed interviews, built curricula, matched employers and mentors with the youth, and designed and ran skills competitions for two annual cohorts of high school students, in service of a question, “What should people learn about life (and work) that isn’t taught in school?”
It was a good question, that led me to a better one. Given my unique path, the more interesting question was “How can I help people teach themselves?” After 3.5 years of inspiration from my tiger mom, investor, mentor, and (eventually) client, Tony Hsieh, I finally understood the wisdom of his personal ethos: be unapologetically true to yourself. I set aside the extrinsically imposed "shoulds" and "supposed to's" and started my ikigai journey.
And that is how Burn the Ladder was born.