Education Director T.K. Coleman has been with Praxis from the beginning. He oversaw the development of the original Praxis curriculum and he handled all of the coaching. Now he manages the Praxis education staff and their team of awesome advisors.
Q: In one of your videos where you described the Praxis curriculum experience, you referred to your goal as “helping people discover and do what makes them come alive.” Where did you get your philosophy of work from?
A: I’m a pastor’s kid from Chicago who was explicitly taught very early on that work is a gift, not a curse. My father wasted no time telling my brothers and I that one of our most important tasks in life is doing everything we do with a sense of purpose. “When you go to a job or work on a project,” he would say, “treat those responsibilities as an outlet for creative expression, as an opportunity to make your personal mark on the world.” There’s a character in the film “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” who advises a young man to “find the love in what he does” even when he can’t always seem to do what he loves. My early childhood was essentially a series of lessons in that very insight.
Q: How do you help instill this philosophy in Praxis participants?
T.K.: I look at my personal philosophy as an internal compass that guides me in my coaching rather than as a belief system I need to authoritatively impose on others. So instead of trying to instill this or that particular point of view in our participants, I begin with helping them draw out their own preferences, principles, and priorities concerning work. What kind of relationship do *you* want to have with this thing we call work and how can we help you develop that? For some people, it’s about making a certain amount of money. For some people, it’s about having a certain amount of autonomy. For some people, it’s about finding their tribe or being part of the right community fit. For some people, it’s about procuring a job that can function as a tool for self-discovery. The list goes on, but the education experience begins with helping the learner think clearly and critically about what he or she wants to learn. Everybody wants different things, so it seems to make the most sense to start with each individual’s “why” before delving into the nuts and bolts of “how.”
Q: What’s the most valuable part of the Praxis curriculum?
T.K.: I think it’s the coaching experience. If you’re willing to put in the work, you can find great content in lots of different places. When I come across people who are just looking for another online course, I tell them, go to Udemy or iTunes University. Sure, we provide lots of high value, skills-based, proprietary content, but I think the greatest value lies in having people in your life who can challenge you to make optimal use of your resources. The best kind of learning happens not just from reading a book or watching an online tutorial, but it comes from picking the brain of experts, engaging in socratic dialogue, discussing them with peers, and having people who can help you create projects that allow you to use information in a way that’s practical. It’s great to have an awesome job. It’s great to be studying awesome content. It’s even better to do both of those things while regularly working with someone who functions like the fitness trainer for your career.
T.K. recently wrote a blog post on what it takes to be a great advisor and how being a coach is different than being a cult leader: Be a Coach, Not A Cult Leader
Q: Explain a bit more what the advising experience is like.
T.K.: We have a roster of multiple advisors, all of whom come from different backgrounds and have various areas of expertise, who meet 1-on-1 with our participants every other week for the entire nine months of the program. The participants get to pick who they meet with based on personal preferences and professional goals. Some of them like to stick with one particular advisor they like. Others like to switch it up and try new advisors every week. It’s up to them. They get to meet with whoever they pick and they get to discuss whatever they want to discuss. During the alternate weeks, our participants have group coach sessions where they meet up with the other people in their class plus at least one facilitating advisor. This gives them the chance to connect with their peers, discuss common challenges, brainstorm ideas, and so forth. So basically, the participants have the option to interact with a Praxis advisor every single week for the whole nine months.
Q: What’s the best part of working for Praxis?
T.K.: I get to work with some of the most talented, hardworking, and ambitious young people in the world. They keep me young and they give me a ton of hope. For instance, we have group discussions every single week — this is separate from the group coaching sessions — where we do things like discuss history and economics, learn new technological tools and soft skills, debate philosophy, and hang out with entrepreneurs and artists from different parts of the world. I genuinely look forward to these events and am sad when I have to miss. I love learning from them and being inspired by their infectious energy.
Q: What are the biggest changes you see in participants going through the Praxis program?
T.K.: The level of growth in our participants over nine months is incredible. People come into the program with a lot of raw ambition and talent, but it hasn’t been cultivated. It’s often unfocused. As they go through the program, they develop forward tilt and momentum. They acquire a get-shit-done mentality. They become more confident in themselves, and the level of excitement as they start to realize their potential is so much fun to watch. Many of them begin with worries about finding a job but end with the confidence to create jobs.
Q: What are your favorite topics to discuss on office hours?
T.K.: I’m always down for a good philosophical discussion. I’ll often ask them to pick an idea, no matter how crazy, they want me to defend and then we practice our debating skills with each other.
Q: What do you do when you’re not doing Praxis work?
T.K.: I love to read. I don’t even want to imagine what life would be like without a steady diet of fresh ideas and fascinating stories. I also love to take walks with my wife. It sounds cliche, I know, but we make it a point to go for a nice long walk together at least 3-4 nights a week. Want a funny answer that no one else will provide? I love listening to Christmas music all year round. Every single one of my friends teases me for it, but I’m serious.
Q: You love inspiring people. End this interview with a bit of parting advice.
T.K.: There’s no refund on regret. There’s always a possibility that you can get your money back from other people if you’re not satisfied with a service or product, but you can’t get your joy and your time back from other people if you compromise your integrity for the sake of making them happy. You got one shot at life. Do something you believe in.
To hear T.K. Coleman talk about his philosophy of education at the Voice & Exit conference, check out the video below:
Here are a few quotes from participants:
“T.K. is the entrepreneurial heart of the Education Experience in Praxis. As an Education Director, he is attentive, empathetic, and driven to adapt the learning experience to suit your unique needs. No question is too trivial, no concern goes unnoticed. He is relentless in making you into the best person you can be through the Program.” -Philip Delvecchio
“T.K.’s advice has been an incredibly valuable resource to leverage during my time in Praxis. He is able to quickly and effectively boil down my struggles and reflect them back to me in a way that makes the solution incredibly obvious. I’m thankful to have access to such a mentor, and I believe that it is part of what makes Praxis a truly amazing program.” -Brad Sooley
“My talks with TK have been an indispensable part of my Praxis experience. Whenever I struggled at my BP or just needed advice, one session with TK helped me identify what was really important to me. He’ll help you see through the BS.” – Evan Le
“”TK made a huge impact on my life through Praxis by helping me to believe in my own creative potential and have confidence in my inner guidance. As a coach, he has a unique ability to empathize with whatever I’m struggling with and help me find solutions within myself. His contagious passion for creativity and curiosity continually challenge me to work on becoming the best person I can be.” – Kristina Miller
“”T.K has been described as a ‘shining beacon of hope,’ and that description fits him to a T. He helped me process my stress, find clarity and propel myself forward with new purpose. His support was, and remains, priceless.” – Rebecca Zeines