A common question asked of the Praxis team, participants, and alumni is simply, “What is Praxis?” and though it can be described as a program for entrepreneurial young people who want to be in control of their educations and careers, an education-meets-work-experience hybrid, or the best of liberal arts education opportunities and real-world work experience, it can also simply be described as a Personal Accelerator.
An accelerator is a program — usually also a coworking space — for startups and early stage companies that gives them access to a large network of resources like advisors, other companies, educational materials for how to run your company, social events, and sometimes venture funding. At the end of a certain term — usually a year — the companies are supposed to be further along in their growth and expansion plans than they would have been if they had not participated.
Praxis is essentially the same for the individual.
Participants come to the program and work together through their business partners all across the country and receive access to the Praxis curriculum, mentors, advisors, business partner network, and all of the opportunities wrapped up in their business partner. At the end of it all, they end up further along in than they would have been not doing the program over that year. This may mean they’ve found more direction in work and career, landed a job or launched a business, or achieved four years’ worth of goals in one.
From the Fall class alone, participants are going off to join executive teams at growing tech startups, landing jobs in marketing without a college degree at age 19, launching their own companies right out of school, and launching their own magazine, to name just a few.
Just as a good startup or seed accelerator is designed to give members of its cohort the resources, opportunities, and advice to turn their companies into even better versions of themselves, Praxis is designed to do the same.
Whether it is launching a company, getting oneself into a career to be loved, or just meeting personal goals over a short period of time, these resources are available.
The program starts with a personal brand workshop to help hit home the idea to the participants that they should think of themselves as a brand and as a company. Throughout the 10 months, while they are working on building plans to achieve their goals with their curriculum advisor and the education director, they ship products of their work. All the while, they work towards adding real value to their business partner, taking ownership over responsibility and projects, and seeing what it is like to be part of a growing team.
In short, Praxis is about building and creating.
It’s about building and creating a personal brand, a startup of the individual.
It’s about drafting that business plan and launching the operation.
It’s about creating a new website and putting it out there for the world to see.
It’s about bringing your writing and personal brand into the public eye through a magazine.
For so many people, coming up with good ideas isn’t that hard. It’s putting them into practice that is hard. Novelist Steven Pressfield calls this “resistance” in his book The War of Art, and it is what keeps most people with great ideas from realizing them. It can manifest as procrastination, fear, or a perception of being too busy.
Everything about Praxis, from the opening seminar through the business partner experience and education curriculum and to the closing seminar, is about overcoming this in any project and being able to create.
Fall 2014 participant Laurie Barber describes this aspect of the program:
One simple, but important piece of advice that the Praxis team tries to instill in each of us is to develop a reputation as someone who just “gets sh*t done.” Even if you are lacking direction or a sure-fire plan for success, just do good work and build something along the way.
However, you can’t overlook the fact that there will be days where it feels utterly impossible to get sh*t done. Where it feels like all the forces in the universe are conspiring against you to prevent you from doing anything other than glancing half-heartedly at your inbox of unread emails with one eye closed first thing in the morning.
You can’t let this feeling consume you, because unfortunately, no one cares if you achieve what you want in life. You’re the one who has to care. You render any dream or idea completely useless if you don’t have the work ethic and the follow-through to make it happen.
And it is probably the core driver.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at networking, how smart you are at drafting a business plan, how much of a savant you are at writing, or how much of a whiz you are with coding if you can’t just sit down and make it happen.
With mastering this ability and overcoming resistance to it, a Praxis participant who does nothing more during the ten months of the program leaves accelerated leaps and bounds beyond where they were when they started.
In short, just do it.