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Who's going to raise your standards?
Over the last couple of months, I've been training for the last swim meet of the season which is only a week away. It's the culmination of months of practicing and training we've done as prep. It's my favourite part of each swim season.
Earlier this year, our coach brought in Canadian Olympian Yuri Kisil to help coach us and give us additional feedback. Immediately I was excited by the prospect of getting trained by an Olympian and felt my own ambitions increasing. I’m not going to pretend I’m on a pro-sports trajectory, but being around someone who’s been at the top of the field, I couldn’t help aiming higher.
I could only imagine how students feel when we bring in top experts from different fields.
It matters who you surround yourself with and who you get feedback from. You want guidance from people whose own standards are even higher than your own. The standards you're held to are the highest you will aim for.
“I never felt outside pressure. I knew what I wanted to accomplish, and I knew how much work it took to achieve those goals. I then put in the work and trusted in it. Besides, the expectations I placed on myself were higher than what anyone expected from me.”
Initially, I couldn't understand why students were so keen on extra rounds of feedback from strangers. But something clicked for me when I had a similar experience with swimming. I was so excited to practice my starts in front of Yuri and get some specific feedback that I ended up being extra motivated in those practices.
When you care about getting better, not "winning", you’ll keep trying to find ways to improve for the sake of growth. We shift from playing finite games to infinite games. Ones that never end.
We want to learn from people who are experts.
We want to be around people who raise our own standards.
Feedback is how we grow
TKS students just finished up their big project of the year, the Moonshots, this past weekend. After four weeks of work and multiple rounds of feedback, they presented to a panel of top-tier judges, our own version of Olympians. They had to answer some tough questions about technical feasibility, business model considerations, and even how their solutions fit into broader systems in the world. Watching them present I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride for how much they had grown over the last 9 months.
What I was happiest about was that we successfully trained them to crave feedback. Even the groups that didn’t perform well were eager to get feedback and understand how they could get better. They wanted more. And like we talked about it You should want to fail more, feedback is a key ingredient for growth.
I’m seeing the antifragility and growth mindset come through within our students. It’s reached the point where they are excited to get tough feedback because they know it will make them better, and aren’t afraid to hear it.
And not only that, a handful of teams are planning to improve their deliverables and continue working on the projects even after the moonshot ended. They are finally breaking free from their old mindsets of working for a grade to continually seeking progress.
Changing the world with a moonshot
Almost all of our teams this year tackled a problem within the climate space, from energy storage to microplastics and carbon emissions. I was excited to see how far students were able to go within 4 weeks of hard work – a lot less for most teams given some team-dynamic hiccups 😅.
Despite all of that, they delivered a 5-minute pitch last Friday, built websites, one-pagers, recorded a video, and even wrote in-depth technical articles on their ideas. There was a lot of work put in! Here are a few projects that come to mind:
Ecoligna: A glass alternative for buildings made from bio-printed transparent wood that is more insulating, stronger, and cheaper.
Enzyknit: A machine that combines the enzymatic breakdown of fabrics with 4D printing to create a world where all new clothes can be created from existing fashion waste.
Aqora: A filter that uses a combination of acoustic focusing (sound waves to gather the microplastics) and iron nanoparticles (to make the plastics magnetic) to remove microplastics from drinking water.
Carbon X: An electric kiln using a more sustainable limestone alternative, aiming to cut carbon emissions used in concrete production.
Now students are preparing for the showcase in a couple of weeks where they can talk more about the projects they built this year with our mentors. I’m looking forward to wrapping up the year strong.
Until next week.
Along with a handful of feedback for how to improve.