Each semester I have over 100 students create new Dropbox accounts. I’ve used this to max out my Dropbox referrals, and have also done so with a number of close friends.

This year, I’m opening it up a little bit. I can probably help max out 5-10 of you on your referral credits for Dropbox.

If you are interested, send me an @reply on Twitter with your Dropbox referral link, and while you’re there, give me a follow. I talk tech, business, and education.


Update: I got more than enough for class tomorrow. I’ll post again next time I’m getting classes set up. Thanks for the feedback everyone!

Everyone fails. But it’s not the failure that defines you, it’s how you respond.

I coach the 9th grade boys basketball team at my school. We’ve worked together for three months to get better. Today the boys faced a talented team in a winnable game. Starting down by 15 in the second quarter, they fought back to within one late in the game. They had two looks in the last ten seconds to pull out a victory and missed both shots.


But as a coach, I’m OK with failure. It’s a learning opportunity. It’s a stepping stone towards greatness. Remember, it’s how you respond to failure that defines you.

Those kids could have given up after the first quarter. Or after one was shoved into the wall by a guy 6 inches and 100 pounds bigger. Or when one was forced to foul out of the game with 3.5 seconds left. But not these kids. They secured a rebound and got another good opportunity before time expired.

They fought back. They didn’t give up. When the odds were against them, they kept going.

How about afterwards?

As the player who took the last two shots walked off the court, upset with his performance, his teammates corralled him, let him know they were glad he took those shots. He turned to a teammate and said, “let’s get better.”

Failure is a prevalent force in sports, in education, in startups. But if we work hard to get there, and take it as a learning lesson afterwards, we turn failure into a step on the bridge to success.

The Failure Resume

Tina Seelig, author of What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20, and Stanford professor, invites her students to create a Failure Resume to encourage them to learn from mistakes.

I have taken and modified this same activity with the students in my Teen Entrepreneurship class. 10 slides with either a photo or single sentence describing failures they’ve experienced. I’ve encouraged them to think outside my class, outside school entirely. Failures can be academic, athletic, social, familial, entrepreneurial, etc.

When the students present, they will look at each experience and describe what they learned from it, or advise others on how to avoid doing the same.

A couple of students have shared their decks with me already, and I am eagerly anticipating presentation day.

Far too many of us are ashamed of past failures, swept under the rug in an attempt to divert attention. But showing how we have survived, and even learned from failure is a far greater testament to our character than success. Remember, it’s the before and after that matters, and failure is only permanent if you give up.

If You’re Not Failing…

If you’re not failing regularly, you’re not trying hard enough. You’re not giving yourself the chance to win. It’s time to develop a system to deal with failure. Anticipate it. Learn from it. Get better.

What’s on your Failure Resume? How has that helped you reach greater success?

The stigma around watching TV during leisure time rubs me the wrong way. Somehow, enjoying TV in any capacity has become the villain of leading a happy, successful, productive life. I strongly disagree. Like any form of art, TV can enrich, enliven, even inspire.

Did he just call TV an art form?

Yes. Art. The time, passion, sweat, and tears that go into creating some programs goes beyond that of the great classical books, music, and visual arts.

Of course, for every classic novel there are a thousand self-published pieces not worth your time. Similarly, there is a lot of cruft to dig through to uncover any great song, photo, or movie. Such is art. The truly great ones, the ones worth your time and intellectual investment, are rare.

I admit that TV can overtake too much time and mental energy. For some, it saps the brain of emotion and independent thought. I don’t write in support of zoning out, mindlessly spending your hours at the screen in the living room.

I write of those who heavily invest ourselves in our interests, who dive in to in a great storyline. Those whose brains race during a well-executed reveal, whose hearts rise and fall with the success and failures of top-shelf character development.

For those, watching TV isn’t passive, it exercises the mind. It isn’t shutting doors to the outside world, it opens new platforms for social discourse.

Just like a Shakespearian play, a Beethoven symphony, or a Dickensian Classic.

So don’t apologize because you take time away from work, side projects, or other endeavors to watch a show. You can be successful, happy, and productive, even if you watch TV. Perhaps more so, for enriching your life with the art of masters.

Update: Joshua Howland, friend of the site, and a prolific self-taught developer, responded by e-mail this morning:

I think learning to program, writing a book, or shipping an app as a side project often comes at the cost of your leisure time. So sometimes I go months without TV. I sincerely think it’s a decrease in my quality of life when that happens. But we often have to sacrifice enjoyment in life to accomplish something creative.

Well put, and an excellent counterpoint to mine. Setting priorities is the key. Sacrificing leisure time in order to make more is a worthy pursuit. We must find that fine balance between creating and overworking. One is a healthy endeavor, while the other induces stress and frustration.

In short, spend your time on what makes you happy and enriches your life.

One of the local universities offers a program where students can take concurrent enrollment classes that count towards both high school and general ed college credits. This is a great way to graduate high school with a transferable associate’s degree in tow.

I had a student ask me what I thought of the program. He is about to register for 10th grade and is considering applying to it.

No way

UCAS is a great program. Very successful students go through the program and exit high school two years ahead of their college-bound peers. It has a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. All of which I strongly encourage students to take. So why wouldn’t I recommend it?

It’s simple. This kid is social, outgoing, and would miss some of the amazing opportunities high school offers. He would miss out on clubs, sporting events, dances, student government, and more.

High school isn’t for everyone. In fact, some very successful people skip right over it. But there are other ways to get ahead in schooling if that is the goal.

I graduated from my high school with nearly 45 credits under my belt. We had CP classes, similar to classes that offer AP credit, but without the required test. I also took half-days during my senior year to go down to the local universities and take classes. I didn’t have to go to a separate building two cities away from all of my friends and extra-curricular activities. And even though the first two years of high school were hard, my junior and senior years were some of the most fun of my life.

Rushing through college is a sucker’s game if you don’t know what you want to get out of it. I rushed to finish my degree. I had no clue what I wanted to do, I only knew that I wanted to graduate ASAP.

While I love my career choice, I fell into it rather than discovered it as a perfect fit for me. I didn’t take my time to find out what I wanted to do. I followed a trail set by a family of educators. Heck. I almost changed my major to accounting one semester before graduating in Business Education. (Happy to say I dodged a major bullet there.)

UCAS and other programs that help you get ahead are great if you know what you want to do with that degree. It’s a great way to save money on college tuition, and it can be a great fit if the typical high school scene just isn’t for you. To those students, I heartily endorse UCAS and similar programs.

But if you are the type of person who will get involved in clubs, dance, drama, student government; or if you enjoy getting to know new people, dating, dances, care-free drives with your friends; or if you just need a little more time to figure out who you are and what you want to become; find other ways to get ahead that allow you to still be a part of your high school. It just may be some of the best years of your life.

Rands has me pegged:

You’re swimming in everyone else’s moments, likes, and tweets and during these moments of consumption you are coming to believe that their brief interestingness to others makes it somehow relevant to you and worth your time… Each one you experience, each one you consume, is a moment of your life that you’ve spent forever… These are other people’s moments.

I’ve spent time reflecting on how I spend my time and if that reflects what I want my life to be. Too often, it doesn’t.

It is too easy to slip into my Twitter stream and feel like I accomplished something, or let an hour pass in Pocket on inconsequential moments.

I’ve been thinking about the Spanish word hacer lately. It’s an interesting word in that it has two distinct English translations. It means ‘to do’ and ‘to make’. So if I ask you ‘¿que estas haciendo?’ I am asking what you’re doing/making. I’ve been thinking about my life’s ratio of doing vs. making, or The Hacer Ratio.

How often am I doing something but not making something? And am I OK with that relationship?

Some things that I do:

  • Read through RSS feeds
  • Show up to school to teach
  • Watch TV with my wife
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Observe while my daughter plays

Things I’m not making when doing the above:

  • Writing here, in my journal, or anywhere else
  • A difference to individual students, or my classes as a whole
  • A healthier, stronger marriage
  • Connections or new ideas that only come with a relaxed, undistracted brain
  • A strong, lasting relationship that enriches my life and pays dividends when my daughter is older

I find myself going through the motions, letting life happen to me instead of making mindful decisions. Too often I sit idly by doing things without consequence, instead of taking action to make.

I’m making changes around here. Eliminating distractions that enable doing and focusing on making. I am going for new addictive highs that come from building instead of observing. I am tipping the Hacer Ratio from do to make.

Hoy, que estas haciendo?
What are you making today?