Why I Love Praxis
I have been asked by several people why I applied to Praxis, why I am so excited about it and just how valuable I think it is. I am now into my fourth month of the program (as of February 2016), and decided to answer those questions, talk about my experience so far and provide some information about the program. The short answer is, I love Praxis not only because it has radically impacted my life for the better, but also because their mission and values overlap heavily with mine.
My Take on it
The program is not only for people who want to start a business or are working on breaking into a particular field (though they often are). To me, Praxis is about personal and professional growth first and foremost. It is about fostering a capacity and drive to create value, develop productive habits and mindsets, and gain business, life and work related skills. It is not just about making you a more valuable employee, but a more valuable, fulfilled, insightful and productive individual. The entrepreneurship and business curricula serve as a useful addition for participants that want to go down that route (now or in future). What I have experienced in my first 3 months is the education I wish I had received at university or high school. The focus is on what I do with what I learn – how I put it into practice. It is so much more meaningful than the school and university model of passively consuming material selected exclusively by others – without any real purpose for doing so.
In my first month I started this blog, revised my HTML skills, made and organised CSS notes (for future reference), started another website and made graphics for it in Photoshop, learned basic SEO, and mapped out a plan for a potential online business thanks to the quality resources in the Tech and Digital Skills module. The following month I learned more about entrepreneurship – being productive, utilising strategies, maintaining energy and focus by listening to those who have been there as they shared their experiences of success, failure and practices which helped them. Last month I set myself the challenge of reading 4 books, making a blog post about each of them, creating a guide to SEO and writing 3 articles for my other site. This in addition to starting work at my partner business. Predictably, it overflowed into this month and I am only just completing (most of) it now. I learned not only from the content I consumed, thought and wrote about but also that I need to better manage my time and possibly choose more realistic goals.
Much like the education component, the internship is a truly invaluable experience. Praxis participants are not brought in to act as a glorified monkey or follow others around. The exception being a day or two during the program spent shadowing the CEO in order to learn about how the business is grown, maintained and run day to day. The expectation is that participants are working and contributing as much or more than other employees. The placements are at startups or small businesses of half a dozen to fifty employees, meaning everyone has to contribute substantially. There is no place for weak links. This means that we need to always be looking for opportunities to innovate, automate, deliver results, make sales, close deals, grow, perform and communicate more effectively. The quantity of work depends on the business – many participants do about 30 hours a week, others (often in sales roles) can be looking at 50-60 a week.
I started with my partner business – Practice Paradox – less than a month ago and have loved every minute so far. I am currently working on creating content for a web project designed to educate business owners on how to set themselves apart, be more valuable and ultimately sell more. I will be creating content on developing a clear strategy and leveraging the power of the internet to publish, promote, attract and convert clients or customers and to automate processes for doing so. Knowing that my work is meaningful and benefits others is incredibly important to me. I find it motivating, energising and particularly refreshing after my previous employment.
Praxis – What is it?
Praxis is a 12 month accelerated educational experience designed to kick start (or continue) a budding entrepreneurs professional and personal growth. It features an intensive educational component, self directed projects, 1 on 1 coaching sessions, group discussions and a 10 month placement at a partner business. During this placement we learn about starting and growing a business, develop work related skills and under take several projects. Both the education component and the business component always come back to demonstrating value and putting knowledge into practice.
The education component of the program features monthly modules ranging from Technology and Digital Skills to Life and Entrepreneurship Skills, Business, Economics, Philosophy and History. The remaining six months are spent on self-created personal development projects, with personally identified goals and deliverables, culminating in a larger scale project in the final two months. If participants want to skip a curriculum module in lieu of more PDP activities, or tailor it to suit their needs or expertise that’s fine. Nothing is mandatory. It is all about extracting the most value out of the program. PDPs and curriculum items are discussed, expanded on and mined for actionable activities during the weekly 1 on 1 coaching sessions. Participants also discuss progress, content, work, personal development and professional development with Praxis advisers who guide them, hold them accountable to their goals and make sure they are getting the most value out of the program.
The first two months function as a ‘boot camp’ focusing on building productive habits and getting the participant up to speed for their business partner experience. After boot camp, participants commence their 10 month internship with their partner business, while working on the curriculum content and PDPs in their spare time. Participants are matched with businesses based on their employment related skills, professional interests and preferred roles (ie sales, content creation, marketing etc). Following a successful interview the match is made and the participant is effectively hired as an intern. What is earned while working for the partner business is equal to (or may exceed) Praxis tuition repayments, giving the program a net cost of zero. If participants have to relocate then they may need to dip into savings, set up a side business, draw on a college fund, choose the 24 month repayment option or lean on friends and family. That said, the Praxis network is continually growing and local opportunities or remote positions present a possible solution. Participants finding their own partner business is unconventional, yet also another option.
Other Reasons Why Praxis Appeals to Me
Participants can be confident that their partner business will be a high quality work environment, operated by people with a sound business outlook. If the CEO is interested in Praxis and entrepreneurship and the Praxis Team has recognised the business as a suitable partner, then they are very likely to be a great match for those doing the program. Particularly in terms of their business philosophy and mission.
The program is accelerated. In one year we learn and experience infinitely more than most doing a 4 year degree. I think it is even more valuable in that it is also highly personalised. If I don’t want to do a curriculum module and think there is a better way I can use my time, or I want to pursue something more in depth than what is offered in the module – I can do that instead. Ultimately, I think the benefit over my life time will infinitely exceed my investment (if you can even call it that), especially considering my university debt of $25k AUD was effectively for naught. A very expensive lesson indeed.
The Praxis blog, provides a constant stream of tangible advice for those looking to further their personal and professional development. Take a look at the following five actionable pieces 5 Ways to Improve your Email, 5 Ways to Improve Your Resume, 4 Things a College Dropout Should Do to Prepare for Success, How to Not Suck at LinkedIn, Two Questions and a Challenge for Aspiring Entrepreneurs. I guarantee there will be more than one item from just those that you can do to improve your personal or professional success.
Initially, Praxis inspired me to get back into art and animation. Specifically 2D animation. The desire to create, build and produce short clips illustrating economic concepts appealed to me. I worked on that for a month or two until I realised that the time investment for what I wanted to do was prohibitively high. More recently I have decided it is time for me to start making progress on my long term business and life goals. My priority right now is establishing myself as a knowledgeable figure when it comes to education – unschooling in particular – and develop my ability to communicate with others. My short term aims are to get a website up dedicated to unschooling and free education, publish quality content regularly and grow an email list. Whether I decide to develop that, transition into creating resources for homeschooling or unschooling parents, work with coops in some way or do something else, only time will tell.
I wanted to start something similar here in Australia the moment I heard Isaac speaking about his idea back in 2013. I think there is incredible potential in offering young people an alternative (or addition) to the degree. One where they can work hard and prove themselves, create value for those they work for, commit to and complete rigorous self education and professional development projects while setting and achieving goals. These are all tangible or verifiable deliverables. An employer does not have to guess or take a risk, hoping that the graduate student with little more than a transcript and résumé has talent, experience and the ability to get shit done – they can check all that for themselves! Praxis turns the modern credential model on its head and I think that benefits both workers and businesses tremendously. When combined with its significantly lower monetary and time cost it makes me wonder why anyone would want to go to college.
If you think an experience like this sounds exciting, challenging and worthwhile, or you have questions and would like to know more, check out discoverpraxis.com or contact me at bradjamesmatthews [at] gmail [dot] com