Plywood People: What has prompted you to want to empower others take a risk and make a change?
Victor Saad: I have a strong interest in making the world a better place due to my faith and some great examples over the years, but I felt like I need to more tools and skills. In Spring of 2011, after spending months researching MBA programs and taking the GMAT, I decided to write out my own plan to study business, art/design, and social change. I put in my resignation in May and my work was gracious enough to give me the duration of the summer to make plans.
I interviewed over 400 people and asked them all sorts of questions. I always ended by asking, “What would YOU do if you were me? What risk would you take to change something for the better?”
Their answers ranged from downsizing to adopting to finishing degrees …. etc.
I had called my personal education project: The Leapyear Project, but had no idea 2012 was going to be a Leap Year. Once a friend mentioned that tidbit of information, I decided to explore how to invite others to attempt their own projects and share their stories.
Plywood People: In your own leaping, what has been the most challenging part of the process so far?
Dreams and goals are easy. Imagining the ideals is fun. Executing the details is by far the hardest part of this. I’m currently trying to complete 12 educational experiences in 12 months. These entail internships, travel, and various projects. There are hundreds of details that come with setting up each experience, working well with each organization, and then maintaining the rest of the project.
Fortunately, things have gone well so far thanks to a few friends who have been extremely generous with their time.
I would also say that it is a challenge to give the ere of invitation. As soon as you do something different, people want to place you on a stage to examine and critique you, and then keep watching until you really succeed or fail. It is somewhat understandable but difficult to dodge. Not only is that stage a lonely place, it’s not helpful. We need more opportunities to pursue change. I want to create that space for people…not another stage.
It has been difficult to learn how to do that well.
Plywood People: As you work out the nitty gritty details of starting something new, what is your perspective on what matters most in the midst of the project? How do you know what to prioritize?
Victor: Team. I’m highly relational. People come before projects for me. If I have an idea, normally the first thing I think of is ”Who would love to do this with me?
I’m still not sure if that’s the best way to function, but I enjoy building small teams of creative, hard working people who believe in the same mission. It’s a joy to set them loose to run towards that mission.
Example. Also, it has been remarkable to see how important it is to live out the things I’m asking others to do. Time and time again, The Leapyear Project has seemed hard to grasp until I explain what I’m doing and how I’m sharing the stories. I have to be the first leaper for others to join.
Perspective Lastly, I need to keep some perspective. This isn’t going to be the biggest project in the world. I’ll lose my mind. I need to take my leap, I need to support the team, and I need to see if 500 people will join us. And if any of this fails, we’ll roll with it. As long as we don’t lose our heads and maintain our integrity — it’s going to be a great year!
Plywood People: Who is inspiring you right now in what you’re doing?
Victor: There are a few mentors who continue to cheer me on and remind me that what I’m doing is worthwhile. They share their ideas, encouragement and critiques. Also, the companies and orgs I’m working alongside have some rockstar leaders who have sharp minds and and big hearts. Hearing their stories and gaining a closeup perspective on how they run their companies and their lives is awesome. Over the past few weeks, I have worked closely with Jake Nickell of Threadless and he has been especially kind, encouraging and inspiring through my stint here.
Plywood People: Will you share a story of one of your leaps so far?
Victor: The first month was perhaps the most awkward and then the most ‘improved.’ I had no idea what I would do when I landed at Doejo’s studio. I just knew Phil Tardos was a great guy with all kinds of amazing projects in the works. By the end of the moth we had developed a great friendship and I was able to spark The Doejo Foundation (which I’m still working towards with Katie B.)
I think that first month truly made me excited for the rest of the year!