Today, an idea was born.  I was talking with one of my upperclassmen. He showed me a picture of his new car.  We had talked cars before–this was a different one. Turns out he’s been flipping cars.  He’s sourced the welding to a friend’s dad, has a garage that will give him frame time, and then does the rest over time.

He invests the profits into buying other wrecks, and continues to make money.  His best flip was a 14K profit. Not bad for a kid who just got his permit.

“Um, I wonder if you realize you might have a business here?” I asked.

“Huh?”  That’s the standard response of all teens. It can mean so many things, I usually have to translate. In this case, it meant, “What do you mean, I own a business?”

“Well,” I said, “You outsource work, coordinate projects, make purchasing decisions, invest in materials, evaluate the projects that will make you the most profit, and for all intents and purposes, your friend there is your employee.”

He looked a bit surprised.

“You might want to reinvest some of your profits and consider building this up this business. You’re doing a nice job. Just a suggestion.” I said.

Now, this is me talking. I try very hard not to sprint from risk. But this kid’s already well in the black. Makes it easier.

“But I don’t want to do cars forever, I still want to go into health care,” he said.

“It’d be a shame to waste so much entrepreneurial spirit.” I said. “Shift the idea, keep the structure.” So, we brainstormed, and we talked, until an idea was born. And he was excited.

“Can I do this for my senior project?” he asked.

“Yup. I think so. But you can also make a living with this idea. It’s a winner.” I said, sending him off to make lists, do research, and think more before coming back to me.  All this from a kid who hates school.

“Will you mentor me?” I said of course–with the appropriate disclaimer that I’m not so perfect at this myself, but can set him in the right direction, and make the connections from there.  And thus, an idea is born.

A little later on, I found this kickstarter in my Facebook feed:

CEO Kylee pitches her startup "Tomorrow's Lemonade Stand"

CEO Kylee pitches her startup “Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand”

Kylee’s goal with her kickstarter, “Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand,” is to “teach young ladies and mini men to become entrepreneurs.”  Kylee is eight years old. As of this moment, her kickstarter has raised over $2500. Watch the pitch–she’ll be out negotiating Trump by the time she’s in middle school.

It doesn’t take a lot to have an idea, but it does take something to execute that idea–a little kickstart, perhaps, or an educational system that’s willing to listen to your idea. That’s getting harder and harder to do when all I seem to do is worry about “will my evaluation be today,” or “did I input my data,” or “what about the goals/curriculum/metrics.” When I’m thinking all those things, I’m not listening to my student. And I’m missing their big ideas.

I’ve been honored to talk with more and more visionary thinkers about the field of education. They’re all saying the same thing, “You’re missing the boat–nothing personal, I know you mean well, but…well, you’re missing the boat.” They go on to say that the American school system is so far disconnected from the needs of the student, and that ed reform seems to them, as entrepreneurs, to be going in the wrong direction completely.

I told one individual, “I should hate what you’re saying, because you just trashed my entire profession.” But the truth is, I am not mad. He is right. I wish it were different, but this is the truth we face.

Today, though, I had some reminders. If an eight-year old can do it, so can a high school student. And if a high school student can power through, so can I.

Today, I’m happy to say, an idea was born.