Stay Learning with Dr. Kevin Berkopes
Joe Mills: What are the unique experiences that drive business leaders to keep growing, and how can the lessons learned from those stories enable others to do the same? I’m Joe Mills, and I’m Reid Morris, and together we’re investigating who it takes and the tools to use to build companies and culture. Then we’re sharing those stories with you.
This is 1,000 Stories, an original show from Element Three.
Reid Morris: Okay, Joe. So you know, as we’re exploring these different areas in our conversations now, in the post-season, one world of the show, you know, we took a bit of a journey over to this education world with our conversation with Don Webrick, and that provided a lot of really interesting insights, his experiences, what he is trying to do.
It, there’s a lot that we can learn and apply to the other conversations that we’re having. But then obviously it’s like, well, maybe there’s more to explore in this education space. Right. And, and that brings us to our conversation with Kevin. , could you give the audience a bit of context as to the background behind where you want to go with this, what you’re trying to get from that conversation?
Joe Mills: Yeah, so Kevin’s somebody who I would really define as being a person who wants to learn from the mess. And this idea of being in the mess really comes from something. San Patrick, our former COO, said to me one time when we were working together, he was like, there’s people who want to enable those in the mess.
And there’s people who want to be hands on in the. They’re both equally great, but they require a different sort of skillset, a different sort of personality. And Kevin went to very underprivileged areas of the country. He went to rural Appalachia, he went to Southside Chicago. You could not have more different demographics in those two.
Um, but both are really extreme poverty situations. And he wanted to understand what is failing people in the sense of educational. Like equity of opportunity, what? What’s happening here and why are we failing it? Mm-hmm. . But I think it takes an interesting person to be motivated to be like, yeah, I’m coming outta school with really good degrees, do a lot of things.
I’m gonna go to really tough parts of the country and
Reid Morris: just do something that is generally quite, just quite difficult
Joe Mills: to do. Yeah. I mean, , it would be on the lower end of my list of things I’d want to do for sure. Yeah. And so I want to explore with him just like what he. And also unpack with him how he got to where he’s at now with XR Technologies and what got him out, like out of that situation.
Meaning what was his conscious choice to move on and mm-hmm. Unpack that with him and understand how is he trying to make an impact on what he observed and saw. Yeah. During that time. But I think he’s got an interesting framework for, it’s where it’s like I. until I experience it and see it for myself, I will not understand how it works, what problems are actually there to be solved and how I can go solve them.
Mm-hmm. . So I wanna understand how he like framed that up and just got there. And
Reid Morris: I think one thing that’s really interesting that we can dive into in this conversation is, you know, as we think about these conversations and how they connect to Element Three’s company purpose, right? Foster growth in people and business so they can change the world and in these different convers.
There are more direct or indirect connections to that purpose, right? We talk about people who build businesses who arm their employees with a financial means to change things in their near sphere, right? But then we have on the more broad spectrum here of like changing the education system is truly just like building a business that is meant to change the world, right?
So it’s like these different ways of how people are choosing to create change directly or in. And education. It makes sense. It’s a natural place where you can really have a large impact on people if you want to truly revolutionize that, that space. But I don’t know, just be really interesting to see what he’s trying to achieve and, and just see where his mind’s at.
Yeah, totally. Nah, should
Joe Mills: be cool.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: I’m the CEO of XR Technologies, but um, My, my background’s probably is indicative of why I’m an entrepreneur. I, I have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Uh, thought I was gonna go and do, you know, finance something. I actually didn’t know. I, I wanted to make money. I knew that I wanted to use the skillsets that I had to solve problems that I wanted to solve.
It turned out that I ended up teaching in North Carolina. I was a backpacker at the time and kind of came out of the woods and saw a. In the middle of nowhere and walked in was like, hi, I’m a Kevin from Purdue, I’d like to teach here. And the guy’s like, well, what ? Um, and from there, within no joke, two weeks I had a job offer and was moving.
Joe Mills: So when you popped out and you were like, I know I’m gonna choose a profession that do totally doesn’t pay people anything, anything. And I’m gonna do it here, can you just like, Where did that come
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: from? Oh man. Um, well, my mom’s a 40 year teacher, right? So she retired, uh, she taught on the south side of Indianapolis.
My mom also taught it’s in your blood, if that’s the case. And it’s either a social, um, do right by society in your blood or. Serving others is a part of your core values. Um, educating has a certain allure to it because she learned a roof for the underdog. Uh, I’ve always somewhat thought that everyone is capable of doing almost anything if you have the right circumstance and, and equitable support and drive.
But oftentimes, you know, we, we see young people that if you’ve ever worked with them who. Brilliance inside of them, but they are systematically limited. They didn’t get to choose where they were born, who they were born to, what neighborhood school they get to go to or anything else. You don’t have the advantages of high qualities of those in our society.
You’re significantly limited in what you can accomplish unless you’re a complete unicorn outlier. as scale goes, I’d rather see equity be possible beyond a unicorn.
Joe Mills: So, and you were already feeling this way when you started
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: at nc? Yeah, I think so. I learned a lot about my mistakes on what poverty did. to transition into more of the framework that I carry today and and beyond is, uh, somewhat of the framework I had was that it it’s about instilling a, a passion or instilling the ability to work hard and kind of pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
Uh, that’s an incomplete thought. Mm-hmm. As you would learn in those environments, that what and where and how young people are brought into circumstance. It’s. Way, way different than that. You can be born into a circumstance where by the time you’re three or five years old, you’ve heard a million less words than your peers.
It’s not something that you cost. Uh, no bootstrap pull ups gonna make up that. Uh, unless you really got an opportunity to be exposed to something and you get in a a K five setting, you get kids that come to kindergarten like mine, who, you know, my, my son can double count all the way to 256 and he’s just turned five.
Most of the kids that I worked with in these low resourced areas, they come to kindergarten and they can’t, they’ve never even seen a letter or they don’t even know what a number is. So what does that mean? What does equity mean in, in terms of opportunity? I was definitely driven towards that in, in certain ways, but I was also sort of under the impression that one way to benefit society.
And sort of the larger core values of what I had was if I became, uh, successful as you would define that I could give back in certain ways, but what I found was a path through doing the work and, and otherwise seven communities that I lived in. Like
Joe Mills: did that same motivation stay all the way through the time in the classroom or did it change at all as you went through different cities and environ?
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: It changed only in the way in what I was looking for to learn. Um, that’s something that’s probably true to my core, is I’m always looking for the next thing to learn. I work from that paradigm. So yeah, I, I wanted to learn different things, but I wanted to serve and learn about communities of color, communities that sort of are isolated in particular ways, both rule and urban, because those are different.
And my background taught me a little bit about that or a lot of, bit about. Working in schools where you’re in, uh, you know, the, the worst gang violence in, uh, the United States at the time, which was the south side of Chicago, teaches you something different than the sort of Appalachia area of North Carolina or New Jersey or, uh, the west and east sides of, of Austin, Texas.
Just fundamentally different cultures and approaches and understandings that guide and limit people from being, you know, hopeful, joyful adults.
Joe Mills: So what eventually led you to. I’ve learned a lot in, in academia, and I’m gonna move into the private sector. What was the sort of key point? Did it happen in your PhD?
Was it during your master’s? Like what was the moment where you were like, I think I needed to go different
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: now. I was a university professor, um, in the mathematics departments or hybrids between math and undergraduate education, or was that at Purdue? Yeah. Okay. Purdue Wabash. Um, iu I learned enough
Joe Mills: about some casually decent universities.
I, uh, I mean, genuinely, man, like this is, this
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: is very impressive. Well, I, you know, I, I think, I think the opportunity to, to work in institutions like that teach you a lot. One way to think about it is that it does have an attached prestige to it, or you can kind of sit on a. You know, business card that has those prestigious universities on, I’m a tenured faculty member of X, Y, and Z.
That’s, that’s great. That’s not something I wanted to hang my hat on. I wanted to hang my hat on. Productivity and changing. Systems that were referred to as unchangeable, and I think universities are part of that system in such a way that what I learned was if you really wanted to do seismic shifts to a human system like education, you probably have to do it with a higher risk, which is entrepreneurship.
There is not an incentive of risk for universities to do this type of work.
Joe Mills: The thing that just popped into my head was education has always struck me and, and politics strike me this way. as big, slow moving bureaucracies that are most impacted by the people who are inside of them because it’s what the people who are also insight will trust.
Mm-hmm. . Um, so how do you think about going about. Making shifts from the outside?
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: Well, I think you can’t in certain ways. So some of the things that you just said, I completely agree with. You can’t necessarily influence the K through 12 system unless you’ve worked in it. Because when you work in something, if you’re wired the way that I am, you’re trying to understand how it actually functions.
What are the incentives for people in that system to either persist with currently how things are operating or change? If you don’t learn that, uh, I think you. Would see a lot of, of startups and widgets trying to change things that don’t understand the incentives that drive, um, people in, in decision making places.
University was the same. I needed to understand the hierarchy of administration, uh, how a school of Ed works with the greater. Community in terms of content, among other things, how a mathematics department works with, uh, the greater community and why it’s such a large and powerful department on every campus.
Uh, and the reasons are pretty simple. Everybody has to take math, which means credit hours, drive revenue. Revenue drives power. That’s a fact. School of Science and, and its sort of place on departments in, in, uh, schools of educat. I think you have to learn from the inside a system that you want to change, which means you have to do the hard work of actually being a part of it first, uh, without alienating yourself, uh, because you’re somewhat motivated to change something that you’re now learning how to be a part of.
Joe Mills: There, there’s this common theme I’ve heard you say a few times now around this idea of like going through the hard times of, of maybe not even hard times is the right way to put it, but like the doing the work. , which like I don’t think is quote unquote new, but, but I like the way you phrase it around.
If we would’ve been funded before we failed, we wouldn’t have all the learnings of the hard times. If I didn’t understand it from the inside, I would not be able to have impact on it later. Has that just always been how you’ve been like, I need to be in the mess to understand
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: it? I think so. I think, I think learned from experience, uh, learned by doing has, has always been a core way that I’ve.
Uh, but I also think it’s validated over time. That’s the best way to learn. So if you’re really motivated to actually do something specific, you have to become a wash in it because, I mean, think about your own experience. You’re walking into a job of a, of a job description. It’s the first time you’ve done that job.
Do you really know what it means to be that until you’ve actually done it for three months, six months, a year, maybe? ?
Joe Mills: Probably not. Okay. So candidly, when I started I was like, ah, experience is overrated. And then I feel like every year I get a little bit more like, ah, experience has validity to it, but what I don’t want to do is turn around and say to everybody coming up behind me, you’re just, you’re not ready cause you don’t have the experience.
Like, how do you balance? And also thinking about your ideas around equity, you know, among people, how do you balance the need for experience with the need to get people the experience? I, I
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: think it probably happens in two ways. One is the empathy that you just described. You have to understand that the people that you meet all along the way are all sorts of, uh, not yet in certain ways.
So I learned that from teaching or, or from my own upbringing of, of putting people in that category. So you have to sort of give grace to others that they’re on a piece of a journey that may not be the one path that would best resonate with where you’re at in yours. And therefore you can provide opportunities for people to.
Some, someone have to be okay with stopping at just providing them with the opportunity. Cuz if they’re not ready to take it five years from now, they might be. Um, so, you know, if you think about you in your early career and the reason that you were probably working from the disposition, that experience doesn’t matter is cuz you didn’t have any, right?
You wanna position always. I think this is a human way. We position ourselves in certain ways. Uh, allow us to rise to the top of certain categories of worth. Yeah,
Joe Mills: it’s, it’s an ego play to say, I have value
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: and it’s okay to have that. Yeah. I think I can give a personal example as far as, um, mathematically I’m, uh, pretty accomplished, but in terms of sheer speeds of calculations internally, among other things, I, I mean I’m fast, but I’m not the fastest, more of where my talent k kind of sets.
Strategy and being able to see things in three dimensions and being able to understand how certain moves, uh, lead to others. That’s been something that I’ve learned about myself as being a talent that I’ve, of course, developed over time, but something that innately, that I’ve always sort of had. So early in my career, I told a lot of people that it wasn’t important to be a fast calculator to be a mathematician.
Well, of course I would say that, right? I wasn’t the fastest. Um, w why and how we say those things is often more of an indicator of where we’re at in our own sort of career and, and growth and path than actually the truth of the matter of if there is in fact a truth of any matter as it stands.
Joe Mills: Yeah, I like that.
It’s, it’s the thing that popped in my head. I almost always relate things back to sports because I played college athletics and it’s the way I kind of view my world Sure. Person through which I view it, and it’s kinda like if, if I’m the Kansas City Chiefs, I. Defense does not matter. Patrick Mahomes, who needs, who needs defense?
Yeah. I, but if I’m, if I’m not, it might matter quite a bit.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: It, it’s, it’s very true that we, we sort of privilege the things that we’re good at to be able to make a case that the, these are the most important things. I don’t think you do it nefariously. I think you just sort of have human behaviors that make sense for our kind of own wellbeing.
So I, I think giving grace to where people are at as far as their journey along the way is, Understanding yourself and where you’re at in your own journey, and then maybe giving yourself a little bit of. I don’t know if it’s forgiveness, but if you ever get that pang where you think of something that you said when you were 23, it’s like, maybe I should go back and apologize to that person.
I didn’t. It’s too late. And they probably don’t remember it the way you do anyways,
Joe Mills: so it probably isn’t playing as big of a role in their head as it is yours.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: No. Uh, gosh, I, I had kids that, uh, I taught when I, they were little and they’re like, remember that day when I did X? And I’m like, who are you again?
Like, I don’t remember that day. I certainly don’t remember that you were mean to me. I remember you. Kind of, yeah. You know, like, yeah. But this was something they had carried for years. Like this kid was a, he was a college quarterback. I had taught him and coached him in his early high school, and he wanted to have a conversation with me about apologizing for how he acted in a practice at one time in a January of some year.
And I’m like, I remember your name, dude, and I remember liking you. That’s about it. Yeah. And he is like, but this was this huge thing for me and I’ve been carrying this burden for years. And I’m like, Hmm, how can I learn from this? Uh, maybe I should let go that I was a jerk to my mom at eight , because she probably doesn’t remember, but she probably remembers a lot of other things that I did between the ages of birth until now.
It’s important to, to forgive oneself, but also somewhat be reflective of where others are positioning themselves in a what stage of the path. So you,
Joe Mills: you move out of academia because you’re like, I can affect this more from the.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: I think the incentives made sense to me. Universities are filled with people who have the incentive for the system to stay the same.
Yeah. Because they’re PhDs. Um, which as a sort of prerequisite for other jobs, it’s not really important. It’s a matter of, you know, driving value among other things, but, , uh, the university system, getting a, an eight month a year job as a tenured faculty, your expectations among other things are in your pay is pretty good.
Like it’s a good lifestyle job. Mm-hmm. , why would you change that system that you worked so hard to get a PhD to be a part of? The incentive wasn’t there to shift how things worked. I think society’s starting to position the incentive for higher ed to change, but I didn’t see it internally through all the different learning variables that I went through.
Joe Mills: H how do you see society doing? Changing the
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: incentive? Well, I think some of the stuff we’re working on as a part of that, the opportunity now to where you can get a bachelor’s degree while working full-time, being paid, coming out with no debt, having four years of experience in an industry by the time you’re 21, 22 years old.
Mm-hmm. . Man, the people coming up I think are attracted to that in a way that, uh, the college or die narrative of the last 25 years just didn’t resonate. I think university’s enrollment has declined 10 to 12% in the last several years. Yeah. I think
Joe Mills: since Covid it’s really taken a bit of a nose dive.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: There’s a reason, uh, it’s okay to question the value in the ROI of getting a degree. A lot of people spend a hundred, $120,000, which is a somewhat of a mortgage on a first house to get what? I think people are starting to ask that question a little bit more and that the brand of a university as it would carry you through your career is, has declined.
I think they’re starting to take notice. Societal pressures will continue to do that, but I think there’s alternative avenues that are gonna put even more pressure on ’em.
Joe Mills: So this is cool to talk about because we had, um, Don Webrick. Do you know Don? I know Don, yeah. He’s a good friend. He’s a, he was awesome on.
he came in and a lot of our conversation, I mean we touched on education a lot, right? Mm-hmm. and his focus is really inside of that high school class. And it sounds like your focus is really more of secondary education and beyond. Is that true? Uh, it’s
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: upskilling to a certain extent. So if I would say where Don and I overlap, it’s that courses and classes and experiences can be done a really differently.
Mm-hmm. starting in, you know, the early middle school through high school for. . My dream would be that a kid that goes to a school anywhere could have the opportunity to have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s by the time they finish high school. Now, why would you want that? Yeah. Well, interesting. When you sort of know about the curriculum that happens, college algebra is 85% the same as freshman algebra in high school.
The reason I know that is cuz I’ve built the curriculum for P through 20. I understand it’s so in-depthly because of the, the sort of modular stacks that we’ve built for our own software and approach. that when you see that on paper, you kind of go, why would you ever take algebra when you couldn’t get college credit for it?
Yeah. And the same is true for a lot of the courses that young people would take. So it’s the idea of if we wanna provide an equitable access, why couldn’t 30 to 60 credits be done by the time you leave high school with courses that are approved by higher ed commission or otherwise? That’s what dual credit’s all.
but you’re saving people 60, 80, a hundred thousand dollars on an undergrad education, which significantly, uh, is the cause of why a lot of people don’t persist. So
Joe Mills: are AP and IB programs not doing that already? Or where’s the gap?
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: So AP does allow some of that, right? So that’s, that’s somewhat of the idea.
IB is an international baccalaureate and has a particular curriculum that prepares you to test out of certain things as. These are good, but they’re not equitable. They’re not everywhere and you can’t find the Oh, okay. The sort of skill sets of people to teach. Same thing with dual credit. Uh, Ivy Tech has 30 dual credit course, 30 credit hours, I should say, of dual credit courses available in virtual.
But what they have the hardest time finding is a certified teacher at a, a rural school to be able to pull it off and execute, uh, those different content domains. So it’s somewhat of a question. We’ve got these ideas floating around. But the real catalyst for this is what, if you recognize that a 16 year old’s a great teacher?
I think they are. We’ve trained all the way down to third graders being teachers. They’re phenomenal. Um, wait, hold
Joe Mills: on. I’m, I admit, um, ignorance of the exact intricacies of the, of the thing that you do, but does your technology enable a third grader teach to his or her class?
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: Well, so yes. Whoa. But think of it, this.
uh, a typical seventh grade class in Indiana, based on the data, has about 10 grade level differences in math capabilities sitting in that class. Mm-hmm. , you have everything from first grade capable kids to college ready kids. So kind of do the math. That’s about 10 grade level differences. A teacher’s tasked six to seven times a day with differentiating to that type of group of kids.
Yeah. So what assets are available? To be able to do that. If you miss the fact that there are a bunch of kids in that class who absolutely can teach and you don’t understand that you learn the best from your peers because of shared language, culture, age, whatever, you’re missing one of the largest assets to the education system that exists.
So even from the very beginning of what I’ve done as an entrepreneur is training peers to teach each other is massively important to the education system. I mean, every class has a whole bunch of people that can do an adequate or above adequate job of supporting and differentiating for each other. and, and you can push back on this.
I have never learned more than something that I tried to teach to somebody else. Yeah, I’d agree with you. You have to unpack it differently. You have to communicate it, you have to connect certain things that you never would’ve had to do if I was just looking at a screen and trying to replicate what’s,
Joe Mills: what’s like findings two page thing.
I’m sure you’ve seen this framework where he’s like explained this on no more than two pages of paper and it needs to make sense to a 12 year. .
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: When you try to do that, the amount of learning that you have to do to be able to communicate well, understand a problem. Sort of trite example would be if I asked you something simple for mathematics, like, can you divide by zero?
And lots of people would be like, no. I mean, when my calculator, it gives me an error. Right? Okay. Now tell me why. Most, most people like, I have no idea. Well, okay. You can’t des
Joe Mills: you can’t divide by something that doesn’t exist.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: Zero exists. You have zero has no value though, right? Well it has an immense value in the number 300.
It tells you that there are zero ones. I like this.
Joe Mills: This is fun. But what would like your explanation be for that? Well, I’m not, by the way, math was not the
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: strong suit. Ah, see he made a mistake there. Mathematics is human and, um, brief conversation. I can tell you think deeply and therefore, uh, definitely mathematical, but.
I digress. I appreciate
Joe Mills: that because this is an identity statement I’ve always put
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: on myself. It’s important for people to, to understand that we put limitations on ourselves that are probably culturally created and not real. But man, do we, we fit ourselves into that box. We do.
Joe Mills: We do. You know, it’s interesting and as you said that the thing I always thought about was for whatever reason, as I was going through my education experience very often, I wouldn’t say in college, this was not really the case in college, but prior to that, it was very often.
These are our analytical kids and these are our creative kids. And it was always like, I was really high performing in like languages and social studies and history and English and like everything in that sense. And then math and sciences were more of a struggle for me. Mm-hmm. in terms of like, I, I felt like I had to try a lot harder.
They weren’t as interesting. And so, oh, you’re just like, you’re just good at that side of the brain. You’re good at that. Yeah. How do you, how does that land on.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: Uh, problematic , let’s unpack that. Yeah, I mean, it, it’s problematic because creativity in terms of the sciences is how science advances. So anybody that would call themselves a creative awesome.
Please study stem. We need more creativity in sort of the advancement of technology. Creativity comes from invention growth and seeing the world in a different way. That mentality works extremely well in the sciences. Being able to look at something completely differently and then trying to model it in a particular way to solve problems that are potentially unsolvable.
Like, man, that’s, that’s a lot of creativity. There’s a
Joe Mills: framework that you mentioned in our first conversation when we were. Bouncing around the idea of you popping on here, and you’ve touched on it a few times when you talked about like every statement you’ve made so far, is like, when I try to solve that problem, when I try to solve that problem, when I try to solve that problem, most of the time people talk about like accomplishment when they like a goal.
Is there a different way that you view like what you’re doing? Is it, is it all through? like problem statements or how do you identify like what you’re working on? Cause it, it feels slightly different than a way that I talk about it. I talk about like goals and objectives. It sounds like you talk about things to solve and unpack.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: Yeah. I think I learned at an early age that sort of outcomes that are, it’s not material outcomes necessarily, that’s not the right phrasing, but like if you set a goal and you obtain it, right. Uh, or what does. Look like lots of people talk about what success looks like, and I, I find some of their definitions pretty lacking, mainly because you, at 22, setting metrics for success for your life, you know, for a fact that you changed a lot from 18 to 22.
So what, like how do you rationalize Yeah, the own personal growth and, and understanding of setting these sort of life metrics. Do, do you set,
Joe Mills: do you set individual like goals in a traditional. I
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: think it’s, it’s pretty simple for me. Am I working towards being hopeful and joyful? Do I have the core things?
Joe Mills: wait. That’s, that’s simple. Oh, I think so. Really? Yeah. Do you know, like, so you know how to work towards being hopeful and joyful?
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s a pretty simple set of circumstances. Do you create and value the relationships around you, or have they created and valued and reciprocated?
Joe Mills: Are you, you know what I love is that, is that somebody who has your PhD is in mathematics.
Mm-hmm. , but mathematics, PhD. and that is not measurable. I mean it is measurable, but when you go through these like goal setting exercises so regularly, it’s like, all right, now make it smart. Make it a smart goal. Make it a smart
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: goal. Make it, make it, make it something you can measure. Sure. We do that in our, I mean, I’m sure organization, right?
In your life you could go from riding high and working towards your goals, and then somebody that is profound to you dies. How do you reset metrics that are KPIs when you know that life is incredibly volatile and UPS and. So I guess hopeful and joyful means that you have the ability to do those things with relationships and you have choice.
I think choice is the most important thing that human beings can create for themselves. Uh, when you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have choice, you are not, uh, necessarily capable of being hopeful and
Joe Mills: joyful. Is that what you experienced as you went through these various communities that were cut off rural, urban?
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: Yeah, I think so. Side. I think I learned that from those experiences, I learned what hope means, at least to me. Uh, being able to have a, a dream vision goal for yourself and seeing actionable steps to get you there. A lack of hope. Sounds like a, like desert of desolation to me. Um, I also think that you build up these skillsets to be able to survive, uh, inevitably what life sort of drives towards you.
So the idea of. The goals that you’re saying, right? Don’t think of it as like milestones and I’m gonna get an award or anything else. What you’re really building up is a reservoir of skillsets, talent, resource, such that when life delivers you a shit sandwich because it’s going to, uh, and it may do it quite regularly for an extended period of time as probability would allow, you have the talent reservoir resource, right?
If you’ve worked hard to get yourself to a place to. Position yourself to get out of it effectively or buy your way out of it. You don’t have that opportunity because you haven’t built up that warchester of resource In various ways, you will feel hopeless, but if you’ve worked hard and, and consistently on a path of improvements in those sorts of ways, hopeful and joyful seems to be a pretty easily attainable goal.
That’s the many questions I want to ask. Um, , we should get back to the, can you divide by zero thing, ? Yeah, let’s finish that real quick. Yeah, just it’s easy. Okay. So it’s easy to understand when you, when you think about a couple of things, if you’re gonna answer that question, then you have to know what division is.
So what’s division?
Joe Mills: Taking something and parsing it by another.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: One way to talk about division is like 12 divided by four is making four groups of something that add up to 12, right? Right. Another way to talk about it is that you repeatedly subtract. how many times until you run outta stuff, right? So how many times can you repeatedly subtract zero until you run outta stuff infinitely?
So you can’t do it. Yeah. That’s why you can’t divide by zero. Mm-hmm. It’s so simple. Why don’t we teach that? The reason we don’t teach it isn’t because people are out there running around trying to screw up people’s lives and telling ’em that they’re math or not math, because there’s not a lot of high quality, uh, real expertise in terms of knowledge and effectiveness when it comes to teaching.
That’s something that we’re trying to solve.
Joe Mills: I asked Don this question. I’d love your perspective on it. Does teaching need a re.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: Yeah, we call our teachers coaches. Um, but it needs a rebrand in, in maybe a nuanced way. From what Don would say, though, I don’t wanna speak for him. Anything that he’s shared the idea and over the last couple hundred years, or even thousands and thousands of years, is that a teacher is an orator that imparts knowledge on people that are sitting in front of him.
And her lecture doesn’t work. So, yes, lecture works in a particular way if you’re attuned to it and you’re ready to hear it, and you’re on the life path journey at that time on Tuesday to receive that information. Yeah. Uh, it works in, in, I would say maybe 10% of the kids sitting in front of you. So if lecture doesn’t work and imparting knowledge in what we dream of, where we’re up in front of a class, talking to kids and making brilliance, I mean what?
What is teaching then? To us, it’s a coordination of resources that are available and effective for you to learn anything you want at any time. Maths the way that we train people to connect to students, but it’s the conduit for connection. It’s not the ultimate content to us. We just get lucky that we’re able to connect to you through mathematics.
Or computer science with some of the work that we do, or through robotics, hardware and software, and hands-on activities, it’s a way of connecting to young people to support their ability to become self-driven autonomous learners, which is somewhat my framework for how to be
Joe Mills: hopeful and joyful. Is there an application for what you do to individual adults?
So, I, I love languages and in the past I was fully fluent in Spanish. Practice it a little bit. Now I’m like reading a book in Spanish so I can keep some of the skill up, but I, my sister married an Italian guy and I desperately want to become conversational and Italian and there’s all, you know, duo lingo babble, like all this stuff.
And I gotta tell you, it’s just not engaging and it’s not like I don’t feel confident that following their path is going to make me get to the goal that I have. And so I’d love to be able to design my own curriculum or own pathway for doing. . So I think about, and, and then there’s things like masterclass, where it’s like, learn from all the best people.
And it’s pure lecture. Mm-hmm. . And even that, I’m like, I’m so bored
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: now. Why wouldn’t you be ? Because you’re not ready for most of it. What’s coming to you? So the way that I would say that that is available is that you would start somewhere, right? And it feels like awkward and icky and whatever, right? You have to start somewhere.
Everything that. try. That’s new. We’re probably gonna suck at. Mm-hmm. , I, if you can flip that on its head and embrace the idea that when you feel that that’s a sign that you are getting into something that you truly could grow in. That is a pure empowerment thing that once you fall into something, uh, and you’re like, man, I feel awkward, uh, this doesn’t feel good.
Um, you’re probably onto something. Mm-hmm. , if you can, if you can generate that sort of, like, uncertainty, then you’re, you’re gonna, Guide your own path. Like start simple, start small. If you wanna learn machine learning for example, like first of all, figure out what it means. Yeah. Right. And then watch a couple of things.
Like, YouTube is a great place to start Coursera. Some other sort of, um, lectures if, if you wanted to do mathematics as a development, there are. Open source text for every single level of mathematics that you can find for free and start diving into it. And every time you come to something where it’s like, I read that sentence and I’m pretty sure it was in English, but I have no idea what it said, parse it apart.
Use Wikipedia, everything else, learn. How many centuries were packed into that one sentence and you qu quickly figure out why the hell you didn’t understand it, right? It’s a whole book in itself in two sentences, but it’s a level of expertise that you can, and everyone can develop. It’s gonna take time, it will take consistency, it will take all of those things.
But I think the first impediment to get over is, is, uh, I’m not good at. , I’m good at these other things, so I’ll spend time over there cause they’re
Joe Mills: fun and
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: Yeah, sure. Well who wouldn’t wanna spend time with things that somebody along the way have told them that they’re naturally good at? Yeah, totally.
Like, this is a talent, I’m gonna be doing this. Of course you wanna do that cuz success feels
Joe Mills: good. I have this like alter world that I wish existed where we could all go back and see like the good example I have, this is like Tom Brady. What if Tom Brady wasn’t drafted by the Patriot? What if he was drafted by the bears who are where quarterbacks gonna die?
Was he reinforced with belief statements inside of his first two years? Cause he found so much success in an organization that was coached by the best in the business, had a great defense, had people around him, and then people started reinforcing it for him with an element of self-belief for sure. Like he thought he could do it, but it’s like how much of the reinforcement of the environment telling you that you.
causes a belief vacuum where you live into that reality?
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: No, I think it, it’s a huge part of it, but you can be that for yourself to a certain extent. Mm-hmm. by what we somewhat talked about when we walked in. You surround yourself with people that will do that for you. Don’t ever find yourself we’re in, you’re in a room where you’re the smartest.
Right. And does it feel weird and awkward when you walk into a room and, and you feel like you’re the outsider? Sure. Get over.
Joe Mills: How do you do that? Because I mean, just on paper, you’re an extremely wise individual and you also lead a business. So a lot of people look at you and say, oh, you’re supposed to have the answer.
How do you keep yourself from being the smartest person in the
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: room? I don’t necessarily think that you can measure intelligence in one bucket, so I think people bring things to the level of intelligence in a multitude of ways. So it’s easy to surround myself that with people that are in various ways and more adept at things, but I learn.
And it feels okay to, to sort of look at a situation and go, huh, you know, uh, I, I didn’t pick up on that. If somebody’s claiming to have all the answers and know everything and be the best at something, they are so full of shit. Just smell it from the word go. If somebody is humbly like, Experiencing success in terms of businesses, among other things, they have no reason to hide.
Mm-hmm. , they have no reason to sort of position themselves as being the greatest at anything because, you know for a fact that that’s foolish. Mm-hmm. , uh, because you know for a fact that there’s a lot to learn and that you make a lot of mistakes. And when you are in that position where people put you on a pedestal and assume that you’ve learned like the thing.
Yeah. Right. That’s not how it works. and those that try to, to sort of sell and brand themselves as I’ve learned the thing, they are not authentically that and they are very terrified of being found out because it’s what they sell. I’m not saying that these are bad people. I’m saying they have an incentive to sell you something that of, of brilliance or found, or I’m the best at X because people buy access to them.
I would assume the long-term success of that model is
Joe Mills: problematic. Well, it’s interesting you, we talk about this, right, because we’re a consult. where if we cease to develop our people in the top line ability of the organization, all of our value goes away. Absolutely. If everybody already knows the things that we know, then where’s the value?
And so it would have to sort of consistently push the boundary and learn new things or the value of the organization. Nil. I
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: think so, and I, and I think you can’t sell it on the brilliance of a founder. Mm-hmm. for very long. What really has to happen is there has to be a process that is architected and developed and continuously improved, such that that process can bring new talent in and they can execute at a high level to drive value.
Yeah. That process is really the consistency that you’re looking for when it comes to expertise. If you can’t build a process that people. be acclimated to and increasingly become better at, and while driving value for it, you’re selling expertise that isn’t real.
Joe Mills: It’s individual genius in moments instead of architected outcomes.
Yeah, with consistency.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: I think consultancies that are extremely valuable in terms of what value they drive is that they’ve developed a. well understood and easy to be trained on process that is embedded with brilliance. Mm-hmm. , uh, by the people that have helped to build it. ,
Joe Mills: what’s like next for xr? What are you moving into?
Where are you growing into right
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: now? The drive of everything I’ve ever made is worked on towards this idea of equitable access to certain things. Education is one of them. Healthcare is is another industry that I really care about. So what is XR going to do? Well, one of the ways of, of scaling the way that we are scaling is that we’re trying to get the opportunity for education to join education, to be a vertical trajectory for.
So the choice right now is you choose to go to a university, you get a four year degree, and you become a teacher. No one’s doing that. It is completely dried up. Mm-hmm. . So if I could position our scale nationally, it’s that there is a group of people out there who could choose education as a way of being a teacher, working full-time, getting a bachelor’s degree, getting credentialed and serving your community where your kids go to school or where you grew up, or other.
that is a value set that I can offer that would allow me to put expertise in every classroom, which is the goal. My hope is that we can get a consistency of talent and expertise into every classroom because every kid deserves it. Us scaling that starts with mathematics, but it’s replicable. And by the way, we’ve designed the process.
It’s replicable in every content domain. We want to globalize and democratize the access to high quality education. Mathematics is our first conduit to connect to people. But, uh, you have to understand the education system that 65% of, uh, of the revenue, which is about a trillion dollars a year in the us um, is they, they use it to buy people.
So the best way to improve, in my opinion, after learning a lot about the system, the best way to improve, uh, equitable access to that type of, of thing is to improve the people that are choosing it as a. And what kind of expertise quickly they can bring to the table to benefit kids and then giving them an off-road or, or, um, you know, an off-ramp to choose another industry like working with you guys.
How I would say that is you sponsor a particular portion of how I train teachers by their third year. They may choose the, the career pathway where element three would be a good fit for them. . If that’s true, then they take modules to get them ready for your entry level positions. By year three, they’re moving on to something else.
Man, if I keep teachers for three years and they’re as productive as a fifth year teacher in year one like ours are, we’re winning for everybody. And you’re
Joe Mills: winning a talent pipeline game where businesses are dying for it. So there’s value add in both end. Yeah.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: Where are you getting your entry level talent?
To me, corporations can invest in education through sort of social giving. Cool. Like That’s awesome. Stop. If you really want to benefit schools, tell and build like what we are doing, where you are gonna say that after serving this school and like let’s say I p s, since you all are located here, serve an I P S School corporation working with kids for three years.
At the end of the third year, we will give you a job offer for element three. You will never have to look for entry level talent again. There’s 700 teachers in that pipeline waiting. Tell the teacher that they’re gonna make as much money as your entry level positions, and neither would I try to force that through legislation.
We’d bankrupt the state. That’s not a long-term solution
Joe Mills: to the teacher. So your, your thoughts like, embrace the fact that you’re gonna have turnover.
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: We lose half the teachers that start in mathematics in their first year already. Why don’t we embrace turnover that already exists and actually use it to our advantage?
Joe Mills: There’s two things that I’m gonna call out that I, I really learned on this. That were awesome. One is, um, everybody can be your teacher. That’s a central message I’ve heard from you is like everybody can teach you
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: something. Yeah. Sometimes even one not to be
Joe Mills: Yeah. . But that’s a great point too. This actually leads into the second one, which is the way that you perceive the thing in front of you will dictate how useful it becomes.
Absolutely. So like if you get into this thing and you’re like, I’m bad at it, I don’t want to do it, it’s scary. Or if you’re like, oh, that’s a place to grow. You mentioned that. You’re like, oh, when you find. In a thing that you don’t understand that you’re failing at. Flip the Switch and say, oh, this is a great place for me to grow.
Or, I’m with somebody who is clearly what I never want to be. Instead of being like, oh, this person annoys me and be like, oh, cool, I can learn how to not act. There’s like all this stuff. And then you, you just said, instead of trying to be like, Let’s fix this core problem of, of turnover. Instead of be like, don’t fight the turnover.
Just embrace the turnover. Just make it better. Flip it. Well, I love your, I love all the paradigms that you shared. Thanks for spending the time with us. It’s really fun. Happy
Dr. Kevin Berkopes: to be invited. Thanks, man.
Reid Morris: Okay. So Joe, we have concluded our second conversation here in this world of education, right? Yes. Um, so we, we started with Don.
Now we’ve had our conversation with. Another really interesting guy, another person who’s trying to revolutionize that space in a different way. Yeah, very different way. But tell me what your main takeaways were from that conversation
Joe Mills: Kevin. Yeah, I think there were two that actually touch on, uh, two con, or actually more conversations that we’ve had than just a couple, but both Chip Nighty and Will Davis talked about like the power of community and Kevin’s doing something pretty cool where he’s leveraging that with students to make them teachers he.
Look, it helps them learn better. It enables the classroom to have a better learning environment. And how many people really, if we were honest with ourselves, like would trust a third grader to teach it, but he’s like, no, they can be done. That’s what I thought was really cool. It’s like the power of creating community learning environments was a, a very interesting idea I had never thought of before.
And I think the other really applicable thing, you know, beyond the power of community, that that starts to touch on what Becky talked about with. is, it’s so much more than making the most of a situation. It’s not that. It’s more like finding the inherent value in the situation instead of trying to fight against what the problem is.
So, for example, Kevin brought up teacher turnover rate, teacher churn rate. It’s very high, it’s a very hard role. You have a lot of set schedules. You don’t have a ton of freedom in the role You, you know, deal with an incredible amount of different personality on a daily basis. It’s a hard role. It’s not the highest paying role.
Like these are all things that would lead to churn. And his perspective was instead of being angry with the churn and trying to like get rid of it, which is probably unrealistic, why don’t we just find a way to leverage it? And so he talked about creating these employee pipelines for where like corporations can sponsor a classroom and create a pipeline of next, you know, their next hires.
And also understanding that if. Create an environment where teachers are really impactful for three to five years, that’s a win. It’s a huge win. And so almost the, the message there is sort of like when Becky was moving roles, taking step back in her title level, but finding like, oh, what’s the great thing now?
And living in that instead of trying to fight with what you wish it was. Mm-hmm. , that is a message that I think can really drive toward progress in your own life. It’s this
Reid Morris: weird flip because when things. Broken or not working properly, our minds often go to, well, how can we completely change this thing?
Right? How can we go against what is happening now against variables that be and like completely revolutionize the thing, right? Right. Versus taking some inputs from those or accepting some of those things, be it turnover and embracing it. It takes a different spin on how you can solve the problem.
Completely revolutionizing versus accepting some of the variables that just happen to be the case. And
Joe Mills: yeah, embracing and doing what you can. Yeah, and so I really like that message from him. Yeah. Great.
1,000 Stories is brought to you by Element Three with production by Share Your Genius. This show is part of our company mission to foster growth in people and business so they can change the world.
If you’re finding the show helpful or. Please help us by leaving a review on Apple or Spotify. If you’d like to stay in the loop for more updates from our show and to hear other stories of growth, please head to elementthree.com/podcast.
What good is learning something if you don't pass it on? You can tap into what we know right now – from trends to proven wins to personal growth – and you don't have to give us a thing.