#TedxWindyCity – Victor Saad


Victor is a dreamer. He blames it on cartoons, video games, and his mother’s cooking.
A year ago, he became interested in business school programs around social enterprise. After researching typical MBA routes and realizing the prices and the options didn’t fit, he decided to create his own education around design, business, and social change by establishing 12 experiences/apprenticeships in 12 months.

Since January, his ‘classroom’ has been a myriad of office spaces, conferences, conversations, and volunteer experiences. The project has developed into a small community of people taking risks to create change in their own lives and communities. People have shared an array of inspiring acts — all of which are being compiled into an end-of-project book. His talk on February 23rd will be the final piece of his self-made educational journey. We even like to think of this as his graduation.

With all of that said, he’s really just a nice guy who likes to help people create good things, and eat baklava. Lots of baklava.


  • “Problems are simply opportunities for new ways forward.”
  • So you’re probably wondering, Am I graduating? Or
  • Today I’m graduating from a self-made Masters.
  • Education has always been a really interesting topic in my family. I had 3 options. A doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer.
  • From the age of 7, my mom always called me Dr. Saad.
  • I became a youth and student counselor instead.
  • I was hooked on this idea of creating change and solving problems.
  • The concept of an MBA kept surfacing. I studied for this test called the GMAT. I studied like mad.
  • As I was researching the options and programs, I began to wander if the costs and options fit me. I didn’t know if I was a classroom guy.
  • I asked alot of questions about education. What causes us to learn? Or stop learning?
  • I learn best when I get uncomfortable. When I’m pushed to learn. When the experiences force me to figure those things out.
  • Colleges made things a little more comfortable. They had everything figured out for me.
  • On April 3 a lightbulb came on for me. I had an idea. I began writing down all these different ideas.
  • I knew I could do some interviews, and some writing, and some internships, and conferences.
  • At the top of the page I wrote ‘The LeapYear Project.’ I realized I was probably going to have to quit my job.
  • I did alot of interviews right away. I talked to nearly 500 people about the idea of a self-made education. Almost all of them looked at me like I was crazy.
  • The best part of the conversations happened when I asked, “If you were me, what risk would you take to change your world?”
  • A lot of people said their time had come and gone, and they had too many responsibilities.
  • But after some time of thinking they could come up with something.
  • In order to learn how to create any sort of change, comfort would have to be compromised.
  • So I went all in on this idea of 12 months and 12 experiences, centered around design, business and social change.
  • One of my biggest challenges was leaving my job, and I had to figure out costs.
  • I asked 200 people to subscribe to the project and they could learn from my experiences.
  • The cost of education has gone to spectacular heights. Passed the 1 trillion dollar mark. Learning ought to be costly.
  • Don’t the most valuable things in life cost more than just money?
  • I wanted to join a bunch of organizations in the trenches. I asked them “How can I help?”
  • Sometimes this meant, putting together a chair, and sometimes this meant strategizing on business.
  • I worked with DoeJoe. I worked with Threadless. I worked with an architecture firm and learned about experience design. I worked with a new family startup in China.
  • The time in those spaces is what taught me. I had to listen to these people.
  • Those offices became my classroom. Those people in those spaces were my professors.
  • That impossible task you’re facing, should be started by being a student. Ask good questions.
  • Education isn’t about education. It’s about people. Learning about what they’ll do in this world, and what they’ll become.
  • I didn’t have a community. I didn’t have a class. So I decided I would carry this question throughout the entire year, “What risk would you take to change your world?”
  • The year gave us a window, a space, and an extra day. So I asked some really good friends to help me build a website for people to visit and tell them what leap they were taking.
  • I no longer was alone. I had a community when people began to tell their leaps. Together we offered each other a space and permission. No matter what happened there would be great lessons around the corner.
  • Risks are a difficult thing to swallow. Often those are lonely moments. But there is something so empowering, knowing you’re not the only one. It’s not about what you accomplish, it’s about what you become.
  • This is about re-imagining our office spaces as classrooms. This about being students again, simply by seeing big problems, and learning how we can navigate through them.
  • I was one guy trying this educational project on my own. But there has been alot of people pushing me to start this for other people.
  • So today we’re launching something pretty incredible, and we’re calling it Experience Institute.
  • Today we have this opportunity to see the problems around us, and we can become students again.
  • Let those experiences teach you something new.

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