Life After Exosphere

Pardon my French from Pedra Branca, Brazil… 

--“I gotta’ get the [expletive deleted] out of here,” I confided to the freshly-scrubbed urinal on a sunny, hot and temperamental Thursday afternoon about halfway into my Exosphere Academy experience.

Just after the words escaped my mouth I heard someone pull toilet paper out of the stall’s dispenser to my left.

Oops. Thought I was alone.

I instantly became self-conscious. I wondered how that probably sounded to the mystery listener on the pot. It probably sounded angry, I realized. I became fully aware of the anger boiling in belly.

Wait. Why am I so angry? I asked, this time, in consideration of my neighbor, silently.

The answers came…

I just wanted to learn about entrepreneurship and the blockchain. Not talk about my past in a shrink circle. Not talk about love, relationships and philosophy. What is this? 

I felt vulnerable. And, yeah, I was mad. Mostly at myself.

I thought I’d made a mistake. Mostly because I’d shared too much about myself. Things I only tell people I trust. These people were all strangers. That’s not why I came. To open up that can of worms.

Not here. Not now.

But… I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s back up for a moment…

For the past eight Thursdays, I have sat in a circle, and, based on a set of guiding principles (such as you must use “I” statements and state your name before speaking), I only spoke, as advised, when I felt moved to speak. 

These sessions, called Community Building, were part of Exosphere’s Core Curriculum.

The Core Curriculum, to set the stage, is where the differing fields of thought come together. It’s the glue which bundles together the different disciplines into one (chaotically) cohesive collaborative experience.

Core topics included, but weren’t limited to, the ethics of emerging tech, literature, the future of automation, philosophy, transhumanism, sociology, communication, business development, sales, marketing, bootstrapping your business… and more.

And to clamp those planks together and let the glue set, there was Community.

Community is based on American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck’s work and observations on community formation. And, though the experience, indeed, varied wildly individual to individual, it was, personally, for some reasons which are obvious to me and some which are not at all, a very inwardly chaotic experience. And, now that I find myself emerging from the chaos, nearly a week after Exosphere has officially ended, I feel I’ve been tempered by the fire.

(Hear that sound? That’s the Phoenix rising from deep within Brazil.)

I’m still processing all the reasons why, exactly, that process in particular had such an impact on me. And although it felt like I was shoveling through an endless pit of sludge the past few weeks as a result, I’m very grateful I stuck with it.

So, let’s get to the point.

A few readers have asked about my experience here in Brazil and have expressed interest in going in June.

Here’s my perspective…

What is Exosphere?

Exosphere is an immune response to a broken system… a survival mechanism kicking in… a tiny white blood cell in a sea of viruses.

Our current institutions of learning, it’s safe to say, have failed us miserably. What they give us are not tools for self-reliance and the mental fortitude to forge our own paths. Rather, we are more often given little more than the well-worn and screeching tools necessary for perpetual dependence.

Worse, at least in America, such institutions have implanted this absurd idea into fresh young minds that individuals are owed what they want without effort. That if you want something, it’s wiser and more beneficial to a.) ask someone else for permission and for a detailed foolproof blueprint or b.) better yet, demand others do it for you.

Rolling up your sleeves and doing the work is mostly a vague consideration, something to ponder only when the bones of options a.) and b.) have been sucked of all their marrow.

On the surface, Exosphere can be described as an alternative academy to prepare individuals for the Creative Economy. Or maybe you could call it a transdisciplinary brainery where individuals from all over the world — of all ages and backgrounds — come together to learn, discover and grow. 

Exosphere, on its website, describes itself as “a learning and problem solving community making technology more approachable, affordable and inclusive to all kind of people through education and entrepreneurship.”

My experience is that it’s a (very young) living experiment where, once you enter its doors, Murphy’s Law shifts into hyperdrive. How well you can deal with this fact and adapt to the ever-shifting sands will determine how well you do and how much you get out of it.

Exosphere is not really an accelerator, it’s an accelerant. Not quite an incubator, either. Because it’s also a place where ineffective things go to self-immolate.

It can only be best described, I think, in terms of personal experience. And, indeed, these experiences vary wildly. Which is why I asked my fellow Exospherians to lend you their thoughts.

To preface, I asked them two questions:

1.] If you were forced to condense your experience at Exosphere into one sentence, what would you say?

2.] In one paragraph (3-5 sentences), what would you say to anyone considering coming in June?

Here’s what they said, intermingled with my own insights about Exosphere and life in general.

When learning something new, it’s not about simply getting a new skill. It’s about transforming yourself into something new.

Learning how blockchain tech works from the bottom-up, from someone who came in not knowing a lick of code, required an entirely new way of thinking that I was initially uncomfortable with. To get where I wanted to be required a major change in how my brain processed problems.

It required a transformation.

This is essential, I believe, if you really want to learn any new skill. Never come into any learning experience just wanting to carry on as an old dog with new tricks. Expect fire. Expect to grit your teeth. Don’t expect (or want) it to be easy, even if it seems simple.

Intend for total transformation.

Pedro B., from Brazil, said… 

“Be ready to discover what you want to do with your life. Everything that man ignores does not exist for him, so his nature is summed up, for each one, to the size of his knowledge. At Exosphere you can learn about science, learning, the highest-tech and business concepts. But the art side of Exosphere is what will make you learn about yourself.”

And Taylor R. from the U.S. wrote…

“Be ready to make peace with your shadows. Remember to take the time to care for yourself while here. Inner work is just as important as outer work, if not more. Have some money set aside for after the program, so you have time to process your adventure.” 

When the going gets weird, deworm yourself of your cultural norms. Embrace strangers. Revel in strangeness.

“Disturb the Universe” is Exosphere’s chosen catchphrase.

If you, too, have that burning desire to make your dent in the universe, obviously it will pay in dividends to, first things first, make sure you’re thinking differently from the herd. This can apply to all areas of life — from where you invest your money to what you eat for breakfast.

Since Exosphere took place in Brazil, pretty much everything was new. Everything, coming in, was strange.

In my struggle to understand the culture, the language, the surroundings, and what the heck those fruits are in the produce aisle — on top of keeping up with the curriculum and getting to know all of my fellow Exospherians — I was challenged on all fronts.

Any and all resistance would not only have been futile… it would’ve been (and, in the beginning, certainly was) to the detriment of my own growth.

But the more I surrendered myself to the process and embraced those surroundings, though, the less it felt like a struggle and the more I was reminded that I was on an adventure.

And, bit by bit, I started to trust the process and, even better, myself.

Elson from Boston said…

“Exosphere is a strange program, you’re challenged to face opposing beliefs and learn how to think critically to overcome your cognitive dissonance. Anyone considering Exosphere should know that you will feel uncomfortable and weird during the program. You will definitely struggle during the program. Before coming, you should be very specific about what you want. You’ll meet and become friends with the most interesting and coolest people from all over the world. Going was best decision I’ve made in a while.”

And Victor S. from Norway wrote…

“Exosphere is an intense and inspiring experience. Make sure that your objectives are aligned with what the school can provide but be open to the very new, as well.”

Life, love and learning are verbs. Play with them in such a way that you may play forever.

Finite games, as defined by James P. Carse, are those with a clear beginning and ending. The goal of a finite game is to win.

An infinite game, on the other hand, is one with an unknowable beginning or ending. The goal of an infinite game is to keep playing — and perhaps to bring in even more players.

Modern educational institutions treat education as a finite game. Get this piece of paper and you’re done. Education achieved. Score.

Exosphere takes the opposite approach. Education, they say, is a lifelong process. Always stop stopping. Never stop learning.

One of their main tenets is that you, and you alone, are responsible for your success. And treating education as an infinite game is the only way you’ll thrive in the coming Creative Economy.

The same is true, as taught in Core, for all aspects of life.

Antifragility (the book is required reading), one of the subjects we spoke about, shows you how to apply this concept of infinite games into your entire life. And Scott Peck, in his book A Road Less Traveled (also part of the required reading), teaches that love is a verb — and a never-ending process of growth.

“Love,” Peck wrote, “is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is not a feeling. Love is an action, an activity. Genuine love implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom. True love is an act of will that often transcends ephemeral feelings of love or cathexis, it is correct to say, ‘Love is as love does.’”

Bringing it all together, one Russian Exospherian, Yaroslav S., said…

“Exosphere was one more step in the never-ending process of rediscovering myself. Make sure you come prepared (read the books, etc.) and clean of expectations (you just might find something totally different); bring your “friends” — these kind of experiences are better within like-minded and equally ambitious community of people; always believe that anything is possible — no matter what you will hear anyone say here or elsewhere. And one more thing – focus on the positive, there is just no practical point in acting otherwise; and have fun!”

And Aiste N. of Lithuania wrote…

“[Exosphere] is a playground for a progressive experimentation with your most important issues. Read the recommended books beforehand because there will be no time for that while you’re here.” 

But word of warning: temper your expectations.

When going into anything new, especially something so experimental and young, it’s good to keep in mind that you might come out the other end with something completely unexpected. And that might feel like you’ve come out empty-handed, with nothing at all, because you didn’t leave with what you’d hoped you would learn.

For example, Alice M. of the U.S. wrote…

“Lovely vacation. Come to Exosphere if you want a lovely entrepreneurship-flavored vacation, but don’t expect to learn anything from the teachers.” 

Andre H. of Brazil wrote…

“Don’t try to come prepared for something, just let things flow. You will probably fail sometimes and that’s OK. You’re surrounded by the best people one can ever have to experience the feeling of failure with.” 

And Anita F. said…

“My Exosphere experience has been complicated. For those coming in June: it’s likely that you’ll have some of the best conversations and personal connections you’ve ever had. You’ll likely have the opportunity to learn more than one new skill and knowledge base. Also note that this organization is young and although their vision is good, they need your feedback to ensure the implementation is good as well, so don’t be afraid to be honest. Exosphere is not a place to live in fear; it’s a place to find the strength to meet challenges, emotionally, interpersonally, and intellectually (and in some cases physically). Otherwise, you’re missing something. Also, you will be in Brazil — this is a thing to embrace.” 

Everyone is different. And everyone’s experiences will be different.

Personally, I hope Exosphere reaches its goal of becoming a 5,000 year institution. And I commend their efforts in, as Michelangelo once suggested, criticizing by creating. 

If you’re interested and learning more, or are interested in signing up for the eight week experience in June, check out Exosphere’s website here. Let them know Laissez Faire sent you. (You can pay in Bitcoin!)

FINAL WORDS OF WARNING

If you do end up going, though, there are two things you should absolutely, without a doubt, unquestionably, make sure you, unconditionally, do NOT do…. 

Don’t Panic.

And don’t forget to bring your towel.

Onwards and upwards,

Chris Campbell
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today

Have something to say? Say it! Chris@lfb.org

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