Surprise, surprise: what’s the missing link between MIT MOOCs and Mixer Day?
When you sign up for an MIT Entrepreneurship MOOC (online course) as an aspiring entrepreneur faced with multiple and sometimes bewildering challenges, there are things that you expect, and there are things that you don’t quite expect. For example, you might think that the online, self-paced, interactive, multimedia course looks interesting and flexible enough to fit it into your busy weekly schedule. You might think that some open-source access to entrepreneurial know-how certainly won’t do your current idea or business any harm― in fact, you anticipate gleaning some useful tips to apply to your budding venture.
Surely, you cannot imagine that you might have just taken the first click towards a whirlwind adventure that will propel you to the opposite side of the earth.
Well, that is precisely what could well happen if you are an adventurous, undertaking and tenacious soul who embarks upon the MIT Entrepreneurship remote-learning journey and then conquers the privilege of accessing some of the world’s finest educators and entrepreneurs face-to-face, together with an exciting international cohort of highly driven fellow-students, from all five continents, quite probably in a city or even a country that is totally new to you.
MIT Bootcamp perceived from the outside: top-notch education
Of course, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology carries with it many layers of prestige and implications: from its academic history and reputation as one of the top Universities not only in the US but worldwide, to its renowned and distinctive emphasis on action-driven prototyping and experimentation (”Mens et Manus”).
Say “MIT” and you are instantly conveying powerful mental associations related to technology, innovation, research, enterprise, and pioneering.
That is naturally what you will be getting at MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp if you are motivated, ambitious and driven enough to pass the highly competitive selection, and also persistent enough to overcome the subsequent challenge of finding ways (in many cases, up until the very last deadline) to fund your experience and turn your dream into a reality.
So, here are the givens, what you probably can take for granted because it is what you can imagine (or learn second-hand) about MIT, from reputation or hearsay:
- the blast of knowledge: you are given access to a wealth of content and know-how, for which you come naturally prepared to work for as hard as will be necessary, because nobody enters the MIT system by just luck or mistake― excellence attracts and breeds excellence;
- the outer journey of discovery: Bootcamp takes you places, either to the MIT University Campus in Cambridge, MA, or to one of their new international destinations (Class 3 was held 20-25th March 2016 in Seoul, South Korea, and is probably the first in a new series of on-the-road bootcamps around the world). So you will be exploring new environments, diving into new cultures, tasting new foods;
- the inner journey of learning: hitting your own limits, pushing and overcoming them to grow into a larger version of yourself.
MIT Bootcamp from the inside: what only a Bootcamper knows
But then there is what you don’t know unless
you have lived the Bootcamp experience.
One hears murmurs about it being “life-changing”, that it’s like “drinking from a firehose” or that you come out of it “a different person”. What does this mean? This is one aspect of the bootcamp that is more difficult to measure or describe, yet it is arguably the most invaluable treasure that each participant will take away for life. That said, it is certainly not an easy ride.
1. Bootcamp is HARD: the hours you put in are long― very long. Days stretch into 20-hour stints, to the point of sleep-deprivation because although the official working day closes at 7pm, most students choose of their own accord to stay on beyond hours to make the most of the (abundant) available resources and available time (much too little, but that is also what makes for the incredible intensity of the course). Expectations are high on all sides, and you are going to have to dig into all your capacities and give it all you have. In this high pressure, high stress context, the atmosphere can turn explosive: people and teams pivot, clash, fall apart, but then finally heal together to cross the finish line.
2. Bootcamp is FUN: MIT is known for its culture of “work hard, play hard(er)” and Bootcamp does not contradict this tradition. There is room for light-heartedness, entertainment, and humorous self-awareness in the midst of all this intensity. You will learn this from the MIT teachers and mentors, who will show you through their example and behaviour, how fun and seriousness can enhance one another if they are alternated and kept in check in their right place and proportion.
One might just wonder where the energy on the last party night comes from (after a week of toil, boil and turmoil) but the fact is that Bootcampers on the last night can be observed to celebrate and party as though they had just come from a regenerating spa holiday― and as though there were no tomorrow.
3. Bootcamp is INTIMATE: alongside the academic journey, bootcamp is a tapestry of lives intersecting, stories shared, and moments lived together in a laborious, dizzying, unforgettable spurt. Connections begin to take shape as participants reach out from across the world over the Internet on a special Facebook group, after the final selection process and before kick-off date, through shared personal video presentations, in a crescendo that spans across intro evening, Mixer Day, the team-building process, project work, and shared moments of despair. From the nocturnal secrets and revelations whispered amongst roomies, to the shared stress of strutting the stage on Demo Day, Bootcamp is an all-encompassing immersion into other people’s lives, beliefs, and idiosyncrasies whilst being set against the background of a serious academic learning process.
MIT Bootcamp is only the Beginning.
It gives your outlook a new shape, in the form of 4 Fs:
Family: you will have acquired a vast and heterogeneous family of mentors and peers that will provide you with ongoing support. These are special friends who will know and understand you for life. They have seen you at your worst, they have spoken the brutal truth, defied you, torn your ideas apart, but also wiped away your tears, been shoulders to cry on, encouraged you, hugged you and stood by you. There is an aspect of profound sharing, experiencing and co-building that has created indelible bonds.
Freedom: you now have the liberty to believe in yourself and to shake off previous limiting beliefs you may have had about who you are, what you are capable of, and what you are working towards. The Human Factor at Bootcamp is incredibly empowering, not only during the course but also thereafter.
Future: the relationships that have sprouted at Bootcamp will not peter out, in fact, quite the contrary. As each person returns home to their lives and careers, the friendships continue to thrive and grow unhindered by geographical or time barriers, just as many of the projects (old or new) will either progress and mature into ventures, or fall to the side as you have learnt to deselect and move forward. This happens because each Bootcamper starts to apply the newly acquired insights to real-life situations.
Forever: whatever might happen next in your life, what you have experienced and gained at Bootcamp will stay with you always, and accompany you in your work and life journey. What began as an online discovery will have bloomed into a new set of skills and connections, that will multiply, expound and shape all of your future endeavours. Clarity, awareness, humility and vision will be your new tools.
Watch the Bootcamp Trailer: