Over the past few days, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined… I have met people I would have never met, made new friends, and learned valuable life lessons.

August 16, 2016 by Joshua
in Education, Entrepreneurship

You know I teach entrepreneurial problem solving online and in-person, and that the course gets reviews, like

This is one of the greatest classes I have ever taken. It was engaging, thought provoking, challenging, and fun. Josh is an incredible teacher, mentor, and friend to everyone in the class who is passionate about the subject matter. If I could take this class all over again, I would

Earlier this summer I taught the course in a doubly new way. For the first time I taught it as a block-week course, meaning a full fourteen-week university course in five days, 9am-5pm, which is intense. Also for the first time, I taught it to high school students, who were taking it as a summer college experience.

One class assignment was an essay to reflect on their progress, which they did on Thursday. Though the essay wasn’t designed to review or illustrate the course, it ended up doing so.

Below are excerpts, made anonymous, of the students’ descriptions of the course—the same one available online to you. The ellipses show where I edited, but I’ll include a link to the unedited (though still anonymous) essays.

Student Essays, Entrepreneurial Problem Solving

Professor Joshua Spodek

For example:

“Over the past few days, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined. I am so excited to be equipped with the knowledge that I have gained. I had no idea how accessible high-value people were, in many different fields. I am so grateful to have participated in this program. My excitement for college has grown even more in this past week. I have met people I would have never met, made new friends, and learned valuable life lessons.”

Student 1:

When I enrolled in this class I thought “entrepreneurial problem solving,” meant we would be faced with problems in companies and how to deal with them. […]I was surprised to find that this was not the nature of the class at all. Instead we addressed problems in society and entrepreneurial fixes for them. This surprised me, but I found it to be a lot more useful because I was able to begin to develop a business of my own. In fact, no part of this class was what I expected it to be, and I could never be grateful enough for that.

[…] I found myself falling in love with my project and in love with being an entrepreneur. Passion for the project is what motivated me. I didn’t want to go the extra mile to get a good grade, I wanted to go the extra mile because it was fun work on the project and see my business plan become more and more concrete. My fellow classmates passion about their projects drove them as well and we were all able to grow as entrepreneurs. I have never met people so excited by spreadsheets or frustrated by not being able to contact CEOs. This shared passion and excitement has made learning about entrepreneurship even more special.

[…] I have listened to random people I meet tell me they would never be interested in my product. I have listened to random people I meet ask me what my product is called so they can buy it. I have contacted people I would have never imagined (everyone from homeless people collecting plastic bottles, to big executives thousands of miles away). And I have spent hours ranting to my parents about bank loans and calling up cousins to ask about marketing. This is nothing like the notes I thought I would be taking.

[…]It was much more beneficial to have the class set up this way as opposed to worksheets and tests. Hours trying condense my pitch in a classroom could never be as beneficial as being forced to pitch, answer questions and ask for advice and feedback all before the subway doors opened at the next stop. […]

If my assumptions about this course were correct, I would have never learned about my abilities and myself the way I did. I would have never forced myself out of my comfort zone. I would have never developed a passion for entrepreneurship or learned as much as I did. […] I came into this class thinking it would be one way and I was completely wrong. I have never been more happy to be wrong. […]

Student 2:

[…] I have learned so much more than I expected. I have been making changes that I never would have thought of without communicating with others in the industry or advice from friends and family. Small inputs changed into major parts of my project and gave me new ideas that I never would have thought of on my own. They solved problems I didn’t know that I had and showed me what exactly would benefit my project. The ten friends and family helped me pull my ideas together and get an idea of how my business should be run.


With networking especially making new contacts. I found it’s easier to find people in my field than I thought.


After you talk to one contact it just gets easier, since they can refer you to more and more people of interest. The chain just continues […] I found I liked my field a lot more than I thought. Originally I was thinking of doing something in a totally different field, but the more I realized that education was a huge issue the more I wanted to work with it.


I have gotten a much better understanding into both business and life skills. I now think that my project could go into the real world, help people, make a profit, and give me a jumpstart. I never would have thought any of this was possible before taking this class an I never would have imagined myself getting this far. I think the process helps build skill and confidence, […]. I now have an idea that I am excited about and that seems extremely reachable. I think I have learned a lot more than I expected to and I learned that I have a passion for business and entrepreneurship.

Student 3:

[…] It is not so much of your idea that gets the business running, but the motive to solve a problem you are passionate about and help others. I learned not to only pitch an idea, but to get others to evaluate my idea, and obtain advice that would help me improve on my business. By listening to consumers needs, I was able to adapt to change that allowed my business to become more of a reality.

[…] in taking this course I was able to build on my communications skills. I believe that these skills will stick with me for a lifetime […]

[…] I had to learn to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to people in my community. […] was able to get into contact with people that I would never have imagined could be possible. […] the experience was altogether nerve-racking, it was equally exciting and spontaneous, and I really enjoyed it. I learned so much more about socializing and how to work with others to get things done. […]

Throughout this course, I gained more experience on how to write professional emails in a way that would get people to want to talk to me. […] I am glad I got this opportunity to take such an interactive course. Entrepreneurship is most definitely a field of business that I am exited to study and further explore.

Student 4:

Entrepreneurial Problem Solving has helped me progress in so many ways throughout these four days. By building confidence, I’ve been able to improve my problem and solution for this project. […] I’ve improved my communication skills substantially, and I’ve learned the real meaning of entrepreneurship.


Taking this course has also helped me improve my communicating skills enormously. […] I’ve always been very shy, […] Taking this class has made me extremely confident […] this course helped me improve my communication skills […].

[…] There is so much more to entrepreneurship than just running a company. Entrepreneurship involves responsibility, initiative, and perseverance.


Taking this class has assured me that I have the power to make a difference and become and entrepreneur.

Student 5:


As I’ve been developing ideas for this product, I have been able to contact certain people that are relevant to my field. At first, I did not think that I would be able to network, or even reach, these people. In class I have learned unparalleled skills for networking and reaching out, for which I could not be happier to have. I will go on to use these communication skills for many years to come. […] I got a whole new understanding for the work it takes to not only make a successful product.


This course has gone in a completely different direction than I had originally expected, and I could not be happier with it. Learning these communication and real-world skills is very valuable to me, and I am glad to be developing these skills so early on.

Student 6:


after the very first class, my excitement for entrepreneurship reached new bounds. As I previously mentioned, I don’t know what direction I want to go in in terms of my career. Creating this project helped me realize that I don’t need to fit into a neat category; I can use the assets that I have to grow my career and guide me in my life.


My experience as an entrepreneur changed my views on the world of business. Prior to this course, I had no idea how much behind the scenes work goes into creating something from scratch. I thought that all successful entrepreneurs came up with a brilliant idea that made them rich. However, I learned that there is so much more than a brilliant idea that goes into starting a business. […]

I am not a shy person, but my usual approach would be to politely ask for help. This course taught me that sometimes you need to push your way through and even be yelled at to be able to get your point across. Things won’t get accomplished unless you personally take responsibility and take action.


I learned new things about the world of business, entrepreneurial problem solving, and myself. This experience has definitely changed me for the better, and it will be a great skill to have under my belt no matter what profession I decide to go into.

Student 7:


Going into this entrepreneur program I was disappointed because I believed that I wouldn’t be able to develop my communication and public speaking skills as much as if I were to take a straight-up business class. I was completely wrong with this thinking. […] I felt like I would be a nuisance to them, but instead people responded very positively and offered lots of feedback. Just by sending emails and making phone calls I was able to articulate better what I was trying to make and what kind of advice and help I needed.


what I didn’t know was that I would also learn the skills it would take to work in my field of interest, communications and the news. I always thought of entrepreneurship as a separate category that didn’t fit with any of my other interests, but it actually allows me to bring all of my interests together. […] my knowledge about how the news is able to run and how advertisements relate to ratings and viewers was greatly expanded after talking to more people who work in the news industry.

Student 8:


over the course of the past four days, I was able to reach out and connect with a decent amount people of this field. […] This entire process of reaching out and gathering advice from people I am unfamiliar with really allowed me to realize how there are more people out there who are willing to help me than I thought there are. By emailing and making calls to professionals in the field, I came out of my comfort zone and did something that I never thought I would be able to do.


I not only have learned the basics of entrepreneurship, but also have gained valuable communication, social, and life skills in this class.


Student 9:

My project was created to help teenagers find a career and college for themselves.


I did not enjoy talking to the people in my field, but it is a big part of starting any project. That being said the experience of doing all this stuff is completely beneficial to me and is unforgettable. The skills we are learning and perfecting are something we will use throughout our entire lives. So far the best experience was the financials, […] it is a lot of work and dedication that has to be put in these projects. I really like the whole process and I am so happy I had the chance to experience such a fun course. The skills I learned are going to stay with me forever.

Student 10:

I learned a lot this week, but most especially in taking initiative. Getting in touch with people is not as difficult and scary as it may seem. Stepping outside my comfort zone actually felt relatively comfortable when I just took initiative and did it. Starting a project from an idea is not something you have to wait around for a perfect opportunity to do. It can happen any time as long as you take initiative.


Student 11:

I feel that I have grown greatly since the beginning of this entrepreneurial project. I think that before starting this assignment I had a slight idea of what actually entails undergoing an entrepreneurial endeavor. Now that I have actually begun a project in entrepreneurship on my own, I realize how little I really knew about entrepreneurship before this week. I have found so much information that is vital to running an entrepreneurial project that I would have never known about before.


When I started my project, I only knew a few people who had very little connection to football at all. I spoke to people who I know who have coached, played, and even watched football. I explained my project to them and asked for advice and feedback that could help me to further my idea. This was much more helpful than I expected


This class has helped me greatly to further understand the basics of entrepreneurship.


Student 12:

Coming into this week I didn’t know what to expect. I had many predictions about how this week would go but I never expected it to be this interactive and interesting. I discovered that I definitely like entrepreneurship better than economics and the idea of being more involved in my projects, rather than researching projects is much more interesting and enveloping. If you had told me coming into this week that I would have a fifteen minute conversation over the phone with a CEO of a large advertising firm I wouldn’t believe you. However, through the skills and phone calls that I placed I was able to do just that, […] This class exceeded my expectations by far.


Because of this class I was able to connect to the CEO of All Over Media. […] There are so many aspects of entrepreneurship that I didn’t really think about coming into this course. I suppose my own naiveté led me to believe that entrepreneurship was a lot easier than this. I always believed that one would start with partners and investment would come easy. I didn’t expect to have to make so many complicated decisions that could decide the future of my possible company.


During the beginning of this course I didn’t really believe that I could be able to come up with a good idea that I might be able to take to market. I didn’t know that so many good ideas just occurred to everyone so often and that really gave me inspiration and resolve to just work on my idea even harder. This course taught me the basics of entrepreneurship […]

Student 13:

[…] My experience has been great, now I have an insight of the steps and procedures that need to be taken in order to create your own business. […] it’s all about communication. You have to be confident about your idea and the way you present it to others. […] Responsibility and initiative is what comes across to the people you are communicating with, those features is what can define if people want to do business with you or not.


Student 14:

Prior to starting this class I was nervous about not being able to create a great idea. However, I soon realized what I needed was a solution to a problem, and I could take it from there. After creating a list of ideas and solutions, I was able to finalize it into one problem and one solution. This made getting started significantly simpler. These past few days I have come in contact with many people, starting with some in a local park, to contacting top app developers in the city. […] talking to increasingly valuable people in my field, each call or interaction was easier as my confidence increases, and I realized I truly had nothing to lose. The feedback that I received was not always positive, however it was constructive,


Being able to say I have contacted writers from outlets such as CNN and Forbes or some of the top chiropractors in Manhattan is rewarding. […] I had to be persistent and not take no for an answer, while still being polite. Very rarely did I get what I was looking for in just one interaction.


My experience of an entrepreneur was eye opening and positive. There are countless more factors that go into the development of a project that I did not think of before taking this class. […] Holding yourself accountable is a quality I believe all successful entrepreneurs excel at. This class has taught me these skills that I can not only apply to my specific project, but also all of my academic and business endeavors in the future.

Student 15:

So far I have learned more than I thought I would in the space of three days. I’ve learned to be comfortable outside of my comfort zone. It was definitely scary to talk to not only people I don’t know, but also important people in the field. It was hard to draw the line between going through the motion and actually putting my plan into action in this exercise. But once I started making calls, it got easier and I started to understand the real goal of the project.


I was able to talk to some very valuable people in the field, including a Stanford professor who had a lot of startup companies in Silicon Valley, including one which was sold for $360,000,000. I also talked to the CEO of a startup device accessory company based in New Jersey which is called Dockem who gave me great feedback on my idea and wished to speak to me again. […] I learned a lot about what it means to make business connections and how successful they can be.

Student 16:

[…] I have reached out to many people in my field across the board. […] As a “young” entrepreneur, starting thirty-six hours ago, I feel that I have learned more than I would have with another professor in a whole semester. I really learned how responsible entrepreneurs have to be, in order to support their employees and satisfy their customers.

Over the past few days, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined. I am so excited to be equipped with the knowledge that I have gained. I had no idea how accessible high-value people were, in many different fields. I am so grateful to have participated in this program. My excitement for college has grown even more in this past week. I have met people I would have never met, made new friends, and learned valuable life lessons.

Here are the unedited essays, with the excerpted parts above in bold

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