QUEST: Get Clear On Your Intention, Build Your Braintrust and Tackle a Life-changing Project!

QUEST: Get Clear On Your Intention, Build Your Braintrust and Tackle a Life-changing Project!

One thing that amazes me, as an avid observer of human growth and learning, is how we, as humans, replicate the experiences we have been through… even, sometimes, the ones that we hated. Take schooling, for instance. When I discuss the not-a-school I co-founded – with its motto of “Where children learn by leading a meaningful existence” – 90% of people say something like, “Wow, how I wish I had attended/sent my kids to/had access to that school!” There is a general agreement right now that school, as we know it, will face a major overhaul if it wants to remain relevant in contributing to the nurturing of today’s and tomorrow’s citizens.


Yet, when I talk to our clients – many of whom are international, innovative Fortune 500 companies investing massive resources in their learning and development programs – something surprising keeps hitting me. As grown-ups, many of us reproduce the learning experiences we have spent our lives complaining about. Crowded conference rooms with one-size-fits-all content, boring webinars with content critical to the company but that the employees couldn’t care less about, and book clubs with books no one wants to read. Without realizing it, we develop a top-down vision of how employees or event participants should be growing and what should matter to them. 

I know it sounds harsh, and I don’t mean to be cynical, but it is the truth.

I love thinking about new ways to help people grow, to a fault. Sometimes, to be quite honest, I reinvent a wheel that’s doing just fine. But when our team started thinking about our own internal L&D strategy around 2015, it was crucial for me that we base our own initiatives on the belief that has always been at the heart of Braindate: that learning should be self-directed, experiential, and collaborative. Mitchel Resnick from the MIT Media Lab Lifelong Kindergarten talks about the 4Ps for Creative Learning – Passion, Peers, Projects, and Play. 

After many iterations, design sprints, and mistakes, we uncovered a process that nurtures learning in the flow of work, which we ended up calling Quest. The work on it went even deeper when we brought Quests to La Cabane and made it a core component of the curriculum in our first year. In fact, we even built a gorgeous product for it (which is yet to be launched), and I taught our method for the first time during a masterclass at C2 a couple of weeks ago. Each time, people’s eyes open wide at the exciting possibility of embarking on a life-changing journey.

So I decided to create this post, so you can learn all about it! I’ll share with you what is a Quest, and how can you embrace this approach to get clear on an intention, build a braintrust and tackle a life-changing project, whether inside or outside an organization. Let’s get started!

Going on a quest
Thanks to Holly Mandarich and Unsplash for the photo!

What is a Quest?

A Quest is a stretch project – a project that sparks a fire in you, that pushes you to grow in order to achieve it, and that will be transformative when you carry it out. 

Embarking on a Quest is a dynamic journey that spans weeks to months, a carefully calibrated balance between depth and duration. It’s crucial to find the sweet spot, avoiding projects that are too shallow and risk losing their allure, or ones that drag on indefinitely, dampening your enthusiasm along the way.

How do you choose a Quest?

Embarking on a Quest is no ordinary pursuit—it’s an exhilarating journey of personal growth and discovery. Inspired by MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten 4Ps, I’ve expanded the framework to 5Ps, guiding you towards choosing a Quest that not only ignites your passion but also finds its rightful place in your life’s tapestry. 

Project

To choose a Quest, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of what the project entails and how you will measure success. Define specific deliverables or outcomes that will signify the completion of your Quest. This will provide a sense of direction and purpose throughout your journey. Some examples of Quests: 

  • I want to learn more about an ethical way to use AI for copywriting,  so I can be more efficient in the rehaul of our website.
  • I want to learn how to create an online class, so I can double my impact and my revenues.

Pleasure

We all have busy lives. If on top of it, we make room in our schedules to learn things we are bored with, what’s the point? Consider your passions and what truly brings you pleasure. Select a Quest that aligns with your interests, allowing you to indulge in something that excites you. By choosing a project that ignites your passion, you’ll remain motivated and driven to overcome challenges along the way.

Power

Identify the new knowledge or skills that you aspire to acquire through your Quest. Choose a project that has the potential to propel you to new heights, enabling personal and/or professional transformation. 

Pertinence

Every workplace, event or community can become a learnplace, that is, a place for you to learn. Assess the relevance of your Quest to your current environment—be it your workplace, community, or specific event. Consider how the project aligns with the culture and ecosystem of knowledge in that space. Ensuring the pertinence of your Quest will maximize the opportunities for learning and application within your existing context. 

Peers

Collaborative learning is so powerful and agile! Identify individuals or communities who can inspire, support, or provide valuable insights throughout your Quest. Engaging with peers who share similar interests or have expertise in relevant areas will enrich your learning experience. Seek out mentorship, accountability partners (that is “accountabilibuddies“), or online communities that can contribute to your growth.

By considering these five aspects—Project, Pleasure, Power, Pertinence, and Peers—you can choose a Quest that excites you, fosters growth, aligns with your environment, and benefits from collaborative learning.

What are the steps of a Quest?
Thanks to Andrew Neel and Unsplash for the photo!

What are the steps of a Quest?

Quest is not only a project: it’s a process! Here are the 8 steps that you can follow to go from idea to completion.

Step 1: Define your Quest

Every Quest begins with a spark of inspiration! Set a compelling vision that will fuel your journey and serve as your North Star. Take the time to clearly define your Quest, the stretch project that ignites your passion and drives your growth. Remember that your Quest should be transformative and meaningful to you. Throughout the process, be open to refining your intention as you gain new insights and knowledge.

Step 2: Identify your Thorny Questions

One of my favorite quotes comes from Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma: “Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go.” Identify the “thorny questions” that you need to unravel in order to achieve your Quest. These are the areas where you lack knowledge, know-how, or understanding. Maintain a living list of these questions as you progress through your Quest.

Step 3: Craft your Learning Plan

Plan the path forward. Develop a comprehensive learning plan that outlines the knowledge, skills, and resources you need to acquire. Break down your plan into actionable steps, incorporating strategies such as reading, connecting with experts, watching educational videos, enrolling in online courses, attending webinars and workshops, and engaging in hands-on experimentations. 

Step 4: Build your Braintrust

No Quest is undertaken alone! Surround yourself with a supportive network of individuals who can provide guidance, resources, accountability, and connections. Seek out mentors, subject matter experts, and like-minded individuals who can contribute to your journey. Your Braintrust will play a crucial role in your success, offering valuable insights and support.

Step 5: Gather Feedback with a Prototype

Simplify your idea and create a prototype or small-scale project that allows you to test unknown variables and gather feedback. This early experimentation will help you refine your approach and validate your assumptions. Leverage the expertise of your Braintrust to gain valuable perspectives and insights during this phase.

Step 6: Work on your Project

Now that you have tested your ideas and gathered feedback, it’s time to dive into your Quest project. Apply the knowledge and skills you have acquired to tackle the challenges and overcome the obstacles that lie in your path. Stay resilient, adaptive, and focused on your ultimate goal.

Step 7: Plan your Learn Out Loud

As you progress through your Quest, plan a Learn Out Loud session—a moment to present and celebrate what you have learned. Invite your Braintrust and community to this Demo Day-style event where you share your insights, accomplishments, and growth. This serves as an opportunity to showcase your achievements and inspire others: it will also help you to remain accountable as things get hard or messy!

Step 8: Celebrate! 

Your Learn out Loud has arrived, whether or not you have completed your Quest the way you had planned! Use this moment to express gratitude for the guidance, resources, and support you received throughout your Quest. Recognize the hard work and dedication you put into achieving your goals. Share your insights, learnings, and the impact your Quest has had on your personal and professional development.

Quest process to launch a podcast
Thanks to Will Francis and Unsplash for the photo!

What could it look like in real life?

To make it all more concrete, let’s follow Madison, an online entrepreneur who wants to use the Quest process to launch a podcast. Full disclosure, I used ChatGPT to help me build a learning plan for Madison… So can you! 🙂

Define your Quest:

Madison’s Quest is to learn how to create a podcast and use it as a platform to share her experiences as a woman entrepreneur, inspiring and empowering others in the process.

Identify your Thorny Questions:

Madison’s Thorny Questions could include:

  • Which podcasts are similar to what I have in mind, and how can I distinguish myself from what’s already in the market?
  • What could be a catchy title for my podcast?
  • What equipment and software do I need to create a podcast?
  • How do I structure and format my podcast episodes so that it generates an emotional response?
  • How do I promote and distribute my podcast to reach a wider audience?
  • What can be the role of music in effective storytelling?

Create your Learning Plan:

Madison’s plan could include these resources: 

Which podcasts are similar to what I have in mind, and how can I distinguish myself from what’s already in the market?

  • Resource: Listen to podcasts in similar niches, such as entrepreneurship, women empowerment, or personal development. Some examples could include “How I Built This” by NPR, “The Goal Digger Podcast” by Jenna Kutcher, and “The Marie Forleo Podcast.”
  • Step: Analyze the formats, content, and unique elements of these podcasts. Take note of what makes them stand out and think about how you can differentiate your podcast through your personal experiences, storytelling style, or guest selection.

What could be a catchy title for my podcast?

  • Resource: Read articles and guides on creating compelling podcast titles. Websites like Buzzsumo, HubSpot, and CoSchedule offer valuable insights on crafting catchy titles.
  • Step: Brainstorm different title ideas that reflect your podcast’s theme, your unique perspective as a woman entrepreneur, and the desired emotional response from your audience. Test the titles with your Braintrust and gather feedback to refine your choice.

What equipment and software do I need to create a podcast?

  • Resource: Research podcasting equipment guides and tutorials from reputable sources like Podcast Insights, Podcast Host, or The Podcast Host.
  • Step: Identify essential podcasting equipment, such as a microphone, headphones, and a pop filter. Research software options for recording and editing, such as Audacity, Adobe Audition, or GarageBand. Consider your budget and the level of quality you aim to achieve when selecting equipment and software.

How do I structure and format my podcast episodes to generate an emotional response?

  • Resource: Study storytelling techniques and podcast episode structures from resources like “The Storyteller’s Secret” by Carmine Gallo or podcasts like “Serial” and “Radiolab.”
  • Step: Explore narrative storytelling techniques, such as incorporating personal anecdotes, using vivid descriptions, or incorporating emotional hooks at the beginning of each episode. Experiment with episode structures, such as introducing a problem or conflict, building suspense, and providing resolution or insights.

How do I promote and distribute my podcast to reach a wider audience?

  • Resource: Research podcast promotion strategies from podcasts and websites dedicated to podcast marketing, such as “The Podcast Host” or “Podcast Insights.”
  • Step: Learn about podcast directories, social media promotion, guest appearances on other podcasts, collaboration opportunities, and email marketing to expand your reach. Develop a promotional plan that combines these strategies, focusing on platforms and channels that align with your target audience.

What can be the role of music in effective storytelling?

  • Resource: Study the impact of music in podcasts and storytelling through resources like “The Power of Music in Storytelling” by Buffer or podcasts with notable sound design like “Song Exploder.”
  • Step: Explore different genres and moods of music that align with the emotions and themes you want to convey in your podcast. Experiment with incorporating music as intros, outros, transitions, or background elements to enhance the storytelling and evoke specific emotional responses from your listeners.

Build your Braintrust:

Madison could connect with individuals who have experience in podcasting, successful women entrepreneurs who have used podcasts as a platform, and fellow podcasters who can provide guidance, resources, and accountability throughout her Quest.

Work on your Prototype:

Madison could start by creating a short pilot episode or a series of mini-episodes to test out her podcasting skills, experiment with different formats, gather feedback from her Braintrust, and refine her approach.

Work on your Project:

Madison would continue to produce and publish podcast episodes, leveraging the knowledge and skills she has acquired. She would refine her content, interview guests, share her experiences, and deliver valuable insights to her audience.

Plan your Learn Out Loud:

Madison would organize a Listening Party where she invites her Braintrust and community to listen to her podcast, reflect on her journey, share the lessons she has learned as a woman entrepreneur, and celebrate her achievements.

Through this Quest, Madison would not only learn the technical aspects of creating a podcast but also gain valuable experience in storytelling, content creation, and building a community around her podcast. She would fulfill her intention of sharing her experiences as a woman entrepreneur and inspiring others along the way. Good job Madison! 🙂


That’s it! If you think that a workbook would be useful to guide you through your Quest or if you’d join a virtual cohort of fellow learners I’d coach through the Quest process, sign up for my newly launched and poorly designed mailing list and I’ll keep you posted! Within the next week, I’ll raffle one copy of Mitchel Resnick’s book Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play to my new subscribers!

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