My First Online Course: The Way of Adventure

Today I’m proud to announce The Way of Adventure, my first online course. It’s an advanced leadership course for ages 13-23, but you can participate at any age. The best part: it’s 100% free.

What’s the message?

One the big reasons I created this course was to better explain my idea of “adventure.” I consider myself an adventurer, but I’m not always off on dangerous outdoor trips or exploring far-flung corners of the globe like other adventurers I know. I prefer a more commonplace and accessible conception of adventure, which I started to define 8 years ago in College Without High School:

An adventure, specifically defined, is any challenge that requires a lot of learning in a small amount of time.

The passage continues: “Traveling cross-country to teach rock climbing at a summer camp is an adventure. Crafting an online marketing plan for your friend’s small business is an adventure. Spending three months on an organic farm in Italy to learn permaculture and the Italian language is an adventure. Walking into a physics professor’s office to get book recommendations, working nights as a veterinary assistant and volunteering at a disaster relief site are all adventures. And going to college, too, is an adventure.”

With this new course I share my updated definition:

At its core, adventure is about intentionally putting yourself into uncomfortable situations that lead to growth.

Continued: “It’s about designing a life instead of accepting the one you’re handed. It’s about living in such a way that, whether you die next week or at age 90, you will not regret your choices. You can still have safety, comfort, and approval with a life of adventure. Same with degrees, jobs, cars, houses, and spouses. But they’re byproducts of a life well-lived—not its ultimate purpose.”

I continue promoting “adventure” because it’s a universally popular idea with young people and an easy gateway to the ideas of self-directed learning and taking control of one’s education. I also think adventure is a good thing on its own, separate from any notions about education; I like pretty much every adventurous person I meet, regardless of their beliefs about the school system. These people are typically optimistic, courageous, conscientious, and forward-looking. It felt right to design my first online course around “adventure” rather than my time-worn banners of self-directed learning and unschooling.

Developing the course

I started working on The Way of Adventure in summer 2016 (in South Lake Tahoe, CA) and finished it in early 2017 (in Medellin, Colombia). Along the way I recruited a group of young adult interns to help brainstorm challenges and beta-test the course. Many didn’t finish the beta, and none actually completed the entire course—albeit I gave them only three weeks, which was not enough time. That’s when I realized that I’d created something of a beast, and I subsequently decided to call it an “advanced leadership course”—which it is. Thank you, interns!

Those familiar with my work will recognize some old themes in the challenges: I love encouraging young people to directly contact and interview fascinating adults, for example, as well as publish their work and reflections online. Much of the course content is drawn from my previous writing and programs; some it comes from the activities I do with 1-on-1 coaching; and some of it is brand new.

Why is it free?

At age 34, some people tell me that I shouldn’t be doing anything for free. I disagree for a few reasons.

  • I think it benefits me to give some of my work away for free in exchange for attention—especially when my current primary income source relies on a relatively small number of clients.
  • I think it’s very difficult to charge for online content—you need to offer something really high-quality and unique, and I don’t think that this course is up to par yet. It’s practice for me.
  • I simply enjoy building things and giving them away to the world. It scratches my philanthropic itch, gives me a sense of purpose, and helps spread ideas that genuinely need to be spread. I credit Derek Sivers and Seth Godin for inspiring this ethic.

Will there be more courses?

Yes! I plan to start offering online courses for young people through Unschool Adventures in the near future, which will involve more human facilitation and actually cost money. I’ll be sharing more about those soon, along with a big redesign of the Unschool Adventures website.

Thanks for reading, and do check out The Way of Adventure. I think you’ll enjoy it.