How to Be a Student of Life
To be a student of life is to always be learning, and the guests on these episodes of Track Two Podcast are constantly seeking to understand our world and their communities better. Although these guests have solidified their careers, they continue to learn and teach themselves about new topics, constantly growing their repertoire. It can be easy to settle into comfort, but as you will see, being a student of life is a much more rewarding experience. Gaining new perspectives can help in your day-to-day actions and allows for constant improvement, and there is always room for further growth.
‘Solve the Local Problem First’ With Kevin Kuchta
In this episode, cohosts Sarah Gerber and Joanne Gouaux sit down (virtually) with Kevin Kuchta. Kuchta is an entrepreneur focused on the mental health community. He founded First Response Mental Health, an organization that uses programs to form a supportive community, helping ensure that everyone is taken care of. Taking advantage of his interest in product and software development as well as strategic analysis, Kuchta has been able to use these skills to curate a company with a positive social influence.
Kuchta never had a shortage of app and company ideas. But with time, he was able to single them out to find the one that would leave the largest legacy and help the greatest number of people. Kuchta describes how influential it was to work at group homes in his early career and how it fostered not only his appreciation for the underserved and misunderstood, but also taught him about how the system worked and how to improve it. It speaks to the importance of knowing the field you want to improve and finding reasonable ways to create actual change. As he continues his work, Kuchta finds new methods to improve, constantly re-envisioning how to help in the mental health community.
‘Let’s Talk About Social Innovation’ With Branka Anđelković
Gerber and Gouaux talk to Branka Anđelković, the cofounder and program director of the Public Policy Research Center, a Serbian think tank. The conversation centers around Anđelković’s inspirations and her experiences with innovation and entrepreneurship.
Innovation is constantly changing, and for one to keep up, one must listen to different perspectives with an open mind. As Anđelković says, “Innovation, the future of work, remote work, this is already a history; we are probably going to talk about new things in a year’s time.” Anđelković’s statement rings true when applied under broader terms as well. However, Gerber and Gouaux examined the statement under the lens of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship revolves around finding original solutions for current problems. “Entrepreneurship is not only about economic models, but it is also really about the state of mind,” Anđelković says. As Anđelković describes, being a successful entrepreneur asks for more than optimizing economic models, the entire structure on which these models are built must be recreated. Asking entrepreneurship to be thought of as a mental problem rather than a number-based one speaks to the flexibility and complexity of the task and spotlights the importance of human characteristics in order for prosperity.
‘The Space of Imagination’ With Hooman Koliji, PhD
“My journey was about dreaming, something that doesn’t exist out there and how to make it happen, how to make it accessible [beyond myself]. To me, that’s the most exciting part of [being] an entrepreneur.”
Hooman Koliji was born in Tehran and is an architect, academic and entrepreneur. Currently a tenured professor at the University of Maryland, Koliji uses his love and vast knowledge of Iranian architecture to inspire his work and students. Koliji is also the founder of CREO, an innovation company focused on incorporating “intelligent green ecosystems for buildings.”
In his conversation with Gerber and Gouaux, Koliji speaks about his internal conflict during his early career. As a student studying architecture, he had to make a decision between earning money early and developing his identity. This concept is in line with another that Koliji realized when noticing the limitations of academia, the ability to teach versus the ability to do. However, creating his own company allowed him to explore these topics freely and fully realize his creative self. In turn, his unique architectural ideas have brought him success and joy as he creates a brighter future.
‘Igniting Meaningful Conversations’ With Fred Dust
Fred Dust was a senior partner and global managing director at IDEO; he serves on multiple boards, including Sundance, NPR and The New School, to name a few. Dust is also an author, most recently having published Making Conversation: Seven Essential Elements of Meaningful Communication. Dust’s philanthropic journey began with his father’s charity dinners, and in conjunction with his grandmother’s love for storytelling, Dust found his passion in facilitating meaningful conversations.
“I think there are people who are really good at listening to the world. And it’s about how do you use creativity and imagination and joy and bring that to the hardest conversations in your life?” Dust has highlighted the power of communication and how it can realize physical change in communities. The conversation is always shifting, but as long as communication is kept open, there is space for new ideas and growth.