Challenger Kimani Calliste, two years later …

I failed my GripTape Learning Challenge.

Two years ago, I set a goal for what I thought was a simple task. I was going to produce a 15-minute short film on my own without any additional crew. It seemed easy at the time. I had the script written and every role was filled with actresses I already knew. All of the planets aligned for what would be the perfect debut to my indie filmmaking career. But I didn’t finish my short film. It was a five-month struggle through scheduling conflicts, bad audio recordings, location scouting problems, and a seven-year-old boy being too much of a saint to even pretend to be angry for a scene. All I was left with were a few incomplete clips sitting on my laptop waiting to be cut into a movie that I could not complete. And despite this grand failure of mine, I learned more from it than I did in my four years of high school.

My Challenge was the first time I was allowed and encouraged to create something on my own without expectation of being graded or judged. No one told me what to do or who to do it with or when or why or how, and this forced me to hold myself accountable for what I set out to accomplish. And in holding myself accountable, I learned very quickly how to be brutally honest about my own actions and emotions so that I can move forward with my goals effectively. This is GripTape’s brilliance.

Now, two years later, my working life is almost unrecognizable. The skills I learned with GripTape of self-awareness and self-regulation have pushed me into doing more for myself and my career. I’m building a successful business as a photographer/videographer in the fashion and marketing industries, and am in a much more productive and positive place now than I have ever been. I often reflect about my GripTape experience two years ago, and I fear that had I not participated in the Learning Challenge, I would have stayed in a college that I hated, studying for a degree that’s useless in the industry, searching for permission to take control of my own life.

GripTape Founder Mark Murphy shares his thoughts.

Kimani’s words inspire me.

They also haunt me. And they make me think.

In my career educating and helping young people, where have I put my energy? And have the ways I’ve chosen to help young people really been helpful? I generally land on answers that are positive … “Yes, of course things I’ve worked on, like good teaching and strong principals, high quality learning standards, curriculum and assessments, school governance, and strong school culture, matter.”  But I also now deeply question the best ways for young people to learn and develop. And I am pushed more and more, by Kimani and hundreds of other youth, to question many of the assumptions I held for years. And despite all the data highlighting the importance of formal education, what if there are far better ways for young people to learn, to develop, and ultimately to thrive?

Read Kimani’s words again and then open our most recent learning report. It’s important. It will inspire you. It will likely rattle your assumptions. And I know it will make you think.

We invite you to learn more about our approach at griptape.org.

Interested in volunteering to support GripTape Challengers?
Sign up to Become a Champion today!

About GripTape

Grip tape is an anti-slip adhesive used by skateboarders to anchor themselves to their board so they can take control of where they want to go and how they want to get there. GripTape, the organization, gives young people the traction they need to seize control of their own learning, choose their purposes, and achieve their full potential. GripTape is an initiative of the America Achieves accelerator. Learn more at GripTape.org.