Ask questions if you want to continue to learn. There was a point in my life that I felt as if my days were becoming monotonous, and I realized that it was due to a lack of curiosity. I strongly believe, however, that it is crucial to be passionate about what you are doing and to be open to experiencing something new, so I wanted to push myself to learn more. I kept an open mind and pushed myself to discover new interests by proactively finding new things to learn and asking questions.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Budzinski, a serial entrepreneur of several innovative tech companies and founder of Purpose Prep — now part of Edgenuity — a premier social and emotional learning content and solution provider serving K-12 school districts nationally. Taught by over 80+ content experts, mental health professionals, educators and global leaders coming from all walks of life, Purpose Prep courses help educate the whole learner, creating a safe place for students to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and improve their communication and academic performance.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
When I was in high school, I found myself going down a dark path in my personal and academic life. The saying “hurt people hurt people,” rang true for me — I was getting suspended and even bullying other kids, which resulted in some of them transferring schools. There’s no telling how I might have ended up if it wasn’t for the caring teachers and encouraging role models that took on a larger role in my life and brought me back onto the right path. With their guidance — and, crucially, their support — I was able to change my motivation, from hurting people to helping them.
Shaped by these early experiences and the positive reinforcement from the caring people who helped me, I realized how critical an impact having positive role models can have on a young person.
I developed Purpose Prep because of that realization, and with the intention of creating a solution that would provide children everywhere with the key resources that would both help them grow emotionally and learn new, effective behaviors and processing abilities that can guide them towards becoming their best selves.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Purpose Prep is very unique because it strives to be the most dynamic, rigorous, relationship-heavy curriculum in the market. The most disruptive part of Purpose Prep is the dedication we give to fulfill our promises to students and educators.
One of our promises at Purpose Prep is to ensure that students never repeat social and emotional learning content. This is because we want to make sure that our students are consistently engaged. For example, we make sure that a 4th grader’s learning content never overlaps with their learning content in 5th grade or middle school. As a result, we continuously develop innovative material to ensure that the learning process is fresh and distinctive for every student.
Notably, our unique videos feature prominent athletes and CEOs from around the world that help provide familiar role models and ensure a relatable learning environment for students. There are multiple interconnected factors that make a student successful and here at Purpose Prep, we consider each and every one of these factors when creating lessons.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Where do I start? I have tried and failed at so many things, but I have been fortunate enough to have had mentors throughout my journey that still support me to this day.
One funny story that comes to mind comes from the early days of Purpose Prep, when the business was growing exponentially, and I found myself traveling constantly, sometimes on an airplane as many as four or five times a week. During one of these trips, I was especially exhausted — especially since this came before I learned how crucial delegation is to the health and passion of the entire team — and forgot to pack dress shoes. The day ended up with me speaking in front of the top decision-makers of a very large school district, dressed in a full suit and a pair of bright blue tennis shoes.
Although it was embarrassing, I learned that it was more important, for both myself as a leader and for the company, to just own it. Appearances can matter during important presentations, but they never matter more than the ability to accept the things out of your control, pick yourself up after a mistake, and refuse to let setbacks discourage you from being your authentic self.
Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I am who I am because of those who have surrounded me throughout my life. I have Purpose Prep mentors from different parts of the world that have shown me the importance of understanding cultural differences in order to be a successful educator. This has had a profound impact on my life, as I have learned to acknowledge the needs of different students from different areas and cultures. With Purpose Prep being offered in over 30 different countries, it is especially important that we can connect with every single individual.
Additionally, my mentors have guided me towards understanding the importance of strong mental health. Their advice has been crucial in aiding my awareness of the value of mental health as it relates to students’ education and personal wellbeing. The breadth of experiences my mentors have shared with me has helped me grow not just in my career, but as a person as well.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Positive disruption means you are leaving your footprint in the industry by creating principles and values that matter to you and those around you by offering guidance, support, and resources. Conversely, a not so positive disruption can neglect or ignore the needs of those you promised to help.
Purpose Prep, for example, positively disrupts the education industry by providing solutions that support the hard work educators have set out to do. We assist in creating curriculums for school districts and resources for educators. We do not, however, take away from the role of teacher.
We must ask ourselves, are we leaving people and places better than where and when we found them, or are we creating a world we would not even want for ourselves?
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Ask questions if you want to continue to learn. There was a point in my life that I felt as if my days were becoming monotonous, and I realized that it was due to a lack of curiosity. I strongly believe, however, that it is crucial to be passionate about what you are doing and to be open to experiencing something new, so I wanted to push myself to learn more. I kept an open mind and pushed myself to discover new interests by proactively finding new things to learn and asking questions.
- Be passionate and dedicated. Purpose Prep has been able to attract SEL experts from around the globe because we make every effort to exceed any expectations, which is why we are dedicated to providing unique, nonoverlapping learning curriculums.
- Work hard, work smart. Sometimes you must be willing to work long and hard to achieve the goals you have set out for yourself. In my time at Purpose Prep, I have learned that this can be a positive feedback loop. For instance, when our work gets positively recognized by teachers and superintendents after we have dedicated countless hours to creating it, our motivation to work smarter and harder only increases, regardless of how time-consuming it may be.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Our goal right now is to continue creating spirited and distinguished SEL experiences unlike any other in the marketplace. The amazing part is that our goals are driven by the requests of parents, caregivers, students, teachers, and even mental health professionals that are looking for a product that stands out. Here at Purpose Prep we work diligently to cater to the needs of everyone and meet their wishes.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
One book that has inspired me is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This book does a phenomenal job teaching you how to be curious about the lives of others by detailing how to ask significant, impactful questions. It has also taught me how to lose the ego component of being recognized and instead focus on building meaningful relationships with others. This book has become a guide for me on how to truly and genuinely connect with individuals around me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Under-promise and overdeliver.” If you really believe in what you are doing, then you should want to blow people away. To me there is something special about serving people, and the very foundation of Purpose Prep is built on providing for others and guiding them towards more successful life experiences.
SEL experts and families depend on us because we strive to overdeliver on our promises. We have had experts that have been in the industry for over a decade express to us how impactful our SEL curriculum is, and superintendents tell us how they have witnessed educators grow in their roles as a result of Purpose Prep. These stories show me that my team and I are making a difference and push me to keep overdelivering.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
If I could start a movement, I would start the Purpose Movement. I would love to encourage others to always live in the moment and to come from a place of complete love and forgiveness. There is a powerful equilibrium when you focus on being and living in the moment. You are giving your full attention to what is currently going on around you, instead of trying to go ahead and taking on too much. In my opinion, this type of movement would benefit just about everyone, especially in an environment like today’s where we are increasingly exhausted by societal stresses.
How can our readers follow you online?
Follow Daniel on Twitter @Danielbudzinski or at DanielBudzinski.com
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!