How I Accidentally Became a Teacher After All

by Jeff Sorensen, Co-Founder of optiMize



For a long time I had a dream of being a teacher. When I co-founded optiMize I thought that dream was gone. I was an “education entrepreneur” now, not a teacher.

The funny thing is, now that we are four years in and more than 800 students have participated in our programs, I’ve accidentally become a teacher after all. Every year we welcome new optiMizers into what we do, and I’ve learned a ton about how to teach people to get started turning their own ideas into reality.

The most surprising thing to me is that people all around the country seem to want to experience what we have to offer. In the last year I’ve led sessions for middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students, and companies — ranging from the Midwest to both coasts. It’s been a complete honor and something I never expected would happen.

Last week I got to lead the biggest session I’ve done yet: for 100 students and a few administrators at UCLA.

I took a page out of the Zingerman’s book and led a session on Visioning. It’s become a crucial part of everything we do at optiMize, and I was so happy to see the students get so into it.

After the session, about 15 students stayed for another hour to keep talking. This has become the norm for any session I do, which shows me that students everywhere want to learn in “the optiMize way.”

In the last year, students from Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Stanford and UCLA have all asked me, “So how could we start optiMize here?” I give them tips for how to do things on their own without calling it optiMize, but there’s always a part of my brain that thinks “What if?”

I don’t know what the future will hold, but I do know I wake up every day feeling grateful for the present. Thank you to so many of you who are in this with me. I see so many of you spreading optiMize vibes everywhere you go, and it inspires me to keep doing the same!

I’m starting to believe that I never really abandoned my desire to teach. If we’re going to be the best organization we can be, we all need to be learning constantly and then teaching each other what we’ve learned. If I can lead by example in that regard, then I’m a better leader.

Here’s to many more years of great learning and teaching.