Breaking Guinness World Records—Just Part of 10th Reunion Weekend
I had a phenomenal 10-year MIT reunion experience. I got to catch up with so many talented, inspired, hard-working people who are making the world a better place. Since campus preview weekend as a pre-frosh, I've always said the best thing about MIT is the other people. I got to visit with old friends, others I knew well but haven't seen since graduation, and some I don't ever recall meeting but had fascinating conversations with nonetheless.
Save the date for Tech Reunions June 8-10, 2018. In addition to undergraduate class celebrations, all alumni can participate in traditional events.
I also broke two Guinness World Records and two other world records over the weekend. Videos and images galleries are posted on the website I use to document my World Record attempts in my pursuit to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. It started off with the four-ball speed juggling record on MIT Commencement day with 498 catches in one minute surpassing the previous record of 466 (not Guinness recognized). Later that day at the Boston Museum of Science, the Guinness World Record for “Most juggling catches in three minutes (three balls)” fell with a run of 1288 passing the previous mark of 1200. While setting that one, I eclipsed the previous record of most catches in one minute of 428 with 470 catches.
I was honored to be selected to give one of the MIT TIM Talks for the 10-year reunion. Eight graduates from the class of 2007—consisting of seven distinguished alumni and a guy who juggles—gave talks about what they’ve been up to in the past 10 years.
Here’s my story in a nutshell. After MIT, I worked as ASIC design engineer, then got my MBA and then, more than seven years ago, I started working at a Boise-based technology startup called Cradlepoint. We recently raised an $89M series C funding round and have over 500 employees and it's been a great ride. One of the biggest challenges we have is finding candidates to fill positions requiring STEM degrees. On the side, I'm a motivational speaker. I promote STEM education through talks to students, educators, and corporations. I set Guinness World Records to show the power of having a Growth Mindset (C. Dweck) and Grit (A. Duckworth). We live in a fixed mindset world: either you have it or you don't: leadership, smarts, athletic ability, the ability to dance or remember names. In a growth mindset, any intelligence can be developed. There's a significant amount of scientific research to back up the claim that not only can any intelligence be developed, but having a growth mindset helps make it happen. There are two examples I like to use. In 2nd grade I didn't get into the gifted program; I wasn't smart enough. What if I had believed that? I doubt I would have kept working hard to eventually get into MIT. Also, I'm 32 years old and I have broken 18 Guinness World Records, primarily for juggling or balancing. The day I turned 30, I had zero. What changed? It wasn't my athletic ability, it was my mindset.
At the end of my talk, the MIT Class of 2007 attempted to break a Guinness World Record with me. It was for “Most Selfies in Three Minutes” (each taken by me with a different person). Like a good engineer, we had a traffic flow diagram for 10-250, with specific instructions about how and where to position the face to qualify per Guinness rules. We used two lines for parallel processing versus a single line of serial processing, as used by all previous challenges.
Word had gotten around that a Guinness World Record might be attempted so when I concluded my talk, there was a slight pause after the applause. I then started again saying we should take it one step further and an energetic audience member called out "AHH! WE'RE DOIN' IT! YES!" And from there the energy level kept building as the instructions were given and the plan was laid out. A few people with babies lined up first so they could hold up their children separately to get extra selfies and others whispered about how nervous they were.
After a ready, set, go! we started. Folks jumped into position on one side as the other side's selfie was snapped. Back and forth, pictures were taken at a furious pace with folks leaping in and out of position in everything from tennis shoes to formal wear. It brought back memories of awe from liquid nitrogen ice cream and the sodium drop at CPW. By the time I took the last selfie with my good friend Karlen Ruleman '09 holding my infant son, Jeremy (MIT 2034?), we had gotten everyone through the line with 0.2 seconds to spare. The Guinness World Record of 134 selfies was crushed by the MIT Class of 2007 with 166.
But more important than that, we were reminded of the awe and excitement of working together as a team to accomplish a common goal. We all spent four of our most formative years together in close quarters with many late nights and packed weekends so we have a connection that goes deeper that most of us can describe. And in all earnestness, we can all change the world. I want us all to have a growth mindset and believe we could do way more than just set a Guinness World Record.