Guest blog post featuring Kevin Liu, TKS Activator

Kevin is a 16-year-old Activator at The Knowledge Society & Founder of Kevin Eleven Ventures, where he and his team work on building out creative startups, running a digital agency, and creating content to help make the world a better place. This summer, he’s also working as a  Machine Learning Intern at Actionable.co and an Extended Reality Intern at MetaVRse.com to gain a breadth of new experiences! Lastly, he’s also jamming out as a Special Projects Intern Take Back Perfect with Clay Hebert, who was recently listed as one of the Top 50 Most Daring Entrepreneurs alongside Bezos and Musk.  In his spare time through the Masters of Today and Tomorrow podcast, Kevin also interviews industry thought leaders and startup founders to help the audience gain more perspective and better themselves through insightful conversations spanning multiple industries. Previous guests include the likes of Swish Goswami (CEO and Founder of Trufan), and Solon Angel (Founder of Mindbridge.AI).

You applied. You hustled through the interview process. You did the work. And now you’re in.

The question you have in your mind? What now?

You’re about to go through one of the most exciting, raw and meaningful rollercoasters of your life throughout your Innovate year, and here are the top 9 pieces of advice that I have for incoming TKS Innovators.

All of these 9 tips are things that I either did (and found great results with), and/or didn’t do until much later in the year (sharing this with you so that you can find some value and benefit early on), and/or saw tons of success within the program through understanding the trends.

No matter when you’re reading this, anyone one element from this quick post should apply and should be helpful. Let’s dig in.

1. Start early.

The first thing that you want to do, is get started. This could mean showing up early, building strong meaningful relationships and friendships with fellow Innovators, building your habits and routines, learning how to code, or even getting started with an area of emerging tech that you’re into. It could also mean reaching out to some TKS Alumni or Activators, don’t be afraid, we don’t bite 😉.

By putting in the time, you’re going to get results. Just go do it.

2. Build strong friendships with other people in the program.

This is by far one of the most important elements. Your fellow incoming Innovators are some of the smartest, most ambitious and most potential-filled high school students that you’ll ever meet. Just come in, be respectful, and get to know as many people as you can, while forming super strong bonds with them. These can be your future co-founders, lifelong friends, and beyond that, people that you’ll be able to reach out to for anything you’re curious about (given their field of expertise + experience).

Pro-tip? Don’t be super uptight and don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re here to better yourself, and why not do it together with a few amazing friends that you vibe with.

3. Develop a growth mindset.

You’re going to come across a LOT of new ideas, new principles and a ton of new information. In fact, TKS is going to expose you to some of the most unconventional thought processes, principles, systems and mindsets. Having an open mind about new ideas, and being super open to growth is going to be the superpower that can make or break you. Realize that you can always get better and improve.

4. Set an intention for the year and what you want it to look.

You’ve earned your golden ticket, so now it’s up to you to figure out what you want the next 10 months to represent. It’s seriously going to fly by in a heartbeat.

This might mean asking yourself a bunch of questions: How do you want to approach it? How much of your time and energy do you want to invest into the program? What do you want to put into it and what do you want to get out of the program?

Pro-tip: Dig into a few examples of previous TKS Innovators, go through their portfolio and see what they’ve been up to. This is a great exercise to understand what’s possible if you put in the time, energy and hustle while taking care of your physical and mental health. You can even go beyond what they’ve accomplished and make more happen.

Figure out if you want to master a certain technology, if you want to level yourself up and become the best version of yourself, to build a community, a network of close friends that help prop you up? Is it all of them and more? Figure out what you want, and make the plan to get there. Then… just go do it.

5. Things aren’t always going to go well, failures + roadblocks + setbacks are going to come up.

a.k.a. Understand that things will get tough.

No matter how prepared you are, things are going to come up and throw you off course. Sometimes a few inches, and sometimes a few miles. Learning to become anti-fragile, where tough situations make you stronger and you slowly start to become resilient, and better equipped with curveballs that come your way. Build a plan on how you want the year to look like, and when things go south, realize that it’s ok to take some time and deal with it. Reach out to your friends and the TKS Directors for support. The community is here for you.

6. Build healthy habits, routines and systems.

By building the frameworks to automate a ton of the decisions that you make on a day-to-day basis and move towards optimizing for great days, your results will start to compound and you will experience exponential growth. Improving by just 1% every day means that by the same time next year, you’ll have at least levelled up by 3.65x. Think about what you could accomplish if you find a way to increase that number.

7. Clear out the dust bunnies.

Do you already have dozens of commitments and no time? Do you have some bad habits that are preventing you from reaching your definition of success, and making progress? Do you have problems that you’re choosing not to deal with? If so, nothing will change if you don’t do anything about it. The summer is the perfect time to start cleaning out the dust bunnies that are making it difficult to breathe and excel. Be very intentional about the way you’re heading into the next year.

Pro-tip: Figure out what your top 3 priorities are going to be for the next year. TKS should be the first or at minimum second priority if you want to get the most out of it. What are the other two going to be? Pick them intentionally, and pick them based on what you truly care about + what you think makes the most sense.

8. Focus on your own path, and DON’T compare yourself to others.

Your situations are different from someone else’s and everyone’s on their own path. That might mean that you need to do things differently than others at TKS and that’s okay.

Life at TKS is not a zero-sum game. Everybody wins if they want to and they put in the work to make it happen. And on top of that, celebrate others’ success 🥳. Comparing yourself to others and getting in your own head with imposter syndrome doesn’t help anyone. It only builds resentment and negative energy.

On top of that, one more thing to note, don’t pick a Focus just because everyone else is doing it. Pick one that you’re genuinely interested in and go DEEP… and become the expert that people think of when them mention the topic.

Great example? Pavan Jayasinha from TKS Toronto is basically known as one of the quantum computing legends in the community because he’s spent so much time, and posts so much to the #quantum-computing channel in Slack, + hustles out projects on it, just because he enjoys it so much.

9. Be kind to yourself and those that surround you.

At the end of the day, also make sure that you take care of yourself in the process. Take care of your physical + mental health, and respect what I like to call the Importance of S.E.E. by sleeping well (at least 7-9hrs/day), exercising daily, and eating good healthy food. Taking care of yourself will supercharge your ability to do great work and perform at your highest potential.

At the same time, be kind to others. We all like people that are receptive, kind and friendly. The people you meet at TKS can be and in many cases are your future friends, co-founders, long-term connections, and people who can help you reach your goals and vice versa. This is a safe space for growth and everyone plays a part in the puzzle.

10. Show gratitude.

It is unheard of for a high school student to have access to a community, mentorship, and a human accelerator program, earning internships, starting companies and achieving great things. And none of this would have been possible without the amazing Directors and the TKS team for designing such a meaningful experience. And moreover, it wouldn’t be possible without those that take chances on you, and those that support you along the journey. And most importantly, it wouldn’t be possible without your parents. + a ton of others. Never take things for granted and make sure that you let people know how much you appreciate them.

On the note of gratitude: s/o to Navid and Nadeem for creating such a sick program and choosing to help develop unicorn people, instead of building your own unicorn companies 🦄.

Special s/o once again also goes to Harrison Nolan and Kim Parnell for your amazing guidance, mentorship and direction over the past year. And huge thank you to all of you lovelies for reading this + the whole fam at TKS because you guys have been so amazing through this whole year knowing y’all! Looking forward to taking us all to the moon.

🚀 So where do you go from here?

You’ve been handed a golden ticket to go to the moon, as long as you build the rocket. How the rocket turns out is up to you. It’s dependant on the amount of time, effort, energy and manufactured serendipity that you build.

It’s your time to live up to your potential and go beyond the status quo.