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The truth about 2015/16

Posted by James Simms on June 28, 2018

It’s a classic conversation topic for all of us: “What would you do if you won the lottery?”. How do you feel about that topic? Do you have an answer? As someone who doesn’t play the lottery, it has always seemed a distant idea, but I do like the impact the thought has on me. Are my values what I believe they are? Am I, at heart, truly the person I believe I am. And finally, what would I spend the money on?

In September 2015 I was faced with the reality of this situation. I had no scratch card or winning ticket, rather, my newly-formed business had earned me a ludicrous sum of money in the first four weeks of commercialisation. The trend continued and, by the end of academic year 2015/16, I had earned enough money to significantly influence my lifestyle. Furthermore, my business was so simple that I had almost no costs. 

Now, I am aware that this may already seem like a gratuitous and self-indulgent post that no one would want to read but, in truth, it is the outcome of that 2015 experience that I want to share with you. By the end of 2016 it was obvious that three to four years in this model, I would be in a position that I was a wealthy individual. So, in summer 2016, in the village of Soto en Cameros in La Rioja in Spain, the tiny village where my partner’s family hail from, Marta (my long-term partner) and I sat down and discussed what we were going to do. The discussion itself was short. The details were not clear but the value, that both of us shared, was obvious. We chose to use the money to create something and to create something that mattered. Later that day I wrote the very first version of the blog post The Secret Masterplan. Whilst it was tweaked and changed in subsequent months, the message and the meaning has been consistent. In short, Marta and I decided the following:

  • We wanted to create a sustainable business that was capable of challenging the very idea of what a classroom is thought to be.
  • We wanted a consistent movement based on sound educational principles rather than simply creating the next fad.
  • We wanted to build a location where this new model could exist, permanently, in reality, and be used as a demonstration space for thousands of teachers.
  • We wanted to create a media channel where the very best ideas in education were introduced to everyone and available everywhere.
  • We wanted to build an online learning platform capable of revolutionising the meaning of classroom learning.
  • We wanted to employ teachers and support staff in a model that encouraged, in fact, ensured, work-life choices and created happy and fulfilled colleagues.

Now, the problem with this is that all of the above cost a significant sum of money, to say nothing of the stress and application required to achieve it. Creating a fad-based business is relatively easy. But creating a business that is sustainable via a robust philosophical core is incredibly challenging. What is more is that the personal cost is high. I became so heavily invested in the movement on a personal basis that in 2016/17 I worked 361 days of the year. When things truly matter to an individual, this can happen and becomes normalised. 

So, why am I sharing this now? The answer to that lies in the outcome of the last two year’s work coming to obvious fruition in recent weeks and days. Firstly, is live, operating in an extremely robust way and already profitable. is, I believe, the most important educational website ever produced as it fundamentally changes what happens in classrooms and provides educators with the opportunity to provide classrooms truly in the ways that human beings actually learn. You can read more about that here. Secondly, our classroom, Classroom 21, is now built and will accept its first guests tomorrow during our selection day of new teachers. This demonstration classroom environment is simple, affordable and highly effective. You can find a range of simple progress vlogs about the classroom here. Thirdly, we have just completed our video recording set and studio and are now in a position to host the greatest thinkers in education for long-form video interviews about their ideas. These videos, along with our weekly podcast, will be entirely free to the listener.

In conclusion, we have a few ticks next to the bullet points I made above but we still have the biggest part of the journey to go. Marta and I are now earning minimum wage salary and take minimum annual dividends from the business and we are now able to stay afloat personally. The business is profitable and growing. We have built our physical and virtual infrastructure to a point where we are miles ahead of any competitor. And we are employing a growing team in a highly supportive and developmental environment. So, for today, I am happy. However, there will soon be a tomorrow when this cycle will start again and I will need to make the same choices as I did in 2015/2016.

What would you do?