It all started with a fail.


Well, it's finally here! We've OFFICIALLY launched Grown Up YOUniversity, and by we, I mean me and a couple of friends & complete strangers I've roped into helping me make this crazy idea a reality.

Many people have asked about my inspiration for starting this... thing? (What do you call it!? A school? A movement? It remains to be seen!)

So, I figured our first blog post should be a little background on Grown Up YOUniversity.

Here’s  the scoop:

In 2015, after spending 7 years in sales and account management for a printing & promotional products company, I took a giant leap of faith and accepted a sales position at a tech startup here in Indy.

For the first time in my life, I was the worst on a team. I mean, big, fat, zero next to my name on a wall that can be seen by the entire company kind of worst. I mean crying in my car on the way home from the office kind of worst. It was… well… the worst.

I was lucky enough to work with amazing, talented, kind people who tried everything they could to help me be better, but it was just not the right fit. I felt like I was working against every one of my natural strengths to make it in a sales role, and it was only making me miserable - and, unsuccessful.

Here's where it gets interesting. When I took the job, I was 33-years-old, and one of about 10 people in a company of 50 who were over the age of 30. Even the CEO and founder was younger than me.

So, while I was struggling with my own personal battle and definition of success, I kept getting questions from my colleagues about "adult" things, like:

  • I don't even know what these health plans and terms mean and I sat through an entire HR meeting about it. Can you help?

  • I have no idea how to budget. Do you have a budget?

  • I feel like X issue is really unfair. How should I approach my boss about it?

  • My check engine light came on. Is that bad!?

I might not have been able to sell tech, but I’d gone through some of these experiences before and I knew how to help. Even if I didn't know all of the answers, I knew where to go to find them - and which sources would give good, solid info vs. ones that were B.S. I liked helping my friends figure it out, and it felt good to be able to solve problems I knew how to solve.

Something sparked. At the time, I wasn't sure where this flame would lead, but I made three distinct observations:

1. Young people aren't learning this stuff in school (or from their parents.)

Yes, I'm sure YOU are teaching YOUR kid about all of this stuff. But maybe you were busy working, or cooking, or doing, and you overlooked a few things. These young people definitely weren’t offered a class called Health Insurance Terminology 101. And even if they were, things have changed a lot since their parents were their age.  I'm not blaming anyone for where we are, but simply observing that… here we are.

2. They don't want to ask their parents about it.

Maybe they are tired of being referred to by the media as "dependent" on their parents. Maybe they are embarrassed to admit they don't know how to do something. Maybe the topic just isn't something they want to discuss with their parents! (And maybe their parents don't want to know...) The point is this: sometimes you want to ask an adult you trust, and sometimes you don't want that adult to be the same person who raised you.

3. They don't want to "google" everything.

It's pretty widely known that the millennial generation is the least trusting of brands and traditional advertising. I just searched for "budget template" and got 111,000,000 results. As someone in that weird, middle ground between Millennials and Gen-X, I can tell you what I think. I think that most of those results were paid. I think you keyword stuffed your SEO to rank at the top. I’m not sure if you really want to help with your template or you just want to get my info to send me emails. And I don’t know who I can ask if I have questions. 

As I contemplated these observations, it occurred to me that maybe there was a way to solve this problem. I love connecting: humans-to-humans, problems-to-solvers, individuals-to-communities. Perhaps, there could be a place where young people could get the answers they want, in a supportive and welcoming space that didn’t feel like going back to “school” - or like just another email/social post/search result.

 So, I recruited a few friends and fellow young, Indy professionals. I asked them for their advice and input. I asked what they’d like to see, what ideas they had, and what would be helpful. And Grown Up YOUniversity was born.

But here’s the thing.

Outside of the fantastic people and connections I made during my year as a struggling salesman, the one and only reason I had the courage to put on my big-girl pants and turn my idea into action was this:

I failed.

I took a huge leap, tried something new, stepped outside of my comfort zone, shed some tears, worked my butt off, and I failed. 

And you know what? It wasn't that bad.

 I hustled to pay the bills. I didn't lose my house. I didn't lose any friends (except I don't see my old co-workers nearly as much as I'd like to). My family still talks to me - even after I borrowed money to pay the bills. (I'm paying them back!)

I even learned to be better with my finances, because I had to be.

So, if I have this idea to start a business that connects young people who want to feel like empowered, confident adults to the organizations and individuals that can help them: what do I have to lose?

Here’s what comes next. I have a list - let's call it a notebook - full of workshop ideas, names of subject matter experts, marketing plans and models. I wake up in the middle of the night with new ideas and problems to solve. I’m ready to throw some stuff out there and see what sticks, and at the end, I'm confident we'll have something that will change lives. 

Will it all work? Probably not.

Will some of it work? Yep!

And what if the whole thing goes down as an epic failure of global proportions? (It won't). But if it did... well, we'll all be okay.

I'm not afraid of, "I failed". I'm afraid of waking up one day in the future and saying, "I wish I'd tried."

If you're ready to leave your fear of failure behind and feel like a grown-up (even if you don’t act like it): sign up for a class.  

Or reach out - I'm looking for subject matter experts who are ready to share great content and grow their own businesses. Let’s chat!

Oh... and one last thing…  you're awesome. 



Robin Lanning