Advice to a Younger Me: Marcus Noel, Heart of Man

Advice to a Younger Me: Marcus Noel, Heart of Man

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(Photo credit: Heart of Man)

WHO? Marcus Noel, 29, the founder of Heart of Man.
WHAT? Heart of Man is an immersive education program and brand that teaches middle and high school students STEAM through entrepreneurship and design.
HOW? Glad you asked.

We’re actually going to not only bring the real world to the classroom but bring the classroom to the real world.

My big vision for this is to create the next generation of innovators and creators.

Three out of four students are telling you that they want to become an entrepreneur and want to start something one day and we don't have an education system to fulfill that. We’re doing a disservice to our students.

We explain the foundation and principles of human-centered design and walk them through the full design process. Then we take it one step forward and introduce rapid prototyping. The key with rapid prototyping is you’re falling fast, like really fast, and you’re getting feedback and you’re able to iterate your idea. That right there is teaching a life skill.

Your first idea isn’t always gonna be perfect. Life is about grit, life is about perseverance. It’s all about getting feedback and making it better the next go around.

All the adults at the table are making decisions and we need to listen to the kids. That is a powerful thing that we overlook.

When you talk about equity it isn’t about teaching everyone the same. It’s about allowing everyone to get to the same place, by whatever means works for them. If we are going to personalize learning and we’re going to really be at the service of students, we need to understand our students.


We’ve impacted about 300 students through workshops, different afterschool programs and a lot of partnering. We serve students in Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia at this point.

I felt lonely. I felt like no one understood me. I had this vision and I wanted to bring it to life but I didn’t have the tangible resources, the skill sets, to do so. I covered a lot of ground over the last few years and now I’m at the point where my parents believe in me.

As a visionary you see what other people don't and you have to conquer the fear to go after whatever it is inside of you.

We can’t create this box and expect every student to fit inside that box. That’s just not the way the world works. That’s one of the biggest mistakes we’ve made in education: trying to standardize everything.

You have to allow people to fail. There’s so many lessons to be learned in failure. It only makes you stronger.


You have to find your zen. You may take an ‘L’ today but a ‘W’ is right around the corner. Just stay positive.

Entrepreneurship is really, really hard. Before going into it, it’s very glorified and you see these people are doing such amazing things. ‘I wanna do it, I wanna grow my venture in the next few years, I’m gonna have a million dollars, I’m gonna have tons of impact.’ I just doesn’t work that way.

When you step out and discover your weaknesses, that requires humility and you have to be vulnerable. You have to allow yourself to fail and be the dumbest person in the room, sometimes.

Follow your heart, be fearless, and don’t quit. Adversity is a part of the game. If you see the vision, you’ve been granted a gift that’s very special and it’s OK if other people don’t see it.

If you want to do something at scale and want to make an impact in the world, you have to figure out a way to be an effective leader. It isn’t about you. You have to figure out how you can cultivate other people to follow your mission and vision.

Education, how I see it in the next 10 years, has the opportunity to serve the needs of all students, no matter what your background is, no matter what your career interest is, there’s a pathway to success for you. That’s what I’d love to see. And that’s what I’m working to do.


This blog post is part of the podcast series "Advice to a Younger Me," where social entrepreneurs from the Class of 2015 American Express Emerging Innovators talk about their experiences in launching their social ventures. Stay tuned for more podcasts from our other innovators, and search the hashtag #amexleads on Twitter for insights on innovation and leadership.