“Your mission in life is to find the intersection between your heart’s deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger.”
— Frederick Buechner

It’s not a real master’s degree. It’s better.

The Open Master's journey helps us navigate is a universal quest, a line of query that touches the soul: understanding what you want to do (really who you hope to become), how and why you want to do it, and who you want to do it with—and then doing it.

Your Open Master's journey will be designed by yourself but shared by a small, intimate group of peers. You can join a guided group of peers organized by us, or you can organize your own.

Your journey may be based on any topic or question that makes you come alive, and can take many different forms. You will use it to tie together the many different things you want to do or are already doing to learn—reading, courses, volunteering, travel, service, research projects, sabbaticals, apprenticeships, mentoring relationships, and more.

The Open Master's is merely a container, a method, and a community to help you hold it all together, as well as hold it in common with many others who have gone before you.


Seasons of the Journey

1. Radical Pause — A Season of Reflection and Wayfinding

We all face decision points and wonder what would be the best way to clarify and move forward on our goals. Is it going to grad school? Switching careers? Traveling? Most importantly, how do we make wise choices about what's next that are grounded in who we are?

When you start an Open Master's journey, we encourage you to do something radical: press the pause button in a big way. Set a date by which you won't make any kind of decisions and just let all of the life you've already lived catch up with you. In a supportive community of peers, ask yourself the questions that really matter to let you reconnect with your why in a more grounded and confident way.

We take one step back to take ten steps forward, to align our short-term learning goals with our long-term hopes, dreams, and ambitions—about who we are and how we want to serve the world with this one precious life.

This season requires finding two things in your life:

1) First, a supportive community of peers who ask the questions that matter and genuinely listen.

This can happen around your kitchen table, on a hike, or any place where a community gathers to make space for the burning questions that are keeping them up at night.

2) Second, time and space for finding a deeper place of clarity to guide your next step.

Let your shadow to catch up with you, harvest from the richness of the journey you've already been on, and take stock of what is already around you.

 

2. Gathering Seeds — A Season of Preparation for an Ambitious Journey

In laying fallow with radical pause, we can notice what is trying to grow, all on its own. We can listen for the truest seeds of our learning, pick them up, and carry them around. 

This is the season for exploring the things that are inspiring you right now, of playing with concrete ideas for your Open Master's journey. This is when we compile and begin organizing lists—lists of books we want to read, places we want to go, and projects we want to do, and people we want to work with and meet. By collecting the seeds that we want to plant (or by finding the patchwork pieces of our educational quilt), our learning plans take shape.

 

3. Bursting Open — A Season for Action and Adventure

While the first two seasons can be slower, more private and intimate, in the next season, we launch outward. The seeds we've planted begin to grow, to become something "real." We are actively sewing the patchwork together.

Here unveil plans, organize a broader community of support, "date" potential mentors, and challenge ourselves to do that which we've set out to do. Along the way, we build new structures for holding ourselves accountable. We are responsible for our own growth. This is a season of commitment, action, and getting into a rhythm with your learning goals.

 

4. Harvesting & Celebrating — A Season for Making Your Learning Visible

These earlier seasons cycle as many times as you need as a self-directed learner, but this last, and often most difficult, season is a clear milestone and challenge, where you pause again to tell the story of your learning, both to make your learning credible and inspire others. 

Throughout your Journey, the Open Master's community will invite you to join a "Make Your Learning Visible Challenge" to provide each other the accountability to share what needs to be shared—to publish that song, write that blog post, or finally put out that invitation you have been dreaming about.

For those who have undertaken an officially-declared Open Master's Journey—with a publicly-announced plan published on our website—this season will come a few times throughout their journey and also will also mark the culmination of their broader journey, maybe a few years even after they first started.

You will know when it is time for this. There will come one season, in particular, in which you feel that you are now living the big dream you had in mind when you first began your Open Master's journey—you have opened your pottery studio, given your TED talk, published a book, started your company, or published a major piece of research.

When you get there, the community will give you one final challenge—to share the map and fruit of your journey by:

1) Publishing a portfolio to summarize all of your work, as well as honor the unexpected twists and turns on the road, which is also a roadmap of inspirations to guide others behind you.

2) Hosting a celebration for all the people who helped make your Open Master's journey possible to tell the story of your journey, pay it forward, and give a preview to the new things that are now growing in your life as a result of your hard work.

 

We Celebrate Meaningful Milestones.

Most of us will take several years to complete the goals we have for our Open Master's, and the visions and relationships we develop in the beginning of our journey will continue to guide us. 

Instead of caps and gowns or a diploma, the culmination of this process is a personal and unique celebration to mark the completion of the big, headline goal, such as launching our venture, publishing a major work, or getting hired into our dream job. When we began, this was the dream just out of reach. We bring as much intention and care into celebrating its success as we do to realizing it.

For example...

Mike's Open Master's summary

When Mike Durante reached his original goal two years after beginning his Open Master's—launching his dairy farm—we celebrated the completion of his plan by throwing him a dinner party and giving him a special gift.  

Instead of a piece of paper, Mike requested that we give him something useful that would remind him of us whenever he used it. So we marked the occasion by giving him a hammer engraved with each of our original group's names so that he could remember the journey we shared.

 

We are not interested in formal accreditation.

We think people can learn simply because they want to learn, and they can choose how to evaluate it, show it, and make it credible. 

We think a self-designed Master's can stand up in comparison with a degree conferred by a traditional institution, even without the piece of paper or debt. 

There are ways to parlay self-directed learning into institutional degrees and certificates, and we can help you navigate that world if this is important to you in the end; however, for us, it's not the reason for the journey.

Regardless of how someone wants to package their self-made education, we think that the process, the experience, and the body of work can speak for itself.

Designing and producing your own degree by your own initiative and then sticking to it for several years is a pretty impressive and radical story to tell your future employers, parents, and friends... we promise. 

Join A Guided Group

Join an organized peer group, facilitated by the Open Master's, to start the process together. Read more below about the shape of the experience and other details of joining.

Start Your Own

If you're interested in starting your own group, let us know. We'll follow up to offer additional support, including mentorship, learning materials, and sharing your story more widely.