You just quit the one job you thought you were meant to do.
If you really let your mind wander, you might imagine building an online audience of 25,000 followers and landing your dream job in the span of one year.
But that’s exactly what Ana Lorena Fabrega did.
People dream about quitting their job and following their passions but not a lot of people do it. And they certainly don’t reinvent their career in a year.
Ana left her teaching job after five years because she felt constrained by the school system. She stepped into the unknown by writing online and sharing her ideas publicly. She put herself in a position to create opportunities with no guarantee that anything she did would pay off.
Eventually it did pay off when she found herself in a dream role as Chief Evangelist at Synthesis, an online education company affiliated with Elon Musk, where kids learn through games.
The path of being a creator can feel daunting and lonely. By embracing new and challenging experiences, Ana built momentum from a standing start and found her team. She had faith that something magical was around the corner and kept plugging away until that magic presented itself as a job that was created uniquely for her.
By following her strategy, passionate creatives can be like Ana and do what they love every single day.
While attending NYU, Ana majored in childhood education and special-ed, while minoring in psychology. Even though she got to see the best of the best teachers in practice, she noticed a big lack of engagement from the students. There was more emphasis on what the kids were learning and not if the kids were learning.
In her own classroom, Ana was known to her students as Ms. Fab. She focused on what the kids were already excited about and pushed them further to spark new ideas. She even took it upon herself to skip units that didn’t feel relevant.
Imagine learning personal finance before photosynthesis. The audacity.
Ana inspired her students to follow their curiosities and created a space where learning was fun. But the constraints were challenging. As her students moved on to different grades and different classrooms, Ana watched as they fell out of love with learning.
For years, Ana dreamed of transforming childhood education. After five years of hard work, she had little recognition to show for it. She could make changes in her classroom but she couldn’t change the system. The system was broken.
Ana had her own definition of a good education:
“A good education is one where kids graduate being extremely aware of what they’re good at, having had plenty of experience creating and building different things, failing and then trying again and getting feedback until they nail something, and having that desire to keep learning.”
None of this was happening in the traditional school system.
There had to be a better way.
So Ana gave up her formal role as a teacher. She was determined to blaze a new trail as a passionate educator outside of the classroom.
Ana didn’t have a plan. She was simply open to any and all opportunities that came her way. So in November 2019 she enrolled in a course called Write of Passage to start building a presence online. At the time, Ana had never published an article online, and hadn’t written an essay since college. She felt like an underdog– “Do I belong here? Can I succeed as an online writer? Am I ever going to learn how to write?” But she dusted off her dormant Twitter account, started a website and newsletter from scratch, and set off on her path to become a citizen of the Internet.
In her very first newsletter issue sent out in January 2020, Ana shared a quote from David Perell that showcased her faith in the internet to bring forth opportunities:
“People who maximize serendipity balance the humility of not knowing where their next big break will come from with the arrogance of knowing that it will come from somewhere.”
Ana didn’t know what was going to happen. But little by little, her relationship with the Internet changed. She began writing articles, getting feedback from classmates, and building her confidence. Halfway through the course, she sent David an email: “This is the most excited I’ve been in a while. Since we started the course, my mind has been rushing non-stop with ideas.” She embraced the unknown and trusted the process as she connected with a community of like-minded writers across the globe.
As it turns out, Ana’s got Twitter game. Her profile alone is a lesson in using Twitter to your advantage. She asked herself, “What’s my edge? What’s different and interesting about my writing?”
She captured that answer with a catchy snippet for her bio: “I get kids, and kids get me.” She added a cartwheel emoji to give a sense of her playful and childlike personality. And she called herself an “Edupreneur” which described how she built different learning experiences in the alternative education space.
Ana had one goal with her tweets: to get people to think differently about education. Her content was laser-focused on education and she balanced both a playful and provocative tone.
And then in February Ana sent out a tweet that went viral:
The Twitter followers and newsletter subscribers came flooding in.
But more importantly, specific opportunities arrived in Ana’s inbox, like podcasts, interviews, and speaking opportunities.
The real power of distribution is not just reaching as many people as possible through viral threads. It’s the ability to connect with the right people that can change your trajectory.
One month before the viral tweet, Chrisman Frank, co-founder and CEO of Synthesis, found Ana on Twitter and subscribed to her newsletter. At this point she only had 10 email subscribers, including Mom and Dad.
This illustrates your reach on the internet is far greater than any vanity metric might suggest. You don’t need a huge following. If you’re posting quality content on a consistent basis, you never know who might stumble upon your work. In Ana’s case, she had just attracted the CEO of Elon Musk’s online education company.
Two months after that, Chrisman direct-messaged Ana to meet. During their first talk, Chrisman mentioned a project he was working on that was still in stealth mode. It was called Synthesis and Ana was immediately hooked.
Synthesis is an online community where kids go to become better problem solvers. It offers 1-hour weekly sessions for students aged 8-14. There’s no scripted curriculum or anything to memorize. Students learn mental models, decision making, and communication through complex, collaborative team-based games. Synthesis wants to equip kids with a toolkit for the future, but in a fun way that doesn’t feel like school.
The mission and vision of Synthesis aligned perfectly with Ana’s. (Watch this amazing video Ana made to learn more about the background of Synthesis.)
And it all started with a direct message on Twitter.
Chrisman and Josh Dahn, the other co-founder and creative director of Synthesis, asked Ana to join the founding team as Chief Evangelist. She would be in charge of outreach, representing the company publicly, and sharing their story with the world. They launched in November 2020, exactly one year after Ana enrolled in Write of Passage.
Upon reflection, Ana had this to say,
“It’s crazy what this platform can do when you learn how to use it well. It really is a magnet for amazing opportunities and like-minded people.”
Everything fell into place for Ana in a way she could have never predicted.
David Perell explains that by making it easy for people to find you online, you create a vehicle for serendipity.
Ana’s serendipity vehicle led her to join Synthesis. Instead of starting her own company from scratch, she was able to plug in to a visionary company where her creative potential could be fully realized.
David explained what this path looks like:
“You say, ‘I’m not going to be responsible for running this thing because that’s going to take away from my creativity. [Instead you say,] ‘I believe in this, and I can serve as someone who is part of the heart, the soul, the spirit of this company.’”
When you create a serendipity vehicle for yourself, you create a literal dream job. Perhaps it’s a job that never existed before. Perhaps you find a team of people that will do whatever they can to enable you to contribute towards a shared vision.
That’s what Chief Evangelist at Synthesis was for Ana. Synthesis allowed her to educate outside the classroom and work with a team of people who’s core values aligned with her own. She’s responsible for recruiting students, talking to parents, and illustrating how the Internet is changing the way kids learn.
A perfect fit.
In 2019 Ana felt stuck and alone in a system that did not align with her vision for student education. And in 2020 she was working alongside team members who support and nurture her vision.
Just a decade ago, a transformation like hers would not have been possible. Blogs were too hard to build, social media was too small, and reaching people through traditional media was too expensive. But now, everybody can publish and distribute their ideas for free. Write of Passage isn’t just a writing course. In it, you’ll learn how to use the Internet to reach like-minded people, just like Ana.
This was adapted from Charlie Bleecker’s essay: Spark Serendipity Like Ana Lorena Fabrega.