056: Matt Alex | Standard Vs Self-Education and How The World and Value Around Them is Changing

Hey, everyone. We’ve got Matt Alex, founder of Beyond Academics. His company is changing the face of standardized education by who you have access to through different styles of teachings using an original Netflix-type platform. We get into standard versus self-education, and how the world and value around them are changing. If you want to connect and learn for the future, you’re going to want to check this one out.



The Mastermind Effect:  02:08

Let’s talk about how we learn, which is something that you’re really passionate about. When you and I were younger, we learned through textbooks and teachers, the people around us, and eventually that became our friends, family, and co-workers. The reality is that only gives us a sliver of what’s possible. How has your learning changed from your early years versus today?


Matt Alex:  03:06

To be honest with you, I think some of my passions and why I’m in higher ed comes from my journey as a student. I wasn’t a straight-A student in grade school or high school, even in early parts of college. It wasn’t because I wasn’t capable. It was just the way that I was being taught, I didn’t really learn that way. When I got to college, I started to really understand that I think differently. I absorb information differently. In the stuff that I teach, I talk about five learning chemistries. We learn visually. There is contextual, the written context of it, experiential, and then being able to even drive our learning through speaking. All these things are really important elements of it. We really need to be able to allow students to absorb information in the way that they learn. 


First things I always say to schools that I work with is, is your content in a format in the learning chemistries that are there? How do you do that? In a traditional classroom, it’s contextual. There’s just one-way dialogue in most cases and yet, a lot of people don’t absorb that way. That’s an important piece. Not only learning chemistry is part of just being in the workforce, but even when you’re learning in a corporate setting. There are people who need it in an Excel spreadsheet and there’s people who need it in a video. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just a different way of absorbing information. I think what you will start seeing more in the market both in a corporate setting as well as in higher ed is that this different learning chemistry is coming into play.


The Mastermind Effect:  05:02

You’re meeting the people on the playing field. They want to be met. Do they want to be met auditorily, visually, or verbally? Then, you’re finding the platform with technology and what your company is taking on. It’s a huge thing. Why was it important for you to meet the people where they want to be met?


Matt Alex:  05:34

I know that my learning experience wasn’t as I would have liked. I know that a lot of people spend a lot of money on how they get educated and there’s something wrong even in that dynamics at this stage. Part of this is being to be able to give access to people who need to learn—that’s an important element of it. I believe that getting value for what you’re learning fit for purpose. I’m a criminal justice major and everyone just defaults that Matt Alex is going to become a juvenile detention guy, or he’s going to go and become a cop, or he’s gonna become a pre lawyer. 


A major does not and should not default you to your career. Part of why I believe that we should meet people where they are is their journeys are different. Everyone’s journey is different. My daughter who’s about to go to college, her journey is going to be different. I want her journey to be tailored to her need and I think that’s going to be an important element. My son who’s 12, his journey is going to be vastly different when college comes in because that by that time, the constraints that we see in timeframe and the way that we get educated are going to be much different. We’re not going to see the 16-week courses as you move forward. You’re going to see these micro-learnings as you start to tailor the education, which becomes on demand and becomes global, and everything else that comes from that.


The Mastermind Effect:  07:09

We have more ways today to take in information than ever before. Some people learn from mentors, others from an accountability buddy, some from masterminds, some from online courses, and traditional standard education. There are so many ways to take in information today. Who are you currently learning from and more importantly, how did you find them?


Matt Alex:  07:36

I learned from people who are not telling me what they’re teaching, but they’re showing me where they’re going. My co-founder, Joe Abraham, and I, we think differently. The way that he looks at things is different than mine. I want to learn from him. He has a much more entrepreneurial mindset; I come from a very stoke, higher ed kind of mindset. It’s a very interesting element. Joel, who is my other partner, looks at branding and innovation around the messaging. I want to learn that. Even though the message probably starts with me, it is wrapped around people like Joe and Joel that really drive it. 


Now, there are people outside of my company that I learned from. There’s a gentleman by the name of Steve Hatfield at Deloitte who I work closely with. When I listened to him and I hear about him, he talks about future of work. The great thing about it is he speaks to it because he’s passionate about it. 


I learned from people like Steve Hatfield and there is Simon Sinek. Simon Sinek talks about the “why,” and I believe the why is the one reason why I’m really passionate about what I do. I understand my why. I understand where I want to go with the why. I want that why to be the reason that people follow me. I believe titles aren’t the reason why people should follow you. It shouldn’t be because I’m a founder or I was a partner at Deloitte—that shouldn’t be the reason why follow me. You should follow me because I have a vision of where I’m going and I’m going to tell you what that vision is. I want followership. Followership is where leadership comes into play.


The Mastermind Effect:  09:23

Absolutely. I’ll go to my old days of banking and everyone had a title. Everyone was an EVP (Executive Vice-President) and it doesn’t matter. I don’t care what you call me. The value and the legacy that I leave is really what I’m looking back on towards the future. I love that message.


Matt Alex:  09:50

I call that title inflation. VP means nothing anymore. When I was growing up, a VP meant something. A VP means nothing now other than there’s a title that authorizes me to have a dialogue with somebody else. To be honest with you, I can make up any title I want. I have a founder title. What does that really mean? In the end, I need people who are going to follow me, whether it says I’m a director or manager or clerk. Titles really don’t make that person. It is really about what they do and what they talk about that drive the passion to people. I think the one thing that I really focus on is, “Am I doing the right thing where people want to follow me?” I hope that’s happening in my work, in my writings, in my thought. It’s an important piece.


The Mastermind Effect:  10:46

Leaders aren’t born. It takes training and time to become that leader. I always say I want a result leader, not a thought leader. 




The Mastermind Effect:

Moving on, a lot of people get stuck and they don’t know how to execute what’s inside their head. There’s a saying where you can’t see the tree through the forest. We’re still going through a pandemic and I feel that it’s causing a reset on how we’re able to accomplish things. You and I have talked about this before. What we’re building on different sides was actually created and came up with before there was a need for it or before the pandemic. How have masterminds, or coaching or courses or the people that you’ve surround yourself with, helped you reset when you’re trying to figure out how to get unstuck?


Matt Alex:  11:51

I’m a big believer. In order to really transform, you need different thought leaders around the table. They need to look different than you. They have to have different ideas than you. That’s what really should be a driver as you move forward. When I’m looking to make myself well-rounded, I look for those thought leaders, whether it’s Dr. Paul LeBlanc from Southern New Hampshire or Dr. Lombardi from Maryville, or Joel Matthew in my company or Steve Hatfield—they’re all different. If you put them in a room, they all have different ideas. They have different thoughts on where they’re going. They believe in different philosophies. Being able to absorb, that is really important. If I had five Matt Alex’s and I only had my followers sitting in my round table, I won’t see the transformation that I think needs to happen. Sometimes, those thought leaders that are sitting around put you in uncomfortable conversations. It makes you start thinking “Am I doing the right thing?” I think what you need to be really transformative is to sit in discussions where you are a little bit uncomfortable in what you’re doing. 


The Mastermind Effect:  13:08

I had a saying years ago that I believe I came up with at least. This was “comfort kills.” The minute you become comfortable, you’re not going to see what’s coming. You’re not going to think ahead. You’re not going to try to actually change. You’re just going to sit there and take par for the course. 


Standards and self-education have been around for a long time. Education has been around since the dawn of man. I see that there’s a really large boom of self-education happening over the last 5 or 10 years, especially with social media going the way that it is. Where do you really see standard and self-education going forward with what you’re doing right now?


Matt Alex:  14:05

When you say self-education, I call it the educational marketplace. I believe the education marketplace will be how we will navigate the knowledge that we really need to have instilled in us. I believe that knowledge is the asset that universities and colleges are really disseminating. The knowledge is their asset. Right now, those assets are built into the 16-week kind of courses and they’re limited to who can afford those courses. In an educational marketplace, you will see the unbundling of those courses into topics that allow for people to consume it in the manner that is right for that student body. Because we are teaching in a micro-learning concept, you will see more people disseminating knowledge so that the top person that knows AI could be what we all learn from. All of a sudden, two years from now, another person who knows AI around sociology comes the person, based on ratings, and so forth. I believe micro learnings within an educational marketplace will be how universities will stay relevant in market because right now, a 16-week course is one method of how knowledge is disseminated. We have to become a little bit more like Netflix, a little bit more in that ecosystem. That’s gonna be a driver as we move forward. 




The Mastermind Effect:  15:41

When someone invests in their future, they have a better than vague idea about what they’re going to get. We have some expectation of the people, or the education in your case, that’s going to be in that room. A user is really where I’d like to talk about this level. What should people expect? What should the user or student expect when they enter your reality with what you’re building, Beyond Academics?


Matt Alex:  16:11

When I talk to universities, I always say you have to design around a student-centric mindset. Who is the learner? How do they learn? Where do they learn? All that’s going to be an important piece. When a student is coming into an educational setting, it has to be fit for purpose. It has to fit. The program should fit them, their way that they learn should fit them, and where their careers are going to come from should fit them. There is a fit for purpose element that every student, when you’re spending $1,000 to $30,000 in education, each could give you a tailored, personalized, on demand world. I believe it shouldn’t cost you $40,000. It should be less than that, if that makes sense. Those are the things that we’re going to really need to take a look at. That’s what I believe the expectations are going to come when the Googles and the Amazons start to say we don’t need a four-year degree. I want this type of person with this type of knowledge, this type of personality, this type of exposure to engagement—all that’s going to become a big part of it. This is where the unbundling comes into play. I’m a big believer that universities and colleges are still needed. I still believe that there is a role because I’m a product of that. I couldn’t go through Google and just learn Google, how to code or how their structure is done, or learn Amazon, web services or whatever. I needed the interaction between people. I needed to be challenged. I needed to go through my criminal justice courses. That’s who I am. It’s because of that experience that I had in campus and in classroom, and being challenged at times when I need it to be an uncomfortable conversation. 


The Mastermind Effect:  18:11

The next one that I want to go into, I want to take it actually from the academia standpoint, from the college standpoint we’re talking about. I feel that people organizations have a way of surprising us whether it’s their willingness to change and what you’re building on their drive, or how they want to actually accomplish something. The company that you’ve put together is creating that change in the traditional sense. Has any of the colleges that you’ve worked with surprised you? What they’ve been able to accomplish because of what you and your partners are building it beyond academics?


Matt Alex:  19:15

The first one I will tell you is one of our clients. It’s Maryville University in St. Louis. Dr. Lombardi who leads Maryville, if you have a discussion with him, you’ll understand the why. You’ll understand where he’s going. His campus in 2025 looks different than many others because he recognized the value of bringing in technology—and not only bringing in technology but bringing in innovative ideas and thoughts to serve students. His center is the student. What he wants is a frictionless campus. He wants that Amazon experience where we don’t really experience Amazon. Why Amazon is frictionless. That’s why we all go buy from Amazon, right? It’s an easy element of our experience. He wants to build that. He’s already doing digital IDs. He’s doing virtual assistants. We’re working with him on a roadmap to 2025 at this stage, but they’re already there because they understand that the value of what they’re doing is to serve their students in a way that no other is doing. I believe you will see him and his campus become a real change element in an example of what others should be doing.


The Mastermind Effect:  20:33

Yeah. They’re already looking for 2025 and probably beyond that. You take Maryville and compare them to SLU. If anyone doesn’t know, they’re in each other’s backyard. St. Louis University got a big legal law platform over there. SLU better catch up or see what’s really going on because Maryville is in their backyard and they’re going to add a price point that is going to be affordable and on a platform. You guys are helping them get there faster, smarter.


Matt Alex:  21:08

Maryville is their competitor because it’s in their backyard. Southern New Hampshire is their competitor. Arizona State is a competitor. University of Arizona who just acquired an online company is their competitor. Purdue is their competitor because they have a Global Campus now. As you notice, it isn’t even the backyard. It is who’s reaching into your student body, who’ve been traditionally just coming to SLU. What I think University of St. Louis need to look at is who and how do we compete. What’s their why? Why do they go to St. Louis University? Those are the kind of discussions you have to compete. Until you know that, you’re not going to compete against any of the schools I talked about because the other ones are serving the students in a digital setting and in a much more cost-effective way. Dr. LeBlanc from Southern New Hampshire is not necessarily going until I’m going to go take University of St. Louis students away. No. He’s actually bringing up students that are really just driving a different discussion as you move forward.




The Mastermind Effect:  22:21

One of the things that I like to talk about is how do you create success. Our solo shows talk about the pillars of success. We feed on a lot of what our guests such as yourself to build those solo shows. There’s a lot of things that it takes to be successful—mentorship, experimentation, partnerships, willingness to fail, and the obvious one which is your willingness to succeed. With social media, we’re so afraid of sometimes talking about our successes. What do you feel it takes to get over the hump of being successful?


Matt Alex:  23:10

When someone fails to boast about their successes, the reality is you don’t have to boast about your success. You have to boast about what you believe and why you’re doing it. Everyone will see the successes because your narrative and what you’re doing is easily being seen as you move forward. Be honest, it’s in its infancy. We’re incubating it now. We’re very successful because we have clients who really want to transform. We have a narrative that people are resonating to you. Use the word partnership. Everyone wants to partner with us. Why? We’re not telling you the same thing that everyone has been saying for the past 20 years. We’re telling you, “Hey, work with us.” I’m reaching out to many innovative companies to say let’s create the narrative together, so we all do very successful as we move forward. I think partnership is an element to understanding why you’re doing it. If you are going to have a social influence in what you’re doing, talk about your accomplishments because it’s not boasting; it’s saying this is my why and these are the things that I’m really doing. 


I’m going to put this on our podcasts and our social media because I need people to recognize that there’s value in what we’re saying and people want to hear the message. The first start of any success is do you have the message that the market wants to follow. Come to beyondacademic.com or find me on LinkedIn. We would love to have more narratives, whether in higher ed or even if partners that want to come into higher ed. We’re willing to work with you. We have a whole incubation part of our firm where Joe Abraham runs. We’re incubating new ideas inside of our group to allow universities and colleges transform much better. We’re bringing outsiders in to really transform our higher ed. 

The Mastermind Effect:  25:17

There are always new ideas brewing in times of prosperity. When times are good, everybody’s winning. It’s really easy to be a winner. But I think innovation and ingenuity come when we really feel the squeeze. What are you working on right now that’s going to take place over the next 12 months that excites you?


Matt Alex:  26:07

We’re creating a whole new narrative. We’re really driving on the messaging to market. What does a campus of 2025 look like? You’ll start seeing us work globally. We’re working in other regions to allow for that creation and fostering of global educators and being able to educate. We’re working in India and so forth. Then of course, we’re working with our institutions here where we use digital consulting in a much different way, much more cost effective as you see it. My old days and wearing other hats, my consulting dollar was really expensive but because I’m using future of work and I’m using new technologies, I’m actually going to allow for my consulting to become much more effective in the way that I consult universities. I don’t have the same dollar amounts that I’m requesting anymore, but I’m going to have high impact consulting as we move forward. You will see that in our ecosystem. Then, of course, our learning platform, which we’re partnering with Learning Mobile on, is really driving us to bring and make knowledge accessible to everyone. The education marketplace will come from that. Our workshops will come from that. Our community will come from that. I showed it to you the other day. I’m a big believer. It’s like Netflix. If we can start creating it and I can start showcasing it to universities and colleges and say, “Hey, this is how you should start to educate,” I’m creating a future of work course. I’d love for anyone that wants to take it to reach out to me to think about the future of work and how does that impact their own respective jobs or even where they want to go in the next few years. Those are the things that we’ll be working on as we move forward.


The Mastermind Effect:  27:59

What is a tip, tactic, or actionable item that if someone listening to this implemented in their personal or business life over the next 30, 60, or 90 days, they could see real results?


Matt Alex:  28:20

Because I wear this future of work hat, I would I always say look at the innovations around you. Whether you’re walking into Starbucks and there’s location intelligence that is identifying you as the person there as well as what does that person need. What are the things that you can do around the innovations that you are seeing on your iPhone that you can start to innovate within your own workspace, within your own efficiency, or around your own personal life? I’m always looking at how do I better myself using the innovations that are already there. I believe if you wear that future of work hat—and when I say future of work, it’s what are the innovations that are happening and how do I transform my own work. I just explained that whole consulting model. The reason that my whole digital consulting model is different is because I’m already innovating using online collaboration tools. I’m using channel communication. I’m using remote consulting models that allow for us to do much more effective things. I would say to your audience, look at what’s already happening around you and use those innovations to start to really foster what you want to do. Maybe make it more productive in what you do. Then, also find where you have passion that will allow for you to take those innovations and then drive that towards a time where you’re just being able to change the way your world is. That’s an important piece.


The Mastermind Effect:  29:54

We’ve got Matt Alex, the founder of Beyond Academic. You are literally wanting to change the world. You and I want to do in similar spaces is take the mountain into the ocean and actually leave a legacy that helps make a lasting effect on society. Matt, I appreciate your time. Thank you and I look forward to listening to this one again.


Matt Alex:  30:36

Thanks for having me.

Tweetable Quotes:

“Traditional classrooms are contextual. There’s just one way of dialogue in most cases, yet more people don’t absorb that way.” – Matt Alex

“A Major does not and should not default you to your career.” – Matt Alex

“Followership is where leadership comes into play.” – Matt Alex

“What you need to be transformative is to sit in discussions where you are a little bit uncomfortable in what you’re doing.” – Matt Alex

Resources Mentioned:

To learn more, connect with Matt on LinkedIn. Visit https://beyondacademics.com/ or check out their company’s LinkedIn account.

Be one of the first adopters of The Success Finder when it releases! Email me at brandon@thesuccessfinder.com

You can connect with me, Brandon Straza, on LinkedIn, Instagram, or send me an email at brandon@thesuccessfinder.com. I’d love to get in touch and talk more about personal development and how you can move beyond your limits.

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