From Corporate World to Creative Freelancer—An Interview with altMBA Alumni Massimiliano Freddi
In March 2018, we began a partnership with the altMBA—an online four-week intensive workshop designed by Seth Godin.
Seth started it for one simple reason: “Most people go to bed at night with their best work in them — but I wanted to build a place where their best work could come out of them.“
We believe in the program’s values and process. You ship projects every week, learn by shipping, receive more feedback than you might in a lifetime, work in small groups and learn from peers that have diverse skill sets and backgrounds. It looks a lot like the CreativeMornings community.
The program’s goals is not to become popular, but rather to find the right people, which is why we’re working together. To understand whether this program is a fit for you, we interviewed a few alumni and asked them to share a before-and-after picture, to talk about the hard parts, and who they became in the process.
Meet Massimiliano Freddi, former VP of Strategic Development at Leolandia turned freelancer, teacher, and public speaker; he also spoke at CreativeMornings/Milan! Max is one of the longest serving coaches in the program and in this interview he shares what he learned along the way.
What inspired you to take the altMBA?
Max: I was stuck. Three words that say it all. Let me explain better.
I’ve started to work when I was 17 while studying. I would take any possible occasion to improve my skills, working in every possible situation. I did follow-up calls all over Europe for IT events, teach how to build websites to the parents of my classmates and, by the way, co-founded the most important Italian portal for theme parks fans. In fact, that was the job I loved the most: I have always been a theme park geek and connecting with people like me was an opportunity I just felt like creating.
This led me to getting to know parks’ owners and managers and ultimately to foster my passion. After graduating, I’ve worked for Disneyland Paris, in charge of marketing, press, and PR for the Italian market. And then, over 10 years of collaboration with the number one park for kids under 10 in my country, Leolandia. I became the youngest park general manager in 2009 at the age of 28!
But let’s go back to January 2016, when I was stuck.
I took a trip to Japan, needed to unplug and recharge my batteries. I felt like I had nothing more to give to my industry and nonetheless, that there should be a way to leap again. The problem was, how?
I had followed Seth Godin’s blog for quite a few years and I just would save the posts that were resonating the most and hung them in front of my desk. Everything seemed easy: innovating, committing, showing up. But then no, I wasn’t able to make it myself.
That’s when I understood it was time to apply for altMBA. Three sessions already had happened at that time and I felt such an impostor; I even thought I didn’t have the credentials to apply.
So, back to Japan. After a day full of temples and shopping malls, I felt like I had to give it a try. To give myself a try. So I applied and, as the impostor I thought they will never call me back.
What happened in this program that you didn’t expect to happen?
Max: Just one thing? That’s hard.
First thing that happened is that not only I was accepted into the program, but that I found real people like me.
Everybody carried a strong will to leap, a lack of a compass, a fear to fail. And everybody committed and showed up in a way I had never seen in my previous working environment. Because on top of a strong commitment towards getting the projects done and shipping, I found a commitment to dig deeper, to emotionally embrace the experience and not just stopping — again! — on the surface
So, feedback after feedback, project after project, I could leap also because everybody was leaping as well. A leaping flow!
Describe the moment when you knew that you wanted to go full-time freelance. How did it feel? Who did you ask for help? What was the process?
Max: I have been reading for ages every kind of book and article about becoming a freelancer.
Though, it seemed to me others were able to do something I only dreamed about. When I started altMBA, I already was a part-time freelance and I thought this was meant to go on forever.
In fact, I was almost looking for my plan-B as a part-time employee.
Then, empathy, resistance and many other keywords became daily part of my life, thanks to the way I was seeing them applied inside every project during the workshop. At that point, I couldn’t postpone any longer to make a wider impact on the world around me. That was the moment when I understood I could change the way I shared information, advices and vision.
The first step was to rewrite every presentation from scratch: my old formats of lessons and conference speeches were no longer reflecting the person I had become. Nonetheless, I just wanted to be me. This might sound crazy, but I migrated from wanting to mirror the expectations I thought others had about myself to wanting to show the professional I wanted to be to inspire others to be themselves.
This led others to involve me even more in every challenging project: I could launch the European HR Lunch & Learn during the most important trade show for parks’ owners and operators, my courses at university got longer and deeper and really made an impact on students. At the same time, I started to dream bigger, I launched my own first startup and right now I’m developing a podcast to inspire students to follow their talents.
I will never forget last summer, when I met some of the other altMBA alumni. They identified in zero time what my resistance was about and they helped me get past it.
Guess what? This is not only a community of people: this is a community of people like us. And people like us want and can and commit to change the world for better.
How has the lessons learned in the altMBA helped you make this transition? What has been the hardest part in this process and how are you dealing with it?
Max: The hardest part is how to combine your daily routine and the people surrounding you, with yourself in changing mode. If you change, nobody can stay the same. Though, the easiest way would be to go back to your oldest version.
Empathy was the key for me, the one I definitely learned through altMBA. Deeply understanding other people’s worldview gives me the possibility to identify who my projects are for and who might need an extra hand to understand how I am feeling and how I want to feel in the future.
Now, the hardest part is to inspire people whose lives are desperately needing a change, to embrace the fear and start leaping. I wish everybody would attend altMBA!
You’re now giving lectures at a university, going into public speaking, and working on being a freelancer. Why these things specifically? What realizations did you have that inspired this change?
Max: I’ve always wished an organization would call me to speak during a conference or at a university. Though, I think my point of view was so filled with contents and data, that my impact was just fair.
After altMBA I started to “come out”. To be myself even more. To combine serious topics with my personality, opening up and not fearing to show how I feel. Every time that my lizard brain shows up, and it happens less and less, I remember one call I had with Kelli Wood, provost of altMBA. That was my second time coaching and I felt like I shouldn’t have been chosen, that I wasn’t as professional and structured as other coaches. And then, she told me this: “Yes me, better me.”
Yes me. I have to and can accept that yes, I was chosen and that I am the right person in the right place.
Better me. Now, how can I make the most out of this experience? How will I commit to become an even better person and an even better professional through this opportunity?
That reframed the story I was telling myself. That is when I understood I could use this statement every time I felt a lack of courage in my life.
We can grow as much as we want, we can impact as much as we want. And yes, this can only happen by being ourselves.
Now, when I approach a new client or a new project, I put myself in a posture of opportunity: I don’t know everything, but I can serve this task with my strong will to make an impact with humbleness, courage, intention, curiosity, dedication. And results happen.