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Taking It to the Next Level

Eva KingComment

by Avery Chenoweth

Of all the platitudes in use today, one of the more hilarious is the one in this title. It seems that nary a day goes by when someone in the news doesn’t announce to the world that they are “taking it to the next level,” which prompts me to ask the TV, What does that even mean?

Avery and Eva on our first day at the iLab

Avery and Eva on our first day at the iLab

Naturally, then, it comes as no small laugh at myself that I am here to announce that Eva and I are, ahem, taking it to the next level. 

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That begs the same question, of course, but rather than imagine a staircase and mezzanine, or some other bit of architecture, this next level in our case may well be quantified, measured, boiled, frozen, and thrown against the wall to see if it will really bounce. Some of you of a certain age may recognize the next level here is between a ball in your hand and a Super Ball, the Wham-O rubber ball of the `60s that bounced super crazy high, and took the pastime of bouncing a ball to a whole new, uh, level.

“Have you seen Thunderball?” my babysitter asked me. “It’s so cool.” Svelte and lovely, Sylvia was engaging me as if I were a teenager, myself. The movie she loved was the original, in which Sean Connery dispatched villains and bikinis with steely delight, and gained pop-cultural orbit—level, let’s say—wearing a jetpack. None of which I knew when she asked me. And yet, eager to impress, I engaged her the only way I knew how.

“No,” I answered, with high confidence. “But I have a Super Ball.”

Her eyes slit, coolly, too sophisticated at 16 to know what this dumb kid was going on about. “I was talking about the James Bond movie. Never mind.”

“Oh, uh, my parents won’t let us see them.” And felt myself tumble from near teen status back to that of a child who could use a babysitter, after all--a few levels below where our conversation started. I cannot say that, at nine, I was really hitting on her, but maybe.

Flash forward decades. Another room. Two dozen entrepreneurs are gathered, and a pair of program directors walk us through the arcane if global theories of the house.

“So, who wants to explain Effectuation? And how it takes us to the next level?”

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We move in levels: we measure ourselves, before and after, by the levels that we have attained: beginner, learner, expert. While Sylvia was a Grand Master of being 16, and I could bounce a ball, here we were, Eva and I, attending an introductory seminar of the 2019 cohort of the UVA i.Lab. We sat prepared to wrap our minds around the next level. And what unfolded in the next hour was a map that would guide us through the morass and quandaries of the human heart, the landscape of a startup company. With this brilliant map, she and I can orient ourselves and find our own path to the...the...the next level.

We don’t call it “bouncing,” though. We call it “pivoting,” and I’ll explain that next time.