Five Questions For … Joseph Kopser, Ex-Army Officer, RideScout founder

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parents. My favorite story is when my dad felt that the intersection leading into his business park—it was a left-hand turn that had to be made against traffic and no stoplight. He would watch accidents occur morning after morning. He advocated to the city council for a stoplight to be put in. I was a young kid. We would at night be going door to door, rolling up flyers about the meeting in bad weather. He was writing letters to the editor about it. [As] an impressionable 4th or 5th grader, I saw problems solved by advocacy displayed by the people I love the most.

You can trace almost everything I do back to those moments in elementary school. From then, it’s been one experience after another.

I did aerospace engineering at West Point, but I was a cavalry officer in the Army. I taught American politics, not engineering. When [other instructors] were going into the policy world, I went back to the muddy boots part of the Army and served in Iraq, in Mosul, in 2007 for 14 months. Then I went to work on the Future Force Integration [Directorate]. I was trying to figure out what the Army of the 21st century would look like.

I went from working in the Pentagon to walking in the deserts of Texas with all of this experimental equipment. Then I go work for the Army chief of staff in communications and strategy doing speech writing, policy memos. When I moved to Texas 10 years ago, I led the Army ROTC department at [the University of Texas at Austin].

X: You taught at West Point. What career advice do you give to new college graduates?

JK: I have the Saturday morning test, the alarm clock test. When there’s nothing else going on, when you have a free morning, what do you do? Is it outdoors, community service? Simply watching TV, traveling? Take what it is you love and work backward through the paradigm. People do it backwards: I need a job to afford to do what I want. I say flip it on its head to do full-time what would it take to sustain yourself. I met this guy on the beach on Grand Cayman on vacation, an American serving me a beer in a Tiki hut. He used to work on Wall Street, a cliché investment banker. He said he would work his ass off 50 weeks of the year to make enough money to come back here. But he really dreaded going back to the office. So he said, I just flipped it. Now I live down here 51 weeks in a year and only … Next Page »

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