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How one Mormon turned his MBA notes into a book to pay off student debts and then some

SHARE How one Mormon turned his MBA notes into a book to pay off student debts and then some

SALT LAKE CITY — Jason Barron had his doubts and at times considered giving up.

He and his family are really glad he didn't.

At the outset of his two-year Master of Business Administration program at Brigham Young University, Barron, "a visual learner," had the idea to make sketchnotes of his classes rather than scribble conventional lecture notes, and compile everything into a book with the hope of using the profits to pay off his student loans.

Barron, age 34, finished the book this fall and his Kickstarter campaign requested $7,000 to cover the editing and printing costs. The Mormon husband and father of five hardly expected 2,300 backers to pledge more than $73,500 to the campaign.

"I'm totally blown away by the support and response to the book," Barron said. "It was an impression and I decided to do it. I had a lot of self-doubt along the way, but I made a commitment and my wife Jackie encouraged me and my family was supportive throughout. ... There were a lot of neat miracles along the way, one thing after another, where things fell into place and worked out to make it happen."


Barron, a manager in the LDS Church's Publishing Services Department, titled his book, "The Visual MBA," with the tagline "2 years of business school packed into one priceless book of pure awesomeness." His children even assisted in making a video to promote the 150-page book.

Barron, who has a background in art through classes in high school and college, and whose wife Jacki was also an art major, said he uses "visual thinking" in all aspects of his life, whether it's giving presentations at work, church meetings or family home evening with the kids.

For example, Barron recalled connecting his iPad up to the family TV screen so he could help his children draw an outline of the plan of salvation. He once created visual notes while studying the Old Testament and enjoys when fellow church members share their journal or general conference creation on social media.


"(Sketchnoting) is a way to take abstract concepts and break them down into simple concepts and communicate them in a way people understand," Barron said. "Drawing out the plan of salvation was a fun family way of visually seeing the plan and having them all contribute, as well as having something as an output for them to see what the family created."

Barron recalls seeing the power of his visual talents when they helped a young woman he taught during his LDS mission in Denver.

At a point when the young woman was unsure about joining the church, Barron felt prompted to draw an image that came into his mind. He hesitated briefly, then followed the spiritual impression and sketched a personalized diagram that helped the young woman to better understand her relationship with God, her family and priorities in the gospel plan. It didn't make sense to him or his companion, but it made perfect sense to her, and she was eventually baptized. It was one of the most memorable spiritual experiences Barron has ever had, he said.

"I haven't had an experience like that since, but there was no question it was from the Spirit," Barron said. "The Lord speaks to us in ways we understand. I'm a visual person. ... I believe there is guidance along the way. I have felt guided in some of the things I’m doing and putting them visually helps me as I study things out in my mind. It’s not always spiritual, but sometimes it definitely is, and you feel guided and directed in the process."

A few months after Barron started his MBA program, he heard the late Elder Robert D. Hales, who served in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, encourage young adults getting an education to seek scholarships and grant and avoid debt in his October 2015 general conference remarks.

Barron immediately started applying for scholarships and financial aid but had no success. Then came the book idea, he said.


Even so, the thought of giving up was always in the back of Barron's mind. At one point, he went to his wife and cited every reason to forsake the project, such as the time and effort required, or if anyone would care.

"She said it's going to be amazing, you just need to do it. My son had seen some of the drawings and thought it was cool," Barron said. "That was a huge moment for me. Knowing they supported me, and knowing I had committed to it personally, even if it doesn't work out. I had to at least finish it."

Finish, Barron did. While he continues to promote his book, including interviews with the media like this recent Q&A with a blogger, his wife is home packaging books to send to readers, he said.


Overcoming self-doubt and realizing there is value in committing to and finishing a project is the first message Barron hopes people will take away from this experience.

Secondly, people learn in a variety of ways. As more people share the creative ways in which they learn, the more educational opportunities will become available, especially with advancements in technology, Barron said.

"I think we are seeing more creativity introduced and it's making an impact," he said.

Barron's children are still a little young to incorporate sketchnotes in their learning, but perhaps in the coming years they will, he said. For those interested in learning how to sketchnote, Barron recommends "The Sketchnote Handbook," by Mike Rohde.