I work out of my house and I love it.  I love my commute of 10 steps vs my husbands 50 miles.  I love wearing pajamas from the waist down and quickly brushing my teeth at 4:00 p.m. when my husband comes home because I forgot.  One thing I don’t love about working from home?  Summertime.  With summer comes no school, with no school comes kids in the house, and with kids in the house there is no peaceful work environment.  Here starts every working persons nightmare known as “summer break” for those with children.

Every summer I am overwhelmed with answering the question, “How do you keep your kids busy all summer without taking out a small loan?”  If it were up to my kids, they would have a summer of unending computer time with occasional breaks to eat and sleep.  Last summer, I had the brilliant idea to take my two kids on a road trip and park it in the Midwest for a month and a half.  I had just bought a new car which had plenty of power outlet options to satisfy all your electronic device needs, and an open invitation from my sister some 1,200 miles away.

In my mind, I pictured a perfect opportunity to bond with my kids in which we would spend time playing car bingo, sing songs, deep conversations about what plagued my teenage son, and all the knock knock jokes I could manage from my ten-year-old.  My heart was full of joy to get a few days with the kiddos, they would have a fun summer adventure with their cousins, and I could work at a nearby coffee shop, uninterrupted, in my new remote, tranquil work environment.  This idea was brilliant.

After packing up the car with the necessities needed for a month in Iowa and enough food to feed a small army, I summoned my two kids to hop in the car.  I refused to let the argument between them about who got what seat and what pillow deter this epic Mother of the Year moment.  Deep down I believed this was going to be the best summer of our lives and a road trip we would cherish for years to come.  Car tank full of gas, husband hugged, cat fed, remote work station in backpack and we were off.

Ten minutes.  Ladies and gentlemen that’s all it took to dash my spirits.  Ten. Short. minutes.  Upon getting into the car, taking one picture, and backing out of the driveway, my kids had both put in their earplugs, laid down in their seats, and asked me to turn the music down.  I guess the car bingo and deep conversations would have to wait.

I was 450 miles into my northeast journey when I started struggling with being the lone driver.  My road trip playlist was on my nerves, kids were sleeping, and a flat Oklahoma highway was not the prettiest thing to look at.  I needed something to keep me awake and entertained by something that didn’t require cell phone service because I was in the middle of nowhere.  It was at this moment that my passion for podcasts was ignited.

For those that don’t know, a podcast is an episodic series of digital audio or video files which a user can download and listen to at will.  Podcasts have been around for years, but I discovered them when I started working for Degreed.

screenshot4Degreed also introduced me to other experts whom I might want to learn from. The ability to follow others that you would like to learn from, or who inspire you or have like-minded interests led me to  Kat Kennedy, Degreed’s Chief Product Officer. She was the first person I choose to follow and if you look at her profile, you instantly see that she is an avid podcast listener.  After listening to a few that she had consumed and liked, I started to explore, subscribe and recommend my own.  My favorites?  The Hidden Brain, Ted Talks Business, Ideacast, and Planet Money.

Back to the roadtrip! Failing to stay awake with my own personal rock concert of The Greatest 80’s Hits, I looked at my pretty new dashboard and saw the Podcasts app.  To be honest, I had completely forgotten about podcasts and as I started to scroll through all the ones my phone had downloaded for me over the past few weeks I felt my brain perk up.  I started with a Hidden Brain podcast called “Slanguage” in which Shankar Vedantam talked to linguist John McWhorter about feeling irked when people use literally vs. figuratively.  I then listened to Harvard Business Review’s “Dealing with Conflict Avoiders and Seekers” where I learned some tips to dealing with conflict in the workplace and how to defuse heated conversations (which, by the way, also works very nicely in a car at 10:30 p.m. between an adult and an unnamed teenager).

That day alone I listened to 10 podcasts which totaled almost five hours of drive time but, more importantly, learning time.  How do I know?  Because the first thing I did after checking into my hotel that night was to add all those podcasts to my Degreed profile.  I then proceeded to browse for more podcasts, videos, and audiobooks that would keep my kids and I entertained for the next two days.  Together (yes, together!) we listened to episodes about how Whole Foods Market, TOMS, and Rolling Stones were created. I learned from Adam Alter why our electronic screens are making us less happy, and what top athletes do to stay mentally tough.  And I know this because it is all captured in my Degreed profile, aligned to my skill development interests in creativity, personal growth and motivation.

Last summer’s road trip did not go as I originally had planned, but what I gained will stay with me forever.  I now have insight into what inspires me, I found an interesting and unique way to connect with my kids and I learned many things along the way.

As you go about your day, I encourage you to remember that although it may not be a course or formal learning, what is available to you informally, at your fingertips is very valuable articles, news, podcasts, videos.  And don’t forget to capture all the learning you do with a simple click on your mobile device in the Degreed app, so you can showcase to others and yourself what interests you, how you like to learn, and what topics are important to you.  Had Kat not captured her learning and shared her interests, I may not have found my own love of podcasts.  If you look at my Degreed profile, May and July of 2017 will show a spike in my learning activity – also capturing a time in my life that I will always cherish.

Twelve years ago, my sister in law and I were sitting down for a family dinner and she leaned over and informed me she was training to run a marathon.  “I’m in the best shape of my life,” she exclaimed.  We had both just given birth to our second children and one of us (me) was NOT in the best shape of her (my) life.  My competitive genes kicked in and next thing you know, I’m signed up for a half marathon with only three months to train.  I was not a runner, had no desire to run, and to be honest, thought all runners were crazy.  However, anything she could do, I could do so – off to the races.

The next few weeks I spent purchasing new shoes, new headphones, downloading the best mixtape ever curated, and going to the gym a few times a week to run on a treadmill.    I figured that as long as I could run 10 miles on a treadmill, I could run a half marathon.  Right?  How hard could it be?  I honestly had no idea what I was doing, no training plan in place, but I knew that if I had shoes, music, and determination, I would be amazing.

Race day came. I was up at the crack of dawn with nerves.  When the gunshot rang out, I sprinted out with complete abandon.  Halfway through the course, I was in pain, my music player had died, and I was miserable.  I finished my race, took my expensive shoes off, drove home and threw them away.  I did not feel in the best shape of my life. In fact, I was sore from head to toe with three new blisters.

Fast-forward ten years. I have moved into a new home in a new neighborhood and know no one.  A friendly neighbor came by to introduce herself and asked if I’d be interested in meeting her and a few other girls in the morning to run.  “Run,” I laughed, “ah no thank you.”  She didn’t take no for an answer and I found myself waking up at 4:00 a.m the next morning to be picked up by my new friend to go run.

As we pulled into the dark parking lot, I saw a group of eight women waiting, and flashes of misery, doubt, and pure panic set in.  These people, however, welcomed me with open arms and encouraged me from beginning to end.  We ran five miles that day, stopping along the way to stretch and laugh.  I didn’t feel pain or misery, anger or shame.  I felt encouraged, strong, and accomplished.  Sure, I wasn’t running a four-minute mile, but I had just run five miles and it went by fast and I was actually having fun!  I was hooked.

You see, when others are in the trenches with you and there to support with encouragement, it means more.  You have more energy and more drive because the people surrounding you don’t want you to fail.  The same goes for learning.  Without a good support system around you, who will be there to continue to encourage you during your points of frustration?  Who will be your coach along the way when you don’t understand a concept or have the same question over and over again?  When looking to learn something new, 69% of people turn to a boss or mentor first to point them in the right direction.  I find that to be personally true because I am more likely to want to read, listen, watch something that has been recommended by someone who knows me.

Degreed has been my coach in the world of learning and development for the past year and a half.  Degreed gives me credit along the way for any learning activity that I do throughout my day.  I get recommendations from others who have like-minded interests on topics that really motivate me.  I’m challenged with ongoing development opportunities by being able to capture my skill level goals and get manager’s feedback along the way.  I receive suggestions for new and different modalities of learning that spark my creativity.  I get tangible results by seeing how much learning and development I am investing in my career.  Just like I see all the miles I run on my Garmin watch, Degreed shows me all the learning I’ve accomplished in my lifetime.

Since meeting those girls, I have run seven marathons, twelve half-marathons, and had more blisters than I care to count and I have loved every minute of it.  What made the difference?  Support, encouragement, feedback, and like-minded connections.  Do you get that with your learning and development coach?  If not, check out Degreed.

 

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