Establishing a Habit of Learning

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Establishing a Habit of Learning

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5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

6 Ways to Learn When Your Interests Are Always Changing

After experiencing an array of job titles within the past four years, I have come to a sudden halt as I was recently let go from a job for the first time in my professional career. At first, I felt like a complete failure. I had absolutely no clue as to what my next move would be and in fact, I’m still figuring it out. But in this past month, I have truly gained insight towards the importance of staying productive and making sure that I don’t fall too far from where I was or lose track of where I want to be. So, here are 7 ways to learn and stay productive when you’re in-between jobs.

Ways to Learn in Between Jobs

1. Stay on top of the latest news.

Read books. Read trending articles. Watch TedTalks. Get updates via social media. Whatever you do, make sure that you don’t fall behind on what is going on within your field. Today’s news is extremely fast-paced and constantly evolving due to the convenient access of information online. It’s important to stay in the know so that you can be ready for whatever opportunity comes your way.

2. Go to industry events.

A great way to get in the live action of what is going on within your field is by physically attending industry events. It’s one thing to just stay active online, but showing up in person is a whole other experience. Not only is it a great way to meet new people, but it’s also inspiring and motivating to directly learn from professionals within your industry.

3. Consult with others.

Just because you no longer work at your past companies doesn’t mean you should lose touch with your former colleagues. Check in with them and catch up with the people in your network every once in a while. Your network is one of your strongest resources for potential jobs or making new connections to other opportunities.

4. Online learning.

The beauty of technology is that we are able to access knowledge in a way that we never have been able to in the past. Online learning opens doors to information on whichever concentrated skill you desire to learn. If you’re in between jobs or just considering a career change, online learning gives you the ability to pursue further education, like learning a new skill, from the comfort of your own computer.

5. Write your ideas down.

Try to keep a journal in order to log any ideas that may pop into your head. Writing is an excellent form of expression and can help you organize your thoughts when you are feeling lost and confused. Creating lists of your strengths and weakness or likes and dislikes in a job can help you get a better sense of direction before making your next move.

6. Freelance.

One thing that I have personally learned from freelancing is that it offers a variety of great opportunities including a source of additional income, flexible work hours, and exposure amongst potential employers or other work opportunities. Once you have mastered your craft, whether it be UX design, coding, or writing, freelancing is a great way to practice and refine your skill set which will ultimately benefit you in the long run as a professional.

7. Get back into the hobbies you love.

Time off doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. When I was let go, I was initially in a state of panic, but it eventually turned into relief. I learned that a break is like a rest period after completing a marathon. It takes time to decompress and recover. I also learned that during this time, it’s important to stay on top of your game both within the playing field as well as off of the playing field. Take the time to rediscover your hobbies and interests because you never know what it could lead to. The things you are passionate about can turn into a fulfilling career, leading you in a direction that you never expected. Embrace the journey and tweet me to tell me your great ideas for ways to learn and staying productive in-between jobs.

7 ways to learn in between jobs

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1984 wasn’t just a dystopian novel by George Orwell, it was also the year Richar Saul Wurma materialized his idea for bringing technology, education and design together into a unique learning experience called TED. Now TED talks touch on almost every topic imaginable. One of my favorite additions to the TED family is TED-Ed. These are short, animated videos that dissect a thought-provoking topic in an easy-to-digest lesson. Writing this particular article took me longer than I anticipated, mostly because TED-Ed videos are addicting. But eventually your mind becomes numb and unable to be hold anymore, and that’s when you watch one more and call it a day.

The following six videos are some of my favorites from TED-Ed. But just a word of warning: you may want to make sure you have some time to kill before you start because it will be hard to stop with just one or two videos.

First up is one that was just recently uploaded to the TED-Ed channel. It dives into the science of snowflakes, which is pretty fascinating. If you have ever wondered why snowflakes are different than ice even though they are both just frozen water, or if the rumor that no two snowflakes are the same is true, this is a worthwhile watch.

1. The science of snowflakes

 

It’s hard to drive anywhere in this world we live in without seeing a car tagged with a 26.2 sticker or one of the many other humble-bragging variants. There are also more varieties of 5k races than there are jelly beans (that may or may not actually be true.) Either way, running is popular. And that means treadmills are out there being put to good use. But did you know the treadmill has a rather dark past? And have you ever wondered why it’s called a treadmill? The early days of the treadmill was nothing like today’s cardio cinema, and this TED-Ed video will show you exactly why.

2. The treadmill’s dark and twisted past

 

If you’ve ever listened to the smash-hit podcast, Serial, you’re well aware of the inherent problems with the human memory. It’s almost impossible to remember specific details of things that happened even two weeks ago. Do you remember what you ate for lunch two Tuesdays ago? If you do, do you know why you remember? This video explains the science behind how memories are stored as well as how they are lost in our minds.

3. How memories form and how we lose them

 

Have you ever wondered why left-handed people are far less common than right-handed people? What’s interesting about handedness is that left-handed people have been far less common than right-handed people for the last 500,000 years. You would think that over time lefties would begin to catch up to righties, right? Well the reason lefties still only make up about 10% of the population is a little more involved than you might think.

4. Why are some people left handed?

 

These last two videos are a bit different than the previous four. These are lessons in philosophy.

This first video is deep, but will still leave enough of your mind unblown so that it can be sufficiently blown with the next video.

5. How do you know you exist?

 

How do we know that what we are experiencing is reality? Do we discount the knowledge of others because we are ignorant, or are other people ignorant to the truth that we know? This one will really get your head spinning.

6. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Hopefully at least one of these videos served as a springboard for you to explore more from TED or TED-Ed. It’s pretty remarkable that we live in a time where so much knowledge is readily presented and available at our fingertips. You should definitely be taking advantage of that. Don’t forget to record what you learned by clicking the “add to Degreed” button below, and check out the newly redesigned Degreed.com!

It’s been a busy year at Degreed. In 2015 we attended, sponsored, and exhibited at a total of 30 events, ran 20 webinars, and had countless discussions on the future of learning- and we’re only getting started.  We’re looking forward to another year of pushing the conversation around the evolution of learning and development (L&D) and the opportunity leaders have to create true learning cultures within organizations. So, with our eyes forward on 2016, here’s a look back at all the love we received in 2015 (thanks, y’all):

 

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Head over to get.degreed.com to learn more about what we’re up to.

Whether by choice or by circumstance, millions of people call the endless concrete jungle of New York City home. For some, the streets of New York are brutal and unforgiving, for others, they’re a place where you feel brand new—according to a Mr. Jay-Z. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2010 that the world slowly began to see how deeply inspiring the people who walk those streets really are.

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Brandon Stanton started Humans of New York because he wanted to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers. After only a few months he realized that he was just scratching the surface of a more meaningful project. He began interviewing the people he photographed and transcribing the stories they told. The stories he would gather got deeper and deeper as people shared their greatest fears, struggles and successes. What is fascinating about his project is how relevant and powerful a single first-hand story can become.

Two years prior to the launch of HONY, on the 5th floor of the BBC building in London, Aamer Ahmed Khan and his crew were working on a way to tell a relevant and powerful story- the story of the Taliban’s malicious presence in Pakistan. They wanted to find out exactly what it was like for schoolgirls in the Swat Valley. Khan and his team eventually landed on the risky idea of finding a young girl in the area and publishing her personal experiences. Like Stanton, Khan and company wanted to illustrate the situation in Swat in the most powerful way they knew how–using a firsthand account.

The Swat Valley is located on the northwestern end of Pakistan. The natural landscape of that area would make any wanderlusting, authentic-living, #optoutsiding adventurer swoon.

Swat Valley, Image via I Am Malala

Swat Valley, Image via I Am Malala

Though relatively peaceful now, Swat was once a place where decapitated bodies were left in the streets as a macabre message meant to incite fear. Beginning in 2007, the Taliban took control of the valley. During their control, the Taliban bombed hundreds of schools, and girls were not allowed to pursue any kind of education. One Swat Valley local who was particularly devastated by the education restriction was a young girl named Malala Yousafzai.


Education is Human

Named after Malalai, a Pashtun heroine, Malala seemed destined for greatness from day one. Her father ran a school in Swat and was a notable advocate for education. He would raise his daughter with a strong love of learning that would eventually become her life.

In 2009, the Taliban’s ban on girls going to school was enforced on Malala’s school. In her book, I Am Malala, she explains why the Taliban was against education.

“The Taliban is against education because they think that when a child reads a book or learns English or studies science he or she will become Westernized.” Malala’s rebuttal to that reasoning is quite profound. “Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”

L&D-Malala

 

If you haven’t already, stop and think about what Malala is saying. If education is human, then to learn is to be alive. If our freedom to learn is taken away, then we are no better off than if we were dead. With that logic, the right to education is worth losing your life over because the alternative is no better than death.


I Am Afraid

At about this same time, Khan and his team from the BBC were in contact with their local correspondent, Abdul Hai Kakar. Kakar knew Malala’s father and enlisted his help in the search for a schoolgirl to share her experiences. Eventually Malala caught wind of Kakar’s search and expressed her interest in helping to her father.

Though it was risky, Malala’s father agreed to let her write about her experiences. For safety reasons, she penned her entries under the pseudonym, Gul Makai, which is the name of another Pashtun heroine. On January 3, 2009, at the age of 11, Gul Makai published her first entry titled, I AM AFRAID. It wasn’t long before her posts started drawing a lot of attention.

Malala only blogged for the BBC for a little over a month, but the popularity of her posts led her to drop her anonymity and speak out in opposition of the Taliban’s rules on local TV and radio shows. Despite death threats, she continued speaking out and was even featured in a New York Times documentary.

After three years of verbal attacks on the Taliban, Malala found herself face to face with her enemy. On October 9, 2012, as Malala was on her way home from school, a masked gunman got on her bus and shot her in the head. Incredibly, after months of recovery, Malala survived the attack. Since then, her voice has only become louder. She won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 and continues to advocate for girls’ rights to education in all parts of the world.

The cover of Malala's book, "I Am Malala"

The cover of Malala’s book, “I Am Malala”


Never Stop Learning

Most of us will never have to stand up for our own education to the extent Malala did. And on some level, I think that’s a tragedy. Hear me out.

I don’t think we’d all be better off if we were threatened with our lives every time we went to school or looked up a how-to video on YouTube. But I do think that it’s easy to take something for granted if we never have to evaluate just how important it is in comparison to our life. Malala mentions something to this effect in her book:

“When someone takes away your pens you realize quite how important education is.”

As humans, we understand the idea of this principle—that we appreciate things more when they are gone—but experience is the only way to truly grasp the whole of it. So without anyone threatening to take away our freedom to learn, it’s almost too easy to become lackadaisical and take our access to education for granted.

So how do we train ourselves to seek knowledge like our lives depend on it? I’m not sure. I think that’s something we each have to learn on our own. Like Malala so boldly showed us, we have to be diligent in taking responsibility for our own learning. We have to constantly remind ourselves how important education is even when no one is taking away our pens. Because without education, life is wasted.

Degreed is proud to announce a new partnership with getAbstract, a company that joins us as a leading provider of next-generation enterprise learning and development solutions.

This partnership will help employers power a culture of continuous, lifelong learning and career growth, as it will provide mutual customers with seamless, single sign-on access to getAbstract’s valuable compressed knowledge library. The library includes more than 10,000 summarized business books, economic reports and video talks, through Degreed’s revolutionary learning engagement platform, which enables people to discover, curate, share, track and value all learning – from internal systems, external vendors and over 1,200 providers of open, informal learning resources – all in one place.

“People want learning and development opportunities that aren’t just relevant to their jobs once in a while, but that help them grow and develop their careers every day,” said David Blake, Degreed’s founder and CEO. “More than 70 percent of workers we’ve surveyed say they learned something useful for their job from an article, a video or a book in the last 24 hours. And many of our customers are either already using getAbstract to empower their people do that – or they’re asking for it,” he added.

“Employers, however, need new, different solutions to enable everyday learning,” added getAbstract, Inc. CEO, Michel Koopman. “Half of the global workforce doesn’t feel like they have opportunities to learn and grow at work. That’s partly because most L&D tools, content, technology and processes were designed to deliver old-fashioned, occasional training. Companies are gravitating to Degreed,” he said, “because it’s the first enterprise learning solution built for the way people really learn now – continuously, on-the-job.”

The partnership will not only fuel everyday learning, career growth and employee engagement for workers, it will also simplify implementation and workflows for L&D professionals. Integrating getAbstract’s high-quality summaries and videos with Degreed’s innovative content ecosystem and pathway authoring tools will give instructional designers and training managers a faster, more powerful and more cost-effective toolkit for curating both informal and structured, formal learning experiences.

Learn more about Degreed here.

Degreed is honored to receive the Gold Award from the Brandon Hall Group for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology, and the Silver award for Learning Provider of the Year at the LPI awards in London.

 

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The Brandon Hall Group Gold Award capped a year of strong recognition for Degreed in 2015, with awards and honors from industry leaders like Training Industry, DILA, ELearning Magazinethe Learning and Performance Institute, ELearning by Craig Weiss, and Getting Smart. The Silver Award from the Learning and Performance Institute is a strong start for 2016 and is the first award of the year for Degreed.

“People don’t just learn once-in-a-while, from structured, formal training. We also learn every day, informally, through self-directed and social learning. If you really want a culture of continuous development, you need it all.” said CEO David Blake, “Degreed helps people discover, curate, share, track and value all kinds of learning – from anywhere – all in one place. So L&D teams can spend less time managing and more time empowering.”

The Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Technology Award was given by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, and Brandon Hall Group senior analysts and executives who evaluated the entries based upon the criteria of product, unique differentiators, value proposition, and measurable results. Degreed was also in attendance at the Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence awards.

“These award-winning solutions were closely evaluated by our judges for not only their innovation, but the real results they brought to the organizations,” Brandon Hall Group Chief Executive Office Mike Cooke said. “That is what makes our technology awards program special – connecting creativity and innovation to direct business results.”

Degreed is a learning engagement solution that empowers people to find, curate, share, track and value all kinds of learning in a single, unified system. Degreed streamlines corporate learning, both for L&D professionals and employees, by integrating internal systems and paid, external vendor content with the world’s largest ecosystem of free, open and low-cost informal learning resources. Click here to learn more.

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“The first and best victory is to conquer self.” – Plato

As a kid, I always dreamt of what it would be like to be free from the rule of my parents. Even though my parents were super chill, it was their job to provide a supervised environment in which I could learn and grow, and that meant establishing boundaries. As I got older and more knowledgeable, my parents would slowly trust me with more freedoms. But in the back of my mind, I was always incredibly curious about what things would be like when I could leave that supervised environment and enjoy a freedom not previously known.

I remember vividly that day I moved out to go to college. My parents dropped me off, and I realized I probably needed to go shopping. I had never shopped entirely for myself. So with this new freedom I bought six boxes of name-brand cereal, a gallon of milk and a 12-pack of Mountain Dew. I was out of my parent’s house, and I no longer had to subject my advanced palate to the garbage off-brand cereal they bought. And bonus, there was no one around to tell me I couldn’t enjoy a cold Mountain Dew with a bowl of cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was as free as an AOL Online disk at Walmart in 1997. Things were great.

I believe testing the limits of our freedoms is natural. It’s why we stay out till 3am even when we know we have work at 8. Or why we convince ourselves that we deserve a nap after work even though we haven’t been to the gym in a week, or two, or ten…. They say you can’t have your cake and eat it too, but how do you REALLY know unless you try?

 

The Importance of Self-Discipline

While it’s fine to test the limits of our freedom, we need to realize that we can never get everything we want if we don’t become our own parents. I guess you could call that having self discipline. There is real power in using our freedom to put constraints on ourselves.

“Self-discipline is a form of freedom. Freedom from laziness and lethargy, freedom from the expectations and demands of others, freedom from weakness and fear—and doubt.”

– Harvey Dorfman

Sure, you can stay out till 3am every night—there’s no one telling you not to—but if you’re trying to land a promotion at work, is that really the best use of your freedom? Give yourself a bedtime, and give an early morning routine a try.

Self-discipline is so hard to establish because it goes against the very nature of our society today. Everywhere you go the cries of the lazy and ignorant are cheering for you to be lazy and ignorant with them. It makes them feel better about their own laziness if everyone else is ignoring their own personal potential too. Every day we are thrown on the front lines of a battle to give in to the natural temptations of instant gratification. Sleeping in feels MUCH better than dragging ourselves out of bed and into the gym… or that’s what our body will tell us as we lie in bed. So how do we fix that?

Becoming More Disciplined

Sure, we can talk about becoming more self-disciplined until we’re blue in the face, but how do we actually do it? Here are three tips to help you as you strive to become more self-disciplined.

1. Establish A Goal

A goal will give you an idea of what kind of constraints you need to put on your life. It will make it easier to set those constraints because you understand what the outcome will be from your efforts. If you don’t have a clearly defined goal, you will find it extremely hard to break out of your bad habits.

2. Commit to Action

I am a firm believer in the things that can be accomplished when we commit to something. It’s like all the rules change when you decide for yourself that you are going to commit. No one can do this for you. This is something you have to come to by yourself. If you’re having trouble committing, reevaluate your goals and make sure they really reflect what you want in life. If they don’t, you’ll have a lot of trouble committing to them.

3. Practice Positive Self-Talk

The mind controls what the body does. When you’re feeling low and ready to call it quits, give yourself a quick pep talk. Positive affirmations are basically one-line pep talks. Thousands of successful people have daily affirmations that get them pumped and ready to take on the world. If it helps, write down a few of your own affirmations and memorize them so you can remind yourself what you are working for when things get tough.

If you start with these three things, you’ll be well on your way to living a better, more accomplished life. For example, I set a goal to be healthier, so I no longer use my freedom to eat cereal with a cold Mountain Dew three times a day. Even though it was fun and exciting to begin with, my health is more important than a temporary pleasure. And though I still struggle to be a good parent to myself in other areas, no one is perfect. There’s no shame in taking it one thing at a time.

 

What are your tricks for being more self-disciplined? Tweet them to me at @bradensthompson, and follow me on Degreed here. Click the button below to get credit for reading this article.

Phillips-Hoang Nguyen-Phan of Dearborn Heights was the July 2015 winner of our Salesforce Build an App Scholarship. We asked Phillips-Hoang Nguyen-Phan a few questions to see what his goals are and get his advice for others-

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world.” – G-Man

Tell us one goal you want to accomplish this year

I want to accomplish mastering computer languages that I didn’t learn yet.

How will the scholarship help you achieve your goals?

The scholarship will help me pursue an BS in Computer Science and an career as a video game programmer.

What’s one thing you can teach others?

Computer programming

What would you love to become an expert in?

Video Design

Congrats to Phillips-Hoang Nguyen-Phan on winning the scholarship. Chances are you could use some extra money to learn too! You can apply for the Salesforce Build an App Scholarship here. 

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Long-distance running is not an activity to be taken lightly. Running, in general, is the kind of sport that is truly humbling. You, and you alone, are the only person standing in the way of what you define as success. Up until 2013, I had never understood the weight of strength and difficulty that it took to run a half marathon or marathon. I had always considered myself a strong runner, as I was a very committed athlete throughout high school.

In the Spring of 2013, I signed up for a half marathon and marathon back-to-back, just on a whim. I had enough confidence and arrogance from my youth and assumed that it would carry me across the finish line. Little did I know, there was so much more to long distance running than just guts.

Training for a half-marathon or marathon, along with any other race of further distance, requires a great deal of commitment – you submit yourself to months of training yourself physically and mentally, rest, proper nutrition, hydration, sleep, and many other factors that come into play during the time leading up to the big race.

After that length of time throughout a marathon training period, one earns knowledge and ability. Becoming stronger in their movements and in-tune with their capabilities. After such an intense training period could one be considered an expert?

Merriam-Webster defines an expert as “having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced”

What makes a person an expert in any given field is the amount of time and work that it took for that person to arrive at where they are; to be able to speak confidently, act, and react with their abilities to handle a given situation.

Marathon training is all about time and effort. The time that it takes to prepare, the time that it takes to recover, and the time that it takes to finish the race. Marathon training is a long game, made up of concentrated efforts that built up over time to create the endurance needed to accomplish a goal.

It may take more time for some individuals to do any of the things required to successfully prepare for a marathon, but that doesn’t discount their level of expertise in relation to knowing what it takes to complete a race of that distance.

A full marathon is 26.2 miles. 26.2 miles worth of mistakes. 26.2 miles worth of pain and joy. 26.2 miles of focus and dedication- just like the journey to expertise.

The average global time it takes for an individual to finish a marathon is 4 hours and 21 minutes.  That’s a lot of time that could be used to accomplish a thousand other things, yet, instead you’re running.

Behind the final race time is weeks and months, sometimes years of preparation. Marathon training teaches us about expertise because it teaches us about time and hard work, the very things that are essential to learning, practicing, and perfecting any skill. The very things that make people into experts.

November

When the temperature begins to change from “bearable with a hoodie” to “don’t go out without a coat” you know November is upon us. To me, it seems like once Halloween is over, everyone goes into Christmas mode and November just gets skipped over. I’m a strict no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving kind of guy. I’ve always felt bad for November. So to stick up for the month that gets ignored, here are three things to learn that will help you slow down and appreciate all that November has to offer.

  1. Why Election Day is on a Tuesday in November

Voting is one of the most important functions of our society. Back in the day, states used to be able to hold their voting day any time within a 34-day window before the first Wednesday in December. However, that started to cause some problems. The outcome of earlier elections swayed heavily the outcome of elections held closer to December. In 1845, in order to make the process more effective and fair, congress passed a law that mandated all elections be held the first Tuesday of November.

So what’s up with Tuesday? You can blame that on the farmers. Most people in the 1800s were farmers and the polling locations usually required a day’s worth of travel to get to. Since most people were in church on Sunday and farmer’s markets were generally on Wednesday, Tuesday was decidedly the most convenient day for everyone to be able to make it out to vote.

In addition, the beginning of November was also most the convenient because it didn’t interfere with the planting or harvesting season, and the weather wasn’t usually as cold and unbearable as it is in December. So there you go, we vote on a Tuesday in November because it allowed 19th century farmers to go to church and sell their crops while still being able to cast their votes.

  1. Where Veterans Day came from

On November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m., an armistice to end World War I went into effect. At the time, World War I had been considered the “war to end all wars.” Little did anyone know how untrue that was. However, to commemorate the end to the war, the year after the armistice president Woodrow Wilson organized the first commemoration of Armistice Day.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

On June 1, 1954, November 11 officially became Veterans Day instead of Armistice Day in order to honor all American veterans “for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

  1. How football and Thanksgiving became two peas in a pod

The annual Turkey Bowl: the one time a year uncle Dave gets to relive his glory days and everyone has to listen to him spout off his tall tales. Even if he did throw the game-winning touchdown in high school, you’d never be able to tell with how many interceptions he throws Thursday morning. The tradition of football on Thanksgiving dates back a lot further than I ever thought. In fact, it’s said that sports and activities were even part of the very first Thanksgiving in 1621.

Football evolved from an apparently “crude game of ball kicking” on college campuses around the 1840’s. Eventually people began implementing rules and football became a popular college sport. The very first organized college game was played between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869. At that time the rules prohibited players from running with the ball. They could only throw it, kick it, or head butt it.

Over the next six years, more college teams formed and an actual Intercollegiate Football Association was created. In 1876, the IFA scheduled the championship game to be played on Thanksgiving Day in front of an eager crowd of paying spectators. From there, football became an integral part of Thanksgiving day.

And there you have it! Three things you probably didn’t know about November. If you have any other interesting facts about November, I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments below or tweet them at me @bradensthompson, and  follow me on Degreed here.

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