Establishing a Habit of Learning

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Establishing a Habit of Learning

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee 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

Student-Loans-Is-It-Worth-It

Here’s a statement I can nearly guarantee you’ve seen again and again: Americans have a lot of student loans. Here are the facts:

Tuition has been rising at nearly 3x the rate of inflation in recent years, and the total amount of outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. has grown to over $1.2 trillion.

About 40 million americans are carrying some student loans, and almost 70% of the class of 2015 graduates with a bachelor’s degree have student loan debt, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Market Watch reports the current student debt amount is rising at a rate of $3055.19 per second.

You can often find personal blogs from people like James Altucher and Mark Cuban penning their thoughts on the costs of college and the problem of student loan debt. If you Google “is college worth it?” you’ll find articles from every major news site you can think of filling the first 3 pages of search results.

That leads us to ask the golden question that the people behind these statistics, the Americans who carry student loan debt, have been asking themselves for years: Was it worth it?

The new 2015 Gallup-Purdue Index study on Education aimed to answer just that. The results are in.

Survey Says

Here’s what Gallup found

“Recent graduates who received their degrees between 2006 and 2015 are significantly less likely than all graduates overall to think their education was worth the cost.”

Let’s break that down with the numbers. For recent grads (those who have graduated from 2006-2015) merely 38% strongly agree their education was worth the cost, and among those who had student loans (of any amount) only 33% strongly agree it was worth it.

The Effects

And it’s not just our bank accounts that are affected as a result of student loan debt. Our life choices and the economy take a hit too. As grads adjust to life after school, and (hopefully) dive into the workforce, those payment deadlines creep closer until monthly minimums become due. As for the effects of student loans on those individuals life decisions? Gallup examined that too.

48% of recent grads have delayed post grad education because of student loans. 36% delay buying homes, 33% postponed buying a car, and 19% delayed starting businesses.

It seems that we should just create a new life stage category that states: “currently delaying life goals and purchases until I pay off my student loan debt”.

I’m still wondering, what will the cost of college look like in 10, 20, 50 years?

We want to know: What do you think? Was your education worth the cost? Tweet us at @degreed to tell us, and check out the full Gallup-Purdue Index Report here.

You just learned about student debt and higher education. Get credit for this article on Degreed.

 

There is something different about Djokovic. This was the main thought running through my mind after my first night of attending the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. Many of the top players looked and played like the freakish athletes I expected to see, but not Djokovic. For all intents and purposes, Novak Djokovic looks like a normal guy. His tennis game is deceptively normal looking, too. This isn’t someone who charges his opponents and overwhelms them like Roger Federer or grits and grinds them into dust like Rafael Nadal. In fact, there is only one thing that really separates Djokovic from everyone else: The simplicity of his game.

Image: NewsYac

Image: NewsYac

There are no frills to Djokovic’s game. No flourishes or waste. Just stroke after stroke of carefully measured footwork and surgically straight cuts at the ball. At first I thought the simplicity of his game was incidental to the fact that he was the best tennis player in the world. But over the course of two weeks it became apparent that this simplicity helps him in important ways: He doesn’t tire, he’s unbelievably consistent, and he can channel a higher portion of his energy into his shots. As I watched this player who is not the fastest, tallest, or strongest dismantle everyone in his path on his way to the title, something became apparent: I was witnessing the superiority of simplicity.

 

Simplicity in Business

There are obvious business parallels to be drawn from Djokovic, and the most obvious is probably sitting in your pocket: The iPhone. One of the iPhone’s Android competitors, the Galaxy S6, has a larger and higher resolution screen, faster processer, better camera, thinner build, and lower price point. And yet I didn’t see a massive line of rabid fanboys lining up for the launch of the Galaxy S6. The smaller, less powerful iPhone has one thing that counteracts all of these disadvantages: Its user interface is simpler and easier to use. The iPhone’s advantage boils down to simplicity.

If you look at the major business successes of the last twenty years, almost all of them can attribute their success to simplicity. Walmart took every purchase you make on a regular (or even semi-regular) basis and put it all under one roof. Amazon took all of your online shopping and centralized it in one easy-to-use location. Uber took all the complexity and uncertainty out of getting a cab. The list goes on and on.

One recent startup called Casper brings simplicity to a notoriously complicated industry: mattresses. They sell just one type of mattress, its only modification being the size you buy it in. The mattress can be folded up and shipped so it comes directly to your door. That’s it. No more wandering through endless rows of mattresses on a showroom floor. No more picking your sleep number. No more tying a mattress to the roof of your car. With this simple business model, Casper did more than $20 million in sales in their first 12 months and have raised more than $55 million.

 

Simplicity and Your Professional Success

So the question: How do you use simplicity to your own advantage? There are some obvious lessons for the more entrepreneurial minded but it can be advantageous in other settings as well. The uses for simplicity fall into two areas: Removing decisions for others, and removing decisions for yourself.

1) Removing decisions for others

I saw an ad for a trash company the other day with the slogan “We’ll handle it from here.” I thought it was genius. When I put out my trash, I just want it gone. If I have to put out extra trash, I still just want it gone. If it’s a snowy day, I (yep, you guessed it) still just want it gone. I want everything taken care of properly and I don’t want to be involved in the process. Like it or not, most people feel about your job the way I feel about trash: They want you to take care of it properly and they don’t want to be involved.

I saw an example of the wrong way to do this at work when I needed a new laptop. I went to the IT staff and they asked me what kind of laptop I wanted. When I said I didn’t know they said to look it up, find something I like, and then come talk to them about it. It made me wonder why we pay them. IT staff are, by definition, technology experts and they should know what kind of laptop will best suit my needs better than I do.

The antidote to this is solutions first thinking. I’ve worked out an arrangement with my barber where I come in and he offers a solution first. It usually sounds something like “Hey Ben. So, I think it would look slick if we went with a four on the sides and took a half inch off the top, does that sound alright?” My haircuts are better and I am happier because the process is now simpler.

The reason my IT department doesn’t want to make life simple for me is it takes extra work. Steve Jobs, a master of creating simplicity, said “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” Anyone who has tried writing knows this. You spend about as much time deleting as typing. Being simple, succinct, and to the point takes work. It’s why Mark Twain once said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” If you want to be successful, you have to take the time to remove decisions for others.

2) Remove decisions for yourself

In my closet at home, you will find the following things: Five dress shirts, five pairs of slacks, two suits, two sweaters, and two jackets. The rest of my piles and piles of clothes are sitting in boxes in a back room. I decided to remove the decision of what to wear from my daily routine. Doing this has made the start to my days significantly better. I haven’t suddenly become a billionaire or found the love of my life, but I am able to get out the door quicker and concentrate better at work for the first hour of my day.

Removing decisions from your life is hard because it means you won’t always make the very best decision. There could very well be a shirt in my storage that would look better, but I wouldn’t know because I refuse to reevaluate. Here’s the thing: I’m okay with that. Like the Galaxy S6’s slightly superior hardware, picking the very best shirt does not matter that much. Living simply allows me to focus on the things that do matter , like work and maintaining social ties.

If creating simplicity within your decision making sounds difficult or daunting, you can begin with a simple experiment: Next time you go to a restaurant, read the menu until you find the first thing you think you would enjoy. Then shut the menu. Don’t open it back up. You know what you’re going to order. Now you can focus on conversation with the other people at the table and being present in the moment. Congratulations, you have just simplified your life and allowed yourself to focus on the things that really matter. And I guarantee you, you’ll enjoy the food just as much as if you had spent fifteen minutes picking out the perfect dish.

By removing decisions for yourself and for others, by taking out the flourish and making things simple, you can add value where you are an expert. Like Djokovic on the tennis court, you can learn to devote exact, precise energy to the things that matter in your life.

Casey Neistat,

Hi. We heard you’ve got a google alert on your name- this is our tactic to get your attention.

We’re doing a web series episode titled ‘how to learn’ and want you to be our expert on how someone can learn by doing, experimenting, and paying attention.

No big production- our 3 person crew is in NYC on 10/20. Can we take you to lunch and ask you 5 questions?

Reply Y or N to caitlin@degreed.com

get-a-masters-degreeGraduate school was the g-word while I was getting my undergrad. I spent most of my undergraduate time fired up about how horrible I thought higher education has become. Once I did my time (I guess most people call it graduating), there was no way in hell I was ever going to go back. I was 100% certain. But then, slowly, the idea of going back lost its bitter taste. Maybe I just forgot what school was like. Maybe I was bored and needed something to push me to keep learning. Either way, I’m now just a semester and a half away from graduating with a master’s degree.

As I transitioned from my deep, overly dramatic hate for more school to actually pulling the trigger on a program, I learned a lot about the process and the pros and cons involved. And so I offer to you four things I think every post-grad should consider before going back to school to get a master’s degree.

1. How much time can I commit?

This is a crucial question because most likely you have a full-time job taking up your time. Whether that’s your case or not, there are all kinds of programs built to work around your work schedule. Some offer night classes, some offer weekend classes, and some offer the freedom of no class time at all. There really are a ton of options.

However, keep in mind that even though schools will boast that you can get your degree in as little as 18 months or two years, that’s not always going to be the case. Since most graduate students are working full time and many are married and starting families, there are a thousand and one different things that could throw off your progress. For many grad students it’s just not feasible to take on a full credit load each semester. It’s not uncommon for some people to take an extra year or two to finish out because of personal or financial issues. Keep that in mind as you determine how much time you will realistically be able to devote to a program.

2. How will I pay for everything?

Undoubtedly, you can find the funding you need somehow. It may end up being through school loans, but depending on how quickly you want to graduate, you may be able to find scholarships or even a job that will reimburse some or all of your tuition. Tuition reimbursement is more common in larger companies, and it may be worth it to bite the bullet and work at a job you’re not all the way passionate about if it means graduating with less or no debt.

If you’re not lucky enough to fall under either of those circumstances, you may very well have to take out some loans. One thing to remember with loans is that once you graduate, you may not find your dream job right away. Your loans will start to come due and if you’re holding out for specific, higher-paying jobs, you may get into some trouble. Just because you’re qualified, doesn’t mean you will find the job you’ve been dreaming about right away. You might find that you have to stick it out at your current job or accept a job that isn’t your first choice. Otherwise you won’t be able to pay back your loans as they come due. That’s not always going to happen, but it is a possibility so it’s important to consider that going in.

And if you’re working full time to pay it off as you go, be prepared. I always had a job during my undergrad years, but that seems like a side salad compared to the steak dinner I have on my plate now. The demands are higher and the time commitment is more intense. But it is possible, so don’t let that discourage you if you really want to go for it.

 

3. Am I emotionally ready?

This is a big one you don’t often hear about, and one I didn’t fully understand until I was mustache deep into my program. I can tell you from personal experience that there will be a lot of days where you’ll wish you had never started. You will always have friends and family who seem to have an endless supply of time and resources to go out and have fun. You’ll feel pretty stupid when you have to turn down a road trip because a paper is due or spend time working on campus on a group project instead of at home with your family. Those missed opportunities will slowly eat away at you and can potentially diminish your motivation to finish.

Not to mention that since you’re in a higher level of coursework, your professors are going to demand more of you. Your work is going to be held to a higher standard than when you were an undergraduate, and you’ll have to deal with some harsh criticisms. You can’t let that get you down either. There is no progress without pain.

 

4. What are my motivations?

Why do you even want to go to graduate school? Maybe you’re just looking for higher-earning potential. You can definitely get that. However, there may be other options. Consider the cost and benefit of your degree vs. what you could learn on your own spending the same or less money on yourself instead of to a university. For example, there are certifications and specializations offered at tech schools and other specialized institutions that may be a better bet. As an example, in a WSJ article highlighting the pros of skipping an MBA, they mention a programming bootcamp that costs $12,000 with 88% of its graduates getting job offers starting at $79,000. So there are plenty of options.

Maybe you want to go to grad school because you’re afraid of actually getting out into the real world. Some people use school as a crutch because they think it’s easier to keep following the structure of a school program as opposed to forging their own path in the real world. Something to think about.

Or maybe you love education and want to continue on to get a PhD. If that’s the case, I applaud you. That’s some serious dedication.

These are just a few of the things I found to be helpful as I made my decision to continue my education. If you’re really thinking about going back to school, I highly suggest you do a little LinkedIn stalking for people who have graduated with the degrees you are considering. Reach out to them and get their perspective. They have no reason to sugar coat things and lie to you about their experiences. I found a couple graduates who really helped me weigh the specific pros and cons of the programs I was considering. After weighing all the pros and cons, those conversations eventually helped me solidify my decision. So far my experience has been exactly as they described it would be.

Best of luck to you in your journeys!

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My complicated relationship with the pre-dawn hours is one I know many of you have as well. Waking up before the sun is a ritual I have yet to master in my adult years. Why do I let my warm bed convince me to hit the snooze button more times than I’d like to admit? When I wake up early and give myself some buffer time for study and exercise before work, I always feel better throughout the day. I’m usually much more productive as well. So why do I ever let the sleep monster win? In my efforts to improve that aspect of my life, I happened upon the example of Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson definitely left his mark on the American people. Not only was he the third president of the U.S. of A, he also wrote the Declaration of Independence and founded the University of Virginia. I could easily fill this entire post with his accomplishments, but instead I want to focus on a small aspect of his life that I believe dramatically affected his ability to get things done.“Whether I retire to bed early or late, I rise with the sun.” -Thomas Jefferson

Rising with the Sun

Jefferson was no stranger to the battle of the sleep monster. For fifty years—yes you read that correctly—Jefferson never let the sun catch him in bed. As soon as it was light enough to read the clock in his room, Jefferson sent the sleep monster packing and began his morning rituals.

I believe having a predetermined structure to his mornings really helped him wake up early. One of his odd early-morning rituals was to soak his feet in cold water. Whatever works I guess… In addition, no matter where he had spent the night, when he woke up he was diligent about recording the temperature and other weather related information. Weather was a passion of his, and Jefferson used the morning hours before the demands of the day took up all of his time to focus on it.

I found it interesting that Jefferson didn’t fill his morning with the labors of his professional life. He used that time to work on his own personal projects. Too often my day is filled up entirely by the demands of others—whether they be for work, school, friends, or family. By the end of the day, there is rarely any time left for myself, and even when there is, I’m too tired to do anything productive with it. I usually end up binging through Parks & Rec episodes and falling asleep on the couch.

And according to Jefferson, that isn’t a great way to end the day either. He also had a structured nightly ritual.

I never go to bed without an hour, or half hour’s previous reading of something moral, whereon to ruminate in the intervals of sleep.”

-Thomas Jefferson

Instead of going to sleep with the stresses of the day on his mind, he took time to center himself and prepare for the next morning.

Not respecting your own time is incredibly detrimental to personal progress. How will you ever learn and grow if you never give yourself the time of day? You owe it to yourself to take at least an hour of personal time every day.

 

We All Have 24 Hours

While researching the habits of various successful individuals, I realized that waking up early is common to many of them. One lesser-known example I found was a 19th-century novelist by the name of Frances Trollope. Trollope had a busy life. Her husband was sick and she had six children to care for. Low on funds to support her family, she began her writing career at the age of 53, proving you’re never too old to accomplish your dreams. Since her day was dominated by the demands of others, the only time she could find for herself was the morning. She woke up at 4am each morning to write.

Mason Currey, author of Daily Rituals professes a similar affinity for working on personal projects in the early morning. As he puts it, “I simply don’t have the mental or bodily energy to be as distraction-prone as I am later in the day.”

At the end of the day, I often wonder where the time has gone. If we all have 24 hours in a day, how do some people accomplish so much more than others? I think Thomas Jefferson had it figured it out. If waking up early had not given any advantage to a man who was so influential to the founding of the United States, he would have never have continued with it for 50 years.

In an effort to practice what I preach, I woke up at 5 am to write this post. And you know what? It felt great. I was able to spend time doing something I enjoy and I was able to focus much more easily. I also had a little extra time to stop off at the donut shop on my way to work. Normally I have to skip breakfast and stress about traffic because I wake up late and have to spend my first seconds of the day hurriedly deciding if I need a real shower or if a Dwyer Shower will suffice.

So I thank you, Mr. Jefferson… and I’m sure my coworkers thank you too.

What is Degreed?

Degreed helps you quickly and easily discover, share, and track ALL kinds of learning resources — from courses to videos to articles and more.

How Does Degreed Work?

Content: Degreed connects you to the world’s largest collection of professional learning content both from inside and outside your organization  — over 250,000 courses and more than 3 million articles and videos from 1,300 sources. All in one place.

Tools: Degreed empowers you to learn every day with powerful tools including a daily learning playlist, learning pathways, unified search and sharing. You can also follow people to see what they’re learning and join groups to learn with and from colleagues around the world.

Insights: Degreed tracks ALL the learning you do — the courses you take, the books and articles you read, even the videos you watch. Then you can view, share and get recognized for your progress with your own personalized profile and dashboard.

All yours: Best of all, the record of everything you’ve done to skill up is yours. You own it. You control who sees what. And, the record can go with you, for life.

What’s in it for you

  • Find what you need to learn and build your career. Fast.
  • Get access to premium courses, TED Talks, articles, videos, MOOCs, and more. All in one place.
  • Learn what you need to do your job. When, where and how you want.
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  • Rate, recommend and share learning with others.

How to Get Started With Degreed

1. Go to degreed.com

You can log in from work or from home. From any device. The first thing you’ll want to do is to select the topics you want to learn about. Then the system will start suggesting learning content tailored to your needs.

2. Check Out the Learning Feed.

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The first thing you see when you login is your learning feed, suggestions based on your learning interests. You can customize the suggestions you receive by adding categories to your profile, enrolling in pathways, following others, and joining groups.

3. Want to learn more? Search the library.search-mar2017Simply use the search field at the top of every page. Select “External Resources” to see the world of resources from across the web. Degreed has cataloged over 250,000 online learning courses and 3 million informal learning activities from more than 1300 sources.

4. Mark an item complete.Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 1.56.13 PMGet credit for the learning you do by marking an item complete once you’ve finished it.

5. Share great stuff.Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 1.56.28 PMFind something great and want to share? It’s easy to recommend content to others on your team or across your company. Simply click the recommend icon, search for the people or groups with whom you want to share, add a comment and send.

6. Get credit for everything you learn. Use the browser extensions to build your profile.

The easiest way to track all your learning is to use the Degreed Button, which allows you to get credit for your learning from anywhere — at the click of a button, without even visiting the Degreed site. To add either the Degreed Button to your browser, select “Profile,” “Settings,” then the “Degreed Button.”

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7. Leverage the mobile app. 

Degreed is mobile enabled for any device. You can also download the mobile app. When you read an article or listen to a podcast from your phone, select to “share” the item with Degreed then you can mark the item complete, save it for later, or recommend it to others.mobile experience8. Update your email settings. 

To get emails for Today’s Learning, recommendations, followers, and more make sure you update your email settings in Degreed. Select “Profile,” “Settings,” then the “Email.”

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The event I came back from was nothing like school. Over 100 “millennial misfits” came together for the Under 30 Changemakers event in San Francisco with a goal to meet, help, and learn from each other.

I met 16-year old Victor Cheng, who has traveled to over 30+ countries and is now an associate working for Altos Venture.

I met 19-year old Jared Kleinert, serial entrepreneur and author of 2 Billion Under 20: How Millennials Are Breaking Down Age Barriers and Changing the World

I finally met 20-year old Tara Bryne, founder of Under 30 Changemakers, who has built a passionate community of 1,000+ millennials.

Everyone I met was so ambitious and were all creating a life full of purpose and meaning.

THIS is the environment every young person should be surrounded by.

Instead of focusing their time on partying every weekend and going through life’s motions, these “millennial misfits” have developed an intrinsic motivation to be the progressive leaders of our generation. But why? Tara Bryne states,

“Millennials and Gen Y will make up 75% of the workforce by 2020. The outliers and influencers of this generation impact their peers to work on world issues greater than their own world’s. Millennial Misfits are the outliers– they choose to take the long way home, understanding that what is right is not always fast, simple, and easy. They are creating new paths than the ones before ours, sometimes without college and traditional work and homelife in the mix. Millennial Misfits are daring enough to create their own life.”

We not only want to take the long way home, we have genuine intentions to leave the world better than we found it. With many new social and political initiatives emerging, millennials are solving the world’s important problems.

Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise, refers to us as the “cause generation.”

“It’s the cause that matters to [millennials], not just the organization. This is reiterated in the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, and it’s a sentiment I see over and over with many of the young adults with whom I’ve worked over the years. It means that millennials are motivated by the meat of the issue above all else.”

Millennials are increasingly eager to join non-profits or work for a company that they believe will benefit the world. No longer is it all about the money. Today, you’ll see many young people go off the beaten path that their parents have paved for them to pursue their true passions. Whether that pertains to art, social good, or tech. Why? Because of opportunity. Like how anyone can get Tim Ferriss to be their mentor, anyone can learn anything they’re interested in, the information is right at their fingertips. Millennials are starting tech companies left and right. Millennials are turning their idea into reality from hackathons. Millennials are sharing their stories through blogs, books, or podcasts.

Not only is it easy to acquire new skills, technology has eliminated many of the world’s gatekeepers. We can now publish a book without a publisher, produce a movie without a million dollar budget, or buy new things and use it the next day (Go Amazon!). Jared Kleinert has spent the last year interviewing with millennials from around the world and comments,

“Millennial “misfits” are actually just the people redefining success, breaking down barriers, and are ultimately changing the world. As we’ve seen in the process of creating 2 Billion Under 20 , young people from all walks of life (business, science, arts, athletics, and more) are using a mixture of exponentially greater technologies, increased entrepreneurial skill sets and access, and elevated consciousness about the deterioration of long-standing, but failing, institutions like government and higher education to do incredible things at younger ages than ever possible before.

Not only that, but we are connecting with one another, and the collective network of Millennial talents out there, like the one we are developing, will lead to a “world takeover” in a positive way as Tam’s headline references.”

We can start anything we want, anytime. This is why anytime I read an article about how millennials are lazy or slobs, I shake my head.

I think of YouTube celebrity and make up guru Michelle Phan, who has started three different companies and is positively affecting her 8 million subscribers.

I think of Youth Speaker, Josh Shipp, who has shared his uplifting story to millions of teens around the world.

I think of Hoodie Allen who quit his full time job at Google to pursue his real passion in music. Today Hoodie performs in sold out crowds around the world doing what he truly loves.

And I think of the countless success stories millennials choose to have when they use their passions for the benefit of the world. Age is slowly becoming irrelevant in today’s society. These millennial misfits are already taking over the world and proving it with their work. Are you next?

The power to learn is in your hands.  Head over to Degreed to get credit for reading this article and find more learning to expand your expertise.

Employee-Learning

Over 80% of employees are doing some kind of training activity at least once a year to brush up on existing skills or learn something new, but only 36% of L&D leaders know how their staff learn at work. To help you keep your employees engaged, we’ve looked at the research and developed a list of 5 things your employees want from your L&D program:

1. Give them clear learning goals and pathways

Spherion Staffing’s Emerging Workforce Study highlights the direct correlation between employee happiness and having clear goals and missions. The research shows that employees at companies with a clear mission and follow-through are 37% more satisfied with their training and development than those in organizations without those things. On the other hand, vague or unmeasurable goals can often lead to poor outcomes. That’s a huge waste of resources especially considering companies invest an average of $1,004 per worker in learning and development, according to Bersin by Deloitte.

2. Give them relevant training that helps them mend the “skills gap”

There are lots of debates over the scale and severity of the “skills gap,” but employees are definitely aware of its existence. More than 40% of employees surveyed by SAP and Oxford Economics are concerned that their current skills don’t measure up to what will be needed for future success; they want training that is relevant to their professional careers. That’s why 72% of employees say they value specialized training over an additional degree.

3. Give them both technical and soft skills

As employees progress through their professional pathways, their needs and preferences for learning content changes. Although the most sought-after subject area among professionals participating in training is still Computer and Technology, they increasingly desire leadership-oriented training. Yet only 38% of companies offer “soft skills”-centered training.

4. Give them autonomy over what and how they learn.

During an exclusive interview with Degreed, Tesla’s Director of Training Programs Beth Loeb-Davies explains that one of their key strategies for L&D is to to “treat people like adults and treat them with respect.” This resonates well with what most workers believe, as 92% strongly agree that employees should seek their own career development opportunities wherever they might be. In application, this means having faith in their learning abilities and giving your employees autonomy over what and how they like to learn.

5. Give them learning that fits into their schedules (or work patterns?)

When it comes to professional training, the most frequent excuse we hear is that “we don’t have time for that.” However, this doesn’t mean L&D should be left on the shelf. Even though today’s workers only have less than 1% of their workweek to devote to professional development and learning, it’s a personal priority for them to progress. Harvard Business Review Reported that one of the top 3 fears of workers was getting stuck with no development opportunities. Our research confirms this, as 48.3% of surveyed employees chose development opportunities over benefits.

By giving your employees what they want from L&D, you can create a program that best serves your employees needs and creates a true learning culture. Around here, we believe that learning cultures eat strategic learning for breakfast. Learn how Degreed can help you give employees what they want.

Distance running has seen a surge in interest over the last few years. So much so that even as a self-proclaimed non-runner, I jumped on the bandwagon and ran a marathon. Previous to my training, I had never run more than the three-miles I was required to run in high school. But after months of training, I finally understood why so many people do distance running: it was strangely addicting and exhilarating. There is an undeniable sense of freedom that comes as you cover miles and miles of ground with nothing propelling you but your own two feet.

Recently I learned about a Czech man who had what is widely believed to be the greatest distance running performance at an Olympic Games. In 1940, as World War II was just getting started, Emil Zatopek completed his first run. He was 18 years old and had never run any distance before. The shoe company he worked for was sponsoring a 1500 meter run and he was convinced to race. Out of 100 participants, Zatopek came in 2nd. That’s when he realized he might have some hidden potential worth looking into.

As it turns out, Zatopek wasn’t just good at running; he was slowly becoming one of the best. By 1948 he had broken many Czech long-distance records and even had a gold medal in the 10,000m from the London Olympics under his belt.

Preparing for Greatness

The Triple Crown in horse racing is one of the most elusive accomplishments in all of sport. You have to win three races in the span of just five weeks. And you have to race against fresh horses, horses that only care about one thing: taking down potential Triple Crown winners. Until this year, no horse and jockey had achieved the goal for over 30 years. In fact, since 1919, only 12 horses have ever done it.

In 1952, Zatopek achieved a triple crown of sorts that is so rare, to this day he is still the only person to have accomplished the feat.

But to get to the Olymics, Zatopek had a relentless training regimen. In fact, he pioneered the use of interval training, which is widely used today. At the time, people thought he was crazy.

“Everyone said, ‘Emil, you are a fool!’ But when I first won the European Championship, they said: ‘Emil you are a genius!”

His workouts were brutal. One of his favorites was to do fifty laps on a track with half lap jogs sprinkled in between for rest. If you can call that rest… He was basically sprinting a half marathon one lap at a time.

Zatopek was all grit and no grace. He became known for his “ugly” running style. He put everything he had into it, which you could easily tell by looking at his face when he ran.

Emil_Zatopek-Running-Marathon

He looked like he was suffering through horrible pain, but he usually found a way to grind out a win, so he didn’t care what he looked like.

“I shall learn to have a better style once they start judging races according to their beauty. So long as it’s a question of speed, then my attention will be directed to seeing how fast I can cover the ground.”

The Helsinki Olympics

“I was unable to walk for a whole week after that, so much did the race take out of me. But it was the most pleasant exhaustion I have ever known.” -Emil Zatopek on his marathon win at Helsinki

All of Zatopek’s ugly running and interval training led up to three incredible performances at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

His first race of the games was his bread and butter, the 10,000m. After all, he was the returning gold medalist from the previous Olympics. Just as many expected Zatopek took the 10,000m without much trouble. He even set an Olympic record while he was at it.

A few days later, he took on the 5,000m. This race gave Zatopek a little more trouble. He was not the favorite in the event and it all came down to the last 150 meters. Zatopek had four runners to beat in that span. When all was said and done, Zatopek had a second gold and another Olympic record to boot.

With two golds under his belt, Zatopek was feeling unstoppable. So much so, he decided to enter the marathon. But Zatopek had never run a marathon. His first crack at the distance was going to be on one of the biggest stages in the sport after already giving his all in two other races.

The man to beat in the marathon was Jim Peters, who had set the world record in the distance just six weeks prior. Since Zatopek had never run a marathon, he had no idea how to pace himself. Unafraid of appearing weak and incompetent, Zatopek asked Peters mid-run if the blistering pace they were already running was too fast. Peters thought he could tire out the inexperienced runner and told him the pace was actually too slow. Believing the words of the world record holder, Zatopek adjusted his pace. Peters would eventually collapse out of the race trying to keep up with Zatopek. Zatopek won by an astonishing margin of two and a half minutes.

Zatopek’s triple gold in the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon has yet to be matched.

As further proof of the magnitude of his feat, the International Olympic Committee put up a statue of Emil Zatopek at the Olympic Museum in Switzerland. He is the only athlete to have such an honor.

Emil_Zatopek_Running

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” -Emil Zatopek

The Work

Though Zatopek may have had some natural talent, it was ultimately his grueling dedication to becoming better that gave him a championship edge. Zatopek is a prime example of what it takes to become the best. It takes a lot of grueling work that might look “ugly” from the outside, but in the end, it’s hard work (not just natural talent), that gives way to great victories.

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Photo source: Deutsche Fotothek

Strength-from-weakness

Temple Grandin is an expert on animal science who works at Colorado State University. She single handedly changed the way cows are treated in the livestock industry. Grandin is the author of multiple books and the subject of an Emmy Award winning HBO film. And that’s just a small part of her many accomplishments. Oh ya, and did I mention she is autistic?

How has Grandin been so influential even though she suffers from great mental and social difficulties? She uses her difficulties as an advantage.

The Strength of the Underdog

In his most recent book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell posits that oftentimes the weaknesses that make us an underdog are exactly what give us an advantage to overcome great odds . For example, in the biblical story of David and Goliath, David’s weakness in the fight against Goliath was that he was quite small.

However, David was a professional with his sling. How good was he? It is said that a stone fired from his sling would basically fire with the same force as a bullet from a .45 caliber pistol. On the other side, the thing that made Goliath so powerful was his size. However, that’s also what made him weak. He most likely suffered from acromegaly, which diminished his eyesight. Everyone assumed David would fight Goliath in hand-to-hand combat. But why would he do that if he could stay far away and still get the job done?

When David stepped in to the fight, he wasn’t an underdog at all.

Temple-Grandin-600x600

 

Grandin’s story is not much different. Even she understood that it was her difficulties with autism that gave her the unique ability to understand animals, which helped her become one of the world’s most respected advocates for the humane treatment of livestock.

In an article for Medscape, Grandin was asked if she would have achieved what she did if she were not autistic.

“I don’t think so, because there was a motivation that I had that a nonautistic person doesn’t have. And I had a visualization skill that goes beyond what most people have. When I designed a piece of equipment, I could actually test-run it in my head like these virtual-reality computer programs.”

Because Grandin had autism, she saw the world differently. Though she struggled with communication and found socializing extremely awkward and dull, she had an extraordinary visually gifted mind. She could visualize outcomes and circumstances with incredible detail.

Even though she had this great ability, convincing the male-dominated livestock industry to listen to her took some work. Grandin was persistent, and today more than half the cattle in North America are raised and processed more humanely because of systems she designed.

Despite all that she has done, Grandin doesn’t see herself as an anomaly. She believes autism shouldn’t define people.

“I am different, not less.” – Temple Grandin

Strength

 

Don’t Get Comfortable

Grandin also recognizes that she got where she is today because she got outside of her comfort zone, which is also an important key in turning a weakness into a strength.

In regards to her upbringing in a time when autism was far less understood than it is today, Grandin had the following to say:

“I’ve seen too much coddling. Mother was always saying, ‘You’re going to have to learn how to go in the store and talk to the clerks yourself.’ And I was scared to death. I’m seeing too many kids who actually are a lot milder than I was who don’t know how to walk into McDonald’s and order a hamburger.”

Strength-Temple-Grandin

Photo By Steve Jurvetson

Grandin’s mother knew her daughter had more potential than the world and even medical professionals at the time believed. She wasn’t going to let her daughter grow up comfortable and thus incapable of doing everyday tasks. That’s the mindset that pushed Grandin through years of school to get a doctoral degree in animal science and what helped her become a leader in the push for the rights of persons with autism.

Grandin’s story prompts me to look deep within myself. What weaknesses do I have that I have not yet looked at as strengths? Many of the world’s greatest accomplishments have come from people like Grandin who looked at things differently because of their “weakness.” The prospect of finding new strengths within my weaknesses is thrilling! There’s always more to life than meets the eye.

 

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