Establishing a Habit of Learning

In 5 Steps

Establishing a Habit of Learning

5 Ideas for Supporting Employee Learning

to Empower Your Learners

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

Sometimes I lie in my hammock and just stare at the sky. In those moments, I often reflect on my hopes and dreams. Where will I be in a year? Five years? Ten years? Will life be better? Worse? The same? Frankly, no matter how good my life is at the time, if I were still the same person in ten years, I would consider those ten years a major failure.

We all have dreams about the future. However, it’s hard to get past the thinking stage. If we do get past the thinking stage, we usually don’t get too far before we find valid excuses to stop.

So the question is, how do we push through challenges without making excuses and giving up? If we can find out the answer to this question, nothing will stop us from going boldly in the direction of our dreams of a better life and creating success.

In 1987, Michael Santos was arrested for trafficking in cocaine and sentenced to 45 years. That’s a pretty big wrench in the gears. What Michael chose to do in his predicament will inspire you to quit making excuses and take control of your future.

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Michael wasn’t a violent criminal, but he was thrown into a prison where learning how to be a functioning member of society was almost impossible. In USP Atlanta, a maximum-security penitentiary, dehumanizing prison guards and bloody gang wars surrounded him. He had plenty of valid excuses to adapt into the prison culture, and gamble away his chances of ever reemerging into society as a productive citizen.

With his future on the line, Michael took the road less traveled. He was determined to make the best of his prison sentence and do whatever it took to atone for his crimes.

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“I want to acknowledge that I’m responsible for what I did, and for what I am, and for where I am, and I want to begin to make decisions that will improve my character and my life.”

Michael began immersing himself in literature. Finding wisdom in the words of the likes of Mandela, Shakespeare, Solzhenitsyn, Plato, Dante, Dostoyevsky, Homer, Locke, Hobbes, and Nietzsche, he came to realize that education was the key to his future.

By continuing to educate myself, I’m taking proactive steps to overcome my adversity.

As one of his first major educational leaps, he wrote a book. He finished Drugs and Money, a book that he intended to have distributed to schools, jails and other organizations for at-risk adolescents, after only being in prison for two years. With the help of his sister, he secured $20,000 to cover printing costs so the book could be distributed for free.

With an insatiable desire for learning, Michael eventually decided to get some real credentials behind his name. He enrolled in a college program, and in 1992 graduated inside of USP Atlanta. Three years later he received a Master of Arts with an emphasis on the American prison system. One of the professors he worked with even got him accepted into a PhD program through the University of Connecticut. What happened next launched him into some of the most interesting and successful years of his prison term.

Education has been my solace, and exciting and challenging escape from the monotony of confinement.

As Michael progressed through his sentence, he was transferred to many different penitentiaries. He happened to be transferred to a new prison just before he began his PhD work. The warden of the new prison denied his request to receive books from the university. Shortly thereafter, he was transferred to a new prison and was denied yet again. He was told he was a prisoner in a “federal prison, not a college.”

Accepting that his formal education track was likely over, he decided to shift gears and study law. He found a program that allowed him to study with the existing law books in the prison library. Every prison has a law library so he would no longer have to beg for permission to study.

Knowing he would need a good chunk of change to start his life after his prison term, his plan was to eventually make money charging other inmates for his help with their cases. But before Michael could finish the program, Gary, a man with a strong Russian accent, made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. He asked Michael to read through his case and see if he could find a way to get his sentence shortened. All Michael had to do was name his price. After Michael got a call from his sister saying $2000 had appeared in her account, he knew Gary was serious. The two developed a friendship that would prove quite lucrative.

Michael read the Wall Street Journal daily and followed stock trends on a TV inside the prison. This was right when Internet companies were going public and Michael wanted to try his hand in the market. He phoned his sister and had her make some risky investments for him. The investments paid off. He turned his $2000 into $6000. When Gary found out about all this, he made a deal with Michael. Gary would give him $100,000 to invest, but only if he took the same risks he did with the $2000. If Michael lost all the money, no big deal. But whatever gains they ended up with, they would split evenly. (Side note: If you know anyone willing to make that kind of deal, send them my way!)

At the peak of it all, they got up to $1 million in equity. Eventually, the volatility of trading through his sister from prison caught up with them. They lost $400,000 in only a couple days. Less Uncle Sam’s cut, they still ended up with a six-figure gain, but Michael realized he couldn’t handle trading stocks from prison anymore.

After stocks were off the table, Michael had to continue his education elsewhere. With the Internet taking off, he began writing articles that his family would post for him online. His writing eventually garnered some high-profile attention and he was asked to write a book about his prison experience. Inside: Life Behind Bars in America was published in 2006.

For six more years, Michael pushed the envelope from behind bars. He continued his writing, led a self-help class for inmates, and even excelled physically by running over 1000 days in a row to the tune of over 10,000 total miles. 4,000 of those miles came in a single year and 700 of them in a single month.

Throughout Michael’s sentence, he never let excuses get in the way of his dreams. When all was said and done, his prison sentence was reduced to 26 years. He walked out of prison in August 2012, and has continued to learn and share his knowledge.

Michael’s story shows us that anyone can improve his or her predicament through education. Most of us will never have the opportunity to use the excuses Michael consistently refused to use. So if we don’t become the person we hope to become, it’s our own fault. And when life does throw us curveballs and we’re tempted to make excuses—no matter how valid—just remember, there are no excuses great enough to make up for lost dreams.

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Michael tells our readers more about his transformation and gives you the techniques he used during his prison sentence to push through setbacks and challenges to reach their goals. Read our exclusive interview in Part II: Lessons from Prison: How to Create Success From Setbacks

Facts and quotes sourced from Earning Freedom: Conquering a 45-Year Prison Term by Michael G. Santos. You can see what Michael is up to now at michaelsantos.com.

The future belongs to those who can generate the best ideas. Plain and simple.

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In a highly competitive world where employment is unstable and currencies are declining, unexpected events can quickly derail our dreams and drain our bank accounts.

Because money can always run out. Ideas, on the other hand, are limitless. If we ever find that our backs are up against the wall, those of us who are able to come up with new ideas will be the ones who bounce back strong.

But there’s no reason to wait for a crisis. The ability to generate ideas will always create opportunities to build wealth and find success, by freeing us from our total reliance on others’ (often bad) ideas, and by allowing us to also help others break free. If we want to be the kind of innovators who consistently produce great ideas, we need to start today by embracing a new mindset and approach that weaves the process of idea creation into our everyday lives. The good news is that this process is often a fun and exhilarating experience.

The days of waiting around for some mythical “Aha!” moment are over. Now’s the time to reach out and switch on your own lightbulb. Here are some habits and techniques to get you started.

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Habits

● Read deeply and widely. Branch out and study subjects you’re not familiar with. Engage with all the different forms of media and always take time to reflect on the information you’re absorbing. You’ll need a lot of raw data to work with if you’re trying to generate exceptional ideas.

● Look for patterns and trends. Learn to connect the dots. Hone your ability to see the relationships between elements. Steve Jobs put it best in an interview with Wired Magazine when he said that “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something…they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

Ask more questions. Challenge more assumptions. Be the person who asks “what if” over and over. Sometimes we’re so focused on getting answers that we forget to ask the most worthwhile questions. Best-selling author Warren Berger explains the power of innovative questioning in his book A More Beautiful Question, and lays out a system to help us develop more productive inquiries. Check out this podcast interview for a brief overview of Berger’s ideas.

● Embed yourself in an environment (or create one) that’s conducive to creative thinking. Work and spend time with others that allow you to test out your thoughts, to think out loud without judgment. Constant worry about how others will receive your ideas stifles creativity. Build a network of friends and colleagues who understand that the incubation process for birthing great ideas requires patience, encouragement, and critical feedback. Science writer Steven Johnson brilliantly describes what an idea-inducing environment looks like in this famous hand-drawn animated video: Where Do Ideas Come From?

● Write down all of your ideas! Don’t let a single one slip through the cracks. Carry a notepad everywhere you go, or use an app on your phone to record ideas whenever they arise (I’m hooked on Simplenote and Mindly). Be sure to document all of the persistent problems or needs that you encounter, because many of your best ideas will come from trying to resolve your own concerns. Also keep an idea journal, paper or digital, where you can track your ideas and practice the techniques below.

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Techniques

● Study unexpected successes. Analyze businesses that achieved against all odds; trends that popped up out of nowhere and took the world by storm; high-demand products no one predicted would sell; sports teams that proved all the critics wrong. Identify the fundamental ideas and conditions that led to these successes, and then see how they can be applied to your own ideas and environment. Here’s a list of unexpected success stories you can start analyzing right away.

● Master metaphorical thinking. Learn how to use comparisons to express ideas and solve problems. Metaphors directly link unrelated things by evoking vivid images that help us see from a different perspective. Think about some metaphors we’re all familiar with: Time is money, Domino Effect, Lame Duck. These are well-known because they do such a great job of framing something unfamiliar in a way that expands conceptual understanding and inspires creative problem-solving.

Use singular brainstorming sessions to generate more original ideas. This means formulating ideas on your own before bringing them to a group, which will help you avoid the pitfalls that often come with group brainstorming, such as idea plagiarism and fixation, personality conflicts, and anchoring biases, among others. For more effective group sessions, try Brainwriting instead.

● Use the right brainstorming tool. With literally hundreds to choose from, finding the tool that best suits your goal is important. For instance, if your objective is to find peripheral ideas surrounding a central idea, you might consider using mind maps. If you need to come up with a lot of “outside the box” ideas as rapidly as possible, you should try a few lateral thinking techniques. If you want a basic, tried and true method that can be applied to anything, you can go old-school and implement James Webb Young’s 5-Step Technique (developed in 1939 but still remarkably effective).

Whenever I am trying to formulate ideas to improve an existing service or product, I like to use the SCAMPER tool to make sure I leave no stone unturned. When I’m looking for solutions to a hard-to-solve problem and feel stuck in narrow way of viewing the issue, I employ the Reverse Brainstorming technique.

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My advice is to start off experimenting with as many methods as you can. Eventually you’ll develop a knack for choosing the most fruitful approach.

For more brainstorming techniques, tools and tips, here are more lists and guides:

14 Brainstorming and Idea-Generating Techniques That Work (this list comes with a useful set of worksheets you can use).
James Altucher’s Ultimate Guide for Becoming an Idea Machine
18 Best Idea Generation Techniques
13 Unusual Brainstorming Methods that Work
38 Tools for Getting More Ideas
How the most creative business people generate ideas
Where the World’s Most Innovative Companies Get Their Ideas
Idea Generation Techniques among Creative Professionals (list begins on pg. 5)
Ultimate Brainstorming (comes with a free workbook)
Mindtools Brainstorming Toolkits
Idea Generation Techniques booklet

 

You can catch Jedd McFatter on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

Each year, Colleges and Universities from all over the globe graduate thousands upon thousands of students who are eager to share their newly acquired knowledge and skills with the world. After years of digesting curriculum that has been outlined for them by their respective schools, graduates take what they have learned and relentlessly search for careers in which they can showcase these abilities.

While the class of 2015 may be facing the best job climate in over a decade, demand for entry-level positions in specific sought-after fields creates a great deal of competition and high levels of anxiety for those who are vying for a particular job. Many post-graduates find that they don’t have the necessary experience or hard-skills to beat the competition in landing their dream jobs. When left in the dust, these new graduates may take whatever position they can find which closely resembles their ideal career.

Of the 52% of college students who actually graduate, about 40% of them will face mal-employment , which means they are employed but not with the use of their degree. When this happens, it paves the way for a path that these individuals may not have planned for. Once on that path, many find it hard to veer off and eventually feel stuck and lost. Working in jobs that we may not enjoy or even care about can lead to feeling unmotivated and insignificant.

That fire which we carried on a first job interview dims into a flickering flame that we no longer feel compelled to reignite. The passion felt when stepping into a favorite class has faded as we enter into a somewhat monotonous routine of waking up, going to work, going home, and doing it all over again.

Further contributing to young employees losing their passion for work is that many companies may fail to inquire about the person behind the emails. The person who dedicates their time and energy 40+ hours per week is more than what they do at their desk . It can be easy for companies to overlook strong skill sets that their employees possess outside of their job requirements.

But how would they even know? Do employers care to ask? Do they value growth and developing passions beyond what’s required to complete their daily tasks? Both employers and employees have the power to put these skills and additional knowledge to use.

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Utilizing technology, we have ways to pursue passions and skills further, and communicate to our employer strong traits and skills we possess that may not come up in the minutia of day-to-day work. As individuals, we all have a way to measure and capture all we know and love to learn about, inside and outside of our formal education. We have the privilege and capability to step outside of the box and fulfill the dream jobs we strive to obtain . Options like additional online learning, passion projects, freelance work, or speaking up to your manager about what you really love to do are all available. We can advance our skills and knowledge in many ways even though we are no longer in the classroom. The beauty of innovations within technology in the past few decades is that it has provided us with endless opportunities to make something great out of nothing.

The person behind the emails has endless resources to progress and learn. Humans are made up of multiple facets – Their educational background, life experiences, work experiences, hobbies & interests, social network, etc. When all those pieces can come together in one job, it creates a recipe for true fulfillment. If, on the other hand, an individual doesn’t feel their abilities are being properly leveraged to their full potential, then they may flee to pursue outside opportunities where they can grow.

Employers, specifically direct managers, can help by valuing learning and skill development, and recognizing ways to talk about the passions and skills that employees have outside of their job titles, including what they want to learn more about.

For employees, it’s time to recognize and take control of continued growth and being more than just our job titles. Every individual is an essential asset to the world and to areas that may have not yet been discovered. This is how ideas are created. This is how entrepreneurs are born. This is how history is made. Strive to reach your full potential, speak up about your skills, and never settle for being just a person behind an email.

 

Check out degreed.com for more information on measuring and validating all your learning and skills.

You can find Lindsey on Twitter at @LindseyRuns

How do we find meaning in life? This is a question that has troubled humanity since the beginning of time. I find myself continually searching for more answers to this very question. As a self-proclaimed non-fiction aficionado, I have read the stories of many inspiring individuals who have found meaning and success in life. One of the most enlightening accounts I’ve come across concerning the matter is from Viktor Frankl.

Viktor was a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps for three years during World War II. His is a story similar to many others who were in these camps. However, his philosophies on finding meaning while in the depths of immense suffering helped him and many others survive the long and horrific ordeal.

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“It is easy for the outsider to get the wrong conception of camp life, a conception mingled with sentiment and pity. Little does he know of the hard fight for existence which raged among the prisoners.” –Viktor Frankl

Concentration camps were a death sentence for a large percentage of the prisoners who entered them, but Viktor found that even though death could come at any time, many prisoners did not abandon all hope.

Finding Meaning Without Possessions

When Viktor first entered the camp, he was shoved with 1500 other prisoners into a shed big enough for only 200 people. The prisoners were then corralled into an area where they were stripped naked and shaved from head to toe. All their possessions, their clothes and every hair on their bodies were taken from them. All that remained was their naked existence.

In addition, each prisoner was assigned a number and dehumanized even more. The numbers were either sewn onto their clothing or tattooed on their skin. Prisoners were never addressed by name. They were merely numbers. It would be difficult for anyone to feel a sense of worth in these circumstances. Viktor found hope by focusing on one thing that could never be taken away: his freedom to choose how to respond to the circumstances.

Even when we can’t control what happens to us, we can always control what we do about it. While it may not offset our suffering, sometimes all we need to keep going is a sliver of hope to carry us through until a brighter day.

Finding Meaning Through Tension

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“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

The prisoners who knew there was a task or a responsibility they had to complete were most likely to survive. When Viktor went into camp, he had with him a manuscript for a book he had written but not yet published. That manuscript represented his life’s work. He did everything he could to preserve his work, but like everything else it was quickly taken from him.

For Viktor, knowing that he still had work to finish—rewriting the manuscript—meant he had something to keep him going. His dedication to finishing something that would live on after him was the motivation he needed to fight for his life. While in camp, he would jot down little notes on whatever he could find that would help him rewrite the manuscript once he was liberated.

Viktor believes that having his work stolen not only gave him a task to fulfill but also tension in his existence. It created a need for him to finish something and an obstacle to overcome.

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“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal.” – Viktor Frankl

Viktor likens this theory to strengthening a weakened arch. You do not strengthen the arch by removing weight; you strengthen it by adding weight. The more weight there is the tighter the arch holds itself together.

Finding Meaning Through Others

While suffering through his own tribulation, Viktor found strength in helping others. “Running into the wire” was a common camp slang for committing suicide. When the grim reality of their imprisonment became too much to bear, many prisoners would end their suffering by running into the electric fence that surrounded the camp. Viktor worked diligently to help other prisoners who were depressed and discouraged find something to give their lives meaning. He helped them find reasons to fight for survival instead of ending their lives for nothing.

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“The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. Self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.” – Viktor Frankl

I love that quote. I have to really read it over and over just to grasp the depth of what he is saying. It reminds me of a similar quote I found while reading Into The Wild. Chris McCandless abandoned his family and ventured off on a solo, two-year adventure to find himself. However, just before he died—alone in the Alaskan wilderness—he wrote in his journal “happiness only real when shared.” It took a long, lonely quest to realize that life is meant to be shared with others.

Viktor saved the lives of many prisoners as he helped them find meaning in their seemingly endless suffering, and in the process, saved his own.

Today, his work lives on. Viktor’s book Man’s Search For Meaning has sold millions of copies, and his thoughts are cemented into the hearts and minds of people all over the world. While our struggles in life will likely never compare to Viktor’s, we can rest assured that no matter what happens to us, there will always be a way to find meaning.

Facts and quotes sourced from Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

In May’s “Putting Learners First” Webinar VP of Product Marketing Todd Tauber presented on the current issues with L&D approaches and how to make the shift to put learners first. In this final recap post we’ll explore reimagining L&D for learners. For the first two sections of this Webinar checkout Webinar Recap I: Why It’s Time to Rethink L&D Approaches, and Webinar Recap II: How To Make The Shift. 

Rewire L&D infrastructure to reinvent learning for learners
The hard part is doing the work to actually reinvent workplace learning. Transforming how L&D works all at once can be a huge, complicated job. It often takes months or years, depending on how complicated the organization is.

The key is not cost cutting and reorganizing, though. It’s investing time and money differently. L&D organizations only really invest in 3 things: people, content and tools.

Companies who are making this shift are approaching their content and programs very differently.
– They still do programs and classes and online courses, but they’re tilting the balance much more heavily toward experiential, social and on-demand learning experiences, with more modern formats like short videos, simulations and apps.

These companies are able to do that in large part because they’re changing their people and processes.
– Some are cleaning house and starting over, looking for new kinds of learning consultants and instructional designers who “get” the business and audiences better.
– Others are evolving, re-training their existing staff, adding new kinds of people into the mix alongside their or even creating entirely new roles.
– Several companies – for example Bank of America, EY, LinkedIn, Macy’s and Nike – now have product managers instead of (or in addition to) their LMS administrators.

The problem with different people trying to do different things is that it’s creating some new problems, those problems demand new and different kinds of technology to work better. Very few authoring tools or LMSs, for example, make it easy to create, find, access or track informal learning content or social and on-the-job learning experiences.

Make it simpler to create (and curate) learning
Most authoring tools and LMSs were designed and built for an era of one-to-many learning – the broadcast model. Now, people do a lot more than just consume; they’re also crowdsourcing and collaborating. Learning is no longer one-to-many, it’s many-to-many.

A lot of learners (and L&D teams) now need better tools for creating, curating and sharing learning.

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– Almost 90% of workers say that sharing knowledge is an important or essential part of learning what they need for their jobs.
-Only around ⅓ of employers have invested in dedicated social learning systems.

Make it faster to find learning
Creating learning is only the first step, though. Learners also need better tools for finding the right things at the right time. We are all overwhelmed by information. We are also all impatient. Especially online- if we can’t find what we want – fast – we move on.

Learning content is so easy to make, and so cheap to buy now that it’s become almost too available. Making sense of all the learning clutter out there is a growing problem.

Make it easier to access learning
Finding the right content isn’t much use if people can’t access it. One word: Mobile.
More than half of workers now say they would like to be able to access learning on mobile devices. They may not all need it to do their jobs, but they want it.

Most companies are barely scratching the surface when it comes to mobile learning. Sure, it’s encouraging that more than 70% of organizations now say they’re doing something with mobile learning. However, only 12% of learning content is actually mobile-ready.

Make it possible to track all learning
Companies that do that are just trying to stuff the toothpaste back in the tube, though. It’s become clear that both L&D organizations and individual employees need better ways to track, measure and value all of their learning.

Almost every CLO says they feel the need and urgency to demonstrate the value of their organization’s investment in L&D. In spite of that need and urgency, less than 30% of big companies capture much data on their informal learning activity. It’s hard to manage L&D when you can’t see the whole picture.

It’s also hard for individuals to act on that data. Even if they did collect it, it’s rare for employers to provide workers with easy access to information about their development beyond basic LMS transcripts.
Almost ⅔ of working professionals that we’ve surveyed say they would spend more time on informal learning if it was tracked and given professional credit of some kind.

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Takeaway 3

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Putting learners first requires new, different and better tools:
– For creating and curating learning.
– For discovering and finding learning.
– For accessing learning.
– And for valuing learning.

That means ALL kinds of learning – not just formal training. For more information on how Degreed makes it easy for organizations and their people to discover, curate, and track ALL their learning check out get.degreed.com

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The Battle of Gettysburg is widely considered to be the turning point that enabled the Union to defeat the Confederates in the Civil War. Had the war gone the other way, America would be very different today. While no single person can take all the credit for the victory at Gettysburg, a man by the name of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was definitely an integral piece of the puzzle.Valor_JoshuaChamberlain_640x400

Rough Beginnings

“I have always been interested in military matters, and what I do not know in that line, I know how to learn.” –Joshua Chamberlain

Chamberlain was a professor of modern languages at Bowdoin College in Maine. But as the Civil War progressed, he began to feel a sense of urgency to enlist in the military. His determination and desire to serve the Union eventually opened the door for him to command the 20th Maine, a hodgepodge unit made up of other regiment’s extra men. While other units were given a flag and sent off with the support of their cities, Chamberlain’s men went to war without fanfare or farewell.

If leading an unsupported unit of men into battle wasn’t hard enough, Chamberlain was also given orders to absorb 120 three-year enlistees from the 2nd Maine Infantry into his regiment.

The 2nd Maine men were veterans in the war. They had all served for two years. However, the men were in a state of mutiny. They refused to fight because their unit had been disbanded and the majority of their regiment had been discharged and sent home. While the bulk of the 2nd Maine had signed two-year enlistments, the 120 remaining men had signed three-year enlistments and still had a year left.

Chamberlain was told to shoot the mutinous men who refused duty. Luckily for those men, Chamberlain took compassion on them and worked to fix the situation before it became an issue. He distributed the experienced men of the disbanded 2nd Maine evenly into the ranks of the inexperienced 20th Maine.

Little Round Top

The Battle of Little Round Top was a significant victory that helped make the victory at Gettysburg possible. It was at the Battle of Little Round Top that Chamberlain earned the Medal of Honor for valiantly leading his men in the face of danger.

Geographically, Little Round Top was the far left line of the Union’s defense and a strategic stronghold for anyone who could hold it. If the Confederate troops took the hill, it is not a stretch to assume they would have been able to pick apart the rest of the Union troops, which would have made a significant impact on the outcome at Gettysburg.

To emphasize the strategic importance of Chamberlain’s position on the hill, Colonel Strong Vincent left him with the following order.

“This is the left of the Union line. You are to hold this ground at all costs!”

All or Nothing

Leading up to the Battle of Little Round Top, Chamberlain made a crucial move to band his regiment together. He elevated former 2nd Maine solider, Andrew J. Tozier, to Color Sergeant. As Color Sergeant was usually reserved for the bravest soldier in the unit, Chamberlain was able to instill loyalty and pride in the men who were still feeling mutinous. They began to feel that Chamberlain trusted and respected them. They were ready to go to battle with him.

Once the fighting had begun, Tozier stood his ground in a flurry of gunfire and kept a vulnerable part of the Union line from being overtaken. This act of bravery instilled strength into the rest of the unit, and Tozier was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

Though the hill still belonged to the Union, the 20th Maine was weakening. Chamberlain’s men were running dangerously low on ammunition, and many men who had advanced on the Confederates were wounded and close to the enemy. One of Chamberlain’s lieutenants, Holman Melcher, wanted to advance and retrieve the wounded men. Chamberlain agreed and decided not only to retrieve the wounded, but also to mount a bayonet charge on the enemy in a final, all-or-nothing attempt to defend the hill. If death was his fate, he was going to die knowing he had done everything he could.

In the heat of the battle, Chamberlain ordered the bayonet charge. Melcher responded quickly and lead the way into the enemy troops, which were only 30 yards away.

The order was a success. The Confederates had no idea how to respond to such a charge and, in the midst of confusion and fear, were captured. The hill did not fall.

Living With Valor

Chamberlain was a man deeply rooted in academics, but in serving a cause greater than himself, he became an exemplar of valor.

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While most of us will never be in Chamberlain’s situation, we all will have opportunities to be courageous and face our fears. Things that are trying to overtake us may come from the outside, or they may come from the inside. Whatever battles we are facing, it is important that we face our enemies with valor. Doing so will ultimately lead us to the most fulfilling experiences of our lives.

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I invite you to look for and take opportunities that will help you grow—no matter how daunting the task may seem. You won’t regret it if you do.

In today’s work environment, what you know isn’t nearly as important as how fast you can learn. With new technology emerging at an unprecedented pace, your job security depends upon the speed at which you can adapt and develop the skills your company needs to compete in the global marketplace. The good news is there are proven methods for accelerating your learning. Here are our tried techniques to get you started.

1. Increase Your Reading Speed

Well duh, you might be thinking. Reading faster would obviously accelerate anyone’s ability to learn. But as adults can we really expect to improve enough to notice a difference? According to one of the world’s leading experts on elite human performance, Tim Ferris, the answer is an emphatic YES! On his blog Ferris details how anyone can learn to read 300% faster in only 20 minutes by training their eyes to eliminate inefficient movements and avoid rereading. A few years ago I followed the method and was astonished by how much faster I began to read.

For a slightly different perspective on how to increase reading speed, check out Scott Young’s blog post from earlier this year. Being the voracious learner that he is, Young extensively researched the topic with a critical eye and concluded that training to speed-read is still worth the effort.

Several speed reading apps are also available if you do a lot of reading on a smartphone. I’ve tried nearly all of them, but the two that I’ve found most effective are ReadQuick ($9.99) and Acceleread (Free). If you use these tools as a part of your overall speed reading plan, you’ll see dramatics results in how quickly you can consume new information.

 

2. Focus on the First 20 Hours

Getting off to a good start is crucial for rapid skill acquisition. If you can push through the early stages of frustration that come with learning something new, you will usually hit your stride. In his book “The First 20 Hours,” entrepreneur Josh Kaufman provides a practical guide on how to navigate this beginning phase, and claims that you can learn the basics of any new skill in approximately 20 hours of deliberate, focused effort.

Kaufman does a great job explaining how to deconstruct a complex skill into smaller subskills that are more manageable. He urges the learner to attack the most important subskills first, using a practice regimen built around intense 15 to 20-minute study bursts. Do this 40 minutes a day for a month and you’ll pick up the fundamentals of any new skill. For more insight into these ideas, check out Kaufman’s popular TedTalk:

 

3. Optimize your Environment

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Another basic way to accelerate learning is to optimize your environment. This means turning off distractions and avoiding multitasking, which can be damaging to both your brain and your career. It means mastering your learning tools and making sure everything you need is within reach before you start a study session. It means paying attention to details like room temperature, lighting, and noise levels. It means tapping into your flow state as much as possible when you practice.

And that’s the ultimate goal, really. Getting into the flow. The sooner you get there the faster you will learn any skill.

Here’s a simple way to remember the 3 hacks you need to speed up your learning:

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As always, keep tracking everything you learn through your Degreed profile to give yourself a clear picture of all your skills and knowledge.

You can catch Jedd McFatter on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

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During my morning Twitter session, I noticed Quartz published this article in response to a new report by ZenithOptimedia on how much media we consume daily. The study throws down the numbers on how much time we’re consuming media in some form of internet browsing, television, magazine, or newspaper. It revealing that apparently we all have full-time jobs as Media Consumption Specialists (Mom is so proud).

That’s right, we’re spending 8 hours a day taking in the wonders of the internet, television, and the occasional magazine . I can’t say I’m shocked by that number, although I would never want to see a running counter of exactly how much time I spend on the internet- the thought makes me a bit sick.

When it comes to consuming 8 hours a day of media, one must wonder: So what? Does it count for anything? We’re consuming all of this information and entertainment a day, but are you tracking what you’re consuming?

Take 5.7 seconds to think about the last week and everything you watched or read. My guess is it was a week comprised of podcast episodes, documentaries, YouTube videos, some Wired and Quartz articles, and binge watching Silicon Valley. Was it all a waste?

No way. I’d throw down a pretty penny to bet that you learned something from most pieces of media you consumed (as far as for the educational value of animal Vines, I can’t vouch for that). The point is, media can teach us- and we should be measuring and tracking all of that learning.

Here’s the thing: If you’re spending even a fraction of those 8 hours a day, 56 hours a week consuming articles that may help you with your job, or teach you something about personal finance, or leadership, or even fixing a broken faucet in your house- ALL of that learning matters. You’re progressing and it should count for something.

The beauty of the internet is the vast amount of information at our disposal, and letting all that learning happen without recognition is a shame. I believe in a world where a future job interview would consist in part of talking about what you learned from the most recent 6 months of your media consumption, and how you applied said learning to your life and work.

Degreed also believes in that future, and offers all of us the ability to track and score everything we’re learning. Formal and informal, YouTube and classroom, articles and textbooks– you can score and measure all your learning to get a full picture of what you know.

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t clock in 40 hours a week without getting a paycheck for your efforts, why would you learn for even a portion of 40 hours a week and not have a way to track, measure, and validate what you know. For those of us that aren’t engaged in formal learning, those hours add up, and it’s eye-opening to discover the different topics you’re learning the most about.

Degreed profiles are free, and if you’re in the business of media consumption -and according to the data, we all are- I suggest you get a profile and start tracking what you’re consuming. It’s time to make ALL learning count.

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What are your thoughts on media consumption and education? What do you see for the future of how much media we view a day? Tweet your thoughts @Degreed

Quartz article with data on the ZenithOptimedia report can be found here

Being only a few years removed from college, I have a lot of friends who are currently going through the process of graduating and choosing their next step in life. I also have a couple close friends who made that decision a few years ago and are now struggling with the fact that, in their view, they may have chosen unwisely. Charting a career course is difficult and confusing for almost everyone. As often as not, asking the right questions is as difficult as finding the right answers (if not more so).

Most of us have some idea that career success comes from some combination of ability (What am I good at?), passion (What do I love doing?), and pay (How can I make the most money?). In my experience the most pivotal is ability. Passion and money are great, but if you want to know what career path will make you both happy and wealthy, you need to start by asking yourself “What am I really good at?” This may seem intuitive, but in my experience it is anything but. Indeed, I came to my own fork in the road a couple years ago, and came very close to making the wrong choice.

My Experience

In college, I studied communication sciences with the intention of becoming an audiologist. Audiology is a secure field with plenty of high-paying jobs. However, between my junior and senior year I had taken a summer job working in social strategy for a large fitness company. I immediately realized that I was good at it. As time went on, I started to realize that I was very good at it. I started to think I could make a career out of it.

But when I graduated, I seriously considered going back to get my masters in audiology and reverting back to that career path. It had been my plan all throughout college; could I really just abandon it? Especially for a career track in social media that, at the time, seemed like it might be a dead end. I asked one of my good friends what I should do and he gave me some great advice:

“Jeremy,” he said, “you have a gift for social. Don’t let that go to waste.”

Despite a number of concerns, I decided to continue in social media. Two years in, I view that decision as a financial, personal, and career success: My employer truly values my work, I’m enjoying it more than ever, and I’m making good money.

Ability Leads to Passion

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Choosing a career you are passionate about is very important. What I have found is that people who choose to do what they excel at are almost always the most passionate about their work.  The truth is that interests wax and wane. I know people who have dream jobs working for their favorite sports teams who sometimes get burned out on those interests for a little while. That’s something that happens to everyone. At those times, it can be very difficult to keep the passion alive.

The passion that comes from being good at your job is different than interest. It stems from being able to take pride in what you do, and from being frequently recognized. It comes from winning. We are biologically hard-wired to love winning. You don’t have to be successful for very long before you find yourself very passionate about that thing. I’ve noticed that my friends are much more likely to be passionate about basketball if they’re tall. I doubt that’s a coincidence. Think about your own passions. Are you particularly good or knowledgeable at those things that you are passionate about? You probably are.

How to find what you’re good at

Many people want to choose a career in an area where they excel, but have trouble figuring out what that is when it comes to actually choosing a career. I have found one question to be the most helpful in figuring that out. Ask yourself, “What is the most successful I have ever been in my life?” Look for particular accomplishments, not general abilities. A good answer would be “I won the spelling bee in 4th grade”, “I was elected student body president in high school” or “I was able to talk my friend down from committing suicide and help him turn around his life.” Bad answers would be “I’m a good studier” or “I’m a people person.”

After you have identified moments of accomplishment, try to think of ways that you could recreate similar circumstance in your work life. Too often, I see people thrashing around with their own self-image of who they are supposed to be, rather than objectively evaluating their past results. They get an idea in their head and it’s difficult to let go. For example, I have a friend who insisted that his greatest strength was his creativity. I asked him what led him to believe that and he was unable to name a significant creative idea or project that he had produced. You will be able to avoid this type of self-deception by finding concrete moments of accomplishment in your past.

In identifying your career options, past performance is the best indicator of future results that you have. If you can figure out what you have been good at, you will discover what you will be good at. And once you start down that path, you’ll be on your way toward more passion, more money, more recognition, and ultimately more happiness.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn, read it here. Check out Jeremy Nef on Twitter or LinkedIn

In the ‘Putting Learners First’ Webinar, VP of Product Marketing, Todd Tauber dived into the problems with L&D approaches, what it’ll take to start putting learners first, and how to start rewiring L&D to provide what people and employers need. In Part II of the Webinar Recap: ‘Putting Learners First’ we’ll dive into what it takes to start putting learners first. Read Part I: Why It’s Time to Rethink L&D Approaches here.

1. Start putting learners first
We think that the most important shift to make here is about mindsets; it’s putting learners not just at the center, but at the beginning. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Pretty much everyone in L&D recognizes that most learning doesn’t happen inside classrooms or learning management systems (LMSs).
– The 70:20:10 learning framework – which says only 10% of learning comes from formal training, 20% from other people and 70% from experiences on-the-job – is almost 20 years old. It’s amazing, then, to see how far away most corporate L&D teams are.

The first step toward recovery is recognizing that you have a problem. When CLOs and their teams acknowledge that this is, in fact, a problem, then they start approaching a lot of things differently. They also start investing their time and budget money very differently.

2. Stop trying to command and control, and start empowering

A big one is the role and definition of L&D itself.

If you believe, for example, that the role of the organization’s learning team is to manage training and development, then you make some very different choices about some very basic questions:

Who’s responsible for driving L&D activity – HR and L&D or employees and their managers?
When and where does learning happen – on a schedule at work or anytime, anywhere?
What and why do people learn – for operational efficiency and compliance or to build strategic capabilities and performance?
How do they learn – mainly through formal classes and online courses or in the flow of their work?

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Janice Burns, the CLO at MasterCard, believes her team’s jobs are to be, “motivators and facilitators more than anything else.” And as a result, they prioritize providing people with the tools, resources and access they need to do their jobs better.

3. Stop making learning one-size-fits-all, and start offering choices
Thinking that way has prompted MasterCard to experiment with all kinds of new, unconventional approaches to learning, development and performance improvement.

Examples include:
– Creating animated role plays and games to teach new hires – especially recent college grads – compliance.
– Pairing short videos with quizzes to get new, external IT hires up to speed on the payments industry so they can do their jobs better.
– Invitations for 5-minute tutorials on people management skills directly into leaders’ calendars.
– Producing scheduled, 3 to 6-week blended learning journeys to get product managers up to speed on innovation and entrepreneurship techniques, and to diffuse infuse their marketing managers with up-to-date digital skills.

MasterCard still has an LMS and course catalog, but now they’re also acknowledging that they have an incredibly diverse workforce spread around the world – who all want and need different things. MasterCard segments those people into logical groups and then they design, develop and deliver differentiated solutions based on what makes sense for them.

By doing that, they’re giving learners as well as L&D professionals choices. Guess what? It’s working.

4. Stop making learners have to, and start making them want to.

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Something else happens when you approach L&D from the learners’ perspectives: You tend to focus more effort on the things they care about – like leadership, soft-skills and sales. Coincidentally, these are also the things that enable strategy and drive business performance.

That doesn’t mean you don’t do the operational and compliance stuff – for example on desktop applications or proprietary processes or generic training for industry certifications. Of course you still do those things, they are still important. Higher-performing L&D organizations – the ones who are better aligned with business priorities and who deliver more effective learning more efficiently – make it a point to do them smarter.

Takeaway 2
Modernizing workplace learning demands some big shifts in how we think about L&D. And those shifts start with putting learners first.

 

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Here’s the full Webinar: Putting Learners First

 

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