Category Archives: Learning

2012 — Keep going!

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

We have Winston Churchill to thank for that pearl of wisdom. There’s also a Yiddish Proverb that suggests “Bygone troubles are good to tell.” Good stuff to think about as we prepare to end one year and begin another.

Many people will attempt to wax eloquent on occasions such as this–odd, in a way because all we’re really doing is changing one digit at the end of the dates on our calendars. But it is an opportunity to reflect on the past, present, and future. I can’t resist some attempted eloquence myself.

Shall I enjoy sharing some bygone troubles? (Did I just hear a collective groan?) Let’s understand the wisdom is not in sharing the troubles. The wisdom (and joy) is that those troubles are past! I’m typing this on a new laptop with the latest software versions.  I could, I’m sure, share a number of troubles I was having prior to this–some were amusing, all were frustrating. There were days when I was sure I was experiencing hell.

“You can’t do that unless you have the current version of Internet Explorer.”

“You can’t install the latest version of Internet Explorer unless you have Windows 7”

“You can’t install Windows 7 on your current machine because…”

Perhaps someday hell will be defined as having obsolete technology. I’m happy to report, however, that those troubles are “bygone,” at least for a few months until newer and better starts arriving. I’m told that three years is now about the maximum life expectancy of most technology.

For some reason, all this reminded me of the black-capped chickadees I enjoy watching at the feeder. Science tells us that these little wonders store (cache) food, but only remember the locations for about 28 days. And you thought you were having long-term memory problems? As I recall (I encountered this bit of information some years ago), the chickadees are constantly growing new brain cells and, of course, creating new memories.

It might be tempting to wish for the chickadee’s ability–imagine starting over with new memories every month or so? Talk about bygone troubles! “Hey, I’m going through hell right now but in 28 days I won’t remember it!”

The obvious problem is that you won’t remember the good times, either. But where would we be without the memories of our adversities? Perhaps it is time to remove some of the value judgements we quickly place on things that have happened, are happening, or may happen. There was one task I faced with the upgrades that I truly dreaded–partly because it had caused me great pain during past upgrades. I put it off until the last possible moment. My fingers shook a bit on the keys and mouse… but I did it without a hitch.

“Keep going…” is a great slogan for a new year. I think I’ll make it mine. So I suppose I can offer the traditional “Happy New Year” greeting… but my real wish for you is that you’ll keep going!

Course and Class Schedules Posted!

You can use the tabs at the top or the page listing in the side bar at the right… to review at least three categories of courses I’ll be offering in 2012. Of course there’s the usual real estate licensing courses–a section unto themselves. Courses offered through PVAEC tend to overlap, but there’s plenty of excitement and opportunities. The “You Can” series developed as a collabaration between UMaine Extension and PVAEC includes plenty of “self-sufficiency” skills from backyard poultry to food preservation. Of course I’ve already announced my “Cash as a Crop” course

We’re also starting a “Solopreneur” Series… courses geared for folks who are or want to work alone and run their business single-handed. Of special interest may be a short course that will get you started with your own free WordPress Blog–much like this one!

All of the courses could also fall under the heading of “Personal Growth” — why not take on a new challenge in 2012?! If you have a special interest that’s not covered, let me know… we’ll see what we can do!

Grab Some Tissues…

And watch this video. Please.

All the way to the end. I’m not going to do a spoiler, but I will tell you that part-way through I found myself thinking how hard I wished people could realize that it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference in a child’s life. But in the end, that wasn’t the point.

Origins of the Specious

I recently finished the book “Origins of the Specious” by Patricia O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman (Random House 2010). Subtitled “Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language,” it was truly a fun read.  Unless you think etymology is about the study of eyties, you might enjoy it as well. (Etymology is the study of the history of words.) I also happen to enjoy a good word play–and this book starts with one right in the title.

It did take me a while to finish, because I chose to digest it in small bites. Not only was it informative, the writing is great. Watch this.

In the chapter “Snow job” the authors dispel the notion that there are dozens (or hundreds, depending on your version) of words for snow in the Eskimo language. Some dependable sources list four, one got to seven in 1940. (Wait for it!) The authors point out, “In the decades since then, the number or words has snowballed with each retelling…”  Another paragraph notes there has been an “avalanche of snow stories.”

So while I’m recommending the book, I’m also willing to concede that not everyone will fully enjoy or appreciate the topic or the writing… but if you’ll visit you can learn more about several books they’ve written… and visit their blog for some “tastes” of etymology that will impress your friends at dinner parties.

My Brain Is Too Small

A second grader recently warned me that he didn’t think he was a very good reader. When I probed the reason for his conclusion he told me in very adult terms, “I do fine at home but when I get to school… my brain is too small! There are just too many words and things to learn!”

I wanted to reply, “I know how you feel.”

Later I stumbled onto this article:

How much of learning time is spent NOT learning, do you suppose?

In order to learn, people need time to think, to process, to question and explore. Great companies like Google know this to be true and give their workers permission simply to think or explore 20% of the time. Thanks to this 20% time, Gmail and Google News were created.

What if we allowed 20% time in our learning environments? For every hour of learning time, we allot 12 minutes for our learners to work with the topic on their own? They might go to a quiet meditative room to review their notes. They might go out on the floor and see concepts in action. They might do further research on the topic such as what industries are already using it (whatever it might be). Whatever they choose, it would not be prescribed. It would  simply be reflective, processing time… When it comes to learning, less is more is an adage that holds true.

(c) 2011 The Training Doctor, LLC

An interesting suggestion… but it’s not just about training. Thanks to technology we can multitask. How many times have you carried on a conversation with someone who’s punching the screen of their smart phone?  If it’s safe to do so, count how many drivers you encounter who are NOT talking on a cell phone. 

Next time I read with my second grade buddy I may suggest that the problem is not that his brain is too small. Perhaps it’s just that his brain is too busy. (During our reading time I suggested we’d take it slow–one word at a time if necessary– and discovered that he’s actually a pretty good reader.)

Whether we are learning or living,  a little “down time” isn’t such a bad idea. Take time to process  and explore. One of my favorite brain/thinking researchers was Ned Hermann. He used to describe sitting in his recliner and approaching a “theta”  rhythm characterized by a drowsy, meditative, or sleeping state. If his wife called out to him to take out the trash or perform some other task he’d reply, “Not now, dear. I’m working.”

Reflection, exploration… these are activities with at least as much value as writing or talking or punching the screen of your smart phone. Allow yourself time to do them and you may discover that your brain is bigger than you thought.