My Personal Learning Journey – so far

•February 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I have always enjoyed learning – even as a child.

School was relatively easy for me (until I met Calculus anyway).  I was the weird kid reading ET at recess (yes, really).  I enjoyed sports as well, but when I started a good book I couldn’t break the need to finish it.  I became completely immersed in the world the book created.  As I grew older, I began to read less fantasy/ sci-fi and more about human interaction, psychology, relationships and even self-help books! (Total nerd, I know!).

I used to love the black and white Twilight Zone episodes on TV.  My favorite episode was the one with a man who was obsessed with books.  He wore glasses and repeatedly wished that all the people in the world would disappear so that he could be alone with his books and free from interruptions.  Of course, when he gets his wish, his glasses break and there is no one who can fix them for him – so he cannot enjoy his time with his books since he can’t read without the glasses.  An interesting message about obsession, perhaps, but I always identified with the man’s wish to have more time to read.  I definitely believe in the adage, “so many books, so little time”.

College was a natural step for me in order to continue my learning goals. However, life is important to live as well.  So it has taken me twelve years to complete my bachelor’s degree.  I originally wanted to be a court reporter (stenographer) and went to college in Utah toward that end. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it past the 180wpm mark and you have to reach 210wpm to graduate.  After being stuck at 180wpm for about a year I decided this wasn’t my path.  I moved back to Nevada and enrolled in the community college.  My father always said it was important to have a degree – probably more because he didn’t have one and it held him back in his career goals.  I still think it is solid advice to anyone.

College is less about the degree than about the journey, in my opinion. You learn about a wide array of subjects rather than only the one topic you wish to major in – this is so that we are more well-rounded individuals.  I think if I could afford it, I would be one of those lifetime students.  Instead, I will have to use my well-worn library card to learn at home (much less expensive).

In every job I have held I have made it my mission to learn as much as possible about the company I work for, how others have done the job, what could make it better (usually more efficient and productive), and what I can offer.  As I grew in job experience I began to also seek outside information about my type of job.

Now that my degree is finally completed, I am looking at my community for how I can give back and be a part of making my community better.  It is extremely rewarding and is lots of fun.  I enjoy learning about the people in my community – their stories of trials and triumph, and doing what I can to help.

My personal learning journey is far from over – there is so much to learn in life and I am learning as much as I can every day and enjoying every minute.

I would love to hear your stories of personal learning and how you manage to ‘fit it into your normal life’.

Passion is nothing without action

•January 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Personal learning can be a long and arduous journey; many of the challenges along the way will make you doubt yourself or at least think twice before you act.  Some lessons are easily learned and can be put into practice quickly and efficiently, others will consistently elude your efforts to master them, but keep trying.

Personal learning is not a destination – it is an ongoing journey.

It will test your mettle more days than not.  Searching your own faults and weaknesses can be difficult and often painful, but it is necessary for any lasting growth.  So how do you push through the hard times and ignore the discouraging voices?  Like most things in life it comes down to the attitude you have when approaching obstacles and change.  Having a positive approach to your growth is required for the overall experience to be helpful rather than destructive.

Passion is the number one ingredient in personal learning.

It will keep you moving forward, driving you toward your goals like the getaway car in a robbery.  The passion will be your constant companion, consuming your every thought and breath – eating you alive.  However, the passion is nothing without action.  Your actions need to be planned with built in goals and rewards for all your hard work along the way.  Treat your personal growth as a personal pet project – a lifetime in the making.  Nurture your passion, but harness it into positive, productive actions that help you to narrow the creative tension gap between the you right now, and the you of the future.  You can do it.

Keep Raising the Bar

•August 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Step 7 is the last step in the career plan. It is simply to keep raising the bar.  I say ‘simply’ but continuous improvement is not as easy as it appears. If you constantly strive to improve yourself and hold yourself and others to high standards, ask the correct questions, and find the root causes of issues, you will be a continuous improvement success. The difficulty is in sustainment. This is an issue that all companies and all people have to face at some point.  The other 6 steps we have gone over will help you to stay on track and motivated.  This step is mostly about keeping yourself focused on your end goal – remember the ideal you we discussed in Step 1 – Finding your passion.  This should be your focus and rereading your initial life-plan might help when you get lost.  Keeping your journal will help you stay on track as well.  As I state every blog – and I truly believe in – A leaders learning never ends.

Are You SMART?

•August 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Step 6 in the Career Plan is to set SMART goals.  These are essential to personal growth as they help to focus yourself in the right direction.  SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound.  Create your own personal SMART goals in order to effectively measure your personal growth.  Build in rewards to keep yourself motivated and focused.  Break down long-term, large goals into smaller, more specific ‘step’ goals; creating a road map for success along your career path.  As always, use your journal to keep track of your progress.

Step 5: Building Relationships

•August 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Step 5 in the Career Plan series is to build relationships.  Although this is something that we all seem to intuit, it cannot be emphasized enough.  In many instances in the business world, it is who you know, and not what you know that makes the difference between you or someone else getting the job. This may be seen as favoritism or nepotism, depending on how you know the person, but the point is that you must have a network, or you are unknown. In order to get the advantage, you must stand out. If you have someone ‘on the inside’ who knows your abilities and your style, you have a much better chance.

How do you network? Where do you meet the people who can make a difference in your field? There are many places you can connect with professionals in your field. Join a club that has a local group but is a nationally known group or affiliation.  Go to networking events at your alma mater, or a local university. Most schools have a small business network in the area and can direct you to people who can be very helpful in either your search, your personal growth, or become part of your network.  Utilize the internet as often as you can for business purposes and previous co-workers. Only make solid connections with people who truly know what you can do, or who can be helped by your services.

Once you make connections, it is important to maintain them and work toward lasting, meaningful relationships based on mutual respect and understanding.  Be there for your network and do what you can for the people you are connected to – offer recommendations to them when deserved, and they will respond in kind.

A leaders learning never ends.

Got Time Management?

•August 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Time management is the next step in your career plan.  Time 
management includes prioritizing, delegating, and managing your own time as well as the time of your direct reports.  If you don’t have direct reports yet, practice on yourself.  These skills are essential to being productive and effective in both your home and work life. 

Prioritizing the projects and tasks you have into daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc., will help to manage your workload.  Then focus on the tasks that are needed for the projects you are responsible to complete.  Order the tasks by importance, but leave yourself as much room as possible for the little things that pop up on a daily basis. The little interruptions that are not scheduled can throw you off and put all your hard work in jeopardy.  For the things that HAVE to be done – either find time to do them at home (if it has less distractions) or come in early / stay late to finish them when there are fewer pulls on your time and attention.

Before delegating tasks to others, schedule yourself time each week to work on something for someone else.  If you first help others and are consistently seen as a team player, you will have an easier time asking others for help when you are in need.  If there are things that others you work with can do better or more easily – ask them to help you out with it.  Be certain to only delegate tasks that are not responsible for the projects failure or success and pick your delegates purposefully in order to build relationships and foster a team spirit.  Make sure you don’t overload any one person with your tasks – they have their own job to do as well. 

Managing yours and others time is a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. To show proper respect keep to your schedule and always choose people tasks over paper or computer tasks.  It will go a long way to increase their positive view of you as their leader.  When you are in meetings have an agenda and keep to the time line set out if issues become larger, reschedule a time to discuss or walk through the issue.  Last but not least, when you are meeting with someone – be present in the meeting, don’t be checking your e-mail or using your cell phone. Pay attention and give respect to the person you have the meeting with – or don’t have the meeting at all.

A leaders learning never ends.

Watch Yourself!

•August 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Step number three in your career plan, after you have found your passion and connected with you mentor, is self-monitoring.  This is one of the best tools at your disposal to really drill down and understand what skills and behaviors work for you and what you still need to focus on improving.

Along with self-monitoring, it is necessary to keep a journal.  The journal will log your incredible mentorship, situations that happen on a daily basis, your thoughts and feelings, ideas, solutions and key projects you want to work to solve.  These notes should be brought to your regular meeting with your mentor in order to go over what you actually did and said (your behaviors). This process will generate conversation and feedback around how you may have been able to improve the situation or better handled the circumstances.  Use the journal to write down important insights from your mentor and use them as your plan for personal improvement.  A solid personal development plan will be focused on increasing your knowledge in order to become the leading subject matter expert in your field.  It is important to use this opportunity to focus on both your strengths and your weaknesses in order to develop your skill sets evenly and be a ‘well rounded’ leader.

Following the plan you and your mentor create, monitoring your behaviors and reactions, focusing on your strengths and weaknesses and documenting the important discoveries you are making about yourself will lead to a solid foundation for personal change.  These are key components to reaching your career goals.

A leaders learning never ends.