Josh Waitzkin on The Art of Learning

I first heard of Josh Waitzkin after he was an interview subject on Tim Ferriss’ podcast. I listened to the 2nd ever Tim Ferriss show about 12 months ago and more recently heard the second podcast with Josh.

Today I’m listening to Tim and Sebastian Junger speaking and Josh is mentioned again. Tonight, I decided to listen/watch more about Josh, and came across this interview with him. My highlights are:

  • We see teachers who try to fit students into a cookie cutter mould…a teacher knows how to create someone in his own image and try to fit the student into the mould, good for himself and bad for the student
  • A student would do much better to have a teacher who was open to bringing out that students natural shine, their natural strengths
  • We need to be true to our natural strengths and be aware of our natural talents
  • An artist needs to be unobstructed as possible the way the express themselves.

One of the more interesting, endearing moments, however comes just after a question is asked about the movie The Search for Bobby Fischer (the story is about Josh’s chess career) where Josh breaks into laughter about something off-camera, and breaks into smiling and laughter, at a time I felt the conversation was about to get deep and serious.

Other points of note re: learning (specifically related to transitioning from Chess into Tai Chi):

  • Be wide open to every last bit of information; hold no ego about being wrong
  • You need to want to be moulded
  • Changing your perceptual patterns at will (in relation to understanding time moves at different speeds)

As always, the challenge is adopting these principles into our own lives and coming up with a way to embed them in our lives.

Simon Sinek on Authentic Leadership

Today I heard one of the best, most closest-to-me podcasts that I think I have ever heard. Simon Sinek was a guest on The Ziglar Show (Inspiring True Performance), speaking about how to actually, authentically lead.

Part way through the podcast I began really tuning in and absorbing the content to the detriment of what I was currently doing – akin to getting into a flow state listening to the discussion and the message being shared). I recommend you take a listen to the podcast, and let me know your thoughts on whether this had the same impact on you that it had on me.

Some of the key points I took away:

  • Leadership is not a rank or position. Leadership is a decision and a choice. It has nothing to do with your position in the organization. If you look after others, you have become a leader. “We call you a leader because you have the strength and confidence to go first into the danger, first toward the unknown, and we will follow”A great way to explain leadership. I also like to think of it as someone (yes, it can be a subordinate or individual) can take on a leadership role without being asked and without seeking recompense in some way.
  • He admitted to ‘cheating’, and only talking about things he cares about and things he understands. There are so many people out there who think they need to be someone they are not in order to build credibility, a fan base, an audience or even to feel ‘popular’. Being true to yourself is a key element to being trustworthy and being authentic!
  • If you want a work environment where you feel safe and supported, and you love your work, you must find or create a work community that fosters this.
  • Command and control is short term and will not last; those that last are those who are in service to others
  • If you are only a spiritual leader; you gotta learn how to function; if you don’t have that capacity yourself, you need to learn how to trust people; If you’re just a functional leader, you need to learn that spiritual stuff or no-one will trust you. It’s about balance, it’s about both functional and spiritual.

I can’t do this podcast justice with my words, but have attempted to share with you what I took away from the podcast. Have a listen and tell me what you took away from this!

The next phase of my life

Many times I have spoken to people I’ve asked them what they’re doing about changing their situation to overcome boredom, laziness, stifling work environments, toxic friendships, and many other ‘ills’ people often complain about. One of the pieces of advice I often share with them is that they are the common denominator in everything they do, say and think each and every day, and they have the power to change things – should they want to.

Today, I start my new job. But before I get into it a little more, here’s a quick summary of where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing the past 3 months.

I was made redundant from my former employer after a 17 year stretch, where I began as a humble  Technical Support Engineer eventually to become a Learning & Development Business Partner. The ‘writing was on the wall’ that eventually my job role would disappear, so the redundancy came as no shock to me and I embraced it fully. In the past 3 months I have caught up with many friends, family and acquaintances, I’ve relaxed, participated in my youngest son’s Year 1 class, done the school drop-off & pickup, as well as stay in shape by running or cycling. I’ve been loving each and every day and doing things I’ve wanted to do as well as doing nothing. It’s been wonderful!

But back to today: I start out in the Hospitality/Food & Beverage industry. As a waiter. 🙂

Yes, that’s right – If I’m to become a wonderful asset to my new company (which is my #1 goal) I need to learn this industry from the ground up, and that starts today. I do not know how long the journey will take or where it will lead, but I cannot wait!

I’m not sure what to expect, but believe it’ll be a day of learning, brain-sapping, nerve-frying excitement, apprehension, concentration & exhaustion wrapped into one period of 10 hours starting this afternoon.

If you need to find inspiration to change your life in any way, feel free to use me as your inspiration or to ask me any questions in the comments below.

 

Experience vs. Sense

I read Should We Buy Expensive Wine earlier today and was struck by something that seems so innocent and simple, yet can help us all understand a little more about how we use our brains. Here’s the segment of the post by Jonah Lehrer (highlights by me):


I know there are many who don’t think hard enough about how we use our brains, and once I read this (specifically about experience and sense) it clicked for me as to how we take our senses for granted in how they shape our thoughts. Senses take in the ‘real’ – what is seen, heard, etc from the outside world. The brain needs to firstly process this information, then experience comes into play to help shape what we think – in this case, cost has been shown to alter the ‘perceived’ taste of the wine.

Be careful next time you ask someone for their ‘experience’. You may get more than you bargained for! 🙂

 

Today, I said goodbye

Below is the goodbye message I sent to my work colleagues earlier this week. I reproduce it here for your benefit:


A beginning is only the start of a journey to another beginning – unknown
Let me start by saying that you’ve received this message as someone who has shaped me to be the person I am today through the last 16.5 years of my journey through __________. Everything we do in life is a journey – at the start of my journey as a Remote technical support technician in 1994 I did not know where my journey would take me. I’ve been blessed to have met many of you over the years as part of the training or L&D organisations. No journey can be completed without help from others.

For your help, guidance, persistence, recommendations, discussions and feedback throughout the years, I say Thank You.

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young – Henry Ford
I’ve been privileged to work in & around the world of “Learning” for most of my life and believe it is the heart and soul of everything we do. Henry Ford’s quote is one of the best out there to help understand how important it is to learn something every moment you can. I have not stopped learning since starting my journey, and strongly urge all of you to keep on learning, too. My learning journey will not end here – I have many options open to me in the ‘next’ journey I take but I can promise you I am already learning a ‘lot about a lot’ in preparation, and even then it won’t be enough. Don’t be daunted by the challenge, relish the opportunity to learn new things 🙂

Adventure must start with running away from home – William Bolitho
I’ve been working for 25 years of my life and have decided to take some time off and contemplate what the next phase of my life will look like. I’m looking at this as a new adventure, and in a way I am leaving a place one could call ‘home’! My future will be one that involves inspiring other people to take on new challenges, fitness, health, learning and socializing with good people. I’ll be looking at a way to blend them all together, and happy to hear any ideas you may have 🙂 I’ll also be working on my blog (My Proactive Life), going for more rides to raise awareness of various Men’s health issues, as well as spending time with the family and socializing more.


Many people replied stating that this message was inspirational and positive, and wished me all the best for the future.
What’re your thoughts about it?
Do you have any suggestions on how I can combine my wish to inspire others?

The bike crash – Part 2

This is a continuation of the story of my motorcycle crash on 9th November 2006, 20km out of Orbost on the Bonang Highway in rural Victoria. In this part of the story I will share more of my thoughts, insights, learnings and realisations in the time since the bike crash.

“Any crash you can walk away from, is a good one” – Launchpad McQuack

Crashed VFR800
Crashed VFR800

At the time of the crash all I was thinking about was how to tell my wife that a) I was OK and b) the bike was not. At 7:30pm that night (the first opportunity to relax a little and make the call) I called my wife and said “Hi darling, I’m fine, but I’ve written off the bike”. Succinct enough and should get the important stuff out of the way. Well, it does convey the message succinctly, but no matter how it sounded (both in my head and in actuality), it did not get interpreted the same way. It also didn’t help that the crash happened so far from home and she felt completely helpless – questions start piling up but it’s not the time or place to ask them. To me, I was fine and that’s the most important aspect to it.

One other thing to note: this was a crash. It was an ‘accident’ insofar as it was not intentional (i.e. I did not intend to crash the bike), however I feel calling it a crash is the most realistic way of conveying the event. Plus, the word ‘crash’ also conjures up images of something hitting something else quite hard – which is exactly what happened.

In the weeks and months after the accident, I had been asking/answering questions and pondering quite a bit in the time after the

Having a nap
Having a nap

crash. Questions like:

  • Did my life flash before my eyes (no)
  • Did I feel lucky (yes – extremely so – more on this later)
  • Was I angry about the crash (no – these things do happen)
  • Was I sad about it (yes)
  • Did I cause it (yes, I should have read the warning signs re: fatigue and lack of concentration)
  • Do I know why it happened (yes, with hindsight and calm recollection)

The first question is the most interesting as many people seem to ask it of you when you have a serious crash. It’s true that a crash on a motorcycle is usually far more serious than a crash in a car as you have no crumple zones, airbags or seat belts to help keep you as safe as possible. At no stage did I fear for my life nor see my life flash before my eyes.

Bruised Leg
Bruised Leg

So what’s changed since the crash?

  • I now know & ride within my limits. I was fatigued and lacked concentration at the crucial end of the day. I had been riding well up until that point and did not know I had crossed an imaginary boundary that would rob me of such critical skills when I would need them most.
  • Any group rides have very clear rules set out and understood by all. This is something that will resonate with any of my fellow riders from the East coast on the Black Dog Ride (as part of the Riding4aCause project). I played ‘Dad’ a few times making sure everyone knew where we were headed next and even headed back to chase up the stragglers on a few occasions. To my OzVFR buddies this may be a change from my earlier riding!
  • No matter what you say, your message may be interpreted differently. What would you say in your first phone call to a loved one to let them know that a) you’re OK and b) the bike (or vehicle) is badly damaged?
  • I began working from home full-time. At the time, I had all the things in place to do so, but still felt a need to go into the office 4 days a week. Not being able to do more than just hobble around on my sore leg soon showed me I could do my job from home and be just as productive. I had wonderful support from one of the best managers I’ve worked with and she continues to be a wonderful friend and confidant to this day.
  • I realised I was put on this earth for a reason, and that I had not yet fulfilled it. I wasn’t sure what this was (at the time) but knew I was here to do something wonderful. I spent the next few months trying to work out what that was, but didn’t realise it. You know how the more you look for something the less likely you are to find it? This was one of those moments.
  • No matter how good you are; you can always be better. Up until the crash I thought my riding was brilliant. We’d
    The OzVFR Guys
    The OzVFR Guys

    travelled 650+ km’s from Jindabyne to Orbost and I was feeling good, being able to keep up with the others in most areas (I was not afraid to slow down to a pace I was comfortable with on some of the roads). History shows I didn’t truly learn from this…

This is by no means the end of the story, there are more thoughts to be shared with you in the 3rd and final part of the story where I will expand on the last 2 points and share with you exactly how this crash has changed my life and outlook. How have ‘big events’ in your life changed your views/outlook on life?

The two most important people

Who are the 2 most important people in the world?

Here are some clues:

  • If both of these people are present, you begin Connecting
  • Connecting leads to socialising
    • As we understand more about each other, we move beyond merely connecting into the realm of socialising – of gauging what this other person’s motivations are, their views, their thoughts on various topics.
  • Socialising leads to Relationships
    • Relationships are vital to help us stay in tune with other people. I recently blogged that no one person can do it all on their own; we each have our foundation supporters and people we rely on; who keep the home running efficiently; who allow us to be who we are; who provide the support we need to do what we do.
  • Relationships lead to Understanding
    • Relationships lead to a better understanding of the world, an better understanding of ourselves and a better understanding of just how diverse and similar we are.

Coming back to the question: Who are the 2 most important people in the world?

You and Me

Look after you; Look after me; the rest will look after itself 🙂

What I learned this week!

Here’s a quick summary of things I learned this week:

  • Everyone you meet is on your side until you do something to annoy them or send them running
  • Everyone you meet is fighting their own battle, so go easy on them (If they don’t go easy on you, ask them why.)
  • Losing sense of yourself is a slippery slope
  • Those who have good, strong friendships can weather any storm
  • Riding a bicycle in the rain can be fun and takes me back to childhood when rain didn’t stop play!

And here are some questions I ponder:

  • Does light have/is it affected by friction?
  • If you are not self-aware…what are you?
  • How far in this world someone can get TRULY on their own?

How about you, what are some of the learnings/observations/questions from you this past week?

Digesting The Blob

Mr Blobby
The Blob

What is The Blob?

When you learn something new for the first time, you will take in a lot of information, and for the most part, will not yet assimilate it to the point of understanding or comprehension. I liken this new knowledge to a ‘blob’ – it’s a mass of new ideas, terms, concepts, rules and language which have been introduced to you, but may not make much sense (yet).

Digesting the blob of new information takes time

A lot of people mistakenly believe they understand something the moment it’s explained to them; this is not the case. Many may understand superficially what they have just read, heard or experienced, but it’s not until it’s assimilated in the brain does it truly become something you can use. More often than not we will take away what we can use from a training course/event; but only after we’ve had time to digest the material and let the brain work out the best way we will store/use that material in the future. For some people, this ‘context’ won’t be found immediately, nor the next day. Sleep is an important factor in helping to ‘cement’ this new information in such a way to be useful to you.

Hump Day is when the learning happens

In my previous experience teaching technical training classes, the first 2 days of a 5-day training class were not the most productive. The students had shown up to the class, but not much seemed to be taken in or assimilated. But, a strange thing seemed to occur on the Wednesday – not only did the student show up to class, but they seemed to be there – in the present moment, ready and eager to learn. From that point, the remaining days seem to fly past. Why was this? With little to go on except my own experience, two things were at play:

  1. Inevitability: The students were not going to get out of the training course so they better get into it and enjoy the rest of it
  2. They’d forgotten their daily work chores, let the phone divert to voicemail and didn’t ‘just check’ their email – in other words, they’ve made a conscious decision to learn

    Blob digested!

This usually happened on the Wednesday – there was a shift in reason for being in the class – the students had come into the class ready to learn and able to fully engage, not only with me (as the instructor) but also with the other participants. Collaborative Learning environments have been shown to be some of the best environments to help all participants assimilate new information quickly and efficiently (where the students are also seen as teachers in themselves, sharing knowledge and experience with the other students).

Learning anything new takes time, and requires time to help make sense of it all. If you’re learning something new, give yourself time to understand it. Not only that, you should also share your thoughts and learnings with someone who knows you well as they can help you make sense of it and apply it to your situation. Learning is a fundamental building block of life – give it the time it deserves!

Stuck in a rut?

It’s important to keep moving in life, no matter what endeavour you are undertaking. The human body was designed for movement, not for inaction! Here are some thoughts from Lenny Henry which I think think resonate with me.

Education makes me feel young” “Don’t stand still and get stuck in a rut. Keep moving, because a rut becomes a grave. When my dad retired, he died within months because he didn’t have anything to do. He grew some vegetables and then keeled over. My dream is to always be creative and keep writing comedy, and making movies and television programs”.

My plan for the future:

  • To never stop learning
  • Set some goals each year on my path to becoming better
  • Keep my brain active by learning new things, expanding my relationships, meeting new people, Sudoku and puzzles
  • Staying fit & active 🙂

Do you have such a plan for your life? Let me know what you have planned either for 2010 or for your long-term future!