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Every Lifetime Learner Should Try Out These Time-Tested Techniques

Every Lifetime Learner Should Try Out These Time-Tested Techniques

Lifelong learning is a continuous process of gaining new knowledge and experience. Nowadays, it has become quite a trendy thing. People of all ages join web courses and communities, get degrees online, boost their skills, and find new hobbies.

Do you have a strong desire to gain new knowledge? Then you can and should do it right now. There are so many options and opportunities for everyone. “It’s never too late to learn” is an old saying, but if you’re a lifelong learner, then you know just how true it is.

There are a few time-tested techniques that can become part of a daily routine for lifelong learners. Use them to make your learning experiences better.

1. Read constantly

Reading is a perfect way to combine learning with delight. Do you prefer fiction to non-fiction? If so, then go ahead and read fiction. Is non-fiction much better for you? Well then, that’s reason enough to enjoy non-fiction. Every single story brings you new ideas and experiences. Try to have a pocket-sized book with you so you can read it whenever you have a free moment, like when you’re taking public transit to work or having a lunch break.

Create a list of the books you want to read during the year and check them off one by one as you finish them. At the end of the year you’ll see how many great books you’ve read. If you have at least 30 checked off, you should be quite proud of yourself.

2. Create a list of what you want to learn

Making lists is generally a good way to plan not only your studying, but also your living and learning. You might have “to-read,” “to-watch,” and “to-do” lists, so why not have a “to-learn” list as well? Look through good web resources, choose an area you’d like to study, and add all those courses to your list.

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It makes sense to save awesome websites with online courses and check them from time to time for new lectures, tutorials, and podcasts. If you enjoy learning, there are a number of web platforms you’re probably already using, but there are many others you might not have tried yet. You’ll find some of them mentioned below.

3. Join a study group or book club

Have you heard that studying in a group is more effective for all group members? People in the group know what they want and their motivation is high. Healthy competitiveness in study groups is a good force, motivating all learners to do their best to discuss important issues and quickly absorb helpful information. If you have weekly study group meetings, it’s a perfect way to stay organized, since you have to prepare for every meeting, research something, make presentations, and so on.

Joining a book club is also a great method. It can help you learn how to think critically and share your views regarding the book you’ve read. And you enjoy reading, right? So it’s a win-win.

4. Don’t forget about practice

After you’ve taken a course, it’s time to check how your skills work in practice. You can use your newly gained skills while working or studying to make these activities much easier and more productive. For example, let’s imagine you took a course in writing. In order to master your writing skills, don’t be afraid to start a blog, where you can write about your life or any other specific topic that interests you (sports, cooking, literature, art, and so on).

5. Teach somebody else

Even though you may lack the competence to be an experienced teacher at the moment, you can still share your knowledge with other people and tell them about the resources that helped you. Teaching is a chance to both reinforce and extend what you know, which is always a plus.

6. Tailor time for daily self-education

You have a chance to learn something new each and every day. Allow an hour for reading, set a rule to look through a high-quality scientific article in the morning, watch one educational video a day, or do anything else to boost your skills. Just be sure to set definite time limits, or else your learning can get in the way of everything else you need to accomplish during the day. Also, find your perfect study time and establish a routine so the process is as productive as possible.

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7. Work out your own study style

There are many different learning styles, such as visual, auditory, and tactile. The majority of people are visual learners, meaning it’s better for them to absorb information if they see it. However, most learners also combine different learning styles for better efficiency. You can try reading out loud, watching educational videos, listening to audio books, highlighting important areas in your text, creating infographics and mind maps, building models, and making notes on separate sheets of paper.

A list of useful websites for self-education

As I mentioned earlier, it’s good to know where to find courses and study materials. The resources listed below are dedicated to online education:

Coursera, edX, Khan Academy, ALISON, MIT Open Courseware, Udemy – online courses from institutions all over the world.

TED, Big Think – communities for sharing ideas and enjoying recorded talks.

YouTube #Education – educational videos.

University of the People – online educational programs.

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OpenStudy – online community where students can find help or assist other users.

Authorama – public domain books.

Library of Congress, MITLibraries – vast variety of study materials.

SparkNotes – resource with concise information about fictional books and literary analysis.

Useful tools that can help you

Lifelong learners also need to use great tools, and when you have the right tools at hand, they make studying easier and more delightful.

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WeekPlan – tool that keeps daily plans in order and makes planning convenient.

Unplag – plagiarism detection engine that helps you make sure you don’t have accidental plagiarism in your writing.

Dictonary.com Word of the Day – resource to help learn new words daily.

Online Stopwatch – tool for students who prefer working with a timer.

As you can see, there are all kinds of ways to become a lifelong learner. Using the time-tested techniques outlined above will help you become the kind of lifelong learner who gets the most out of each and every learning experience.

Featured photo credit: Girl Reading a Book at Home BY VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.imgix.net

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Last Updated on October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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