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10 Steps to a More Global You

10 Steps to a More Global You
Globe

    There’s no escaping the fact that the world is getting smaller: your company’s vendors might be in India, with customers in Britain, while you are somewhere in the U.S. That’s why employers, from international non-profits to the mom-and-pop stores down the road, want employees able to think globally. Even college admissions look positively on time spent abroad these days.

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    But picking up for a jaunt to another continent isn’t practical for most of us. We have families, jobs and commitments that mean we have to stay put, and travel isn’t often a cheap option. Despite your current location, however, you can cultivate a more global mindset, usually without spending much money.

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    1. Read international literature. Reading a book written by someone with a drastically different background can be instant exposure to a new culture. You can even do it for free — many public libraries make a point of offering books from different nations. Not sure where to start? Consider this list from three percent, the translation blog from the University of Rochester. Don’t stop with literature, either. Consider reading histories, biographies and other non-fiction that can introduce you to global ideas.
    2. Look for local cultural groups. I use Meetup when I look for a group for anything — apparently there are 31 cultural groups within 20 miles of me, ranging from Japanese language to Brazilian dance. As a rule, these groups are more than welcoming to newcomers — including those with little to no knowledge of the culture in question.
    3. Cook new recipes. It’s possible to try out a recipe for an unfamiliar dish without actually learning much about the culture that dish comes from, but I recommend going all at. Chose a recipe you’re not sure where to start with and head down to the local ethnic grocery store. As long as a store isn’t right in the middle of a rush, I’ve found that most storekeepers are more than willing to help me figure out ingredient lists, and give some extra tips to make sure the dish turns out right.
    4. Volunteer. If you live in the U.S., the odds are pretty good that there is some sort of social agency in your town dedicated to helping immigrants adjust. Especially in smaller towns, churches and religious organizations often provide those programs and always need volunteers for various tasks, from teaching English to watching children. While you may spend quite a bit of time helping people to adjust to American culture, you will also have opportunities to see the differences between their backgrounds and the U.S., through their eyes.
    5. Learn a language. Linguists say that you can’t really learn a language without picking up at least some of the culture, so picking up a new tongue can help with your worldview, as well as your resume. While it may not be the easiest task, it is cheap: sites like BBC Languages offer plenty of free resources and educational CDs and software are available at most public libraries.
    6. Go to local festivals. Growing up in Colorado, one of my favorite fairs was the Scottish Festival and Highland Games. When I moved to Oklahoma, I switched my allegiance to the Greek Festival — better street food! Cultural festivals are chock full of new foods to try, performances to watch and experts who will educate you. Even Oktoberfests have a little bit of culture in there, somewhere.
    7. Watch a foreign film. You don’t have to go to special film festivals or indie theaters to watch foreign films these days. There are plenty of DVD options from Netflix to Best Buy, although I’m often reluctant to purchase DVDs that I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy. However, there are also plenty of movies available online and for download — even YouTube has some options. You can also find lectures and documentaries, and even clips of TV shows from other countries.
    8. Attend lectures. Many schools and other organizations open up lectures to the public, allowing people to get a glimpse into the lives of some very interesting people. Consider Greg Mortenson — he’s on a tour to promote Three Cups of Tea, a book about education in Central Asia. During his lectures, he discusses his experiences and how they have changed his point of view. Most of his lectures are entirely open to the public, although many venues do ask for a donation.
    9. Find a pen pal. I’m not suggesting swapping letters — or, more likely emails and IMs — with just anyone, though. See if an overseas member of your company is willing to share their impressions with you, or find someone working in a similar position in an international company. LinkedIn and other social networks are an ideal place to start looking for these sorts of connections.
    10. Consider your own background. How much do you know about where your family comes from and the reasons behind your traditions? Talking to your older relatives can provide insight into your roots, and may even help you to understand the whys of your own culture.

    Don’t forget, though, that once you’ve developed your global worldview, you need to use it. Try to think of new perspectives for projects and consider how situations would play out in a culture with different expectations. You may not be able to change the world, but you can become aware of it. These insights can even improve your understanding of the mechanics of your own culture. I know my time in other cultures has helped me learn new ways to handle business situations.

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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