Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 10, Issue 32;   August 11, 2010: Take Charge of Your Learning

Take Charge of Your Learning

by

Many of us let others set our learning agendas — peers, employers, or the mass media. But you can gain much both personally and professionally by setting your own learning agenda.
The Stevens Memorial Library in Ashburnham, Massachusetts

The Stevens Memorial Library in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. The population of the town of Ashburnham is only about 5,500, but it has supported a small library since the 1880s. Public libraries, large and small, can be delightful resources for those who want to take charge of their own learning. Their holdings include materials from fields you know well, and from fields you know nothing about. If you aren't familiar with your town's library, consider beginning to explore it. If you are already familiar with your town's library, are there not some corners you haven't explored? If not, consider exploring the library of a neighboring town. The disorientation caused by unfamiliarity usually leads to educational surprises. Photo courtesy the Stevens Memorial Library.

Have you ever seen an airplane-related disaster in an in-flight movie? I doubt you'll see Snakes on a Plane on your next flight to LA. The criteria the airlines use for selecting onboard film entertainment probably eliminate anything that might make passengers uneasy.

Relying on others to choose your onboard entertainment restricts your film choices to meet criteria set by others. The airlines' goal is not merely to entertain — they want to entertain without the risk of creating anxiety or fear in some passengers. Even if you personally wouldn't experience anxiety from watching Snakes on a Plane, on a plane, people who don't know you are making the choice for you. And even if they did know you, they would still be concerned about other passengers.

As it is with entertainments, so it is with learning. Most of us learn from the stream of knowledge that comes our way by happenstance. Unless you take charge of your own learning, what you learn might be determined by the biases and preferences of others. Here are some examples, with suggestions for taking charge.

Mass media
Broadcasting, film, newspapers, magazines, and books provide most of the curriculum of our own personal learning. Revenue goals certainly influence the content decisions of media organizations, and for most of these outlets, achieving balance in your own personal education is not a goal.
But with some effort, you can get balanced, provocative content from mass media. Avoid scandal sheets and exploiters of incendiary or titillating topics, because their primary focus is revenue. Do you seek unusual sources with clear records of achievement? Do your mass media sources regularly set exemplary educational standards?
Friends, relations, and acquaintances
In conversations with people in our immediate social circles, we exchange what we've learned elsewhere, occasionally delivering original thoughts. But few of us actually seek connection with people for their ability to present provocative ideas.
You can't Do you seek connection
with people who can set
your brain in motion?
do much about choosing your relatives, but you can choose friends and acquaintances. Do you seek connection with people who can set your brain in motion?
Employers and certification organizations
When employers and certification organizations consider what they would like you to learn, they tend to emphasize their own near term needs — this year's technologies, or the next couple of years at most. But your career lasts longer than that, and your own need for income and stimulation have a more distant time horizon.
When you use employer resources to fund your learning, and when you seek professional certifications, do you set objectives that produce lasting value? Neglecting your long-term goals can produce a storehouse of knowledge with relatively short shelf life.

To gain the learning advantages you want and need, select at least a few sources that nobody has screened for you, and that nobody has recommended. That can be scary. Be certain that you're scared enough. Go to top Top  Next issue: What Insubordinate Non-Subordinates Want: I  Next Issue

Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunLove the work but not the job? Bad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? This ebook looks at what we can do to get more out of life at work. It helps you get moving again! Read Go For It! Sometimes It's Easier If You Run, filled with tips and techniques for putting zing into your work life. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenNNkopVDIOtlpaIaqner@ChacKWXRExFmUBIfavryoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

An appealing mealFood for Thought
Most companies have employee cafeterias, with the usual not-much-better-than-high-school food service. By upgrading — and subsidizing — food service, these companies can reduce turnover and improve productivity dramatically.
Budget and ScheduleGames for Meetings: IV
We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized games. Here's Part IV of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we could do about them.
DeadlockDealing with Deadlock
At times it seems that nothing works. Whenever we try to get moving, we encounter obstacles. If we try to go around them, we find more obstacles. How do we get stuck? And how can we get unstuck?
An appealing plate of pasta (not what I ate that evening)If Only I Had Known: II
Ever had one of those forehead-slapping moments when someone explained something, or you suddenly realized something? They usually involve some idea or insight that would have saved you much pain, trouble, and heartache, if only you had known.
An example of a Weaver's PathwayStill More Things I've Learned Along the Way
When I have an important insight, or when I'm taught a lesson, I write it down. Here's another batch from my personal collection.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Problem Solving and Creativity for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Artist's concept of possible colonies on future mars missionsComing June 28: Tackling Hard Problems: I
Hard problems need not be big problems. Even when they're small, they can halt progress on any project. Here's Part I of an approach to working on hard problems by breaking them down into smaller steps. Available here and by RSS on June 28.
Artist's depiction of a dust storm on Mars with lightningAnd on July 5: Tackling Hard Problems: II
In this Part II of our look at solving hard problems, we continue developing properties of the solution, and look at how we get from the beginning to the end. Available here and by RSS on July 5.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenAoYqKxplOXeypClmner@ChacEIRcSCXLYRvTvZnHoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program. Here are some upcoming dates for this program:

Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
Many Creating High Performance Virtual Teamspeople experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage, and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.