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Like Your Life Depends On It

I was an average student in my formative years. In some courses I was below average. In others I was above average. But overall, I was average. It wasn’t that I hated school or anything; but nor did I particularly enjoy it. Honestly, back then I liked school more for what it offered me socially than anything else. But then, back in the 70s, kids could approach school that way and still end up doing pretty well for themselves later in life. That is not the case in today’s climate; nor is it the way I’m training my 12 year old to approach his education.

You see I don’t want my kids/grandkids to make the same mistakes I’ve made. Instead, I want them to understand while they are in in middle school, high school, and studying at the undergraduate level that how a person learns impacts every single aspect of life once they pass a certain point.

Some of you might think I’m stretching it a bit to say that. But, one of my favorite writers says it like this.

…there is a vast difference between simply thinking, and directing our thought consciously, systematically, and constructively. -C. Haanel

The days of being able to approach education casually have come and gone. In today’s classrooms, our kids need to know both how to learn and how to approach learning experiences. If they don’t, they are not going to be able to successfully navigate education through to completion of a baccalaureate degree—period.

Consider your responses to these three different situations.

  1. If an instructor asked you to do a critical analysis of a book they assigned you to read, how would you approach this assignment?
  1. If your supervisor asked you to do a comparative analysis of two different approaches to a solving a particular problem how would you begin that project?
  1. When you are faced with the need to change in order to move your life or career forward how to you handle such situations?

Now, number one is clearly about learning. But, did you recognize that items two and three are just a much about how you think and learn?

Prove It For Yourself

I never expect people to take my word for something just because I say it’s true. But, if you watch people long enough, you will see for yourself that people who are confident in their ability to think and learn are more flexible and therefore generally more comfortable with change. Keep watching and you’ll see that a person who is comfortable with change is able to change more quickly than those who are not comfortable with change. And most adults will attest to the fact that people who can embrace and engage in changing more quickly than the masses will benefit from their ability to do so.

If you continue observing and thinking about this you will probably notice that as humans, once we have gone through a few seasons of change successfully, we become even more confident in our ability to handle change. As our confidence in our ability to change increases we become more flexible and begin proactively looking for signs that we need to change so we are prepared beforehand. Being observant in this manner allows us to begin asking and answering questions is a manner that changes the way we navigate change and life in general. Then if we stick to this way of thinking, learning, and changing we begin analyzing our own behavior and tweaking it in a manner that allows us to tailor our approach to navigating change so that we can accomplish even more—faster.

For some of you reading this post, all of this may seem like a major stretch. But for those who are determined to learn, think, and grow in a manner that changes the game for you and those you love, you may be seeing how all of this connects through a new lens. Here’s the same information stated more overtly.

When you become skilled at thinking and learning in a game-changing way you can do the following:

  • Analyze and process information effectively and efficiently
  • Ask questions based on the gaps and opportunities identified while analyzing
  • Collect data points (important information) based on responses to the right questions
  • Forecast how things will unfold based on observations, analysis, asking the right questions, etc.

This isn’t some sort of science that only those who have studied the science of thought can understand. It’s really truly the way things work for anyone who cares to begin thinking, learning and living differently. You don’t need anyone’s permission to begin operating in this manner. You simply need to begin paying attention to what’s going on around you; and begin thinking and learning as if the quality of the life you live depends on how you think about what’s playing out in your life. -cd


Being Well Educated In The 21st Century

As an educator who’s nearly fifty years old, I have had the privilege (okay, it wasn’t always a privilege) of hearing many people share their opinions on the value, or lack of value, of education. I’m not sure what it is about me that makes people want to share so openly. But, every now and then I will have someone vehemently share their thoughts on what’s wrong with higher education; what’s right about it; why one approach is better than another; what type of degree best serves learners and any number of other topics pertaining to education.

These rants are provided by people from all walks of life. Occasionally, they lead to interesting conversations. Other times, I walk away puzzled by the views just shared. Eventually, I began to realize that those with little education have many misconceptions regarding the goals, benefit, and value of higher education. That makes sense, right? I mean, how can people who aren’t well educated understand what it means to be well educated?

No matter what your education/credentials, consider the answers to these questions from your personal perspective.

  • What would a good, a better, or more education do for you?
  • If you decided right now to become better educated, what knowledge would you pursue?

These might seem like rhetorical questions, but they aren’t. There are real, doable, answers to these questions. And, it may surprise you to know that the answers aren’t as complicated as you might think.

The Key To Being Well Educated

First, let me state openly that being well educated is about knowing how to think, not what to think. Yes, in higher education we study specific content but more importantly if we are being well educated we are studying how to think, solve problems, and create solutions. Consider the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principle can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Unfortunately, most people aren’t comfortable identifying and pursuing principles/rules. Rather than learn the rules related to their desired outcomes many people choose instead to mimic the methods they see someone else walking out. Then they wonder why they aren’t achieving their desired results.

Before I go any farther, and so that there is no misunderstanding, let me state using different words the key to being well educated. If you want to be well educated in a manner that helps you achieve your goals; study the rules associated with what you want to achieve and where you want to be in life. Study the rules in great detail and learn them well. Then, once you know the rules, practice applying them until you can do so in an exceptional manner. Once you have achieved that, find unique ways to apply these same rules. Understand that there is no short cut to learning the rules. Nor is there any benefit to learning someone else’s approach if you don’t first know the rules that govern the context in which the approach is being applied.

Now that we’ve covered that, ask and answer these questions for yourself.

  • How well do you know the rules associated with the job/career/profession in which you work?
  • What best practices exist in your career/profession?
  • How have things changed in your career/profession in recent years?
  • What are the additional professions or specific jobs/positions that are closely related to yours? Do you know the rules associated with those also and how they overlap with your work?
  • When was the last time you studied something new?
  • What memberships do you have to professional organizations? What professional journals, magazines, or websites are you reading regularly?

Here’s a brief example of how this all looks and plays out for me.

I’m an Instructional Designer. I have studied the principles, models, and best practices in the field of Instructional Design. However, in order to set myself apart from the many people who label themselves Instructional Designers, I have also studied the following topics as they relate to Instructional Design for very specific reasons.

Human Cognition – The more I learned about designing instructional content the more I wanted to know about how we actually process, store, connect, and retrieve information.

eLearning Design & Development – Roughly 90% of my work product ends up being developed into an eLearning experience. Having a thorough understanding of what happens after my specific work is done allows me to do better work which yields a better final product.

Visual Design – Words are powerful. In fact, the ability to communicate effectively in verbal form is considered by many to be the highest form of architecture in civilization and a passport to success (–C. Haanel). However, the combination of verbal and visual information is so powerful that when it’s done correctly it can greatly enhance a learning experience. But when it’s done incorrectly, the combination of visual and verbal information can completely undermine the learning experience. I don’t want to risk undermining someone’s learning so I figured I’d better dive deeper into this too.

Sound a bit overdone? Well, for those who are satisfied with doing things in a standard manner, a basic understanding of your career is fine. But, if you want to design an exceptional career for yourself, you need to go above and beyond standard and ensure that you are well educated in all facets of your work and those topics related to your work. Now, I’m not going to leave you hanging by ending this article here. I’m going to share the one final tidbit that usually gets left out of such conversations.

Final Tidbit

If you decide to take a deeper dive and pursue being a well-educated professional, you need to understand what you’re getting into. Because, when you begin operating in this manner it seriously changes the workplace dynamic. To be certain you don’t put yourself in a bad situation, be sure to put as many of the following in place as possible.

  1. Consider how your direct supervisor feels about you expanding your knowledge of your field. Will she/he be supportive? If not, you may want to do this independently in your personal time away from the workplace.
  2. Do the same with your coworkers. They may or may not be supportive of your decision to change your professional approach/direction. You really want to surround yourself with people who are supportive and tend to operate in a positive manner when it comes to learning and growing professionally.
  3. Don’t be surprised if once you begin educating yourself you begin to outgrow your current situation. In fact, be surprised if this doesn’t happen. That means you need to tweak your approach a bit. Everyone says they want promotions and great professional opportunities. But many don’t understand that continual and consistent growth is the key to opportunity.

Now, all that being said; be open, pursue knowledge, and enjoy where the journey takes you. -cd


The Language Of Learning

As an educator I struggle with some aspects of how things play out in our schools. Let me first say that I’ve never taught in a K-12 classroom. But I have taught at the university level and trained in the workplace. Over the years I have seen the same circumstances play out repeatedly–with my own children as well as those I have taught. Many people don’t know how to learn or how to think while engaged in the learning process.

A few years back I started teaching my kids certain things I had put into action in my professional teaching/training and I was shocked at the results. I taught them the language of learning. That’s right, I decided they needed to know the language of learning and how to integrate this knowledge into their learning experiences.


  • Reading vs. Studying
  • Mastery
  • Cognition
  • Metacognition
  • Knowledge Building
  • Memorization
  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Analysis
  • Evaluation
  • Synthesis
  • Facts vs. Procedures vs. Concepts
  • Infer
  • Logical Fallacy

Of course, there are many more terms, phrases, concepts, approaches, and strategies; but this brief list is a good starting point. Much of this I will address in the next few weeks. But I encourage you to explore these topics on your own as well. Empower yourself or your child by studying the language of learning so you understand what’s required when engaged in the process of learning.