Do you want to learn something fun or new? Do you want to create new opportunities? Would you like to grow in your technical skills? Do you want to be able to communicate intelligently with people when discussing technical topics?
Whether you are a trying to stay relevant for the work place or you are a stay-at-home mom interested in learning something new, then this blog post is for you. In this blog post I will provide you with seven things I have used to live a rich life full of learning. I have used these steps to learn new and exciting hobbies, learn how to be a better husband and father, and stay technical and relevant as a leader for my career. Here are the seven different ideas that I have used successfully and you can too. No matter how busy you are or how strapped the budget is, there is something here that can work for you.
1. Start your day with learning something new
I am a big fan of time blocking. Essentially, time blocking is where you focus on one thing for a dedicated period of time. This is discussed very well in one of my favorite books entitled The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.
I recommend that you start your day learning one new topic of your choice. The key to success with time blocking is to avoid all distractions, especially your electronic devices. Yes, that means no phone, no email, no news, no social media…yes, I said it…TURN OFF FACEBOOK…at least for your dedicated learning time. In the beginning, I would suggest dedicating fifteen to thirty minutes each day. If you commit to this Monday through Friday for a couple of months, you will see a dramatic growth in your understanding of the topic(s) you are learning.
Here is an Amazon link for an audiobook book, Deep Work, by Cal Newport to help with time blocking that I heard about from Dan Miller at 48days.com.
2. Initiate conversation with your team, co-workers, or neighbors to learn something new
Each day most of us are surrounded by people we know that could teach us something valuable and new. Make time to initiate conversations with these people and ask some probing questions. Be an eager learner. For example, if you wanted to learn technical stuff, you could seek out the right people at work. Most organizations these days have at least one or more highly technical teams. Make a point each day to have a conversation with them about a technical topic. This could be you asking about the technical design and implementations details of a project one of your team members are doing. Alternatively, you could ask one of your team members who is taking college classes to teach you something that they learned. This has an added benefit of helping members on your team become more effective communicators and provides an opportunity to build rapport around a shared interest.
3. Read one book a month
This is a common technique of many of the most successful people. I have read that Bill Gates reads about 1 book per week and Mark Cuban reads a few hours each day. In an effort to maximize my productive time, I have become a big fan of audio books, especially while I am in the car. This adds up to a lot of great learning time each day.
Here is an audiobook describing the works of some the greatest digital innovators. The title rather appropriately is The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. Here is an Audible version available via Amazon.
4. Take a class at a community college/university or take classes online or through a specialty group
I have to admit that I am a big nerd when it comes to school. I LOVE to learn and I deeply enjoyed my time attending the university for my undergraduate degree in Mathematics and my graduate degree in Computer Science. I have also taken a seemingly endless number of technical courses and certification courses on my own and often on my own dime. In these I have learned about a number of technical topics including networking, computer programming, cryptography, computer forensics, reverse engineering, and other highly technical topics.
If you do not want to invest the of time or money necessary to get a complete degree you could look at taking individual courses. Most schools offer non-degree programs which allow students to take a small number of courses (usually 3-5 courses) without committing to a full degree.
Another alternative is taking advantage of online institutions that offer free or low cost courses in a multitude of topics including technology. Here is a list of some of the ones I am familiar with:
Within the technology space, there are a ton of high priced specialty courses conducted by a number of professional organizations. I have taken countless courses through these organizations. Many of the courses are 1-5 days in length. It is an excellent way to get force-fed a lot of information in a short period of time. The courses range in difficulty from beginner to highly advanced. Here are some of the organizations I am familiar with:
Another thing I have done in the past is joined volunteer organizations. Depending on the organization, they may offer specialized training. For example, I joined a search and rescue organization that specialized in human tracking to help find people lost in the wilderness. I took a ton of classes that taught me the fundamentals and advanced techniques of search and rescue, land navigation, tracking, and emergency medicine. It was such a blast to learn and practice and really increased the quality of my life. And it was an opportunity to meet some really incredible people.
5. Attend conferences
I love attending great technical conferences. Unfortunately, many conferences these days have speakers that end up presenting nothing more than a glorified sales pitch for their product or service with no real value. So, do your homework when trying finding a good conference to attend. One thing I really like is that there are conferences for most technical niches including programming, information security/hacking, social media, big data, machine learning, leadership, etc.
In general, conferences will have a line-up of different speakers presenting on a variety of topics or a specific theme. Some conferences will have breakout sessions or actual training courses.
Another thing I really love about conferences is that they are an excellent way to network and build relationships with very friendly and knowledgeable people. I have met many friends at conferences as well as deepened relationships with coworkers.
Here are a few technical conferences that I am familiar with if growing technical skills is one of your goals:
There are a huge number of conferences available beyond this short list. Just hop onto Google and find the one that best suits your needs.
6. Watch YouTube videos
I am constantly amazed at how much wonderful and free learning content is available on YouTube. There are so many people willing to take time and generate content to help people. There are tutorials that can give you a big picture understanding of a topic or intense, masters level course depth on a topic. The sky is the limit on how much you can learn in any topic on YouTube. I am a huge fan!
7. Listen to podcasts
I must admit that I am new to the world of Podcasts although they have been around for quite some time. Podcasts today are what radio was twenty years ago except for one added feature. Podcasts can range from very general topics to very niched topics. And similar to YouTube, you can find Podcasts on a variety of topics. I tend to listen to a lot of podcasts that include a variety of topics. Similar to audiobooks, I listen to podcasts on my trips and work commutes to help make the drive time significantly more productive. Here is a list of categories I personally listen to:
- Leadership: Entreleadership, Andy Stanley Leadership, and others
- Entrepreneurship and Online Business: Dan Miller – 48 Days, Cliff Ravenscraft, Ray Edwards, Pat Flynn, Amy Porterfield, Michael Hyatt, etc.
- Personal Finance: Dave Ramsey
- Technology: Leo Laporte
Also, keep a lookout on my website (http://LeaderBlueprint.com) and in popular podcasting software (iTunes, Stitcher, etc.) for my soon to be released podcast titled The Leader Blueprint. Here is the description of my new podcast that will be released soon in 2016.
The Leader Blueprint is a weekly resource for CEOs, Executive Management, and Technical Leaders inside companies with technology teams. Has your company ever experienced issues resulting from having leaders who are not well equipped to manage eclectic technical members, resulting in people drama, missed deadlines, etc., costing the company money and valuable resources dealing with these issues? Are you concerned that if these issues are not resolved, you might be in serious danger of losing your most skilled technical leaders and team members? If so, The Leader Blueprint is for you. My name is Greg Jones and my passion is to help leaders of technical teams lead with purpose. The topics discussed in The Leader Blueprint podcast exist to assist leaders in empowering their teams and creating a thriving culture of results-based success, effective communication, and relevant innovation.
If you are not already a life long learner…BECOME ONE! I cannot state too much how much richer, fuller, and more successful my life is due to my constant learning and growing.
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All links in this page for books, audiobooks, etc. are affiliate links when possible. This does not increase the price of the product for you. Instead, companies like Amazon pay me a very small portion of their profit when people use the link. This helps pay a little for my time and allows me to continue to bring you free valuable content.