Taking Your Next Step (Part 3 of 3): Take Action

Okay, so you have evaluated and worked on changing your personal learning network from the first part of this series.  You found so much success that you decided to read part two and make strides toward your professional learning network.  Through these two steps, you have been able to really see the influences around your life that have shaped and molded you into the current being you are today.  You now understand how you obtained a life of monotony and lack of freedom to explore and innovate.  Now you’re here, wondering what your next step is in becoming a better version of yourself.  The next step consists of two words:  TAKE ACTION!

As an individual with your own thoughts and personality, you can do anything.  Financial hardships and hurt relationships aside, the ability to partake in any action depends on you.  Most every situation has two choices.  You can choose to continue down road A or change direction and start on road B.  Here are a few choices to consider as you think about taking action:

  • Apply to a new position – From an employer standpoint, it is easy to write a job description for a person who may not exist.  By doing so, I automatically rule out lower qualifying individuals and receive inquires about people who know they can fulfill the job requirements despite the prerequisites.  As an employee, I have found life disheartening in the job search as I see that I am not qualified for 99% of the posts.  Take the plunge and reason to the employer why and how you can be better than what he/she is looking for.
  • Enroll in school – Have you thought about going back to school?  Wonder if it’s necessary?  Here’s one perspective… it can’t hurt you.  Sure, the financial responsibility and time commitment can be a bit concerning.  A higher degree shows that you can do anything because you set your mind to it.  Being a non-traditional student shows you are able to think outside the box and be someone now that you weren’t able to be or didn’t think you could be earlier.  Better yourself by getting back in school.
  • Challenge yourself – Get out and do something new.  The first time I went repelling off of a 400-foot cliff, I was hit in the face with the thought of life being over.  Leaning horizontally off of a cliff face with nothing but you holding onto a rope is a bit dangerous.  What I gained was a fresh perspective on the point of life and the emotions I wanted to experience for the remainder of my life.  I welcome my new perspective with open arms, but it wouldn’t have come without the challenge to do something I had never done before.

You want to be someone that you have never been before?  It’s time to get going on your new life.  Today is an opportunity, which didn’t exist yesterday.  The decision you make could define the rest of your life.  Or you could continue down the same path, growing increasingly dissatisfied with your personal and professional relationships.  The next 10 years are in your hands, so what is your next step?

Taking Your Next Step (Part 2 of 3): Professional Learning Network

The first step in this series consisted of evaluating and possibly changing your personal learning network.  Aside from your personal network, you will also need to evaluate your professional learning network.  Do not confuse your professional learning network with your current job place.  Your responsibility as a contributing member of the work force is to ensure that you are surrounding yourself with the best possible opportunities to further yourself, those around you, and the ones who will come after you.  A few tips to keep in mind as you look at your professional learning network:

  • Secure your happiness – Happiness is not always defined as laughing and smiling.  Sometimes a relationship that is difficult can be enabling you to be a better individual.  The relationship may not provide a great smile on a daily basis, but the conversations can make you a better and ultimately happier person.
  • Get AND Give – It is so nice to be able to sit back and soak up as much information as possible from individuals smarter, richer, and more successful than yourself.  This one-sided and selfish interpretation of life can eventually lead to your downfall.  It has been argued by many spiritual advisors that we were created for community.  Find someone in a situation that you were once in and help him or her out.  A true professional is constantly gathering and giving information (without a price).
  • Reach out – It is rare that opportunities come knocking on your door.  Maybe you have an experience or two that has landed in your lap and provided you with a better future than you could have built for yourself.  These individuals are few and far between.  Reach out to someone who you think is unreachable.  An example of this can be found in Bob Goff’s book, Love Does.  Goff’s children decided to hand write letters to world leaders and invite them for a sleepover and to discuss issues of peace.  Eventually, princes and government officials were spending the night with the Goffs and working with children to make the world a better place.

A professional learning network can benefit you in ways a personal learning network cannot.  Allow individuals from different disciplines to creatively adapt their thoughts and ideas into your world to see a new perspective.  When you go to the next conference or training seminar, try meeting 3 new people and get to know them.  You will be amazed at what connections and opportunities can come through casual conversations.  If you are tired of the routine grind of life, step out and be different.  Take your next step today and never look back, except to laugh.

Taking Your Next Step (Part 1 of 3): Personal Learning Network

The beginning to taking your next step in life will start with a personal learning network.  Two phrases come to mind when thinking about the personal learning network:

  • Birds of a feather flock together – A similar phrase would be “you are who you hang with”.  If you have a group of individuals that you are constantly around, either you will have an influence on them, or they will have an influence on you.
  • Your income can be estimated as the mean income of your friends – This lesson comes from a great podcast I have been listening to, Entrepreneur on Fire.  If this formula proves true, and you are looking to increase your income, then your friend group would contribute.

Think back to when you were growing up.  Whether you were the ringleader or just a member in a group of individuals, the individuals around you helped to shape the person that you were at the time.  As we grow older, we begin to fade away from the idea that others around us can mold us into something other than what we want to become.  The reality is, those around us can indirectly influence us to extremes we didn’t even know to be possible.  We can sometimes catch a glimpse of other’s influence in our lives in hindsight.  When is the last time you had a hard evaluation of who you surround yourself with?  What influence are you having on those around you?  And what influence do others have on you?

So what does a personal learning network look like?  I have seen this in many different ways.  Personally, many personal learning networks exist in my day-to-day life.  I have a group of friends who keep in touch with my routine happenings and question the purpose behind much of what I do.  I also have identified a number of individuals who I meet with individually to gain insight and wisdom into problems throughout my life.  There are times I won’t call them up for a few months and other times where I count on them to be present once a week.  I don’t expect each person to come running when I call, but I know that I can rely on them to follow through.  Likewise, I am ready in a moment’s notice to run to their doorstep in any situation.  To benefit from a strong personal learning network, each relationship should either be reciprocal or you putting in more time and effort than the other.

Your next step for today is to evaluate your current personal learning network and see if you can add to, take away from, or strengthen your relationships for your benefit.  You can put together a personal learning network based on almost any situation, attitude, habit, or practice you would like to see increased (or decreased).

Interdisciplinary Marriage

Think as if there isn’t a box, not just “outside the box”.  Embrace change and accept your responsibility as a professional within the changing economy and world we live in.  Cross the lines of discipline to collaborate and invent tomorrow’s reality!

In decades past, interracial marriage was unacceptable, interdenominational worship services were frowned upon, and inter literary scholarship was not tolerated.  As times have changed, all “inter” concepts have become the current way of life for the world around us all.  Very prominent and happy couples marry a different race / nationality than their own.  Large concerts and various other venues bring multiple religious denominations together.  And authors like Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) have combined the factual basis of a well-known organization with a nonfictional storyline to become a best seller – and movie.

Whether you realize it or not, most businesses and professional fields are interdisciplinary.  The marriage of technology and health care has created a job market in informatics.  The field of informatics then has extended to various other fields to bring data visualization and clearer understanding to disciplines other than health care.  To make the point more clear, the combination of drawing and math is the basis of the field of architecture.

How does this effect education?  I’m glad you asked.  We all see how business and education have been merged to create a large sector of entrepreneurs looking to profit from the field of education.  In my pursuit of an “Interdisciplinary PhD in Educational Sciences” I get to chase after the different marriages on a daily basis.  Constantly, I feel that aha moment where combining fields or taking in multiple understandings can solve problems and create new solutions.  Two quotes ring true in this light of intellect:

The world is your playground – Play around and don’t worry about who is watching and waiting on you to fall.  When you do fall, get back up and start climbing again!

The world is your oyster – You are the one who formulates the world that you live in.  Yes, we have laws and some guidelines, but your happiness and success relies on your perspective and mentality.

As you go through the grind of wake up, work, and go to sleep… think of ways your current skills, abilities, and expertise can be combined with a different field to innovate or make a future that no one else could realize.

5 Lessons Learned In a Dental Lab

I felt dirty – like someone would see me sneaking around and I would have to explain what I was doing.

It was late on a Thursday night when I walked into the dental laboratory with my wife and decided to get the bunsen burner going (just for old time sake).  As I looked around, I saw many similarities to my wood shop but on a much smaller level.  Naturally, I decided to play around and touch things.  That’s just how I am.

After I decided to act my age, I began to recognize some interesting aspects to a dental lab that I hadn’t thought about.  I made the move to transform my wive’s procrastination into a mental exercise for myself.  What I came up with was 5 important lessons for any organization:

  1. The tools – This 15′ x 8′ room seemed to have every dental tool possible (and then some more).  We may not use every tool that we physically or mentally have acquired, but there will come a time when that specific tool will help you go further than any other tool.
  2. The sharps box – Despite the drills, bunsen burner, grinders, wet floor, etc. all acting against my safety, the sharps box was of good size and at a central location in the room.  Make sure that you have the basics covered in your organization.  Laws and policies need to be in place, while freedom is also given to explore and create.
  3. The gadget hanging off of the table – Some things in the lab didn’t make any sense, this gadget being one.  But when my wife turned it on and used it for it’s purpose, I came to understand it’s usefullness.  Do not be fooled by out of place individuals and activities in your organization.  At one time or another, that weird thing worked.  On the flip side, innovate new ways that make no sense to an outsider.
  4. Labels… for everything – Yes, stone and other materials and powder gave the first impression of “nasty” but after being in the lab for a bit, there was never any question as to where every tool and material was housed.  Your company can always benefit from more organization and cleaning.  Personally, you may be able to deal with the clutter and mishap, but with more than one person utilizing a space, organization becomes a key piece to your productivity.
  5. The vibrator – When mixing compounds to make molds, a vibrator allows the air pockets to go away to help with mere flawless compound formation.  Good technology and seemingly useless products will work for your organization and not against it.  Do not second guess the usefulness of such items, or your productiveness and quality may suffer.

So next time you find yourself in an unfamiliar territory, take a second to take in your surroundings and give in to a great learning experience.  Ideate and pursue a better understanding of how your life is impacted by other’s professions.

Future of Inventions and Entrepreneurship

If you are interested in designing, business, inventing, or business – you should know what the future may have in store for us…

Not too long ago, I listened to a podcast on whether or not there were still inventions to be thought of in our world today.  The basic understanding of the podcast was that instead of new inventions, the type of inventing for our next few generations is taking a product (such as a computer) and making it smaller, faster, multi-functional, and simpler (e.g. – iPad).  Here’s the next wave of inventions…

This concept video gives a look into the future of technology, infographics, and data visualization.  More specifically, this is what Microsoft Office Labs is supposed to look like by 2019.  With rumors of certain technologies within the video coming out sooner than most people think, this video is not out of reach.

What was once fictitious products, shown in movies like the Harry Potter series, are now coming on the market.  In 2010, LG released the flexible electronic newspaper.

Just as any new, amazing product comes onto the market, the prices are sky high, then about a decade later come down and are available to the public.  So maybe by 2019, flexible electronic newspapers will be available for the general public.

With more and more visual opportunities for businesses and news, combined with the technology that is becoming popular – and accessible – the future of data visualization and infographics is very bright!  The field of medicine is typically the first to implement technology, then it is carried over to the schools over time.  Instead of experimenting with technology when it comes to people’s health, why not first start in the classroom where teams can collaborate to find new and better uses for the implementation of technology!

Runaway Business Train...

Business can be tricky.  Using the railroad as a metaphor, sometimes we think we are “on track” and running smoothly.  But there comes a time when we need to switch rails or risk coming off track.

The recent train crash in New York City reminded me of the importance of slowing down and prioritizing.  The train was reported to be going 82 MPH going into a 30 MPH zone.  If the operator was paying attention and took the time to be completely knowledgable about the path, the train may have stayed on track.

Are you on the tracks? – With things running smooth, it is easy to lose your focus or get sidetracked.  There is a constant need to look ahead, plan for the next step, understand and evaluate where you are, know your competition, and stick to your vision.  To continue running smoothly, keep up!

Are you needing to switch rails? – Businesses are constantly switching directions.  My wife just commented yesterday on how Facebook has recently transformed into a platform for the sharing of articles and movies rather than personal updates.  Maybe to grow your business or feel more in control of your train, switching rails may be a necessity.  Don’t be afraid to let your business veer in another natural direction.  Embrace the change and build from it.

Are you almost derailed? – If you haven’t embraced a change in direction or attempted to stay on top of your business, you may feel a lose of control.  Although this can be scary (and sometimes come with consequences), it is still not too late to slow down and get back on track.  Evaluate what is going wrong and what is going right.  While focusing on the good, take each bad in stride.  Prioritize your to do list and celebrate the small milestones to get back on track.

Catch your runaway train before it’s too late.  Attempt to sit down and discuss your situation(s) with someone you can confide in and take control of your engine.  Just remember… slowing down is not always bad – and can sometimes be necessary.


Image credit: Marc Johnson

Holiday/Work Break

Every school child looks forward to the next break.  Whether it be Thanksgiving, winter, or spring break, it provides a time to focus on nothing.  Exactly – the benefit is the focus on nothing in particular.  The same holds true for the working individual.

There may not be lengthy breaks or complete office shutdowns, but the opportunity to get away from work should not be overlooked.  Here are three reasons I have grasped to get away from work through reading, listening, and personal experience.

  1. Innovation – When constantly working, our minds develop a tunnel vision.  Many researchers suggest that even taking a walk and getting away from the issue at hand for a bit of time can help find a solution.  Get away from your tunnel vision and allow innovation through taking a break from work.
  2. Relationships – Probably the most important part of time away from work is the relationships with family and friends.  Work easily consumes all of our time, even on the weekends.  Marriages, friendships, etc. are all put on the back burner for the sake of the next “project”.  Take this time to give 100% of your attention to the ones who mean the most to you.
  3. Rest – Ask any sleep researcher and they will discuss the “sleep debt” that we all incur.  Lay around, sleep, nap, do what pleases you.  Even after we come home from work, work is still on our minds – hindering us from the deeper stages of sleep.  Make sure to get your best rest (and exercise) during your time off.

Enjoy the holiday season.  Stay healthy and safe while enjoying those you love.