Monthly Archives: March 2015

To What Degree Do You Need a Degree?

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It really depends on you.  If you are motivated or inspired to learn, and will be thorough and unbiased, you can learn a great deal more than potentially even the best universities can teach you.  The history of the world is full of people like this – people who stretched the boundaries of our understanding of things, who mastered topics that weren’t even formally available (thus creating a need for them), who redefined our understanding of things that were previously limited by old dogmas and concepts.  People who look at life as an on-going learning process, like to take on the challenges thrown at them, enjoy expanding their horizons in unexpected directions, and/or want to know more and be able to do more really don’t need to go to university, except for certain professions (such as medical, legal and other professions in which the lack of a degree makes it illegal to perform the tasks of the job).

If you like traditional education, and prefer to have someone lead you from A to B to C, then you should earn a degree.  I’m not saying that everyone who has earned a degree, or is working on one, is lazy, though, nor am I saying that degree-holders are inherently inferior to those who’ve taught themselves!   Excellence in a career (or at university) is dependent on YOU – if you find the environment, mode of teaching, materials, etc. to be a mismatch for you, and you lack a strong desire to persevere in the face of such a challenge, it will likely be a struggle!  What I’m really saying here is that people who prefer to have information presented to them in the way they have grown accustomed to in school, don’t enjoy researching, want everything presented in a predictable, linear way, prefer learning via watching and listening rather than doing, etc. may find that earning a degree is easier, more practical, more comfortable or a better match for you than being self-taught.  Being a self-directed learner is not for everyone, but that doesn’t make you a bad or stupid person.  Some people thrive in an academic setting – others feel suppressed by it.

To criticize someone for lack of a degree is like saying that all those millionaires who never finished school somehow cheated “the system” is unfair.  It also raises questions about the huge number of highly successful people throughout history who never went to or finished university (and some didn’t finish primary or secondary school), which leads one to ask: “Is the system the real problem?” When we solidify rules to the point that those who can do the job well but don’t hold a relevant degree CAN’T get a job, prioritizing a piece of paper that often doesn’t prove ability over the ability itself, we turn our nation onto the path of intellectual slavery. I mean this in the sense that everyone becomes enslaved to universities and the financial sector, forced to take out large loans that they may never be able to pay off because, in the end, having a degree doesn’t guarantee you are qualified, nor does it guarantee you will get a job for that degree, keep the job you DO get, or earn enough to pay off your debts!

While having a degree from a top-ranked university will likely guarantee you a job in your field of choice, it doesn’t automatically mean you will be successful in life.  There are plenty of super-smart people out there who are terrible at handing social relationships, and/or their emotions, or who have lots of knowledge but few valuable skills and, as a result, find themselves failing to succeed according to their expectations.   Not everyone can be a Mark Zuckerberg.

One of the most talented individuals I’ve met in the field of computer programming, my dear friend Scott Klement, was massively talented as a programmer long before he went to university. Why did he get a degree if he was so great? He felt he needed a degree to be able to get a good job in programming, even though his skills were such that there were many university-trained programmers who couldn’t do what he could.  Ironically, his story is not unique – I have met many other programmers (and indeed people from other professions) with the exact same story.  Many of them, despite years of experience and a reputation for ability, found themselves unable to work because too many HR people are not smart enough to see that a piece of paper isn’t what you should base a hire on  One of the best English teachers I ever hired was actually a graduate of the faculty of economics! Go figure!

If you read the article https://www.facebook.com/TheRealMikeRowe/photos/a.151342491542569.29994.116999698310182/944284522248358/?type=1, you’ll see a startling false assertion by Howard Dean:  “Howard Dean recently criticized Gov Scott Walker for never finishing college, stating that he was ‘unknowledgeable.'”. If Scott Walker is “unknowledgeable”, it doesn’t automatically follow that it is because he lacks a degree, nor does not having finished college mean he is “unknowledgeable”.  Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg didn’t finish, either, but few people would say they are “unknowledgeable”.  I have met several people online from around the world who hold a degree (or more than one) yet display a vast lack of knowledge on the topic which they hold a degree for.  I have met others who held one or more degrees but couldn’t do their jobs properly. And, still other degree holders never got a job in their own profession (myself included) for a variety of reasons.

How many greatly admired historical figures never went to university? Jesus, Muhammad, and Buddha, of course, all fit that bill, but what about people now?

I’m not sure why Bill Gates is on this list, since he did go to university but I think he didn’t finish. Don’t forget the link at the bottom of this link for an article about why you don’t need a degree:
http://learnfinancialplanning.com/famous-people-who-didnt-g…

Or, if you want a comprehensive list of those who didn’t get a degree:
http://www.collegedropoutshalloffame.com/

The requirement of a degree is a problem with hiring practices in many countries, not just the USA, and it doesn’t just affect citizens of each country.  Many countries require a degree so that foreigners can get a work visa, yet that degree doesn’t mean the person is qualified to do the job.  Whether you’re a local or a foreigner, choosing a new employee based on credentials is like playing “pin the tail on the donkey” – you never know which part of the jackass you’ll hit.  So, you may ask: “Why would a government insist on it?” Because it’s easier than telling the Department of Labor to investigate each applicant for a work visa to determine their worth. By reducing it to a piece of paper, the government does the least amount of work and all the consequences are placed on the shoulders of the employer.  The sad truth is that, if a governmental department doesn’t perform due diligence by verifying the degree, then it is easy for employees and employers to falsify documents.  In some countries, the fake document business is an industry unto itself.


Not only is it an imperfect system but there are universities and colleges actively seeking to rob students, banks and governments. They provide low quality education and some are “fly-by-night”. Others, such as some community colleges, can’t provide a good enough education and thus rob their students of a better future, including actual job opportunities upon graduation. And then there are the degree mills – fake universities and partner companies that give you a degree if you pay them money. They lie about accreditation – often creating their own accreditation organization on a separate website, and have no physical location or teaching staff. Their whole goal is to rake in money for a piece of paper that I could just as easily photoshop as as pay for.
A friend of mine who is a stock trader wrote:

“I guess it all depends upon what one is seeking to learn. Personally, I believe one’s education never stops, and the vast majority of it occurs at the “school of hard knocks”. I’ve generally considered a degree to be a piece of paper that grants access to a higher “caste”.. (management.. etc).. Because most of what we learn to do at a job, is provided by job training when you get the job (or working with others who tell you what to do and how to do it).. Only a Tech school might prepare you for a specialized task..We’ve all known people who are “educated beyond their intelligence” and who display a lack of common sense. Having that degree, by no means, displays competence in that field.

And I agree with Glenn.. the educational system has become a true money machine. It has offered false promises of higher paying jobs, and put students into tremendous debt.. A debt they are not permitted to default on. But did that education really prepare people to function in society?”

I would add that the school of “hard knocks” is what happens when we resist learning and changing. I think how often you “go” there depends, in large part, on how much time you spend resisting learning what you should and applying it. Does that necessarily mean someone who spends a lot of time on self-improvement will escape “hard knocks”?  Nope, but such a person is likely to be hit by fewer of them since said person has already learned how to avoid many of them.  In other words, when you put a blanket over your head to avoid seeing the monster in the room, don’t expect for it to keep you safe. It is, after all, just a blanket. You need to take off the blanket and confront your inner demons so that you can improve.

 

Yet, some major companies (like QVC in the article I linked to above) such as Google are starting to change their hiring practices.  Instead of just looking for a degree, or a degree and experience, they’ve come to see that while these two things MAY indicate the quality of a candidate, they do not GUARANTEE the quality.  You can assume that academic results and ranking indicate how great the person is an employee, but that doesn’t show you how good that person is at working in a team, building relationships, or controlling his/her emotions, nor do those scores necessarily indicate abilities, creativity, problem-solving, wisdom, cleverness, grit or any number of other qualities that make someone better than the rest.  Experience from previous jobs may show that the person is highly capable but if you cannot verify this information through honest, unbiased communication with former employers, your ability to know his/her level of ability is hampered.  Neither academic results nor a resume will tell you about the person’s character.  Letters of recommendation can help in this area, but if you’re not good at inferring from them, you may miss hidden messages from the authors.

Ultimately, challenging a candidate to perform specific tasks, alone and/or in groups, with and without pressure, can give you a much better feel for that person’s overall intellect, quality, character, and ability,  as well as how good a match the person is for a job than a portfolio of documents can.

So, let’s return to the question that is the title.  Who absolutely MUST have a degree (in my opinion)?

  • Doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, midwives, nurses and anyone else for whom the absence of a degree makes performing that job a crime.
  • A job that requires a great degree of highly-specialized, technical knowledge (implying great intelligence) in order to ensure that the person knows enough to do the job well, such as a rocket scientist, nuclear physicist or psychologist.

Who probably SHOULD have a degree, but might be a great candidate anyways?

  • A job that requires specialized knowledge that can be learned at a university or through self-learning, such as engineering, architecture, biology, general physics, upper management, etc.

Who may or may not need a degree, depending on their personality and learning style, as well as how hard it actually is to independently learn the knowledge and acquire the skills?

  • Computer programmers, chemists, construction workers, librarians, lower-level managers and supervisors, sanitation workers, farmers, ranchers, etc.

There are plenty of other jobs out there that fall under the category of: you don’t need a degree if you’re willing to teach yourself, ranging from secretaries and fast-food workers to entrepreneurs and angel investors.

 

The most important thing otherwise is that you make a choice based on your own needs, learning style, and willingness to study unassisted, as well as what the government requires.

 

Remember, even if you don’t have a degree – you can still impress them in an interview.  Can’t get that interview, you say?  Well, then produce an example of your ability to get their attention so that they can’t help but call you in!

 

By the way,  teaching yourself isn’t easy.  You have to be willing to study a lot of things along the way that you didn’t anticipate, be disciplined and develop skills that support your success in learning this way.  But, it’s a lot more interesting, personally rewarding and cheaper than a degree and, ultimately, it may lead you in very unexpected directions that are far more exciting than what you’d originally decided on (with or without a degree).

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Teaching Is Not for Everyone

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Teaching is not for everyone.

It is not, of course, for those who are violent people, molesters, psychopaths, sociopaths, and drug dealers.

But, it is also not for people who have several of these qualities: impatient, easily angered, lacking in empathy, willing to bully or embarrass, uncaring, crass, callous, emotionally disconnected, overly strict, overly permissive or acidic.

There are a lot of different kinds of people who are teachers now, and they have all sorts of reasons for getting into education – and many of them are neither noble nor profane.  However, teaching takes a special kind of person. Sure, you need to know your subject matter well, and you need to understand different ways to evaluate and test, different teaching styles and methodologies, teaching tools, psychology, how the brain and body work, and so on, but it’s more than that.  If we want to advance humanity as a whole, we need to get much more selective on the candidates we consider as teachers. We need to become more careful, choosing people who are intensely committed, passionate and creative. Mediocrity will only lead to more mediocrity.

The Finnish people understand this. Every candidate teacher goes through a selection process after getting their education degree but before they’re allowed to take the rest of the training to become a teacher. If they fail the interview process, they do not get to be teachers.

So, what do you need to be a teacher?  Other than the obvious mastery of your subject matter:

-have and affirm high standards and expectations.
-passionate commitment, because this isn’t a vocation – it is an avocation, something you love to do and are committed to.
-a sincere desire to help students, because if you don’t want to help your students, you aren’t a teacher. Without students, you don’t have a job, but without teachers, students can still learn!
-patience, because you have to have enough patience to fill the Grand Canyon when dealing with so many different types of people.
-love of the world, because you cannot teach properly about the world if you don’t want to help make it a better place.
-empathy, because you need to be able to put yourself into the position of each student so you can understand their behavior and build a strong, healthy relationship with them.
-tolerance, because intolerance is a poison that destroys entire nations and maybe someday the world.
-temperance, because temperance of emotions sets the example for all and temperance of behavior keeps you out of trouble and gives them yet another example and because extreme attitudes breed hatred, not love.  Emotional maturity is a key to success.
-servitude, because being a teacher isn’t supposed to be about your ego or your status – it’s about facilitating students and, through them, making the world a better place.
-observational accuracy, because you have to be able to know your students’ strengths and weaknesses and be able to help and grade them without just relying on homework and tests.
-warmth, because many students don’t experience enough of it at home or in their neighborhoods.
-honest and genuine, because you are their example of good behavior and they will not respect you if they discover that you lie or see you as being fake.
-respectful, because they deserve to experience respect so they can become the best under your tutelage. They may not get respect at home, so it must be learned elsewhere that it is not what they think.
-loving, because teaching is, at its core, all about love, and the love of your students is such an amazing thing that you can work miracles through it.
-fair, because when you are unfair in the application of rules and grading, they know you’re a hypocrite and won’t respect or trust you.
-trustworthy, because without trust, there can be no genuine relationship with them, no respect, no real love.
-moderation, because the extremes of behavior (be it opinions, eating or activities) are usually not good for physical, mental, relationship and/or financial health.

Teaching is not for everyone. It is only for very, very special people. Many teachers lack some of the qualities it takes to be a great teacher, yet are overall great teachers.  There are, sadly, many others who lack several of the qualities and are just average (or worse).   The difference between a great teacher and an average one has been measured – more material covered, greater breadth and depth, higher grades, more interest from students, etc.  If you are aware that you are seriously lacking in these qualities, either change or get out of the profession.  Change is ALWAYS an option and I believe that there are many average and even poor teachers who could, if they made the necessary changes, become great!  If you think you have all these qualities, you might want to help change the world. No other profession has as much of an opportunity to make the world a better place.

Just to make it clear, I strongly urge anyone who is considering going into the avocation of education to not marry, or at least not have children. Your life will be full of your students’ needs, and that is like a VERY big family! 🙂  This is my personal feeling because I know that the 3 hardest jobs in the world are excellent parent, excellent spouse and excellent teacher.  Trying to juggle all three is extremely challenging!

Procrastination

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http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/10/why-procrastinators-procrastinate.html
The article I linked to is an interesting explanation (albeit partial) about why we procrastinate, but also why we do the things we shouldn’t do while ignoring the things that need to be done. Unfortunately, it’s partial as I said, but I think I managed to figure out another part of the puzzle.

When we go through school, we are always presented with a limited number of choices. It’s all nicely packaged to make it easy for us to consider the choices. The rare occasions in which we are presented with more than 2-5 choices come in the form of things like fill-in-the-blank exercises with a box of choices, or even without, or writing sentences and essays. Even in those situations, we’re generally given such a narrow scope to write on that it really doesn’t amount to much more than the FIB questions. Other than that, it’s a pretty safe, easy to understand world – so utterly different from reality. Everything is highly structured because, of course, people like structure. It gives us the illusion of comfort and safety and, thus, prevents us from being prepared for, well, that which we’ve not been prepared for.

For some people who, through outside intervention (family, friends, etc.) or because of a personal tendency in the way they think normally, stepping into the chaos of real life (or even university) is no big deal. Those people can still handle the huge variety of choices. But, for the rest of us, such an apparently lawless range of choices is daunting or terrifying. We want to retreat back into the world of a small set of choices because one thing school did NOT prepare us for is LIFE and the myriad of choices we have to cope with. Filling out a 1040EZ (that’s a US personal tax form), at a whopping 2 pages, becomes more than we can handle and we wait until the deadline to do and post it!

Some studies say that the higher a person’s intelligence, the better their decisions will be in a stress-free environment. BUT, in a stressful situation (life) the reverse becomes true – the higher your intelligence and stress, the less likely you are to be able to make good decisions. It turns out that your intelligence tends to prevent you from making good decisions because you can’t handle the stress! Did your teachers teach you how to handle stress? Did they teach you about abdominal breathing to relax? Did they teach you coping techniques? They didn’t, but they SHOULD have. Now, don’t go lynching your teacher – many of them don’t know how to cope, either!

I know that when I go shopping for something like shoes (which I have to choose carefully or else I’ll walk in pain forever), or even computer parts, if I don’t come prepared to take down notes, I will end up in a confused state and frustrate everyone around me. Is that even a stressful situation? No, unless I don’t take notes! I’ll go to store A, look at selections and think “Well, maybe this one, but I’d better go to those other stores” and by the time I’ve returned to store A, I can’t even remember which shoes I liked best, let alone which I haven’t even tried on yet! Then it begins – the dithering: walking back and forth between choices without doing anything that is actually constructive, looking around in confusion and whining to my wife before asking to go to another store!! This is a combination of problems including procrastination – I didn’t come prepared. I did not research what I wanted to buy so I’d know exactly what to do, and how much it should cost. I didn’t consider the way I should take notes in order not to confuse myself midstream. I didn’t break down different points of importance regarding the purchase – what I would consider serious selling points. And so on. So it wasn’t just procrastinating – it was lack of preparation.

I used to look at the dirty dishes sitting next to the sink and I’d get such a feeling of dread at the idea of doing THAT MANY dishes that I’d procrastinate. Now, of course, I have tactics that overcome that. First, I separate the dishes by type, neatly stacking up the plates, the bowls and grouping glasses, while putting the pots and pans in the sink to be done first and soaking all eating utensils. I know, I know, it sounds really anal!  This simultaneously makes the dishes appear to be fewer as well as more manageable. I have also learned that part of the problem is my MINDSET. If I go to the sink dreading what I’ll find, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If there are just a few dishes, “Ah, I’ll wait til later – this isn’t enough, (I hate washing dishes)”, then “Almost enough, I’ll check back later, (I hate washing dishes)”, and then, “OMG! There are TOO MANY DISHES! (run away from the dreaded task!)”. It’s a never-ending problem and I can remember dishes stacking up for at least a couple of days on a few occasions and, even in childhood, I remember the dread of JUST having to wash ONE dirty thermos until it got so moldy my mom had to force me! So, this was a combination of procrastination, visual overload, excuse-making and a destructive (negative) mindset which combined together to make me feel overwhelmed.

Teachers who get unexpected (but correct) answers from creative students who think outside the box that the teacher has tried to create may find themselves frustrated or having to deal with more than they had intended to – or, more often, ignoring it or making the student feel wrong (malignantly, benignly or negligently). It turns the teacher’s nicely boxed world into shreds when we answer with some other correct answer than the desired one – which may well be because the teacher wasn’t careful enough to define the parameters, or because there’s an exceptionally creative student in class – and the teacher is just as accustomed to structure and safety as the students. Many educational systems just aren’t designed to promote free-association and creativity because the makers feel that it’s just too difficult!

Also, teachers, you may find it helpful to remember that if the task you assigned is boring, the materials you use are boring, your methods are boring, (you get the idea), you should definitely stop being boring.  You are creating all sorts of problems, including poor attention, understanding, comprehension, retention and procrastination (people don’t like to do boring things).  I share with you this anecdote from Tom Layton:
“Many years ago a colleague came to me in frustration. She had a student who ‘simply cannot acquire vocabulary.’ Bring him in after school.

The first thing I noticed was a rolled up beat up copy of Hot Rod magazine in his back pocket. I opened it to a page that showed a hot rod engine. I pointed to one part of the engine and asked him what it was called and what it did. He told me, without hesitation, every part and its function.

Then I asked the teacher to name the same parts and tell me what they did. She could not name a single part nor did she know what it did despite just having every part identified for her.

‘One of you has difficulty learning new words, but it is not the young man.'”

From this simple example, we can see that the teacher had completely failed to engage the student, had made no effort to identify the student’s interests and, as a result, had mistakenly decided that the student had an inability to learn vocabulary.

So, our educational system doesn’t prepare us for all the myriad choices life will present us with, and that results in anxiety in people. The world is not neat and tidy, not simple, and definitely not what we were trained to face (which is to say, it’s not like school). Lack of choices in school makes us decision-averse in life. We cower behind the ABCD choices in the hopes that it will somehow make the big ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ1234567890 choices easier. Of course, that’s a recipe for disaster.

In the article I’ve linked to, the writer (a major procrastinator) talks about how he delays doing task after task in university until he ends up in a hypoglycemic state (ie: low blood sugar). This guy’s problem is not only did his educators not prepare him for life, or even university, but they also didn’t teach him the proper way to study, handle assignments, prioritize and, most importantly, break down a large and intimidating task into smaller ones that feel manageable and can have plans made to complete them.

So, the problem of being overwhelmed is because schools tend not to teach us how to break down a large task (such as, for example, a term paper or a big project) into smaller, easy-to-cope-with tasks, and they also tend not to teach us how to prioritize tasks, plan, problem-solve, and do other things that help make big things doable. Each teacher assumes a previous one has taught those skills when, in fact, a great number of life skills may never be explicitly taught in school, or are taught in such isolation from reality that students neither appreciate nor understand them.

If you want to read that author’s solutions for dealing with procrastination, click on his link at the bottom of his article.

Solutions

Part of the reason we procrastinate is because we feel overwhelmed by the challenge – like my anecdote about washing dishes.  When that happens, you need to stop looking at the thing you need to do as one task; most things are rarely just one task.  Break it down into major sub-tasks and figure out what order to do them in.  If it’s still too much for you to face, divide the sub-tasks into smaller ones, and/or schedule things so you don’t do all of them in one go.

So, what can we do to help stop procrastinating? For some people, to-do lists, prioritized and then broken down into sub-tasks that you then define a schedule for is the way to go.  In NLP, this is called WAW (“What do you want?” aka your goal,  “Are you ready?” aka detailed plan, and  “When will you start?” aka scheduling).  If you feel driven when you have every task you must do clearly written down for you, this is a good idea.

It doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some of us just aren’t interested in making lists.  And some people are driven mad by lists, or avoid looking at them.  You don’t actually need lists for everything.  I didn’t make a single list to overcome my procrastination with dishes – I just broke what seemed to be a very big task into smaller ones by organizing the dishes into groups and prioritizing them.  For you folks, I suggest you just start learning how to break down large projects into lots of small, easy-to-complete tasks, doing it in little allotments of time, or organizing it so it doesn’t look like a giant, slimy, tentacled mess of headaches!

W.A.W. aka G.P.S.

NLP practitioners are pretty clever about using words, so I don’t know why they didn’t decide to call WAW GPS (Goal, Plan, Schedule), instead.  It sure fits like a glove and gives a clear sense of direction (pun intended)!

Goal! a.k.a. “What do you want?”

You should start by writing down what you want (thing, action, result, etc.) in as much detail and with as much specificity as possible.  NLP practitioners call it the outcome, and each task needed to make it real is called a goal, but I think you’ll survive if you just use goal and tasks, instead.

Bad: A convertible car.

Better: An aquamarine 2015 Mercedes Benz B-Class Electric Drive, with an all-leather and stainless steel convertible top.

The more details you can put into it, the better.  Research it, find out all the possibilities that are available, and write down what you want – you can always add more later.  Use words that are objective (meaning that, no matter what your mood, or who reads them, they mean the same thing, such as colors, materials, size, shape, etc.) instead of subjective (beautiful, cool, interesting, motivating, etc.).  More is better!

Planning a.k.a. “Are you ready?”

Make a detailed plan.  Go ahead, dig into it and figure out every aspect of what you need to do in order to make it yours.  Again, details, specificity and completeness are key.  Each task may need to be drilled down even further until there is absolute clarity – until you can have anyone do it for you!  Yes, it’ll take time, but success only comes before work in the dictionary!

Choose just one significant (ie: genuinely important) task at a time and then breaking that large task (which may look like a mountain to you) into a series of smaller tasks that don’t make you feel overwhelmed and aching to run to your video games, blog, your mommy’s hug or favorite mind-numbing chemical comfort (eg: chocolate, ice cream, alcohol, narcotics…).


If you can, find pictures that represent your goals.  Write things you can look at repeatedly throughout the day and look at them when you wake up, when you are eating, when you are ready for bed and, well, any other time you need to focus.

I’m going to be a little repetitive here.
You should be very careful to write down your outcome, and each goal (milestone), and do so in a very detailed, specific and complete way. It is absolutely critical that you choose your words carefully because if what goes in (to your mind) is wrong, then your milestone and, ultimately, your outcome isn’t going to be exactly what you wanted. This rule also applies to writing down your plans.


Why do I say this? Well, whether you think with words or pictures, if they aren’t absolutely right, then what results (your outcome/goal) isn’t going to be absolutely right. If you don’t believe me, then try this experiment on how to screw up achieving your goal.

Decide on something that you want to buy, but you’ll need a couple of years to save up money first. Write down a description of it exactly as you’d like it to be. Don’t forget ANY details! Now, once you’ve got that description, go out and find a photograph of it but make sure that SOMETHING in the photo (it could be the color, or the model) isn’t exactly what you want. Every day, be sure to stare often at that photograph so that you can see it as clearly with your eyes closed as opened. Memorize every little detail while imagining finally possessing it and how great that’s going to be! Build up a massive desire for it. Then, after you’ve done that for a couple of years and have the money to buy it, go out and buy it.

Do you know what will most likely happen? Instead of buying what you wrote in your description, you’ll buy what you saw in the picture.

No matter which way you decide to break down monster tasks into small ones, you’ll find it’ll help a lot in getting rid of procrastination. Oh, BTW, you may want to practice slow abdominal breathing in case you start having an anxiety attack!  PERSEVERE and SUCCEED!

I almost forgot to mention something.   The outcome you achieve.  There’s another word for it:  DESTINY.  Don’t screw it up. 🙂

Scheduling a.k.a. “When will you start?”

Once you’ve defined all the main tasks and each sub-task in great detail, figure out the order they need to be done in. If there’s something you don’t know how to do, you’ll need to spend a little time finding out about it.


When you’ve got the tasks prioritized (yep, that’s what you just did!), you can then figure out when you need to do each of them. Deadlines and scheduling are important! I suggest that, like the second article suggests, you should tackle each task in manageable chunks. If it’s something that’s going to take a long time, make a commitment to work on it X minutes or hours per day at a specific time.
Eliminate all distractions before you start.

After prioritizing your tasks, you need to do something hard – schedule them.  Estimate how long each task will take and which tasks can be done within the same time period.  Then what date you will start and finish need to be written on your plan.  Yes, I know, scheduling seems like a pain but, once you’ve got it all down in writing, then you have deadlines and everything is just so much following the dotted line.  It’s easy!

Get Started!

Now that you’ve got it all written out, get some R&R, or stage a little party for having completed the task of preparing to achieve your desired destiny.  You will start when your schedule says to start.

BTW, delay gratification until later. Whatever it is that you love doing, use it as your reward for accomplishing an individual task by allowing yourself to do it only after you’ve accomplished a goal, but don’t overdo it!  Gratification is another motivation for you – so don’t waste it by doing it any time you want.


When you complete a major task on your list, it’s time to have a little celebration but, again, don’t go crazy. Save the big party for when the whole thing is done.

Don’t forget that a realistic timeline is important.  Also, when you start feeling tired, take a breather.  Come back at it in a few minutes.  In fact, take a fiver every hour or so.


But, hey, if you’re really enjoying (you’re “in the zone” or “in flow”) what you’re doing, it’s okay to keep on doing it. In fact, it’ll improve the results and make it easier for you.  But, be sure to differentiate “zone” from “workaholism”, which will wear you down.

Mindset

Another thing you can do is change how you FEEL about what you must do.  Remove any thoughts and words that are negative, and focus on how happy you’ll feel when it’s done (and you can go back to vegetating).  Instead of approaching something with a sense of displeasure, resentment or distress, turn your mind around and look forward to it.  Cheer yourself up and on!  It’s amazing how much power a constructive frame of mind has!

Focus

Eliminate distractions.  Set aside specific times of day when you just aren’t going to let anything short of a natural disaster pull you away from your scheduled tasks.  This may mean that you have to lock yourself in a room, go to the library to escape people, turn off your phone, disconnect Skype, IRC and YM!  You may have to tell your family that, during that time, you are in a different world and they should pretend that they can’t see or hear you, and they shouldn’t even TRY to bother you.

Anything that’s going to pull you away from what you need to do should be put away in a different area or room.  If it’s just too tempting, lock it up or ask someone to hold onto it for you until you’re done.

Relaxation

One great way to deal with stress is to relax.  Everyone has different ways of doing it, but you need to choose a method that isn’t going to leave you unable to carry on.  That means no alcohol, no drugs, and no high-speed driving!  Instead, read a book, watch a movie that makes you happy,  make love, take a nap, listen to music that calms you, meditate, pray, exercise or whatever else calm you down.

Try abdominal breathing, a.k.a. Qi Gong.  You can do it anywhere (although I don’t recommend the full program when you’re driving).  It’s simple, effective (the more you do it, the easier it becomes and can eventually work so quickly that only one or two breaths is enough) and can, quite literally, save your life or help you get a job.  When you’re stressed, your brain doesn’t work right.  This affects your higher-level cognitive abilities, especially concentration, memory, logic and creativity.  These are things you always need (even if it’s just a video game).

Some people say you need to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, or the reverse, but the point is to breathe.  Don’t breath into your rib cage, because it’ll limit how much you can take in – breathe down to below your navel.  Imagine your stomach is a balloon and use your diaphragm muscle to expand your lungs downward so you can take in more air.

Now, slow it down.  Eventually, you should be able to breathe in for 4 seconds, and out for 4 seconds, but don’t worry if it doesn’t seem possible, especially if you smoke or have asthma…or both.

The goal is to distract your attention so you can stop thinking and, as a result, relax.  Continue to control the speed of your breathing, but now you need to also focus on the feeling of your body breathing.  Notice each muscle involved and how your body moves.

Once you’ve got that, add in the sound of the air whooshing in and out.

Now add to your list of focuses the temperature of the air as it goes in, and as it comes out.

Not quite enough – add to that the humidity of the air.  Does your throat feel dry?  How about your nostrils?

If you’re into internal energy, imagine your “chi” moving in a circle, up your spine, into your brain, down your sternum to a point about 1″ below your navel, then to your rear and up again.

Repeated practice – I suggest at least 2-3 times a day – will yield a fast relaxation time, even under high-stress conditions eventually.   It can even help an insomniac get to sleep (insomniacs usually think too much at bed time).

Conclusion

Remember, you’re doing this to achieve your destiny.  Your future is in your hands!  If that makes you break into a cold sweat and shake in your boots, you’d better do some breathing right now.

The world is not your oyster.  It is your oyster with a giant pearl!

About My Education Articles

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I am working on a series of articles about education and putting them up here, on Facebook and LinkedIn because I want feedback on how to make them better.  It is my hope that, through this feedback, I may gain valuable insights into how people think and what they need to help them with educational matters, as well as new knowledge that will help me improve the overall content and quality of my work.

Audience

The primary target audience is parents worldwide.  If you think about that, I have given myself a very big challenge:  how to write an article that will be accessible to almost everyone and, more importantly, how to make sure that they’ll actually be able to use the information effectively without it becoming such a burden for the average reader that their heads start spinning, they close their eyes and stop reading. This is not to say that parents are stupid, but I have to honestly acknowledge that reading for some people is not easy, and some techniques that a parent could be asked to use might be beyond their ability to perform for lack of knowledge, comprehension and/or skill.  There are many parents who are disadvantaged throughout the world, so I have to keep in mind the challenges they might face because of what I write.

The secondary target audience is novice teachers and administrators, as well as politicians, policy makers and others who don’t actually know a lot about education and need a point to start at in order to learn more about education.

I realize that it may not be feasible to address these two target audiences at once, and that at some point I may need to separate things.

I am not targeting academics, nor highly skilled educators and administrators who have dedicated themselves to progressive, transformational, and learner-development centered teaching with the possible goal of independent learning (learner-led development and learning), because they probably know more than I do and may not appreciate my populist approach to writing these articles.

For some articles, like the “Evaluating Schools” series, this will be almost exclusively targeted at parents, although I have been told that novice administrators and teachers might find them useful.  The “Evaluating Schools” article is actually intended for parents who are looking for a school but, I suppose, they could be used to help evaluate the school someone’s child is already at.

Style

As a result, I am not going to use 3rd-person writing, nor will I have footnotes and bibliographical numbers sprinkled throughout, and I don’t want these articles to be boring, clinical or dry.  I hope that they will edify, aid, pique curiosity and perhaps occasionally make someone smile or laugh.

Since this is for public consumption, not an academic journal or a university presentation, I am not citing resources. Don’t see that I’m achieving those goals?  Then please provide me with suggestions on how to achieve them.

Reason/Motivation

I am doing this because I have observed a serious lack of awareness amongst parents, policy makers, novice teachers and even classically trained teachers and administrators about certain things, like how to determine if a school is good, whether a teacher is an excellent one, and what a teacher can do to improve. Since it is hard to improve education in an area without parental comprehension, consensus and buy-in, and that is hard without socialization, my primary target is parents. I consider the most difficult targets to be certain administrators, politicians, business people and union leaders (but, certainly, I am not willing to say all or even 50% of any of these groups fits the category, and there are those amongst teachers and parents who are also very difficult).

Parents, policy makers and politicians, as well as business people, tend to make mistakes when it comes to education.  They may think: “What was good enough for me is good enough for the kids”, “Drop ’em into the wild and they’ll either get eaten or turn out great!”, “We need more workers!”, or any of a number of inane and selfish rationales to keep education the way it is, all the while claiming that public education is in good shape.  Yet, if public education is so great, why do the rich people send their kids to the most expensive schools and universities, the middle class who can afford it send their kids to private schools they hope are good enough, and the rest rarely have any choice?  No, even educators who are classically trained may fail to see the “forest because of the trees”, and we must be honest and say that corruption, selfish interests and even more destructive ones currently destructively impact education worldwide.

Honestly, I believe that education is the key to improving the world.  I believe that, with appropriate changes worldwide, we can turn this sinking ship of humanity into a pinnacle of amazement.  I do not believe that politicians and policy makers can ever hope to achieve what I dream of without buy-in and assistance from parents, teachers and administrators who care, because the money-driven influence of businesses will always force compromises that will not always (or, perhaps, often) be in the best interests of humanity’s future (although most certainly they will be to their short-term financial benefit).

Request for Help
Recognizing my own limitations, I realize that what I’ve produced has problems and that I’ve missed some things that are needed. I am trying to make sure that no one article is so long that people run away from it as if it feels like a burden, yet not so short that it is fluff, either.

I am hoping to find people who are willing to provide me with feedback. If you are willing to help me attempt to improve the world (not to sound lofty, but it’s truly my goal), please make a comment below, on Facebook or LinkedIn (Glenn McGrew II).  I would greatly appreciate it if you keep the feedback constructive, down-to-Earth and civil.  And practical!  Theory is wonderful – but it is only theory, not law or axiom – and it tends to lack something when applied to reality.

“Be the change you want to see.” Oh, what a difficult thing that is! 🙂

Clarifications

I am not targeting any particular stage of education.  There are reasons for this which I will eventually make clear.  If I make a comment about a particular age or stage, I will try to make that clear – but I might forget.

I have seen people say “I don’t want my children to be experimented on!”  I would like to point out that, for a theory to be proven or disproven, it MUST be through experimentation.  No matter how often you run a theory through the experimental lab in your mind, it will never catch all of the nuances and challenges that we humans put into everything.  We over-complicate, disrupt, distract, devalue and generally make a mess of even the best of theories and hopes.

In other words, if there is no PROPER experimentation, there can be no refinement, no discoveries of what works, and no hope to improve education, or the world.  Did not virtually all of the inventions of the last several hundred years not come as a result of experimentation – sometimes even life-threatening and life-taking ones?

You might say: “Well, then, I’ll home-school!”  Great.  Then YOU will be the experimenter because you probably don’t really know what you’re doing, and you’ll only have yourself to blame for each mistake you make. 😛

Admission

These articles are a culmination of my experiences in education, my research about it and conversations with educators  and those in related fields, as well as deep thought on the subject.  However, I don’t know everything about education.  I seek to improve my understanding on as frequent a basis as is humanly possible, balancing earning money and my family with this.

 

My experiences may not match those of other educators, so I may not have envisioned things that should be in my articles.  Likewise, just because you have never experienced things I write about (especially corrupt practices in education) doesn’t mean they don’t exist – I write based on the reality I have experienced.

 

So, if you have contributions to make that might fill in holes in what I present, I welcome and encourage them!  Please don’t expect, however, that I’ll remove things I know to be true just because you have never encountered them.  Nevertheless, you’re welcome to share your opinion, as long as you are civil and respectful.