4 Simple Stepping Stones for Easy Learning



With so much information available online, it can feel like learning’s gotten infinitely more complicated. But what if it were as simple as crossing a creek by jumping from stone to stone?

Consider this example: I’ve got a book coming out in the fall of 2015, so I want to learn how to create a platform to launch it online. As I’ve been curating information, I’ve noticed that the steps of my learning process look a lot like the steps you take to cross a creek.

To start, I jump to the stone that’s immediately in front of me. I track down a useful resource, like Jane Friedman’s blog on writing and publishing. In a recent post, she announces an upcoming webinar with author Tim Grahl, in which he’ll share strategies to help authors successfully launch their books. I sign up for the free webinar, participate in it, walk away with great information, and then organize that information online in an Evernote notebook.

Next, I jump sideways, to a nearby stone, because it’s the best way to move forward again. I’ve been listening to Todd Henry’s podcast, The Accidental Creative, for nearly a year. Recently he interviewed someone whose website led me to someone else. On that website, I learned about Jeff Goins, an experienced author who’s built successful book platforms. Notice that I had to make several horizontal connections – step sideways several times – in order to find Jeff. But it’s been worth it. His resources have been invaluable. He’s got a terrific website, a thoughtful blog, and he maintains a helpful Twitter stream. I’ve now read his book, You are a Writer, and I regularly listen to his podcast, The Portfolio Life. And Jeff’s resources have allowed me to connect to several experienced authors who’ve shared insights on their book launches.

At this point, I realize I need to step on the stone behind me in order to keep moving forward. Counter-intuitive, I know, but a part of the process. While accessing information in my online feed, I learn that someone interviewed Jane Friedman a while back about ways to develop compelling content for a book launch. While I hadn’t planned to backtrack, I decide to find the interview and see if it’s worth listening to. After I find it, I realize it’s worth it, so I schedule time to hear it. I then take notes and add them to my Evernote notebook.

Finally, in the process of leaping to another stone, I wind up falling in the creek, that is, I get sucked into learning something that’s only tangentially related to my topic. During my research, I happen to listen to a podcast episode in which Jeff Goins discusses how online magazines, like Medium, are shaping the publishing industry. In it, he references several articles that I end up reading. Just as I’m experiencing the dopamine hit that comes from learning a new word like platisher, it hits me. I realize I’ve fallen in the creek — I’ve gone down an information rabbit hole. At this point I catch myself, regroup, and get back to my initial learning goals. I start looking for the next stepping stone, one that’s directly in front of me.

That’s how simple the learning process can be, especially when you’re passionate about what you need to learn or when there’s some urgency to it. Four simple stepping stones. Write me and let me know which creek you’re crossing.

5 Ways to Foster Young Children’s Emotional Literacy

Lisa-E-ReflectionIf you’re a parent or educator looking for concrete strategies for fostering young children’s emotional literacy, look no further!

Deborah Farmer Kris, educator, author, and parent, has mined the research and translated it  into “do-now” strategies you can use today.

Here’s a quick link to the article featured today in MindShift.


How Do We Know When We’re Settling?

photoSafety. Security. Stability. Three S words we can’t live without.

But there’s another word that starts with S: settling. And if we allow safety, security, and stability to rule our lives, we can end up settling. Then it gets harder to follow our dreams, take risks, or try something new.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell which S we’re living. That’s when we need to ask ourselves what’s driving the choices we’re making. These five questions can help: Continue reading

Nothing Beats Doing It for Yourself

BeautifulIf I told you that a metal paperclip can float on water, would you believe me?

What if I explained the chemistry behind it?

What if you saw it?

Better yet, what if you got it to float, learned why, and had to explain it to someone else?

I used to do these things when I was a chemistry teacher (teaching surface tension).

When I started teaching, I did a lot of explaining. That’s what I thought I was supposed to do.

Over time, I did a lot more showing. I set up and ran lots of demos, and I asked lots of questions.

Over time, I learned more about learning. Continue reading

When Small is Big

adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So you think small things don’t matter? Think again. They really do.

Four of us sat in a waiting room this week while a family member underwent brain surgery. There were about 30 others in the room waiting for family and friends to get through their procedures. People were anxious. They were worried. They were scared. We all needed a little levity.

On the table next to us was a phone. It was a hospital phone with an extension written in big black type on the receiver. Every few minutes the phone would ring. Since it wasn’t anyone’s job to answer it, my brother-in-law decided he’d make it his. Continue reading

To See and Be Seen

Mark Harkin

Mark Harkin

For five years post college, Amanda Palmer earned her living as a human statue in Harvard Square. Known as the “eight-foot bride,” her face painted white, she wore a traditional bridal gown and veil and stood on a crate. Whenever a stranger dropped a coin or a bill or a note or a trinket of some kind in her jar, she’d come alive, make eye contact, and dramatically gift the stranger a flower.

What Amanda wanted, more than anything, was to be seen: “That was absolutely true. All performers – all humans – want to be seen; it’s a basic need. Even the shy ones who don’t want to be looked at.” Equally important to her was the desire to see: “I didn’t quite grasp this until I had been up on the box for a while. What I loved as much as, possibly even more than, being seen was sharing the gaze. Feeling connected.Continue reading

We’re Running out of Excuses

T Shirt“Complaining is stupid. Either act or forget.” – Stefan Sagmeister

It’s getting so that the only reason we won’t spend our time doing the work we want to do will be because of us.

Because we’re afraid. Of criticism. Of how hard it might be. Of how long it might take to get good at it. Of the dip.

But, here’s the thing. We won’t have any excuse not to. Why? Because there are too many options out there to make it happen.

Let me show you what I mean. Continue reading