On The Defensive

What are we waiting for?

I’ve always prided myself in athletics on my defensive positioning. I spent a lot of time acquiring a skill in knowing where and when certain things were likely to occur.

This enabled me to anticipate a steal, a turn-over, a loose-ball, and essentially when I would have try to get a step on my opponent.

I played centre defence in soccer for the better part of 15 years, because I would rather take the ball away from someone trying to score than be the person to score.

Defence to me is really about timing.

In fact, my offensive skills as far as I was concerned were secondary to my defence.

I firmly believed the affirmation that ‘defence wins games.’

And to that point, ‘offence gets the girls,’ but that’s another story altogether. Continue reading On The Defensive

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Critical Thinking, A Lost Art?

I had a conversation with a very successful person last year that still resonates with me.

A retired successful business person, now college professor, they expressed to me just how much they believe critical thinking is lost on their post-secondary students.

After further discussion this person revealed, that through their teaching over the last 15 years, they have noticed a trend among young people in their ability to apply critical thinking skills to testing and comprehension.

Most reports and tests, this person now marks, are almost word for word interpretations of the textbook or what they believe the professor wants to hear.

The conclusion this professor came to, through observation, was that we — or at least these students — are getting worse at applying critical and creative thinking processes to real world applications. Continue reading Critical Thinking, A Lost Art?

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Linear Expectations

More appropriately titled, 'Skepticism and Why You Should Think Critically of Everything'

I read somewhere recently that the average person only reads 100 books in their lifetime.

I read a lot.

In fact I probably read more than 100 books in the last 2 years.

One of which, I more recently read, is to the right.

As a young man I used to think Philosophy was this silly kind of abstract way of thinking, that had no bearing on real life and consequently avoided it as a subject in school almost entirely — save for one elective here or there.

I’ve since matured a little bit. I now view philosophy as directly relating to my sense of spiritual well-being. I’m not religious, I’m fairly agonistic actually but I believe in human spirituality and I think philosophy now might be the best way to embrace your own sense of spirituality. Continue reading Linear Expectations

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Tracking vs Doing

As I’m building a web app myself and hopefully several more to follow that build off of that system in the realms of the iPhone, iPad, and probably Android, I can’t help but notice the competition in the field of tracking applications.

There are hundreds of them.

There are apps for tracking everything, calorie counters, energy expenditure counters, there are even apps now that claim you can track anything, or everything. The latest pitch I got was literally, “our software will track anything for you.”

This would be fine I suppose for the data centric entrepreneur or individual, but what they almost always fail to address is the need for qualitative data.

Now there are some companies out there that are really qualitative trackers like bloggertumblr, other blogging platforms, idonethis and even Evernote. Continue reading Tracking vs Doing

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How to Become an Expert in Anything

Coach It

As a sub-set of that, Teach It.

As a sub-set of that, become a Mentor.

Seriously…

Michael Ellsberg wrote a good book this year. I say good and not great because I think he made an even better summary in this article (but you should still read the book). Actually I think his article for Tim Ferriss’ blog, may have been one of the best written and most useful blog articles (that I personally read) of 2011.

As a general advocate for education reform and as someone who considers it basically my job to educate others, I have been very intrigued by the study of expertise acquisition. When I see it presented in as simplified a method as Mr. Ellsberg does, I’m hopeful that people change their perception of education, back to that of a coaching model.

In the article, Michael Ellsberg lays out 8 steps to getting what you want without formal credentials. Of the 8, 5 are inherently linked, and perhaps ironically linked to the old coaching model.

  1. Choose your new field of learning (Decide what expertise you wish to seek)
  2. Showcase your learning (start a blog, read 16 or so, of the top books in the field you wish to explore, and write a blog post about each)
  3. Within Your Budding Social Economy, Start Working For Free (essentially an apprenticeship)
  4. Develop case studies of your work (essentially reflect upon your apprenticeship through your blog)
  5. Develop relationships with Mentors (Coaching!!!)

Honestly, what ever happened to this model of education?

In the days of Aristotle, Plato sought Aristotle’s teachings and learned directly under him. Leonardo Da Vinci studied, not at a University, but with master practitioners like Verrocchio. Benjamin Franklin apprenticed in the printing business under his brother James.

My own formal education (particularly at a University level) seemed more poised to develop me as a Researcher or  University Professor. Neither of which I really wanted to end up as, but oddly enough I love researching ideas on my own time and spend the majority of my professional life teaching others how to enhance the quality of their lives.

Retroactively speaking, I believe I’ve learned far more from practitioners, mentors and coaches than I did in any particular university class.

What I think Ellsberg is proposing, is essentially a return to this style of learning.

A heavy highlight from the article is that employers are looking for skill sets, not the typical education of today.

I’ll say that one again, people want skill-sets, not credentials.

As a coach I’ve been preaching skill acquisition as a strategy for most of what ails you as an individual (particularly in health and fitness) because it just plain works.

When you learn new skills though, and you then teach it and coach or mentor others, this is how you really develop expertise in my opinion. It forces you to analyze data and critically think about the application, creating the necessity of learning to dissect information and make it your own.

It also taps into the many input methods for learning (forget about your learning style, it’s bunk). With a coaching style of teaching you expose students to various visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, interpersonal, linguistic, social and other stimulus that are critical in development.

The 9 types of intelligence.

A cornerstone in your quest to become an expert should be to develop good skills.

On a final note, the only reason, I say Michael Ellsberg’s book is good and not great, is sadly because these four authors beat him to the punch on the acquisition of expertise.

The Four Best Books Written on Talent Acquisition:

  1. Talent is Overrated
  2. The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance
  3. The Talent Code
  4. Bounce

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