Keep on learning…

October 26, 2020

In his blog, Jack’s Winning Words. Today, Pastor Freed used this quote from poet Robert Frost – “When I was young my teachers were the old.  Now when I am old my teachers are the young.”  He went on to write –  I remember seeing poet Frost read one of his poems at JFKs presidential inauguration.

I guess I must be getting old, too, because I also remember seeing Robert Frost at JFK’s inauguration on TV. At the time, I marveled that I got to see and hear a great poet that I had only read about in school before that. Of course that was back in the day when poetry and literature were still taught in school, along with writing in cursive.

When we are younger we look to older people to learn from, because we believe that they have learned things that we don’t know but would like to  know. As we become adults, we look to the people around us who may have already had experiences that we have not yet had. In addition, as we get older we look to younger people because we are sure that they have adopted and learned about new things that we have yet to try – like how to operate our smartphones.

The real point is to keep trying new things, experiencing new things and learning new things. By learning we continue to grow and life continues to be interesting. To stop learning is to just exist; and that quickly becomes boring. Every day we should wake up with a desire to learn something new and every evening we should be able to look back over the day and ask ourselves what we learned today. Sometimes taking that time to think about the lessons of the day is the only way to really understand that you did learn something today, even if that lesson was what not to do again tomorrow.

Maybe you can start your day by adding to your prayers, “God help me to learn from the directions that you take me in today.” Then at night add, “God let me see your hand in the events of the day and learn from them.” If nothing else, stopping to reconnect with God will make it a better day and, who knows, you might learn something, too.

I think this quote from Mahatma Gandhi is a good philosophy to live by – Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.  

What will you learn today?

No worries, no regrets…

January 22, 2018

The little phrase “No worries, mate” became popular when the Crocodile Dundee movies came out and it is still widely use, albeit without the “mate” part. In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack reports on an article that he read – An article in Psychology Today asks, What is the worst emotion you can imagine?  Sadness, or maybe, fear, anger, frustration?  The P.T. writer claims that it’s, regret.  How often have you said, “If only..?”

How sad it would be to go through life constantly saying “If only I had…” If only I’d triedturtle that. If only I had said something. If only I had introduced myself. If only…



Resolve today to overcome your fears of trying or doing and get more out of life. Life is meant to be experienced, not just thought or worried about. The time that you spend worrying about possible bad outcomes could have been spent enjoying a new friendship or having fun doing something that you’ve never done before.

How much fuller your life would be if you occasionally had to say, “Well that didn’t work out like I hoped, but at least I tried and I learned something from having tried”; rather than constantly regretting that you didn’t even try and wonder how it might have turned out.

handshakeSo summon up the courage to try this week. Finally say hello to that person that you cross paths with every day and have always wanted to meet. Try somewhere new for lunch, maybe that little place that you have always wondered about trying. Take advantage of that free trial offer at the gym to see how working out might be for you. Accept that invitation that you’ve always turned down to join in an activity at your church or in your community. The key is doing it and not just thinking about it.

We use the phrase “I’m in a rut” to describe our lives sometimes and sometimes that rut can get so deep that it’s hard to get out of, hard to try new things. Break out of your rut this week and see if your life doesn’t become a little more interesting and enjoyable. You’ll never know if you don’t try and then you’ll just regret not having tried. At least if you try you’ll have some new memories to think about and learn from. You won’t regret having tried.

Take the chance and try this week.

Keep your mind’s bank open for life…

June 7, 2017

Recently Pastor Jack Freed used this quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words“What you put into your mind before you are 21 is like a bank account.  You will be drawing on that for the rest of your life.”  (Yo Yo Ma)

While it is true that the things we learn in our formative years, during which many of us were in schools at various levels, it is also true that we continue to learn throughout our lives…if, our mind’s bank remains open.

There is a popular book titled, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. The author focuses on the mores and character of our lives than on our knowledge and wisdom in that book. The fact is that, if we keep an knowledge inopen mind (open to learning new things), we can continue to learn and add to our bank account of knowledge until our last day. One can, and must, keep a sense of wonder about the things and people around us to keep learning. How do things work? Why do things happen? Who is that person and what can I learn from them? We must keep inquiring, questioning and wondering all of our lives in order to keep the bank accounts open. “There are few things more pathetic than those who have lost their curiosity and sense of adventure, and who no longer care to learn.” ― Gordon B. Hinckley.

It is rather common for young people, especially those still in school, to not understand the future value of what they are forced to learn in school. The common lament is “Why should I learn this, I’ll never use it?” In fact, that person may never use the exact things insightthat they are being taught; however, many things that are taught in school are taught within the context of a process and understanding the process is as important as understanding any single fact or equation. Most of the so-called STEM subjects fall into that category. Some subjects are lumped into a broad category called “enabling knowledge”, which is meant to establish a context in which the world can be better understood. Those topics may include social studies and history. Finally, a few may be classified as “enrichment” topics, such as art classes; which are meant to broaden or enhance our perceptions of the world around us. In truth, epecially once we get out of school, George Whitman put it well when he said – “All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.”

Some people seem to shut down the desire to learn more when they get out at whatever level of schooling they stopped, while others continue a life of wonderment and learning. A life well-lived might be better measured by what one has accumulated in the bankbrain map of one’s mind, rather than the money accumulated in regular banks. In the financial world there is the concept of compounding (interest earning interest) and in the bank of one’s mind there is the concept of wisdom. The interest that one earns on all of that accumulated knowledge is called wisdom. Instead of just drawing on what you learned as a student in school, heed this advice from Albert Einstein – “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

worriesSo, keep your mind open to learning, to acquiring new knowledge and new ideas and view them as deposits into your mind’s knowledge bank. It is a wise man indeed who never stops making deposits in his bank of knowledge. Henry Ford hit upon another reason to keep learning – “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Stay young my friends – keep learning.

Learn from and enjoy the detours in your life…

October 19, 2016

From a recent post to my favorite blog, Jack’s Winning Words“Sometimes the shortest path between two points is serpentine.”  (Christopher Penfey)

Jack went on to write about how sometimes the shortest (easiest) path in life isn’t the best or most interesting path to take. In the world of exercise and fitness it is well known that weight-liftingresistance is the key to building muscle (to increased strength and growth). In life, too, the twisting path or detours offer the type of resistance that allows us to get stronger and grow as human beings. We learn little from the straight and easy paths in life.

It is difficult for most people to appreciate a detour in their life when they encounter one. maze with help signIndeed it is the unexpected nature of those detours that prevent us from planning ahead for them. We can, however, be better prepared mentally for dealing with them. Perhaps it will take us a few moments of reflection to calm down and accept that life has taken yet another turn and that we must do something other than panic about it. In many cases the bend that life may have just taken you around can be very enjoyable. Some of the best times in my life were not the result of planning, but rather just happenstance – another detour that life took me on. I’m sure that all of us can recall some unplanned, but enjoyable event or place that we visited. Those were some of life’s little detours.

The key it seems to me is to be able to take life as it comes at you and deal with
it in as positive a manner as you can. Not every day will be a happy day. Not everything happy in rainthat you try will result in success. The secret is figuring out how to use this resistance that life throws at you to grow and get stronger and the key to that is keeping a positive attitude about life. You can start on that by taking to heart this little saying by Joel Osten –

“Nothing happens to you, it happens for you.”

Perhaps your life has been full of detours; things that seemed to throw you off the course that you had planned for your life. Things happen for you to learn from. Things happen for you to enjoy. Things happen, so deal with them. Perhaps the best line in Jack’s post is one that he himself penned –

roller coaster“I’ve come to realize that the detours can be the best part of the journey.” ( Jack Freed)
So, learn to accept things as they come at you. Learn to enjoy and learn from life’s detours. Life is not a straight-line race to get to the end. The more serpentine it is the more time that you have to enjoy it. Enjoy the journey.

What will you get out of today?

April 16, 2016

“If you haven’t found something strange during the day, it hasn’t been much of a day.”  (John Wheeler) – from a recent post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I might have put it a different way – “If you haven’t learned something new today, it hasn’t been much of a day.” The thought is pretty much the same. Hopefully each day brings opportunities to learn something new. Some days may, in fact, present stranger things than others to learn from; but all days likely have something new that we should take note of, if we pay attention. Paying attention is probably the key to learning anything. So much of our attention these days is diverted towards the device in the palm of our hand that we miss many things going on around us.

Much of want you can learn on any given day comes out of the interactions that you have with the people that you encounter. All of them walk into your life from a direction that is handshake3different from where you were looking and they all carry different information and different points of view. Haven’t you ever wondered how things look from their perspective? If you encounter people with backgrounds that vary greatly from yours, maybe an immigrant or a person from a different ethnic group, haven’t you ever been curious how much different their take is on things than yours? Did you ever ask? What did you learn from that? It’s OK to start from the position of “I don’t understand you”; however, it is wrong to jump from there to “and I don’t like you, or I’m afraid of you, because of that.” Why not try to use the experience to learn something about that person. You may be surprised by who they really are.

Other learning opportunities grow out of the adversity that may come your way on any given day – roadblocks to achieving a goal or unexpected disruptions or rifts in a roadblocksrelationship with a friend or loved one. Not only can you learn problem solving techniques from each incident, but you also learn something new about yourself and about the other parties involved (and adversities almost always involve other parties). Try to make each encounter with adversity a learning experience.

Stop and ask yourself if you understand the differing point of view of the person with whom you are having some difficulty. Understand that whether or not you feel that their disagreement2point of view has merit; to them it is the perspective from which they are viewing the situation and the basis upon which they are making their decisions. Ask yourself if you
even considered that point of view? Now that you understand their perspective does it change your position at all? If not, why not? Obviously there are different ways of looking at the situation and no way to determine that your way of seeing it is the “right” way to see things. Maybe there is a compromise that you just have not yet considered. To overlook that possibility leads only to polarization and stalemate.

At the end of each day, take a moment to think back on the day and see if you can pick out the things that you learned during the day. That is a great way to actually make thosebored learning experiences a part of your knowledge base and a step towards turning knowledge into wisdom. What did you see today? Who did you meet today? What did you learn today? What did you get out of today?

What will you learn today and from whom?

July 13, 2015

“We learn something from everyone who passes through our lives…Some lessons are painful, some painless…but all are priceless.”  (Unknown)

talking-2We all learn in many ways. Some like to read; while some like to just go out and experience things and learn from those experiences. We also all meet people who pass through our lives and most of the time we learn from them, if we are paying attention. Sometimes we learn because they have something to share and pass on to us – an experience or bit of knowledge that they’ve picked up on their life journey. Maybe their shared experiences will help us avoid a mistake or help in our efforts to accomplish the same thing.

Sometimes the learning comes from how we react to the people that we meet and trying to figure out why. Are we drawn to them by their charm or repulsed by them because of their appearance? different peopleDo we agree with their opinions or do they offend us? Do we find the experiences that they may relate to us to be helpful or do we write them off as the blathering of an idiot? What can we learn about ourselves by looking at our reaction to them? Has a little bit of prejudice shown itself in our reactions? Have our preconceived notions been exposed? Did we wait to render judgement or jump to a conclusion that we may now regret, based solely on the appearance of the other person? What can we learn from that?

Life is full of opportunities to learn and doesn’t seem to follow a lesson plan. Things and people just happen in our lives and each occurrence represents a learning experience, if we let it. I think the key to turning life into a continuous learning experience is to be more cognizant of what’s going on around us and to embrace everything as a possible teaching moment. It is all too easy to “tune out” life around you these days. It talking-1is easier to keep your head down with your eyes focused upon the tiny screen of your phone that it is to see the big, wide world around you and all of the opportunities that are there. You should really give life a chance. It is a much more fascinating experience than the text messages and games on your phone.

So, start each day with the expectation and the anticipation that you’ll learn something new from someone today. Then, commit to make the effort to meet and interact with others in your search for that new knowledge. At the end of the day, think back on the encounters that you had with others during the day and all of the things that you learned. Those are lessons that would have been lost, had you not made the effort. If you have time, you can review the things that those people may have learned from you and reflect on whether what you learned today has changed your outlook on things. Maybe what you learned during the day helped knock another tiny edge off those prejudices that you had at the start of the day and that’s a priceless lesson.

Have a great and educational week ahead. I can’t wait to learn from you.

Take a risk and learn something today…

June 29, 2015

From my favorite source for topic inspiration, the Jack’s Wining Words blog, came this thought –

When you take risks you will find that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.”  (Ellen DeGeneres)

I believe that Ellen’s point is that you can learn something from both successes and failures and that makes them equally important. I posted here recently about not being afraid to take the first step. That advice was aimed at helping people see how to get over the fear of failure that holds many of us back.

take a riskIf you really take Ellen’s advice to heart you’ll actually move to a different level. That level says that we shouldn’t expend a lot of energy ahead of time worrying about possible outcomes and the risk of failing. That is all wasted energy and mental effort. Rather we should focus upon executing the current plan and then learning from it, no matter what the outcome. If we take a risk we go into it knowing that it is a risk and that the outcome may not be what we had hoped. Hopefully we also know what the risk was and remember what the alternative might have been. That way, we can assess the outcome in light of possible alternative for the next time that we try.

Probably the most insane thing that we could do is to take the same risk again without having learned anything from the failure of our first attempt. There is a definition of insanity that says that it is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome each time. Don’t go there. Frustration is the end point of that journey.

Maybe the risk that you can take today is to say “Hi” to that person that you’ve been dying to meet. What’s the worst saying hellothat can happen – probably that they ignore you altogether. Put on a smile and say, “Hello, I’m (your name goes here). How are you today?” You may be surprised that a large number of those people that you greet were just waiting for someone to say “Hi”. And, if that fails, what have you learned? Maybe that person that you thought would be so great to meet isn’t really all that great after all. Or, maybe you need to try a different approach. Try to learn from the experience.

Have a great and educational week ahead – trying new things and learning from your efforts, both successful and the failures.

It doesn’t have to be difficult…

September 13, 2014

“All things are difficult before they are easy.” – Thomas Fuller

Do you remember back to when you first learned to ride a bicycle without the training wheels? That was difficult for a while because you probably didn’t understand what your parents were trying to tell you about turning the way that you were leaning. Eventually you got it and then it became easy. Once you learned how, you never forgot how to ride a bike. Even if it’s been years since you were last on a bicycle, if got on one today you’d probably be immediately able to ride it.

afraidLife presents you with lots of new things that seem to be difficult, especially f you haven’t ever encountered them before. Most of them will eventually become easy for you, once you have some experiences trying to do them.

For some people, just meeting other people and carrying on a conversation with them is difficult, or it seems that way. People who are considered “shy” are usually just afraid of the situation because it is difficult for them. You can help make that easy by taking the initiative to talk to them. Sometimes all it takes is one person breaking the ice, in an otherwise embarrassing or scary situation, to get people started talking and interacting.

I have a role like that in our local Chamber of Commerce events – coffee clubs, ribbon cuttings and mixers. I’m a Chamber Ambassador. Ambassadors are a small group of Chamber members who commit to spend the time to go to Chamber events and act as hosts, especially for new members.  It is usually fairly easy to spot the newcomers at these events, because they are standing off to the side with that “deer-in-the-headlights” look on their face. Gatherings involving people who mostly know each other already can be intimidating. Everyone seems to know everyone else and no one knows you. That’s where I come in as an Ambassador. I take that new person around and introduce them to the others in the group and hopefully get them started talking. Most of the time that’s all it takes to break the ice and get them going in the group. It was difficult for them before and I try to help make it easy.

Sometimes things that initially appear difficult look that way because we just don’t understand them or have never done whatever it is before. That’s when some of our modern technologies can help. There is almost nothing that you can’t findknowledge funnel some information on in either Google or Wikipedia. In many cases you will find links to videos on YouTube or one of the other video sharing services. Those can be very helpful, especially if you are a very visual person. One can glean a lot from reading the instructions that come with every product, but see it in use ads immensely to our understanding. I used a floor leveling product earlier this summer and watched several videos about how to use it beforehand. That made all the difference for me. Probably the best piece of advice that I got from one of the video was “don’t overthink this thing.”

So, as you face something new and challenging; something that you see as difficult right now; seek out the available information and videos (if appropriate) and try to build your knowledge base before you tackle it. I think you’ll end up visualizing yourself being able to do it by following the instructions or advice that you get. Then it won’t seem quite so hard when you actually do it. The other thing that doing that level of planning will do for you is to cause you to be better prepared for the things that might go wrong. You will have thought about them ahead and can take steps to be better prepared. Go for it!

Work the room that you’re in…

September 6, 2014

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, find a different room.”  (Richard Rusczyk), as seen on a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Richard was not trying to be cute or sarcastic in his little quote; rather he was saying that you need to keep finding people who are smarter than you, so that you can keep learning from them. OK, there is probably a little underlying cynicism in that quote that has to do with even thinking that you are the smartest person in the room to begin with. Remember where the smartest people in the room at Enron ended up – in a tiny prison cell where they might be the only person in the room.

crowdI get to go to a lot of mixers and networking event in my role as an Ambassador for the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce. The people you meet at those events always seem to have something interesting to talk about and I often learn something new. Once everyone overcomes the natural shyness that comes with walking into a room fill mostly with people that you don’t know it can become a very rewarding experience. Part of my “job” as an Ambassador is to seek out people who are new to the group and introduce them around. It is usually fairly easy to spot the people who are off to the side with that “deer in the headlights” look of bewilderment in their eyes. Once they’ve met a few people and get into the conversations they are usually OK.

We all learn something from our interactions with others. Usually it is initially about them, their background or family or where they live and went to school; but, eventually you wander off into topics that contain new knowledgeQ and A for you, perhaps starting with their opinion about something and then on to why they have that opinion – what basis in facts do they purport to have for having reached their conclusion. You may have the reaction of “I didn’t know that” or you may store the so-called facts away and think to yourself that you will check them out later, because you don’t believe that they are true. No matter; you’ve learned something or you will in your follow-up research about the “facts” that you’ve just been given.

There may be occasions when you are, in fact, the smartest person in the room, in some sense; however, there are literally no occasions that I can think of where you cannot learn something else from someone else in the room. If you do not understand that and at least try to learn by interacting with the others in the room, you may, in fact, be the dumbest person in the room. So, you don’t have to find a different room; you need to do a better job of interacting and learning in the room that you are in.

Look around you and see the possibilities of learning from those who are in the room with you.

Three little words – grow through life –

May 22, 2014

lToday’s three little words post was actually inspired by a longer saying:

“Don’t go through life, grow through life.”  – Eric Butterworth

It’s oh so easy to fall into a pattern of just going through life. One can easily fall into routines and find a comfort zone that required little growth mentally and emotionally. I believe that this leads to people getting prematurely “old”. They may not be old in years, but they’ve become stagnant and old in their outlook on life and they act like it. Their answer to “How’s it going?” is always, “Same ole, same, ole.” They become boring to know and to be around, because they never try new things. Even worse is that, left unchecked or unchallenged, this behavior becomes a self-reinforcing spiral into old age and withering away. Avoid that fate by committing to grow through life.

Do you know people like that? Are you becoming a person like that? Maybe yo already are a person like that. How do you escape this trap? The key it is be committed to growing throughout your life, not just going through life. people with booksThat continuous growth can take many forms. One of the easiest is to remain committed to learning new things. That doesn’t have to mean taking classes in a school all of the time; it can be as simple as committing to reading books and magazines and newspapers and Internet Blogs to keep up with what is happening around you. What is happening around the world right now? What is happening in the U.S. that might affect you? How about in your state or your town; what’s happening locally? Now that you know about more of these things, what are you doing about it? Once you commit to continued learning you are committed to grow through life.

Growing also means doing. People who are doing more than just mailing it in with their lives are usually busy people. They are out volunteering at church or with community groups. These are the people who make things happen, who run the local events in your community. They collect food and raise funds. They serve the homeless tutoringand protect the weak and abused. They build houses on the weekends. They tutor and mentor at-risk kids.These are the people that you wonder how they can do it all; all the while they are wonder how you can see the same needs and not do something. They aren’t just out there working; they have committed to grow through life.

A wonderful and reinforcing side-effect of all of the education efforts and work and service that these people do is that it brings them in contact with so many others who are also committed to growing. They meet a diverse cross-section of life and have experiences that broaden their perspective on things. They begin to understand other cultures and races better through a shared commitment to serving others. They grow emotionally and intellectually because of those experiences. They do not settle into a dull routine; they just don’t have time for that. Ask them and they’ll tell you that they can’t imagine not doing what they are doing, because volunteer builderthey have committed to grow through life.

So, you have a choice. Do you settle in where you are in life and stop learning or participating in the community activities that are around you; or, do you grab a new chuck of life every day, every week, every month and never stop learning, never stop moving, never stop helping. When you are gone will people really miss you because they knew that you’d always be there to help; or, will they hardly miss you, because they couldn’t remember that you were still alive. You will always be alive in people’s minds when you commit not to just go through life, but to grow through life.