Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, editor of Fortune magazine, is an epic volume based on 30 years of research, basically disproving the generally assumed "fact" that people are blessed with talent. By looking at examples such as Mozart and Tiger Woods, he essentially dismantles the idea that elite performers are blessed with an innate gift, and proves that rather it is the result of the 10,000 hour rule - that is, that In order to achieve mastery at anything, one must practice deliberately for over 10,000 hours. To give you an idea of how long that is, it is equal to about 417 days. Or, at 3 hours per day, roughly over nine years. Thus, the ten-year rule was born. You have to practice something deliberately for 10 years to "master" it.
But that begs the question, "What about people who practice their profession and never get better, or even get worse with time?" Colvin's answer is a habitual process he calls "deliberate practice" based on the research of Anders Ericsson, a world-class expert on world-class experts. Deliberate practice must be designed specifically to improve performance, it must be repeated endlessly, the practitioner must seek continual feedback and coaching, it is inherently a demanding enterprise, and the last caveat? It isn't really considered "fun" by anyone who practices this way. It is not "inherently enjoyable".
So what is the good news? The glimmer of hope this book presents is that anyone can be exceptional at anything - if they spend over 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. His research findings use examples from chess, ice skating, music, sports, business, and more. I have started to apply this practice to my teaching practice in instructing English as a New Language in a suburban high school. This has taken the form of my taking a targeted skill to improve, such as using carefully crafted questions to ignite inquiry in a student to propel them towards their own solution of their problem, versus carefully scaffolding support to offer a solution. This has been beneficial as students learn to become more independent solution-seeking learners adept at problem solving and struggling for gains versus being handed neat little educational support packages that produce little gains in terms of teaching them how to struggle to master a concept, apply a scientific idea to a problem, or overcome a stumbling block to comprehension.
In fact, I have applied deliberate practice to many different skill sets in teaching, including but not limited to: using humor to deflect possible behavioral issues and personalizing questions about educational background to identify possible weaknesses and/or educational gaps. I have also applied to it my yoga practice while focusing on alignment, breath control, and body mechanics to name a few discrete goals. I have made it my approach of late, before I begin an activity in which I would like to improve; be it art, yoga, teaching, or writing, to set a small, specific, and achievable goal which I can assess at the end of practice to determine how I have improved or determine how I can improve further through coaching or cycles of observation and feedback.
So next time you write off a symphony, masterpiece of artwork, or other remarkable feat as the domain of only the truly talented, check out Geoff Colvin's book, Talent is Overrated; or Anders Ericsson's book, Peak. It just might widen your horizons and ignite your passions.
It seems to be on everyone's lips today: educators, mindfulness speakers, reporters, authors, and more. As Tara Brach observed, today's commentary on resilience is not your father's "if you fall off the horse - get back up". But rather it is a close examination by researchers, authors, and bloggers like me to ask - what is this quality that leads some to thrive after setbacks; and others (without it) to seem to curl up and wilt like a plant left in the shade? Call it resilience, grit, flexibility, fortitude, or mettle - we all have our way of testing this in ourselves. Whether it's signing up for a triathlon, staying up past midnight to get those bills in on time, or deciding to finally pursue that degree no one ever told you were capable of - we all know when we have it - and when we don't.
What Navy Seal Eric Greitens posits in his book titled, "Resilience" (an account of his letters to a veteran Navy Seal grappling with PTSD) is that resilience is not only a quality but a virtue, and like any other virtue, can be practiced, improved, and perfected through the use of certain tenets. His premise that what often victims of PTSD or other trauma victims need is a challenge and not a victim-mentality, resounds with appealing logic. His reasoning follows that often what people lack after tragedy or loss is purpose - a person to love, a child to care for, a mission to accomplish (for a soldier), or simply any reason at all to get out of bed. Purpose and challenge, when appropriately discovered and pursued in incremental and increasing amounts over time; can lead to a renewed sense of self, and raison d'être that might have not existed before the setback.
As I tell students, sometimes when we break in a certain place, we scar. We are not the same, but we can be stronger in the place where we broke, just like our bodies after injury. Now I've heard that some buddhist monks pray for suffering enough so that they will receive grace. And I guess that's one way to go about it. But usually I have the attitude of acclaimed author, psychologist and meditation teacher, Tara Brach about these inevitable FGOs (f*#$ing growth opportunities) - I bargain with God, I wish them away, and I resist as much as any one else would. However, if looking back grants us the wisdom that can only come from hindsight; I have to admit that each adversity I have faced has granted me a unique gift - humility, grace, empathy, compassion, and of course resiliency.
If resiliency is a virtue, then how do we practice it? I would suggest the advice of Admiral William McRaven, "If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed...." as he proposes in his 6-minute viral video available here. It seems to be the "first" thing you do that is the hardest - the first day without cigarettes, or flossing the first tooth, or putting on your gym shoes, or like he says, making the bed. So much of resiliency after trauma can be around basic functioning - keeping up with basic hygiene, not letting the laundry go until you have no clean clothes, getting to sleep at a reasonable hour. But if you have a reason to get up in the morning - a mission, a goal, a job interview, or a to-do list for the day - that is a great start.
Eric Greitens gives many examples from literature, philosophy, history, and his own experiences to paint a rich picture of what resilience may look like, how it is cultivated, and how to practice it (meditation, prayer, journaling, therapy, AA, exercise, work, family, etc.) but he insists on first finding your reason for getting out of bed in the morning first, and practicing putting one foot in front of the other; building each day's activities more and more until you have a purpose-driven life. Because after all resilience is nothing else if not persistence despite setbacks. So whatever that looks like in your life or expression of being - practice it diligently in the pursuit of excellence and you will live as the great philosophers, soldiers, and artists lived - a life guided by hard-won wisdom.
Well if fitness is your question than shopping may be your answer! If you are not a fitness enthusiast but aspire to be one, a quick trip to Best Buy or the App Store may be the difference between a morning on the couch or a morning on the run. What could make fitness more fun than adding a heart rate monitor, GPS, calorie tracker, step counter, sleep monitor, and personal trainer to your wrist! That's what you get in the Fitbit Charge 2 for around $150. And if you're a sucker for rewards, stickers, and cheering you also get that through badges, notifications, and soaring rocket graphics when you reach your step goal for the day.
The Fitbit 2 takes the concept of monitoring to the next level with up the minute information on how many calories you have burned so far (resets at midnight), heart rate, and step counter. I found this monitoring to be highly motivating. I immediately wanted to increase my steps to have good data, and was drawn to upping the number of active minutes per day. Easy heart-rate tracking led me to safely increase the intensity of my workout and know when to rest (something that is not totally obvious to everyone through breath and signs in the body). I can easily start and stop a workout and get stats immediately afterwards such as miles, time, pace, calories burned, steps passed, average heart rate, maximum heart rate and more! And it's so easy to set up.
You open the box, enter some basic data (gender, age, weight, etc), sync it to your phone's bluetooth, enter a number assigned to your Fitbit on your phone and it installs itself! (It takes about 10 minutes and must be plugged into a charger). Also, it needs to charge for about 30 minutes every 4 days and can't go in the water. However, it's not a problem for those of you sweaty chics out there - it's water resistant! All in all, I feel like it has taken my fitness to the next level and you will have a tremendous return on your investment! I'm totally addicted!
As a corollary, I wanted to also write about a fabulous app I found through Facebook (an advantage of targeted marketing on social media - they advertise things I want!). It's called Aaptiv. There is a 7 day free trial - then it's $10 a month. It's TOTALLY worth the $10. It has many different categories of workouts - designed for beginner, intermediate and advanced. I've found the intermediate challenging enough and would love to work my way up to advanced! Among its many different workout types are: trending now, fit for summer, ab workouts, 7 minute quick hits, treadmill, outdoor running, elliptical, strength training, indoor cycling, stairclimber, yoga, walking, stretching, meditation, 5K training, 10K training, half marathon training, full marathon training, maternity program and more! I tell you that it's so much to explore you won't be able to wait in between workouts! Each instructor is very good (I have my faves already) and the tone of the workouts is ultra positive, motivational and downright cheery...it will make you WANT to workout!
Basically, what the app is is an audio version of a coaching session. There is super-current, positive music in the background with your coach speaking over it occasionally to direct your attention to your technique, breathing, pacing or provide a motivational insight. The pacing of the instruction is so well-executed and the cadence of the songs is so on point that you will wonder who the master mind is behind such an elite product! And don't forget that when you don't have the energy for a 30 minute session you can do a 7 minute workout - which can be so intense you will want to quit after two minutes!
Anyway, I consider these two things to be a coach on your wrist and a coach in your phone. I'm not saying it's going to make me an elite athlete, but I know one thing for sure. I will be in a different place physically in a few months than if I had chosen to buy some more outfits instead of invest in my health! In the end, I highly recommend both products. Rush out and buy them! It'll be the best money you've spent on yourself in a while.
- Betty Lynn
168 Hours is the title of this pivotal text on time management by expert Laura Vanderkam. It is aptly titled after the 24 hours a day are multiplied by 7 and the result is the amount of hours everyone has in a week. She claims that we have more time than we think. Attributing modern complaints of "not having enough time" or "being overwhelmed" to either poor time management or over exaggeration, she makes the landmark argument, "Yes...there is enough time!" She makes the disclaimer that maybe there isn't enough time to do everything that you want to do, but that there is enough time (if you plan and prioritize) to focus on your core competencies (strengths and interests with which you invest your time) and develop both your hobbies, your family, your career, your soul, and your wellness.
Naturally, her first suggestion is to monitor and track your every minute (and categorize it) in a time log. Then you should do an analysis. What are you spending too much time on? Too little? What couldn't you seem to squeeze in? What is nagging you about your "situation"? Etc., etc. There are worksheets and tips available on her website: lauravanderkam.com if you subscribe with your email. One thing Ms. Vanderkam found to be endemic to most time management problems was the inordinate amount of time that people spend watching TV, and the relatively small time devoted to playing with/mentoring children and/or physical fitness. In fact, she makes the spark annotation, that one of her clients trains competitively for Ironman Triathlons (a full marathon 26.2-mile run, 2.4 mile swim, and 112 mile bike ride race) in only 5-7 hours per week. Needless to say, he only watched TV for 1-2 hours per week. She also solved many other time management quandaries for her clients in time makeovers which she describes in many anecdotes. She describes an executive who loved to play the guitar as a core competency, but found himself cooking instead most nights to keep costs down and eat healthy as eating out often resulted in poor, last-minute choices. So what did he do? He hired a local up and coming chef to prep the week's meals for him. Because the chef bought and cooked in bulk, he actually saved money doing this! So she makes generalized, sweeping suggestions such as sending out the laundry in a service (if you can afford it and it's available), using grocery delivery services, hiring a biweekly or monthly cleaning service and/or landscaping service, and many other great tips! And she's right!
When I started doing these things (previous to reading the book) they were life changing and really allowed me to focus on my core competencies of art, writing and yoga, as opposed to working around the clock by working full time at a career, and coming home to cook and clean as if I hadn't been at work all day! I already had monitored my time with the addition of a meticulously kept calendar the past few years, and ditched watching TV about 5 years ago; so I had first hand experience as to how and why these things actually work. Her advice that I found most useful was to prioritize your core competencies. If you love to cook and entertain, then going to the store to hand pick ingredients might be really enjoyable to you...but if you're just picking up the weeks supply of almond milk for coffee and yogurt for lunch, why not use a delivery service if this is not something you want to invest time and energy into? It's all about using your time to do the things you want to do, not the things you feel you should do. Anyway, I found her tips and tricks to be extremely sound and practical.
In addition to suggesting time logs, giving time makeover anecdotes, supplying helpful hints and suggestions. She stresses the importance of wellness. In particular nurturing your relationships, cultivating your physical fitness, practicing some type of mindfulness, spirituality or religious practice, spending time developing your education and/or career, and many more areas. She cites relevant research to emphasize the importance of these areas of focus in one's life, and why you should devote time to them. All in all, her suggestions could be profoundly life changing for you if you feel the need to read further it is available on amazon.com or audible.com.
John J. Ratey reveals the latest findings of neuroscience and the research around the effects of exercise in brain chemistry, health, mood, learning, focus, and more. This enlightening exhibition of all the latest research starts with an anecdote of a midwestern school district that went from typical American results in math and science to one of the top in the world, even beating most Asian countries in math and science after implementing a fitness-based gym class program - evolving from a sports-based program where most of the "athletes" were sidelined to one in which fitness was central and included elements such as treadmill use, 3 on 3 games of basketball, exercise bikes, video game dancing competitions and more all under the watchful eye of a coach with a very innovative tool - the heart rate monitor. The gym teacher used the heart rate monitor to not only track student performance but to grade the students. Over target heart rate 85% of the time was a B, over target heart rate 90% of the time, an A, etc. It was an amazingly insightful tool as students who seemed to plod along on the track finally had proof of their hard work and a grade that reflected it. What amazed educators, parents, students, administrators, and other key people involved were the soaring grades and test scores of program participants. They seemed to have a competitive advantage over the students not in the program.
The major premise that John J. Ratey confirms through his extensive presentation of the latest neuroscientific research on brain health; is that the brain lives inside the body, and therefore, the health of the body is indicative or a predictor of the health of the brain. He cites statistics from recent studies that will knock your socks off - or tie your running shoes on - that moderate exercise, such as walking, three times a week for about an hour may reduce your chance of developing dementia by up to 50%! If that doesn't have you clambering for your old workout clothes - it gets better. Dr. Ratey goes on to present the latest findings with regard to depression, anxiety, ADHD, dementia and Alzheimer's, the "Big 3" (cancer, heart disease and diabetes), learning, attention and memory, pregnancy, and much more! One startling statistic from a study of antidepressants and exercise concluded that exercise was as effective (if not more) than antidepressant medication at reducing depression.
If you ever find that you are lacking motivation in your workout routine, feeling ho hum about your current exercise regimen, or just don't see the point anymore of making those daily walks you need to read this book. It has been the singularly most motivating exercise book I have read in the last five years! It renewed my commitment to myself, my health, and the health of my brain to make it a foundational habit and a non-negotiable one. I will never go back to a neither here nor there exercise routine. If I ever don't want to exercise I just think of how it will elevate my mood, burn stress away, reduce anxiety, increase mental clarity, add focus, raise productivity, decrease cortisol and inflammation, and therefore inflammation-related diseases, and even improve my appearance and diminish the effects of aging! Who wouldn't want to do it?
The particular type of exercise that he suggests for brain health is cardio, although he extols the benefits of resistance (weight) training and other exercises for their myriad other benefits such as increased bone density, etc. He is quite adamant about training with a heart rate monitor to keep you in the "zone" for the duration of your workout. Believing in his genius I picked up a waterproof one and used it pretty consistently for a couple of months, but then it got forgotten and ignored due to the annoyance of having to wet and assemble the gear each time I used it. I'll be honest, it got a little annoying after I knew approximately what my heart rate was based on my breathing. However, it was useful in the beginning to identify my body's signals of my target heart rate zone.
Overall, I found his presentation of research to be extremely comprehensive and peppered with personal anecdote and advice from athletes, trainers, and enthusiasts alike. If you are looking for reasons "why" to exercise, this audiobook is over 8 hours of riveting rationale of why you can't afford not to! A good read for your health and the health of your brain. This book will provide the much needed "spark" to light a fire under your tush to get moving!
Author Darren Hardy, publisher at SUCCESS magazine, asks you the question, where would you be tomorrow if today, you sought to do just a little more, put in a little more effort, worked just an hour later, etc. in his latest book, The Compound Effect. He naturally uses the analogy of financial compounding to illustrate the example that just a penny more invested each day over the course of a lifetime could be a difference of thousands of dollars in the end. He goes on to elucidate how keystone habits such as exercising, quitting smoking, working harder, cutting calories, etc. might start as really small, seemingly inconsequential differences in the larger scheme of things, but when compounded over time they lead to transformational breakthroughs such as avoiding heart disease and obesity, saving yourself thousands of dollars and the pains of lung disease, gaining promotions and success at work, and having that beach body you may have only been dreaming of for years!
Hardy invites you to practice self study and self inquiry so that you investigate your current thinking, habits, and routines, and look for minor or small improvements you can make in processes that might add up to substantial gains in the future. This has helped me avoid procrastination at work as I continually ask myself, "How can I give just a little bit more right now?" Sometimes that involves prioritizing or just simply rolling up my sleeves and doing those less than glamorous tasks on the to-do list that previously might have been sloughed off by procrastination and delay.
I have found there is a downside to this type of thinking though. Especially if you are prone to perfectionism or can run yourself ragged like I tend to do, it can lead to overexertion and a "goodism" that may lead you to seek to improve and over perform in every area of your life. That caution being carefully placed though, I believe it is important for one to constantly seek to improve process, habit, routine, actions, systems for organization, nutrition, and health and wellness habits. He made an interesting challenge in the book. He asked, if you could change and/or start a new, better habit every 21 days, how would your life be transformed a year from now? I have mapped out my next two cycles of habit formation for the next 6 weeks and am happy to say that I am already seeing positive change in my health and wellness. I don't want to totally rat myself out but one habit involves flossing and the other refraining from refined sugars! (I'm sure you can complete the guesswork!)
Taking the compound effect to every area of your life might be a bit overzealous, but then again, how would your life be if you ate a little less, drank a little less, read a little more educational material, invested more thought into your processes at work, and thought a little more about what you did? Then you would experience the compound effect - this idea that small, incremental changes lead to major gains over time. An example of this would be meditating everyday. Sure, it wasn't easy to set aside an hour before bed every night to meditate when I started. However, it was small in comparison to the gains that I made emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. Eventually I experienced all these things: free from migraines, free from panic attacks, reduced social anxiety, more productive behavior and focus at work, increased immune function (less colds and viruses), a return to my Catholic upbringing and faith, adherence to an exercise routine, weight loss, quitting drinking - and all because I meditate for an hour every day! You may say, "But who has the time to do that?" It is true that time is a limited resource and we all have an inordinate amount of pressure on us these days. However, the compound effect seeks to invest in activities that have a large "return on investment". That is, you get back more than you put it. Did you know that according to research, an average American adult, if adds 15 minutes of exercise per day for the rest of their life, will increase their average lifespan by 3 years? More than that, exercise is also proven to reduce stress, reduce your chance of heart disease, obesity and cancer, increase your cognitive functioning, decrease your tendency to eat unhealthy foods, and has been tied to other healthy habits such as spending less, and drinking less. So when you think, "I don't have 15 minutes a day to exercise," what you are really saying is, "I have time for obesity, cancer, heart disease, and early death"! It's a total no-brainer!
And you can apply the compound effect to anything! From fasting from technological devices, to reading inspirational and motivational books, to spending time with your family, investing in your relationships, and anything else you may seek to improve! The possibilities know no end! The question to ask yourself is "What are some small, positive changes I can make on a daily basis with consistency toward a future goal, behavior, or end result?" Track and monitor these changes, whether through budgeting, fitness app, journaling, etc. and watch the compound effect take hold of your life! You will not be disappointed!
If you've ever wondered what it's like to view life after decades of devoted yoga and meditation practice, the book, Light on Life, by BKS Iyengar will give you a glimpse from the proverbial mountain top. I have to admit that I'm on my third reading of this epic work and am just beginning to grasp his profound observances and counsel from a man gifted with discipline, knowledge, and, at least to some degree, enlightenment. During my first pass, I picked up the snippet about every pore having an "eye" and it transformed the way I approached asana. The second time I read it I realized that he wasn't meandering semantically from topic to topic but rather drew on metaphor and profound analogies and examples so frequently that it obscured the meaning for me because the insight of each sentence was so intensely profound that trying to understand it was like skipping a rock over the surface of a lake - I was missing the depth. What I mistook for topical and semantic wandering was actually quite structured and organized, but it is written with such a freedom and detachment that its ethereal nature can be obtuse for even the novitiate of 20 years that I am.
His writing is so emancipated, yet remains deeply rooted in a disciplined approach to every organizational structure of his topic. His metaphors, analogies, comparisons, explanations, prescriptions and directives are each so aptly and uniquely put that it can seem that he is at once floundering and bouncing around. However, it was on the third pass that I realized that each sentence was so artfully crafted and contained so much intense training, experiential knowledge and so many seeds of enlightenment that it took me my 20 years of yoga study, teacher training, and extensive reading background to begin to understand it on an essential level or on any level at all. That being said, I would recommend it to anyone from the beginner to experienced practitioner of yoga, as sometimes it is helpful to at once build background through introduction to a topic as though collecting shells on the beach. You never know what you might find among the sands of passing time.
Light on Life has a logical progression from what yoga is and is not, how it should be practiced, how asana should be approached, and gets into more esoteric subjects such as the koshas or sheaths of existence and the kleshas or afflictions, and much, much more. He has a firm grasp of the yoga sutras, yogic texts, yoga philosophy, and intimate knowledge of the culture of India. However, his approach is universal and generic in his approach. He firmly maintains that while yoga has ties to Hinduism, it can be practiced in addition to any religious system; in fact, yoga transcends religion to be a universal complement to any organized religion, confirming what is laid out in the sutras: "one truth, many paths".
Reading his work is like a gateway to cosmic consciousness itself as you make instant connections between your experiential yoga practice, your secular life as a human being, and your sacred life with your understanding of God as you know him to be through both your belief system and your personal experience of Him. His writing will evolve and inform your practice of yoga as you realize essential concepts such as a multidirectional pull (both vertical and horizontal) in every muscle, limb, fiber, in every asana; the idea that every human must struggle to make a life, run a household, and maintain the discipline (tapas) required to uphold such a material existence; and that God is really cosmic consciousness and exists beyond duality.
I am still just beginning to grasp this insanely perceptive text based on decades of experiential yoga practice. Yet, somehow he makes it accessible, and I like the challenge of trying to uncover the gem of what he is saying about yoga in my own personal practice and understanding of the basic elements of life, yoga, and God. In the meantime, I will continue to practice with every pore an "eye" and an expansive sense of possibility for the involution of my asana practice for my life to bring a freedom and presence of mind to every moment.
Namaste Yogis and Yoginis,
Make it Stick by Peter C. Brown is a research-based text on cognitive neuroscience and how to deepen and sustain lifelong learning in any area of knowledge or expertise. They recommend various practices such as varied practice, interleaving, spaced practice, retrieval, generation, reflection, and more! These practices, when used, will increase the quality of your learning and will sustain it for the long term. For educators, parents, students, and children alike who are looking for ways to improve their learning of any subject or area of interest; this will have you getting high marks on your exams, teaching your students in a way that will produce long-term results, and learning in a way that will incorporate reflection and generation to lead to expertise in your field and a more profound understanding of basic or underlying concepts in your field of expertise.
The practice of varied practice differs from massed practice or blocked practice, in which you practice a whole bunch of problems of the same type or nature at the same time, followed by another different type of problem in a sequential block. This can be seen frequently in mathematics and sports practice. Students learn how to multiply simple fractions and practice example after example, or practice hitting a curveball in batting practice followed by working on another discrete skill such as dividing fractions or catching pop flies. The research shows that learning is improved when different types of problems are presented to the learner in a varied practice so that they must first identify the type of problem and work to retrieve the type of solution needed to attain the solution. This makes sense if you think about it for a minute because you cannot expect in a baseball game to only be thrown curveballs or in life to only be presented with a previously identified math problem such as a need to multiply a simple fraction. More often, in life, we are presented with a variety of problems, unique to their contextualized situation which my obscure the solution or require quick reflexive thinking which is more likely to occur through varied practice.
Interleaving I like to think of in two ways. In the past, in my teaching, I would present one unit for 4-6 weeks with a large assessment at the end. Now, I interleave or interject shorter units that are related to each other so that students can apply their skills to various thematic concepts versus diving into one singular focus where there is no horizontal learning. Another way I use interleaving is on my commute to work. I listen to various audiobooks, but only for 10-20 minutes at a time for each one before I switch gears (I'm currently listening to over 20 books) but applying the underlying concepts of growth, learning, improvement and education to many aspects of my life to inspire and motivate myself. Interleaving is also proven by research to be more effective because it demands students to identify implicit underlying laws or patterns of ideas in the work or how they connect or relate to each other across topics. Another example of how this works is my husband's piano practice. Although he attempts to master extremely difficult pieces such as piano concertos, he does not do so singularly, but rather works on 3-5 pieces at a time, interleaving them to sustain his interest and his application of piano techniques to various styles. I've also found this is a great way to sustain student attention spans as shorter units are easier to digest for the modern, digital native.
Spaced practice is just as it sounds. You should intentionally leave space between study times or learning times. For example, you may not want to cram one long study session in right before that final. Research proves that equal amounts of time studying, but one where the time is spent spaced significantly apart, will lead to increased results. So plan studying for that final a couple of weeks before. The effort you need to expend to work at retrieving it will sustain the learning, as it is proven that the more you struggle with something, the more likely you will be to eventually master it.
This naturally leads us to the next practice, which is retrieval. Retrieval is the act of recalling, without rereading or referencing material but rather quizzing yourself. Old-fashioned techniques such as flashcards, covering up lines in a script, or taking practice tests is very useful for deepening learning. So instead of rereading and highlighting that textbook, maybe try doing the practice questions at the end of the chapter to test how much you actually know. This will give you an accurate account of how much you know in reality versus the illusion of mastery you may have created through rereading and rereading.
Generation is when you struggle with a problem first before being presented with the solution. This is something that is research-proven to be more effective than to simply be told the solution by an expert or someone who knows already. An example of this can be taken from my art history class where the professor asked us to solve the way that Stonehenge was built before being presented with the actual way it was built. Taking 20 minutes to struggle with this before him continuing his lecture not only put us in the place of our ancestors but sustained our learning of Neolithic-monument building.
Reflection is one of my favorite ways to extend and expand learning. I've actually created this blog as an attempt to "reflect" on my learning of the audiobooks I listen to and books I read. Reflection is simply asking yourself what you learned, reflect on your process and reiterate what you have retained, and how you might improve in the future. I incorporate this in my classroom culture by planning 5-10 minute "quiz" reflections on the day's lesson or the unit we had completed that week. I've found it helps the students to cement their understanding by identifying and codifying it. In addition, it helps me to identify the areas where students still need to continue their exploration of the topic.
Overall, Make it Stick by Peter C. Brown was tremendously helpful to someone who is an educator and is dedicated to lifelong learning! I believe in the future I will definitely reread this text to make sure that I have applied all of their practices to my classroom and the culture of learning I am attempting to build in my life, my family, and my classroom!
"You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book." - Dr. Seuss
- Betty Lynn
Angela Duckworth defines grit as "passion and perseverance for long-term goals". In a world where the everyday professional is constantly being told to "reinvent himself" and "shift gears" this is a unique and refreshing concept; evocative of old westerns and heroes who truly had what it took to win the long-term battles of survival in a rough and tumble world. However, aside from old western titles like, "True Grit", what does grit mean in today's world? Duckworth tells stories of ambitious entrepreneurs who make start-ups just to sell out in a couple of years. She uses this as an antithesis to grit. Grit, it seems is more like tedious toil watered by years of dedication and increasingly finer and finer crafted skills to become adept at something that takes years to master. Despite having changed careers 2-3 times herself, Duckworth asserts that it is not only long-term career dedication that is exemplary of grit, but can be simply perseverance through difficult, but shorter trials that may make you give up at something such as boot camp, freshman year in college, or that first week of daily exercise.
Grit is something that she sees as lacking in this generation. Actually making the claim that older generations were more likely to show grit, with younger and younger generations being more likely to flit about, give up, and chalk their failures up to external circumstances beyond their control. Fortitude to persevere is something she believes could be fostered through education. She believes that young people today need to be given the opportunity to struggle and be encouraged to see it through difficulties and strife. With high college drop out rates, high rates of underemployment and high turnover rates in job markets, she sees this as a sign of the times and a call to duty for educators, psychologists, parents, coaches, mentors, and bosses alike - to mentor you people in developing the quality of tenacity: grit.
Short-term payoff seems to be the norm these days. We want 10% back for signing up for emails, we want fast food for cheap, we want weight loss without dieting, we want health without exercising or meditating, and we want peace of mind without cultivating this in a daily practice. And it seems like everyone is selling a "quick fix" from study guides for not having to read the book, to diet pills to eat whatever you want and still lose weight, to ab exercises that work in only 10 minutes a day, to every other scheme people can cook up...the possibilities seem endless. Sometimes we have to realize though that a problem, challenge, or adversity may not require a bandaid but an intensive, long-term, dedicated solution. The solution Duckworth suggests? Grit.
She gives many examples in her book on grit of paragons of grit (perfect examples). She mentions artist, educators, business people, and more who are examples of grit. What these paragons of grit have in common is near continual decades of diligence and dedication that included many diverse and nearly defeating setbacks which the paragons overcame by showing tenacity, doggedness, and persistent backbone in the face of adversity, hardship, and even disaster. She talks about the research of experts on world-class experts and how what paragons of grit all have in common is eventual, sometimes monumental, success. What young people today don't realize is that success isn't handed to you after putting in a couple years of 60 hour work weeks, a couple of intense study sessions or other intense periods of work. Rather, this is something that comes with seeking negative feedback, experiencing failure, learning from mistakes, cultivating a spirit of dogged determination and honing your skills over a lifetime of struggle.
So next time you are wondering how to sharpen your edge, boost your marketability, or mentor your child, you might take a long hard look at grit and ask yourself, "how can I commit to more passion and perseverance for my long-term goals?" Instead of, "What's the quick fix?"
- Betty Lynn
"I've read about the power of monitoring in many different texts - too many to recount in one short blog. More importantly, I've realized its power in monitoring daily caloric intake, fitness activity and goals, daily spending and financial goals, weekly, monthly and yearly goals, and pursuits of different projects through creating timelines and checklists. The power of monitoring is something that is research proven to improve meeting goals and making positive changes such as increased physical activity or less spending. That being said, I purchased the Body Minder log available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon to track my daily fitness activity levels. It also is quite adaptable so that I can tailor it to monitor my yoga and meditation practice. To measure my daily caloric intake (usually from what should be to what actually is!) I have been using the fitness app myfitnesspal. It is also available for free through the app store or myfitnesspal.com. I will review for you some of their basic features, how to use them, and how I have benefitted from using both.
I'm new to the Body Minder journal, but am totally hooked. It has an introduction and some basic reference materials such as common caloric counts for foods and target heart rates for exercise. I don't typically use these because I use my fitness app for my calorie counting and am familiar with my target heart rate (it's pretty easy to google it and figure it out from there). However, the largest part of the journal which I use the most is the weekly and daily records which has 3 months of space devoted to daily journaling. I mostly use the daily journaling. It has a checklist for "cardio" workouts with categories such as minutes, pace, heart rate, and calories burned. I usually tailor my notes to suit my needs. I don't feel the urge to note every detail of every workout, but like that it's available. It also has a section for "strength training" with muscle group, action, reps and weight for each set and a column to record your level of ease. The part I like is at the bottom of the two-page daily spread which is for notes. I often note my mood or energy level which I'm hoping to elevate through exercise.
On the second page it has a section for "other exercise" where I record what type of yoga or meditation I did that day and for how long. This section is particularly helpful as yoga and exercise can be considered one and the same since they are both exercise. Yet since I have daily goals for yoga and meditation; and goals for physical activity, I like to keep them separate. There is a section on page two for "dietary notes" which I have been just noting my sugar intake for the day since this is something I would like to improve and reduce through awareness and monitoring. You may also note your vitamins or supplements, and there is an additional space for notes where I put my rest days if they follow that day of activity (to avoid wasting a two-page spread on no activity).
I have found this log to be highly motivating as I am a person who enjoys being accountable to herself. I love doing a workout just so I can add it to my log for the day. It's kind of like a report card for yourself - you can get high grades or low grades. Since I was always highly motivated by record keeping and grades, giving myself a record of my performance helps to keep me moving towards my goals. In fact, in the lower corner of the right-hand page is a bar graph from 0-100% where you can grade yourself on how well you met your goals. I have to admit the nerd in me loves this part of the journal. The third part of the journal is for record keeping of fitness related expenses: gym membership, equipment, clothing, etc. which is useful to professionals who may be writing off all or part of their fitness expenses when tax season is upon them.
The myfitnesspal app has been an inestimable part of my weight loss over the last 3 years. I have lost over 35 pounds. I could attribute much of that to lifestyle changes: quitting drinking, exercising more, going gluten free, mindfulness, eating cleaner; but nothing is as useful as caloric reduction. Because weight loss basically comes down to the fact that calories in must be less than calories out (you can lose weight eating chocolate cake if you eat the right amount, and you can gain weight eating salad if you eat the wrong amount), this fitness app has been indispensable in my weight loss. So much so that as soon as I stop recording my calories in the app, a few weeks later, my weight starts to creep up again.
It has many features such as calculating your goal for caloric intake for the day according to your height, weight, gender, and activity level (all which you input when creating an account), calculating calories according to portions, subtracting exercise from your caloric allowance, and can even track your water intake for the day if you are trying to improve that aspect of wellness. Overall, I find it an infinitely helpful tool as I can't imagine having made as much progress in the last three years without it. There are even some paid features you can get including a more in-depth nutritional analysis if you are willing to shell out the extra cash.
In the meantime, if increasing your fitness level and shedding some pounds are two goals of yours this season; these two tools will lend an immeasurable amount of assistance to help you achieve your goals and motivate you. The power of monitoring is something that must be experienced. It is a way of making yourself accountable to yourself. But while it is hard work, the results are hard won.
"A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work." - Colin Powell
Please share your experiences in the comments below!