Two years ago, after a summer of extreme downsizing, I moved from a small town to the city. I cut my hair, sold my piano, stopped updating my blog. Maybe it was my age. I had just turned 57, the beginning of a new 7-year cycle. Maybe it was the aftermath of losing both parents in one year. Maybe it was teacher burnout. Whatever the reason, I
wanted needed a fresh start!
The years between 56 and 63 are supposed to be our years of self-actualization. Carl Jung described this as individuation. This is when we finally unlock our full potential and become the person we were meant to be. Unlike the cycle that began at age 49 where we’re still trying to prove something to others and make a name for ourselves, when we reach 56 we’re ready to let go of everything that has been, and to take on a whole new life style.
I found that after the move, life settled back into a routine.
Different city, different job, and now a new blog. But had life really changed? Recently I’ve been wondering if I had squandered my opportunity for that fresh start.
Was there change that still needed to take place at a deeper level? Had I really let go of everything? Was I truly open to expansion? Meeting new challenges and finally unlocking my full potential?
It didn’t seem that way.
Of course this wonderful time of growth and expansion just happens to be scheduled for when our life is at its most chaotic. When we can’t find a minute to ourselves, let alone an hour to think, write and dream.
But nevertheless, I’ve been working at it. In the meantime, I’ve come up with 5 ideas I’d like to share.
5 tips for moving towards authentic change and experiencing real growth.
I truly believe that one of the best ways to stay young is to always be learning. In the last few years, online learning has grown by leaps and bounds. Just today I learned that LinkedIn has acquired Lynda, offering its members their choice of thousands of design, business and tech courses. This will make life very interesting for those boomers who are crafting their LinkedIn profile to land their Second Act dream job. It makes sense that LinkedIn will soon be making suggestions for online classes to round out your new employment profile.
I’m a big fan of Codecademy. The classes are free and very user friendly. I’ve taken the HTML and CSS class and I’m working my way through Ruby. Even if you don’t consider yourself a techie, try a class. Coding is like reading. It’s fun, it’s creative. And it’s never too late to learn. If you just want to get your feet wet, I suggest you try the free 10-Day Bootcamp at Skillcrush, a great overview of HTML, complete with cheat-sheets, and an intro to CSS and other programming topics.
Skillshare is another site that offers over a thousand classes (via video) for creatives and business people. Many of the classes are free, but in any case, they offer a free 30-day trial where you can take unlimited classes.
It’s almost impossible to get a fresh start in life if we’re stressed out. Did you know that there is actually something in the forest air that calms our nervous system? I have to admit, I never really thought about the benefits of being out with nature (I’ve never even been camping) until I interviewed my friend Janice. She says:
“When I got laid off from my job, I felt fearful and despondent. Along with the support from family and friends, I felt the time outdoors helped me find the strength to carry on. Sometimes my self talk can turn sour, so the noises of nature, be it a tree creaking, a bird singing, or my feet shuffling through the leaves, helps soothe my soul.”
When was the last time you threw a frisbee, pulled out a sketch pad and some crayons, or picked up a hula hoop? Messy, no expectations, good old fashioned play is not just for kids.
Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, has presented a terrific TED Talk on the topic of creativity and play. He talks about how businesses are beginning to realize the importance of play, trust, and friendship in the workplace. A sense of trust and relaxation in the workplace encourages the employees to think creatively without fear of judgement.
Todd Henry, author of Die Empty and The Accidental Creative, talks about Unnecessary Creating. This is when you’re engaging in creative activities just for you, not for money. No one is looking over your shoulder or judging you. You are free to take risks, try new activities, and explore hunches. He compares engaging in creative activities to building a portfolio of risks.
In 2012 I decided to record one piano piece a week. For years I wouldn’t play in front of people because I was comparing myself to others, and worse — I was comparing myself to my twenty-something self when I was in peak shape. It wasn’t until I was about 9 months into the project that I finally started letting go of that perfectionism and self-consciousness and began to look forward to my Sunday nights at the piano. By posting my music for anyone to listen to, I was back to where I started as a child when I was ready to sit down to perform at a moment’s notice. I called this my “Go Play” project, before I even realized how important the word Play was to the actual project.
Every day we’re bombarded with useless and distracting information. Junk food for the mind. Over the past year I’ve been trying to become more selective in what I read and what I listen to.
When I’m going through a ‘do over’ phase my favorite genres are biographies and autobiographies (and screenplays). However, the last book I read that really hit home for me was James Altucher’s Choose Yourself. Since then I’ve been listening to his podcast interviews on my morning commute. I love his interviews with people who’ve made creative, and sometimes drastic, changes in their lives.
If you want a little taste of Altucher’s writing, Google “James Altucher Reinvention.”
The older I get, the more I realize how important writing is. When there’s something bothering you, a thought that keeps running around in your head, an old grievance, or regret — write it down and get it out of your system. Sometimes called therapeutic letter-writing, or just plain journaling, writing clears your head. It helps put order to looping and repetitive thoughts. Maybe more importantly writing provides us with insight. Because, after all who are we talking to when we write?
In addition to journal writing, creative writing also brings clarity. I’ve written a few screenplays and I’m always surprised when I take a step back and look at the main character and realize how similar they are to me. I’ve actually learned a thing or two from them.
Do you have any tips for getting a fresh start in life? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below! (If you don’t see the comment section click on the header of this blog post to go to the full screen post. Comments can be added on that page!) Thank you!
Have you been thinking about publishing a Kindle book but just haven’t gotten around to sifting through the forums, the FAQs and all the rules about formatting!?
When I first looked into Kindle publishing about four years ago I found it all confusing — the pricing structure, the ISBN numbers. Hey, I didn’t even own a Kindle!
Well, when I went back to it this year, I realized how wrong I was. Amazon has made the whole process quite user friendly and now I realize I should have been publishing on Kindle years ago.
Why should you publish?
Whether it’s a book, a Kindle short, a downloadable PDF, a magazine article, or any other information product, publishing will give you “authority.”
You might not think you’re an authority on anything right now, but if you start thinking about your interests, the things you like to talk about, the things people ask you about…these are the topics you should write about. Of course you can publish fiction, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll be talking about non-fiction.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve been growing roses for years. As soon as the weather is warm you’re outside with your pruning shears. At night you’re outside with your watering can. You know every type of rose. You’re the go-to person for beautiful flower arrangements. Your Instagram feed is full of photos of your rose garden. Most likely you blog about roses and gardening.
Guess what? You know more about roses than I do. And more than most of the people you meet. You certainly know enough to teach us a thing or two. Do a little bit more research and add that to what you already know and you wind up with “authority.”
Build Your Platform
Your Kindle book and Amazon Author page will bring people to your blog, your social media accounts and your mailing list.
The more books you write on your topic — i.e. History of the Rose; Rose Gardening without a Green Thumb; Feeding Your Roses; Roses for Beginner Gardeners — the more you exposure you get and then the more followers on your blog, your social media and your mailing list.
With Kindle Publishing you can earn up to 70% royalty on sales to customers in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, India, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and more. If you enroll in the KDP Select program you can earn more money through Kindle Unlimited (paid subscription) and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL, a benefit to Amazon Prime members). Royalties are deposited monthly directly to your bank account.
No fees to publish
You don’t need to own a Kindle to publish a Kindle e-book, just as you don’t need an actual Kindle to read one. Readers can download the free Kindle App to read their books on their phone, tablet or computer. Writers (publishers) can download the Free Kindle Previewer to see what their book will look like on any device before they press the publish button. There is no fee to publish on Kindle unless you decide to hire an editor or a book cover designer.
How do you get started?
The first thing you need to do is choose a topic. The more specific you are with your topic, the more chance you’ll have of being found under the Amazon Category system.
Let’s use your Rose book as an example. Go to Amazon.com and click on Kindle e-books. Look at the category hierarchy on the left side of the page. You can find books about Roses via several different routes. As a Kindle Publisher, you will have the opportunity to categorize your book under two main headings. For example you might choose to go with these:
Kindle Store>Kindle e-books>Crafts Hobbies Home>Flowers>Roses
Kindle Store>Kindle e-books>Gardening & Landscape Design> Flowers>Roses
You would not want to leave your final category at Flowers. By drilling down through all of the subcategories to Roses you’re giving your book a greater chance of being found. Your Rose book will be found under Books, Crafts Hobbies Home, Flowers and Roses. This way you’re multiplying your potential visibility rather than restricting it since it will be found in all four categories.
Another advantage of choosing a very specific category is that you will have fewer competitors than if you had left your book in the broad category. The person who simply writes a general book about flowers will get lost while your Rose book has a much better chance of becoming a best seller since it only has about 500 competitors.
Length & format
Your Kindle book should be as long as it takes to do justice to your topic. Some Kindle books are very short — 24-40 pages. Others are longer. Personally, I’d rather read a short book that gives me the information I’m looking for rather than a long book that is repetitive and full of fluff.
I suggest that you write your book using Microsoft Word or Open Office. You’ll want to use the default settings in your document. Do not use tabs or the space bar for indenting paragraphs. Do not double space between paragraphs. Set these formatting rules up before you start by using Page Layout. Remember to insert page breaks after each chapter (or section).
In the end you will be uploading an HTML file to Amazon. If you keep your document clean, you will have clean code when you save your document to HTML. You can check and see how it looks with the free Free Kindle Previewer.
Set up your account here.
Be sure to read the long but very informative FAQ.
You’ll see that you’ll have a choice of whether or not to join KDP Select. If you choose to publish through the KDP Select program you are giving Amazon exclusive use of a piece of digital content for 90 days and in return you receive five days (any five you choose) to make your e-book available for free, and you also get paid for any of your e-books that are lent through the Amazon Prime library. You can read more about KDP Select here. Elsewhere on line many indie authors have written about the pros and cons of the program.
The rest of the form is self-explanatory. You’ll be asked for the title and subtitle of your book. It’s important to add a subtitle to help with keywords for searching.
You’ll be allowed to enter up to seven keywords or keyword phrases of 25 characters or less. Test these words at Amazon by typing them into the search bar one letter at a time and watch as prompts appear with words Amazon thinks you might be looking for in the search field. This will show you what most people are using to search for your topic.
A great way to look for keywords is to use https://adwords.google.com/o/KeywordTool. Find phrases that are searched 500 – 10,000 a month. But make sure your keywords are applicable to those searching for books. You can always change your keywords and experiment with what works best.
Pricing & Promoting
There are two basic royalty structures in Kindle Publishing. Books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 receive a 70% royalty while any other price will give you only 35% of the list price.
It’s easy to see why the $2.99 price is the best place to be. The buyer will be attracted by the low price, but you’ll still receive 70% of the purchase.
Ideally you’ve started promoting before your publication date. You’ve already announced your release date to your blog followers. You’ve tweeted, FB, IG’d and G+’d.
Once you publish you can build your Author Page on Amazon. There you’ll have a chance to link to your books as well as a brief bio, photo, and links to your website or blog.
Need more help?
Sign up for the newsletter to get the scoop the upcoming Kindle Publishing e-course. Or leave comments and questions for me below! I’d love to hear from you!
It seems like we Boomers just don’t want to retire.
Even if we wanted to, most of us can’t.
With pensions a thing of the past, meager 401Ks, college expenses for our kids and job loss (need I say more?) the retirement our parents enjoyed is something we’ll never know.
As someone who is a “glass half full” kind of gal, I can appreciate what this blogger had to say in this article from Business News Daily.
“I continue to work because I don’t have a pension, but honestly, I’m almost glad I don’t,” Susan Harris told Business News Daily. Harris, soon to turn 62, was a court reporter in Washington, D.C. She chucked the courtroom for full-time blogging in 2006 and today writes GardenRant and Boomer Turn Ons.
“Having to earn an income is the great motivator that led me to my second career as a writer — the first career for me that’s been remotely creative or fulfilling,” Harris said. “So for me, the combination of needing money but no longer being able to stomach mind-numbing work has been magic.”
Luckily for most of us, the Second Act is inevitable. So how can we plan to make it great? I don’t have all the answers but I can tell you what works for me.
Five Steps To Take Now To Get Ready For Your Second Act.
1. Self Examination.
“Know Thyself” has been one of life’s themes from ancient Greek times at the oracle at Delphi to the present with its appearance in The Matrix where its Latin version (temet nosce) showed up as an inscription over the Oracle’s door.
As we begin to sift through our life experiences we start to uncover key events that will help us understand how we got to where we are today. We recognize what worked and what didn’t work. We remember what brought us joy and ease. As we start to see patterns we will often be led to discover our second act calling.
You might gain insight through meditation or just talking to friends. Personally, I find that getting things down on paper works best. Incidentally, according to social psychologist James Pennebaker, author of Writing To Heal, writing has been proven to help relieve stress, process trauma, and gain insight.
The easiest way to get started writing is a prompt. For example “I feel most energized when…” or “I really wish others knew this about me…” (check the worksheets for more ideas.)
When planning for your Second Act it’s good to key in on figuring out what we do best. Ask yourself – what is my core competency? what is my superpower?
For me it’s teaching. Once I learn something, my first thought is “How can I teach it to someone else?” Others may be leaders, delegating in the workforce. There are those who shy away from that spotlight, but work best as the “behind the scenes” person. Still others work best alone, creating, writing, or as artists. Others are number ninjas.
Combine your superpower with something that interests you and you’re on your way to your Second Act career. I avoid using the word “passion” because sometimes passions die out when we work at them day in and day out. But if something interests us, we’re more apt to stick to it and dig in deeper.
Don’t know your superpower? Write some more. Try writing your autobiography. Write about what you used to play with as a kid. What stories did you tell? What did you love to do before you were put on the college/career/marriage track?
Go to the bookstore or the library and notice where you spend the most time. I usually make the rounds between “writing,” “marketing” “metaphysical” and “crafts.” I rarely look at fiction. At the library I head for the “new non-fiction” and the “first person memoirs.”
What section do you gravitate to?
Reading about a topic I enjoy always makes me crave more. For example I have a collection of over 20 books on screenwriting and nearly as many on metaphysical topics. My kindle is full of marketing, branding and business books.
Read inspirational stories about others who have made major shifts in their lives. Start with 50 Ordinary Women, a collection of interviews with women who have designed their Second Acts. Some have overcome personal obstacles. Others have taken a more circuitous route to make positive shifts in their lives.
As much as I love reading, for me there’s no better confidence booster than learning a new skill. Recently I’ve taking a marketing class at Coursera, a business class at CreativeLive and a short WordPress class from WP-BFF. Each of these classes were free and I was able to complete them on my own schedule.
Start exploring. Find a class that works for you. The energy and confidence we get from learning a new skill and then putting it into practice is what we need to create new opportunities for ourselves.
Once we zero in on our interests and our superpowers, we can brainstorm our options for finding the best way to combine the two. For example, you’re fascinated by rock climbers but at age 62, the closest you’ll get to actually scaling a rock face is scrambling over a few boulders in a creek bed. But, your superpower is writing. So then combine your interest with your superpower and write a book about rock climbing, or interview a rock climber for a magazine article, or team up with a photographer for a photo essay.
Clarity comes when we decide on a goal and we start moving toward it. Clarity is decision. Clarity is a clear written goal, not a vague and fuzzy idea.
Jack Canfield suggests that to keep your subconscious mind focused on what you want, you should write down three goals in the area of life you are committed to working on. Read your list of goals every day, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. And for an even more powerful approach, close your eyes and focus on each goal and ask yourself, “What is one thing I could do today to move toward the achievement of this goal?” Write down your answers and take those actions.
The more we reinforce our goals though writing and visualization the clearer our path will become. As you start down that new path, whether it’s a career change, writing a book, starting a new business, traveling or blogging — you’ve got to set a goal and map out a plan. When we put our goals that at the bottom of our to-do list, we’re putting ourselves last.
For one week, let’s try putting ourselves first. Let’s start by saying ‘no’ to those obligations that aren’t aligned with our goals. Sometimes this means saying no to social invitations, or committee meetings, or volunteer organizations. Anything that takes time and energy away from a goal, particularly in its beginning stages, dilutes clarity.
If you’re working to get your Second Act career off the ground while you’re still at a full-time job (as I am), every minute of the day is precious. Although it’s not set in stone, for most of us the best time for creative work is early in the morning. If it means you start getting up at 5AM then so be it. Use that morning time to read, study, write, draw or plan. Set your intention the night before. Write it down. And then get to work first thing in the morning.
5. Value and Service.
For many, a Second Act means giving back to the community by volunteering for a cause or finding a job in the non-profit sector.
But those of us taking the path of the freelance creative look to deliver value in other ways. Once we realize that it’s only by delivering value to others that value flows back to us, we start to think of ways we can over-deliver.
And when we’ve done the self-examination work, the reading and learning for inspiration — when we’ve gained clarity — the idea of over-delivering is second nature. We begin to produce our best work in a field that fascinates us by using our own personal superpower — and it’s all backed up by a lifetime of experience.
Click below to download the free worksheets to go along with this post. I love feedback so feel free to comment below.
So you’ve got 30 years experience, top-notch degrees, and a boatload of life experience and you still can’t compete with that Gen-X whiz kid coming in to scoop up the job that was made for you? Age discrimination could be a factor, but in today’s economy where employers sift through hundreds of resumes for one position it may not be the only reason you didn’t get the interview.
According to CNN employers may have rational qualifications that are inadvertently weeding out older candidates. Recent education and technological skills are two areas where older workers are more likely to come up short compared to the younger competition.
“When there’s a large supply of unemployed workers, employers can afford to be choosier, and they’re opting for workers they think are less expensive or more recently trained,” said Sara Rix, senior strategic policy advisor for AARP’s Public Policy Institute.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at our resumes and figure out how we can make them stand out out.
1. Dates. If you want to keep your age a secret don’t disclose the year of your college graduation! In fact, your college degrees just don’t carry as much weight as they would for a recent grad. They belong at the bottom of the page. Depending on the job opening, I often leave off some of my education. Having a Master’s in Piano Performance isn’t very helpful when it comes to applying for an administrative position. When you list your work experience, there’s no need to go back further than 15 years. Keep it recent and relevant. If there is a particular accomplishment from the 80s that will put your resume over the top, put it under a separate heading of “previous accomplishments” and leave it undated.
2. Contact Information. Your email address can date you. If you’re using an AOL address or have a cute email address like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com you probably won’t be taken seriously. Simply signing up for a gmail account (firstname.lastname@example.org) will bring you into the 21st century. A cell phone number is a must. And you can leave off the FAX number. Does anyone use fax machines any more?
3. Look and feel. Holly Klose from TheLadders.com says to ditch the fancy paper. Aside from the fact that you will submit most resumes electronically, fancy paper is a thing of the past. “It either shows that you’re over a certain age, or that you’re new to the workforce and received advice from someone of a certain age.” For Gen-Xers fonts such as Times New Roman and Courier are considered old-fashioned and date you. Stick to Ariel.
4. Transferable skills. Here’s where you can use creativity to take those skills you’ve developed at a previous job and apply them to the position you are applying for. Three top skills employers are looking for are communication, problem-solving and teamwork. Show how you used these skills in each of your job descriptions. Secondary transferable skills include leadership experience, flexibility, willingness to learn and attention to detail. Again, tailor your job description to include how you demonstrated each skill but be sure to — (see #4).
5. Ditch the Cliches. So now that you have your transferable skills organized put them in your own language. According to Brazen Careerist, the top job-hunting cliches to avoid include the words “creative,” “results-oriented,” “passionate,” and “guru.” The phrase “excellent oral and written communication skills” should also be scratched. The hiring manager will be able to assess that from reading your resume and cover letter. Replace the words “responsible for” with “managed” or “completed” a particular task.
6. Technical Skills. Word, Excel and PowerPoint skills are taken for granted. No need to add them to your resume. Also leave off any technology that will date you – i.e. Word Perfect and DB2. Get some new skills! At the very least get familiar with Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. Retraining is almost a must if you want to stay competitive. Business News Daily lists the top tech skills to list on your resume in 2015. These include mobile development, user experience design, data analytics, social media expertise (specifically those platforms you have a working knowledge of and any systems you’ve used to manage these channels, such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite), Agile, and technical writing. Take a look at Codeacademy, Skillshare and Lynda for online classes. Keep an eye out for the next big thing! Hiring managers are looking for someone who is ahead of the curve.
7. Digital Portfolio. Start with LinkedIn. Here are some great tips from Marie-Claire on how to use your LinkedIn profile to land your dream job. Take a look at your Twitter, Pinterest, and FB profile and see that they enhance, or are at least consistent with, your career goals. If you are an artist or designer you might consider posting your portfolio on Carbonmade, Bleidu or PortfolioBox. The general consensus is not to include links on your resume since they would be useless if the resume is printed out, but if you are submitting your application for a job that requires a portfolio it would be acceptable to include a link. A terrific example of a portfolio site is CharlotteTang.com.
8. Customize. Tweak your resume to address the job requirements. Don’t send the same resume for every job you apply for even if they are all jobs in the same field. Go down the list of job requirements and address each one individually showing how you either have direct experience or the necessary transferable skills. And take the time to visit the company’s website, FB page and Twitter feed so you can show an understanding of their company philosophy in your resume and cover letter.
9. Keywords. Many companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) which scans resumes and captures keywords to assess whether or not you have the necessary qualifications. 72% of scanned resumes are never seen by human eyes because they do not contain key phrases directly relating to the job position. When you are customizing your resume for a particular job take your keywords directly from the job description and applicant requirements. Consider spelling out technical skills as well as using the acronym — for example, user experience design (UXD or UED). Refer to this list of resume keywords organized by job to punch up your writing. Stick with standard fonts and avoid decorative borders and shading to make sure your keywords are picked up by the ATS. Add a professional summary listing your qualifications directly pertaining to the job description at the top of your resume — more chance to insert keywords.
10. File Name. When you’re sending your resume as an email attachment make sure to include your name when you’re labeling the file, i.e. “SusanSmithResume.pdf” — certainly not “untitled.pdf.” This way if all of the resumes go into a folder on the hiring manager’s computer, yours will be easy to find.
11. Data. Include as much quantifiable data as you can. If you worked in Development mention how much money you raised for your organization last quarter. If you were a Social Media Strategist mention how many followers you were able to attract. If you were in sales give your sales figures or mention how many clients you were responsible for adding.
Now let’s take a look at some non-traditional resume ideas. Employers either love them or hate them. You have to know your industry and consider whether or not a non-traditional resume is even appropriate. Some employers have said that if you are sending a non-traditional infographic or video they’d prefer to have it as a supplement to the traditional resume.
12. Video. A video resume requires planning and attention to production detail. If you decide to go this route pay attention to sound and video quality. Dress appropriately and don’t just read your resume. Show your skills and your personality. Keep it short, 60 to 90 seconds. Attach the link to your video along with your resume and cover letter when you send in your job application.
14. Tailored Infographics. There’s a trend now to design your resume so that it looks like the webpage of the company to which you are applying. The first time I saw this was when I read about Jeanne Hwang, a Harvard grad who used Pinterest to create her resume to try to land a job at Pinterest. She writes “Hey Pinterest! Where else to showcase my background and love for Pinterest than right here? Click through the pins for more details, and check out my Pinterest for Jeanne board too. This ain’t your mama’s resume!” Read her story here.
15. QR code. This is that little square box with the squiggly lines that you can scan to bring up a URL on your smart phone. If you’re going to use one make sure you’re linking to something useful, an example of an app you built, your portfolio, a video. Here’s how you can make one.
16. References. You can leave off the old “References Available Upon Request” at the end of your resume. If you have a quote from an influential person in your field why not highlight it and put it right at the top of your resume?
17. Skills Chart. If you decide to go the infographic route, chances are you’ll include a skills chart. Make sure the chart is easy to understand at first glance. Visualize.me has a collection of styles to choose from and you can use their app to design your own for free.
18. Proofread! No matter how many qualifications you have or how creative your design is, typos and misspellings raise a red flag. Proofread your resume and better yet, ask a friend to double check it.
For the middle-aged job hunter, some words of encouragement from Peter Shrive, a partner with Cambridge Management Planners.
“There are three key phrases you should consider for your resume if you’re over 50: results, results and results. These kinds of words — seasoned, experienced, well-versed, successful, results-oriented — instantly say older….” (however) “….It’s a lot more exciting to read the resume of an over-50 job seeker because of the emphasis on results. You make your resume accurate and interesting, highlighting your breadth of experience.”
There’s no way around it. No matter how much we resist it, part of our Second Act is going to involve learning a new skill, or three. There once was a time when I stubbornly refused to use a mouse. (Yes, I’m that old.) I was working in a software store the week the first Microsoft mouse came on the market in 1983. I liked using the arrow keys and no one could convince me that this new gadget would make life easier.
Well, of course that didn’t last long. I quickly adjusted to the “new technology.”
But nevertheless, resistance to change is not uncommon, especially with those of us from a certain generation who tend to look back on the good old days. Shag rugs? Avocado kitchen appliances? Really?
If we’re planning on starting our own business, freelancing, or looking for a new job, we need to have a few tricks up our sleeve. At the very least we should expand on the skills we already have. With so many online training options there’s no excuse. Whether we choose Skillshare, Codecademy, Coursera, Udemy, or Createlive, our goal should be to get up to speed with a new skill as quickly as possible.
Here are four things to keep in mind as you start your training:
We learn best by just diving in and messing around. If you’re learning a new computer skill, force yourself to learn without watching tutorials or reading instructions. Well maybe give yourself a little leeway and read a bit, but as soon as you can, jump in and figure it out for yourself. In order to learn we need to fail. And there’s research to prove it. And in case you need more evidence, just watch a kid play a video game!
This works particularly well when we’re learning a skill with numbers or a new language. Notice how we group numbers in our everyday lives, from Social Security numbers to phone numbers. But we can also try applying it to learning a new skill. According to Fernand Gobet, a chunk can be defined as “a collection of elements having strong associations with one another, but weak associations with elements within other chunks.” For example if you’re learning Photoshop, spend time with the drawing elements only. Then another day on effects. You get the idea.
Study before you go to sleep
We process information while we sleep and now research has shown that memory retention is increased if we go to sleep right after we learn something new. So if you’re finally learning Italian (one of my bucket list items) study your vocab right before bed and wake up with “Buon giorno!”
Study in short bursts with frequent breaks
Tim Ferris talks about the importance of taking breaks as he discusses his new TV show, The Time Ferriss Experiment. His challenge on the show is to master a new skill every week, basically dismissing the “10,000 hour rule.” He says “You need stimulus and recovery in mental work in the same way that you need stimulus and recovery for sports. Just as you have physical over-training in the weight room, there is mental over-training with too much time in front of a screen or thousands of small minute to minute decisions over time with no rest. This contributes to biological duress. When this happens you’re not adapting, you’re actually degrading performance.” So, remember study breaks!
Don’t think you can’t teach that old dog new tricks. You most definitely can — and you should!
I don’t go anywhere without a notebook and pen these days. Some days I just jot out a to-do list or a grocery list, other days notes for blog posts and e-courses. Once in a while a logline for a screenplay or a new business idea.
But recently I’ve been numbering my page from 1 to 10 and spending time intentionally generating “ideas.” I’m becoming an idea machine!
That is the title of Claudia Altucher’s new book. In “Become an Idea Machine” she writes:
IDEAS ARE THE CURRENCY OF LIFE. Not money. Money get depleted until you go broke. But good ideas buy you good experiences, but you better ideas, buy you better experiences, buy you more time, save your life.
You’d be surprised at how hard it is to come up with ten ideas a day. I’m usually ready to give up after the fifth one. But in her book, Claudia comes up with prompts like list “Ten Ways You Could Make Your Traveling Easier Next Time You Fly” or “List Your Ten Favorite Books of All Time and One Thing You Learned From Each.” The trick is to get your ideas down on paper, no matter how lame you think they are. Just like any other part of the body, the more you exercise this part of the brain, the creative side, the better it will get.
For me, usually just the act of writing the list is enough to stop the “monkey chatter” in my brain. But if you need to clear your head before you can start creating fresh ideas here are ten tips to get you started:
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing for five minutes. Inhale deeply, hold your breath, and exhale slowly.
- Take a shower. Don’t we always come up with our best ideas in the shower?
- Take a power walk.
- Take a power nap.
- Take ten minutes (set the timer) and scroll through Art & Design on Tumblr.
- Go to the library and visit a section you’ve never been to before.
- Talk to a kid.
- Talk to a senior.
- Pull some weeds.
Why don’t you try coming up with ten ideas every day? Start with one week and let me know how it goes in the comments below.
1. You crave a simple lifestyle. You look around and you just want to get rid of everything. It’s not that you want to replace anything, you just want the freedom that comes getting rid of stuff. This urge to purge can extend to Facebook followers, your email inbox and the piles of paperwork on your desk. For inspiration check out Leo Babuto’s list of 72 things you can do to simplify your life.
2. You start to value your time. Fundraisers, board meetings, online communities, kids school events, carpooling, play dates, Tastefully Simple parties, Netflix binging. You’ve done it all and for the first time you find yourself saying “no” to time-sucking activities and obligations (except for maybe House of Cards or OITNB). Anne LaMott has great advice about finding that time for yourself now.
3. You start evaluating your skills and strengths. A reinvention is usually just another step in your organic evolution. Rarely do we start over from scratch. Rather we sew together bits and pieces of our past and come up with a new version of ourselves. But when you find yourself saying things like “I used to love making granola (scrapbooking, cross stitching, beading, etc)” — don’t get too sentimental. Sometimes hobbies should remain hobbies. Instead, look at the big picture. Marie Forleo has this to say. “Skills and strengths trump passion when it comes to doing deeply rewarding work that matters.” Watch her talk about why you’ll never find your passion.
4. You find yourself browsing online course offerings at Udemy, Skillshare, Coursera, Codecademy, CreativeLive . Suddenly you’re looking at classes you’d never even considered before. UI, UX, Ruby! You think “Hey, I can do this!” We’re living in a time when anyone with online access can learn just about anything for free (at any time). Take advantage of it!
5. You’ve started visualizing your new life. And the more you think about it, the more “right” it feels. Whether you’re dreaming of starting your own business, looking for a job in a new field or just looking forward to a new position in your current line of work — once it starts feeling comfortable on all levels — intellectually, physically and in your heart — you know change is on it’s way. Happy Reinvention!
When I left my fulltime nursing job two years ago, to live a life by the guidance that was screaming at me from my very cells to pay attention, I remember saying to Steve that I didn’t even know what I enjoyed doing anymore. It felt really sad to admit that aloud, and even worse to be experiencing it without knowing where or how to begin again.
I’ve come a long way to get back into living my truth. It hasn’t been easy – and it’s a work in progress.
In fact, ironically, some of the toughest Work of it has been in allowing myself to Play. Even in my art.
I still resist Play like a knee jerk reaction much of the time. In many areas of my life. Even at the easel I will try to shove the practice into a task-oriented and systematic approach that ends up feeling more like Work. Ugh. This resistance is even more of an indicator that Play is exactly the medicine that will steer me deeper into my connection with the Sacred… even if it tries to make me feel all good in the process – in fact, especially then.
Luckily, I’m on to it more, that sneaky resistance… I see the worker-me coming in and killing the joy for an instant, trying to take over… and I smile and say thanks for that, now buzz off. Then I shake things up a bit – dance a little, move the painting around, grab a new color and slap it on the page, get my fingers in it – all to invite my creative play juices to keep the flow alive. I try to not be so serious about it all in the process of doing it.
So as we return to our art, or begin a meditation practice, or pick up our knitting needles – it’s good to be reminded to take note when Play begins to feel like Work, when it starts to feel like just one more thing we “have” to do, when there’s no joy in it. That’s the time to “shake things up a bit” as Hali says, or maybe even to dig a little deeper, slow down, forget about schedules and obligations, and lose ourselves in our Work. That’s when it will become Play.
In case you thought play was just for kids, read this. Research has shown that all ages benefit from unstructured play.
“Exhausted by the crushing yoke of their daily obligations, adults around the world are flocking to the playgrounds of their childhoods in search of relaxation and release. Not surprisingly, an entire cottage industry has subsequently sprouted up to help world-weary workers satiate their inner child. In Brooklyn, an adult preschool lets office drones finger paint, participate in arts and crafts, and re-enact schoolyard favorites like show and tell for as little as $333 a class. In the United Kingdom, a design studio opened a ball pit just for grown-ups, while laughter clubs in India offer a form of both spiritual and physical exercise for disgruntled citizens. And this week, the two best-selling books on Amazon were “adult coloring books” published by Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford.”
If you’re like me you just don’t have the time to get to a ball pit, let alone find the time to meditate or get to a yoga class. In fact, the very thought of going to a ball pit sounds like work, not play. But the idea of stepping back into childhood is appealing and I can understand the health benefits.
So I propose we start where we left off by asking ourselves what it was that we loved to do when we were children. For women this takes on a new importance when we consider Maureen Murdock’s “The Heroine’s Journey.” She describes this period of reflection as the Initiation and Descent, or a time to draw inward and look for the lost pieces of one’s self. She describes this as a period of just “being” – no goals, no deadlines, no expectations. Whether you pick up your knitting, start zentangle, or pick up an adult coloring book…know that you’re not just finding time for “play” you’re taking the next step in the Heroine’s Journey.