Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Are Your Curiosity Levels High Enough?

Problem:

You’re not learning new things, expanding your horizon, getting out of your comfort zone, or having exciting experiences.

Solution:

Raise your curiosity.

Most people think curiosity is just a trait you’re born with and you either have it or you don’t.  But you know that can’t be entirely true because sometimes you are more curious than at other times, and even people who may not seem like the curious type have at least been curious about something at some time in their life.

The Curious Mind

So if curiosity is fleeting and sporadic, and it can help us learn new things, then we need to figure out how to capture it, control it, and use it to drive our actions.  We need to develop the curious mind.

Experiment

Try this experiment.

Think of a time when you were really curious about something. What did it feel like?

You really wanted to know that one thing, didn’t you?

Ok, now try to feel that feeling again.  You’re feeling it now by just remembering the situation.

Now, keep that feeling, and think of something else that you want to do or learn, but were afraid of, or didn’t think you could pull it off, or thought it was too far fetched or crazy.  Then realize that you don’t really know exactly what might happen if you tried that.  Isn’t there some aspect that you are curious to know what really might happen?

There, now forget about your fears or doubts, and let your curiosity drive you to action.  It can be stronger than the forces holding you back.

Did it work? Are you motivated to go do something?

Let me know in the comments because I need some more data points.

Get a (new) Job.

Problem:

You’ve mastered your current position and are pretty much the expert in that particular job function, but you’d like more challenge.  You want to get to the next level but there doesn’t seem to be any sign of promotion or juicy project ahead.

Solution:

Go find another position within the company and start over.

It’s hard for anyone to leave a place of knowledge, expertise, respect, connections, or safety, and start over, but within a large corporation it’s about the safest thing to do.

When you become an expert, and you change positions within the same corporation, you never completely leave your expertise.  People will still call you for advice or information, you are still somewhat available.  And because of your experience in that area, you will always be welcomed back into the group if other positions don’t work out.

Sure, starting over in a new position, with a new manager and a whole new group of people can be completely unnerving because it is full of unknowns – you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t know who to talk to, you’re the new kid on the block and therefore don’t have the respect that you’re used to.  That’s okay.  It puts you in a perfect position to learn, get away with making mistakes, and inject some new thoughts and ideas into the group because you’re not tainted with all the history and baggage of that department.

Starting over is immensely valuable because in the long run, you are building a broader range of experience and a larger, more diverse network of contacts.  All the things you don’t know now, you’ll learn soon enough, and when you do, you’ll be twice as valuable for the company.  Knowing more parts of the bigger system will definitely help you solve the tough problems and give you more people to call on when you need help.

And usually, you’re not starting completely at zero.  You work for the same company, so you know what’s been happening at a macro level, and you’re probably somewhat aware of what your new group does.  You may have even coordinated with them in the past so you understand the other side of the issues, and that will get you more respect in your new group.

Keep your eye on what’s happening in other areas so you know when they might need some help and how your particular expertise and experience can help them.  Never burn bridges, and stay in touch with past co-workers, you never know what kind of opportunities may arise.

Don’t worry if this new group may not be your ‘dream job’.  Learn to make a difference and put your mark on what ever department you work in.  Over time, as you learn new skills and broaden your experience, you’ll be recognized as someone who can get the job done.  Then, you’ll begin to be wanted, and offered many positions, from which you can choose the best one for you.

Now that’s job security.

It takes some risk to increase your value.

Take a Power Nap

Post by  Eric, Third Degree Enigma

Problem:

You get a little drowsy in the afternoon and have a hard time being productive.  Your mind gets fuzzy.

Solution:

Research has shown that taking a 20 minute nap in the middle of the day resets the learning centers of the brain and significantly improves learning during afternoon activities.   As a developer, it is not uncommon for me to get very drowsy around 1pm-2pm and be unable to write any decent code for several hours afterward.  Unless, of course, I can get a power nap. 

Napping at work has been problematic for eons.  Your body is screaming at you for a few minutes of brain reorganization and everyone else at work is prone to take a narrow view of your somnolence.   Besides the career-limiting potential that an open nap can have, it is also naturally difficult to get a good nap if you know other people are aware of it.   This is your caveman instinct protecting you from hostile males and predators taking advantage of your lack of consciousness.

Well, I’ve been powernapping successfully as part of my work for many years now.  I find short naps to be an indispensible part of having work-life balance and I’ve figured out a few things to make naps easier and more effective.  Here are some things I have learned: 

  • Take a nap when you are sleepy.  Once your body tells you to nap,  you have 20 minute window to get it.
  • It is critical that you actually go unconscious.  If you stay awake and just rest for a few minutes, you won’t get the benefit. 
  • 20 minutes is plenty.  I set a timer for the 20 minutes, but I almost always wake up before it goes off.  I often find that I have had a little dream, which is my signal that I had a good nap.
  • If you can nap in a semi-private location (such as a closed office), most people, even bosses, don’t particularly care.  They will even be apologetic about  disturbing you.   Napping in the open, however, makes people feel uncomfortable.
  • An office with a door that closes is great, but it is still important to put out a sign to keep people from barging in.   My favorite sign is “email only, please”.
  • If you don’t have a private office for sacking out, try any of the following:  Your car, a nearby park, a forgotten corner of the building, underneath the stairs at the bottom of a deep stairwell, or an unassigned office or cubicle.
  • Put your sleeping supplies (blanket, small pillow, earplugs) in a sports bag so that people don’t question why you are headed out of your office with a blanket and a pillow.   

Sweet dreams!

-Eric, Third Degree Enigma

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