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More Than A Hero: Muhammad Ali’s Life Lessons Through His Daughter’s Eyes

May 10th, 2010 No comments

The following incident took place when Muhammad Ali’s daughters arrived at
his home wearing clothes that were not modest. Here is the story as told
by one of his daughters:

When we finally arrived, the chauffeur escorted my younger sister, Laila,
and me up to my father’s suite. As usual, he was hiding behind the door
waiting to scare us. We exchanged many hugs and kisses as we could
possibly give in one day.

My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said
something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and
said, “Hana, everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and
hard to get to. Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground,
covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the
ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find
gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock.
You’ve got to work har d to get to them.”

He looked at me with serious eyes. “Your body is sacred. You’re far more
precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too.”

Source: Taken from the book: More Than A Hero: Muhammad Ali’s Life Lessons
Through His Daughter’s Eyes.

http://www.amazon.com/More-Than-Hero-Presented-Daughters/dp/067104236X

More Than a Hero: Muhammad Ali’s Life Lessons Presented Through His Daughter’s Eyes (Hardcover)
~ Hana Ali (Author)
To the world, three-time heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali is known as “the Greatest.” To his daughter, Hana, he is simply known as Daddy. Now in a heartfelt tribute, Hana Ali shares the life lessons she learned from her father, and offers an intensely personal look at one of the most revered men on the face of the earth.

Sprinkled among her insightful anecdotes, Hana Ali presents a collection of Muhammad Ali’s most provocative and profound poetry and quotes — spanning from the turbulent 1960s to today — as well as classic and never-before-published photographs. She also confides the wisdom and understanding of a cultural icon whose battle with Parkinson’s disease has not stopped his commitment to African-American pride, nor his ongoing fight against poverty and racism. Lovingly conveyed through Hana’s unique perspective, More Than A Hero is more than just a rare glimpse inside the Ali family — it is an inspirational reminder that we can all achieve greatness.

Lessons in Life: Maya Angelou

March 16th, 2010 No comments

In April, Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah on her 70+ birthday. Oprah asked her what she thought of growing older.

And, there on television, she said it was “exciting.” Regarding body changes, she said there were many, occurring every day…like her breasts.They seem to be in a race to see which will reach her waist, first.

The audience laughed so hard they cried. She is such a simple and honest woman, with so much wisdom in her words!

Maya Angelou said this:
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”
“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”
“I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.”
“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life’.”
“I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.”
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back.”
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.”
“I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.”
“I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.
People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.”
“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.”
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

SPARK – Speech by Chetan Bhagat at Symbiosis

January 31st, 2010 No comments

Here’s an excerpt of Chetan Bhagat’s speech at Symbiosis — Short & good to read…Full speech and more information below.

—–

Don’t just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.

“Life is one of those races in nursery school where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same is with life where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

One thing about nurturing the spark – don’t take life seriously. Life is not meant to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up?

It’s ok, bunk a few classes, scoring low in couple of papers, goof up a few interviews, take leave from work, little fights with your people. We are people, not programmed devices………” :)

———

Full Speech: http://www.chetanbhagat.com/speeches/speech_2.php
SPARK
speech given at the orientation program for the new batch of MBA students
Symbiosis, Pune, July 24, 2008

© Chetan Bhagat
Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates – there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party – several months in advance – just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.

I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how to save the spark?

Imagine the spark to be a lamp’s flame. The first aspect is nurturing – to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms.

To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn’t any external measure – a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.

Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement. But it isn’t the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr. Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won’t be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday? They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.

Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature’s design. Are you? Goals will help you do that. I must add, don’t just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balancedmeans ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.

You must have read some quotes – Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school, where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

One last thing about nurturing the spark – don’t take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said – don’t be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It’s ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.

I’ve told you three things – reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.

Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. If things don’t go as planned or if you face failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some IITians kill themselves over low grades – how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you. But it’s life. If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember – if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that’s where you want to be.
Disappointment’ s cousin is Frustration, the second storm. Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don’t know if you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me five years to get close to a release. Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved – movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result – at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a side plan – I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life – friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.

Unfairness – this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it – not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you. In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty damm lucky by Indian standards. Let’s be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don’t. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don’t get literary praise. It’s ok. I don’t look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are more beautiful than her. It’s ok. Don’t let unfairness kill your spark.

Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is Isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.

There you go. I’ve told you the four thunderstorms – disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.

I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, your eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is something cool about saying – I come from the land of a billion sparks.

Thank You.

Biography

Chetan Bhagat is the author of three blockbuster novels, Five Point Someone (2004), One Night @ the Call Center (2005) and The 3 Mistakes of life (2008). All the three books have remained bestsellers since their release and have inspired major Bollywood films. The New York Times called Chetan the ‘the biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history.’ Seen more as a youth icon than just an author, this IIT D/ IIMA graduate is making India read like never before.

Chetan also writes op-ed columns for leading English and Hindi newspapers, focusing on youth and national development based issues. Many of the issues raised by Chetan’s columns have been discussed in Parliament and among the top leadership of the country.

Chetan quit his international investment banking career in 2009, to devote his entire time to writing and make change happen in the country. He lives in Mumbai with his wife Anusha, an ex-classmate from IIMA and his twin boys Shyam and Ishaan.

OSI Chevening Scholarships for study in the United Kingdom

December 29th, 2009 No comments

OSI Chevening Scholarships for study in the United Kingdom
For more information see

http://www.soros.org/initiatives/scholarship/news?&sort_on=date&sort_desc=0&start:int=15

DEADLINES:

January 2010

12th – OSI/FCO Chevening/University of Oxford Scholarships – 9 Month Research & Master’s Awards
The Open Society Institute offers support for postgraduate study in the UK for doctoral students, junior lecturers, and young professionals from Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, FYR Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

18th – OSI/FCO Chevening/University of Essex Human Rights Scholarships
The program offers support to students from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Palestine, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to pursue postgraduate programs at the Human Rights Centre.

25th – OSI/FCO Chevening/Staffordshire University (MSc in Economics for Business Analysis)
OSI offers support for university graduates from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, or Montenegro with outstanding academic qualifications for the MSc in the Economics for Business Analysis program at Staffordshire University.

25th – OSI/Staffordshire University (MPhil/PhD in Economics)
The Open Society Institute invites university graduates from applicants from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro to apply for this MPhil/PhD in Economics distance-learning program.

29th – OSI/FCO Chevening/University of Warwick Scholarships
OSI offers support for scholars from Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Mongolia with the chance to read for a master’s course at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Warwick.
February 2010

1st – OSI/FCO Chevening/University of Cambridge Scholarships
Scholars from Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are invited to apply for awards in the social sciences and humanities.

2nd – OSI/FCO Chevening/Royal Holloway University of London Scholarships
This scholarship program provides opportunities for applicants from Pakistan to study for an MSc Democracy, Politics and Governance or MSc Medical Sociology at Royal Holloway.

2nd – OSI/FCO Chevening/University of Sussex Scholarships
The Open Society Institute invites applications from suitably qualified students from Albania, Belarus, and Kosovo for a one-year in MA Contemporary European Studies or an MA European Politics.
2nd – OSI/FCO Chevening/University of Edinburgh Scholarships (Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Jordan, Palestine, and Syria)

The scholarships offer support for independent postgraduate study at the University of Edinburgh for students from Georgia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, the occupied Palestinian Territories, and Syria.

2nd – OSI/FCO Chevening/University of Manchester Scholarships (Economic Studies)
These scholarships provide opportunities for applicants from Mongolia and Tajikistan to study for a one-year MSc program in economics at the University of Manchester, UK.

2nd – OSI/FCO Chevening/University of Manchester Scholarships (Department of Government)
OSI offers support to scholars from Belarus, Mongolia, Russia, and Uzbekistan to participate in a master’s program in politics at the University of Manchester.

2nd – OSI/FCO Chevening/University of York Scholarships
The program offers scholarships to suitably qualified individuals and/or young professionals from Afghanistan and Tajikistan to pursue an MA Post-War Recovery Studies at York.

2nd – OSI/FCO Chevening/University of Glasgow Scholarships
OSI cosponsors scholarship opportunities for qualified students from Indonesia to study for an MSc in International Politics.

4th – OSI/FCO Chevening/University of Nottingham Scholarships
The scholarships provide opportunities for independent postgraduate study at the University of Nottingham for students from Indonesia, Jordan, and Syria.

4th – OSI/FCO Chevening/University of St Andrews Scholarships
The scholarships provide opportunities for independent postgraduate study at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, UK, for applicants from Indonesia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

18th – OSI/FCO Chevening/University College London Scholarship (School of Slavonic and East European Studies)
These scholarships support students from Macedonia, Moldova, Russia, or Serbia to undertake master’s studies at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London.

For More information see

http://www.soros.org/initiatives/scholarship/news

Things You Really Need to Learn

November 29th, 2009 No comments

Things You Really Need to Learn
By Stephen Downes
August 30, 2006
http://www.downes.ca/post/38502

Guy Kawasaki last week wrote an item describing ‘ten things you should learn this school year’ in which readers were advised to learn how to write five sentence emails, create powerpoint slides, and survive boring meetings. It was, to my view, advice on how to be a business toady. My view is that people are worth more than that, that pleasing your boss should be the least of your concerns, and that genuine learning means something more than how to succeed in a business environment.

But what should you learn? Your school will try to teach you facts, which you’ll need to pass the test but which are otherwise useless. In passing you may learn some useful skills, like literacy, which you should cultivate. But Guy Kawasaki is right in at least this: schools won’t teach you the things you really need to learn in order to be successful, either in business (whether or not you choose to live life as a toady) or in life.

Here, then, is my list. This is, in my view, what you need to learn in order to be successful. Moreover, it is something you can start to learn this year, no matter what grade you’re in, no matter how old you are. I could obviously write much more on each of these topics. But take this as a starting point, follow the suggestions, and learn the rest for yourself. And to educators, I ask, if you are not teaching these things in your classes, why are you not?

1. How to predict consequences

The most common utterance at the scene of a disaster is, “I never thought…” The fact is, most people are very bad at predicting consequences, and schools never seem to think to teach them how to improve.

The prediction of consequences is part science, part mathematics, and part visualization. It is essentially the ability to create a mental model imaging the sequence of events that would follow, “what would likely happen if…?”

The danger in such situations is focusing on what you want to happen rather than what might happen instead. When preparing to jump across a gap, for example, you may visualize yourself landing on the other side. This is good; it leads to successful jumping. But you need also to visualize not landing on the other side. What would happen then? Have you even contemplated the likely outcome of a 40 meter fall?

This is where the math and science come in. You need to compare the current situation with your past experience and calculate the probabilities of different outcomes. If, for example, you are looking at a 5 meter gap, you should be asking, “How many times have I successfully jumped 5 meters? How many times have I failed?” If you don’t know, you should know enough to attempt a test jump over level ground.

People don’t think ahead. But while you are in school, you should always be taking the opportunity to ask yourself, “what will happen next?” Watch situations and interactions unfold in the environment around you and try to predict the outcome. Write down or blog your predictions. With practice, you will become expert at predicting consequences.

Even more interestingly, over time, you will begin to observe patterns and generalities, things that make consequences even easier to predict. Things fall, for example. Glass breaks. People get mad when you insult them. Hot things will be dropped. Dogs sometimes bite. The bus (or train) is sometimes late. These sorts of generalizations – often known as ‘common sense’ – will help you avoid unexpected, and sometimes damaging, consequences.

2. How to read

Oddly, by this I do not mean ‘literacy’ in the traditional sense, but rather, how to look at some text and to understand, in a deep way, what is being asserted (this also applies to audio and video, but grounding yourself in text will transfer relatively easily, if incompletely, to other domains)..

The four major types of writing are: description, argument, explanation and definition. I have written about these elsewhere. You should learn to recognize these different types of writing by learning to watch for indicators or keywords.

Then, you should learn how sentences are joined together to form these types of writing. For example, an argument will have two major parts, a premise and a conclusion. The conclusion is the point the author is trying to make, and it should be identified with an indicator (such as the words ‘therefore’, ‘so’, or ‘consequently’, for example).

A lot of writing is fill – wasted words intended to make the author look good, to distract your attention, or to simply fill more space. Being able to cut through the crap and get straight to what is actually being said, without being distracted, is an important skill.

Though your school will never teach you this, find a basic book on informal logic (it will have a title like ‘critical thinking’ or something like that). Look in the book for argument forms and indicator words (most of these books don’t cover the other three types of writing) and practice spotting these words in text and in what the teacher says in class. Every day, focus on a specific indicator word and watch how it is used in practice.

3. How to distinguish truth from fiction

I have written extensively on this elsewhere, nonetheless, this remains an area schools to a large degree ignore. Sometimes I suspect it is because teachers feel their students must absorb knowledge uncritically; if they are questioning everything the teacher says they’ll never learn!

The first thing to learn is to actually question what you are told, what you read, and what you see on television. Do not simply accept what you are told. Always ask, how can you know that this is true? What evidence would lead you to believe that it is false?

I have written several things to help you with this, including my Guide to the Logical Fallacies, and my article on How to Evaluate Websites. These principles are more widely applicable. For example, when your boss says something to you, apply the same test. You may be surprised at how much your boss says to you that is simply not true!

Every day, subject at least one piece of information (a newspaper column, a blog post, a classroom lecture) to thorough scrutiny. Analyze each sentence, analyze every word, and ask yourself what you are expected to believe and how you are expected to feel. Then ask whether you have sufficient reason to believe and feel this way, or whether you are being manipulated.

4. How to empathize

Most people live in their own world, and for the most part, that’s OK. But it is important to at least recognize that there are other people, and that they live in their own world as well. This will save you from the error of assuming that everyone else is like you. And even more importantly, this will allow other people to become a surprising source of new knowledge and insight.

Part of this process involves seeing things through someone else’s eyes. A person may be, quite literally, in a different place. They might not see what you see, and may have seen things you didn’t see. Being able to understand how this change in perspective may change what they believe is important.

But even more significantly, you need to be able to imagine how other people feel. This mans that you have to create a mental model of the other person’s thoughts and feelings in your own mind, and to place yourself in that model. This is best done by imagining that you are the other person, and then placing yourself into a situation.

Probably the best way to learn how to do this is to study drama (by that I don’t mean studying Shakespeare, I mean learning how to act in plays). Sadly, schools don’t include this as part of the core curriculum. So instead, you will need to study subjects like religion and psychology. Schools don’t really include these either. So make sure you spend at least some time in different role-playing games (RPGs) every day and practice being someone else, with different beliefs and motivations.

When you are empathetic you will begin to seek out and understand ways that help bridge the gap between you and other people. Being polite and considerate, for example, will become more important to you. You will be able to feel someone’s hurt if you are rude to them. In the same way, it will become more important to be honest, because you will begin to see how transparent your lies are, and how offensive it feels to be thought of as someone who is that easily fooled.

Empathy isn’t some sort of bargain. It isn’t the application of the Golden Rule. It is a genuine feeling in yourself that operates in synch with the other person, a way of accessing their inner mental states through the sympathetic operation of your own mental states. You are polite because you feel bad when you are rude; you are honest because you feel offended when you lie.

You need to learn how to have this feeling, but once you have it, you will understand how empty your life was before you had it.

5. How to be creative

Everybody can be creative, and if you look at your own life you will discover that you are already creative in numerous ways. Humans have a natural capacity to be creative – that’s how our minds work – and with practice can become very good at it.

The trick is to understand how creativity works. Sometimes people think that creative ideas spring out of nothing (like the proverbial ‘blank page’ staring back at the writer) but creativity is in fact the result of using and manipulating your knowledge in certain ways.

Genuine creativity is almost always a response to something. This article, for example, was written in response to an article on the same subject that I thought was not well thought out. Creativity also arises in response to a specific problem: how to rescue a cat, how to cross a gap, how to hang laundry. So, in order to be creative, the first thing to do is to learn to look for problems to solve, things that merit a response, needs that need to be filled. This takes practice (try writing it down, or blogging it, every time you see a problem or need).

In addition, creativity involves a transfer of knowledge from one domain to another domain, and sometimes a manipulation of that knowledge. When you see a gap in real life, how did you cross a similar gap in an online game? Or, if you need to clean up battery acid, how did you get rid of excess acid in your stomach?

Creativity, in other words, often operates by metaphor, which means you need to learn how to find things in common between the current situation and other things you know. This is what is typically meant by ‘thinking outside the box’ – you want to go to outside the domain of the current problem. And the particular skill involved is pattern recognition. This skill is hard to learn, and requires a lot of practice, which is why creativity is hard.

But pattern recognition can be learned – it’s what you are doing when you say one song is similar to another, or when you are taking photographs of, say, flowers or fishing boats.. The arts very often involve finding patterns in things, which is why, this year, you should devote some time every day to an art – music, photography, video, drawing, painting or poetry.

6. How to communicate clearly

Communicating clearly is most of all a matter of knowing what you want to say, and then employing some simple tools in order to say it. Probably the hardest part of this is knowing what you want to say. But it is better to spend time being sure you understand what you mean than to write a bunch of stuff trying to make it more or less clear.

Knowing what to say is often a matter of structure. Professional writers employ a small set of fairly standard structures. For example, some writers prefer articles (or even whole books!) consisting of a list of points, like this article. Another structure, often called ‘pyramid style’, is employed by journalists – the entire story is told in the first paragraph, and each paragraph thereafter offers less and less important details.

Inside this overall structure, writers provide arguments, explanations, descriptions or definitions, sometimes in combination. Each of these has a distinctive structure. An argument, for example, will have a conclusion, a point the writer wants you to believe. The conclusion will be supported by a set of premises. Linking the premises and the conclusion will be a set of indicators. The word ‘therefore’, for example, points to the conclusion.

Learning to write clearly is a matter of learning about the tools, and then practice in their application. Probably the best way to learn how to structure your writing is to learn how to give speeches without notes. This will force you to employ a clear structure (one you can remember!) and to keep it straightforward. I have written more on this, and also, check out Keith Spicer’s book, Winging It.

Additionally, master the tools the professionals use. Learn the structure of arguments, explanations, descriptions and definitions. Learn the indicator words used to help readers navigate those structures. Master basic grammar, so your sentences are unambiguous. Information on all of these can be found online.

Then practice your writing every day. A good way to practice is to join a student or volunteer newspaper – writing with a team, for an audience, against a deadline. It will force you to work more quickly, which is useful, because it is faster to write clearly than to write poorly.. If no newspaper exists, create one, or start up a news blog.

7. How to Learn

Your brain consists of billions of neural cells that are connected to each other. To learn is essentially to form sets of those connections. Your brain is always learning, whether you are studying mathematics or staring at the sky, because these connections are always forming. The difference in what you learn lies in how you learn.

When you learn, you are trying to create patterns of connectivity in your brain. You are trying to connect neurons together, and to strengthen that connection. This is accomplished by repeating sets of behaviours or experiences. Learning is a matter of practice and repetition.

Thus, when learning anything – from ’2+2=4′ to the principles of quantum mechanics – you need to repeat it over and over, in order to grow this neural connection. Sometimes people learn by repeating the words aloud – this form of rote learning was popular not so long ago. Taking notes when someone talks is also good, because you hear it once, and then repeat it when you write it down.

Think about learning how to throw a baseball. Someone can explain everything about it, and you can understand all of that, but you still have to throw the ball several thousand times before you get good at it. You have to grow your neural connections in just the same way you grow your muscles.

Some people think of learning as remembering sets of facts. It can be that, sometimes, but learning is more like recognition than remembering. Because you are trying to build networks of neural cells, it is better to learn a connected whole rather than unconnected parts, where the connected whole you are learning in one domain has the same pattern as a connected whole you already know in another domain. Learning in one domain, then, becomes a matter of recognizing that pattern.

Sometimes the patterns we use are very artificial, as in ‘every good boy deserves fudge’ (the sentence helps us remember musical notes). In other cases, and more usefully, the pattern is related to the laws of nature, logical or mathematical principles, the flow of history, how something works as a whole, or something like that. Drawing pictures often helps people find patterns (which is why mind-maps andconcept maps are popular).

Indeed, you should view the study of mathematics, history, science and mechanics as the study ofarchetypes, basic patterns that you will recognize over and over. But this means that, when you study these disciplines, you should be asking, “what is the pattern” (and not merely “what are the facts”). And asking this question will actually make these disciplines easier to learn.

Learning to learn is the same as learning anything else. It takes practice. You should try to learn something every day – a random word in the dictionary, or a random Wikipedia entry. When learning this item, do not simply learn it in isolation, but look for patterns – does it fit into a pattern you already know? Is it a type of thing you have seen before? Embed this word or concept into your existing knowledge by using it in some way – write a blog post containing it, or draw a picture explaining it.

Think, always, about how you are learning and what you are learning at any given moment. Remember, you are always learning – which means you need to ask, what are you learning when you are watching television, going shopping, driving the car, playing baseball? What sorts of patterns are being created? What sorts of patterns are being reinforced? How can you take control of this process?

8. How to stay healthy

As a matter of practical consideration, the maintenance of your health involves two major components: minimizing exposure to disease or toxins, and maintenance of the physical body.

Minimizing exposure to disease and toxins is mostly a matter of cleanliness and order. Simple things – like keeping the wood alcohol in the garage, and not the kitchen cupboard – minimize the risk of accidental poisoning. Cleaning cooking surfaces and cooking food completely reduces the risk of bacterial contamination. Washing your hands regularly prevents transmission of human borne viruses and diseases.

In a similar manner, some of the hot-button issues in education today are essentially issues about how to warn against exposure to diseases and toxins. In a nutshell: if you have physical intercourse with another person you are facilitating the transmission of disease, so wear protection. Activities such as drinking, eating fatty foods, smoking, and taking drugs are essentially the introduction of toxins into your system, so do it in moderation, and where the toxins are significant, don’t do it at all.

Personal maintenance is probably even more important, as the major threats to health are generally those related to physical deterioration. The subjects of proper nutrition and proper exercise should be learned and practiced. Even if you do not become a health freak (and who does?) it is nonetheless useful to know what foods and types of actions are beneficial, and to create a habit of eating good foods and practicing beneficial actions.

Every day, seek to be active in some way – cycle to work or school, walk a mile, play a sport, or exercise. In addition, every day, seek to eat at least one meal that is ‘good for you’, that consists of protein and minerals (like meat and vegetables, or soy and fruit). If your school is not facilitating proper exercise and nutrition, demand them! You can’t learn anything if you’re sick and hungry! Otherwise, seek to establish an alternative program of your own, to be employed at noonhours.

Finally, remember: you never have to justify protecting your own life and health. If you do not want to do something because you think it is unsafe, then it is your absolute right to refuse to do it. The consequences – any consequences – are better than giving in on this.

9. How to value yourself

It is perhaps cynical to say that society is a giant conspiracy to get you to feel badly about yourself, but it wouldn’t be completely inaccurate either. Advertisers make you feel badly so you’ll buy their product, politicians make you feel incapable so you’ll depend on their policies and programs, even your friends and acquaintances may seek to make you doubt yourself in order to seek an edge in a competition.

You can have all the knowledge and skills in the world, but they are meaningless if you do not feel personally empowered to use them; it’s like owning a Lamborghini and not having a driver’s license. It looks shiny in the driveway, but you’re not really getting any value out of it unless you take it out for a spin.

Valuing yourself is partially a matter of personal development, and partially a matter of choice. In order to value yourself, you need to feel you are worth valuing. In fact, you are worth valuing, but it often helps to prove it to yourself by attaining some objective, learning some skill, or earning some distinction. And in order to value yourself, you have to say “I am valuable.”

This is an important point. How we think about ourselves is as much a matter of learning as anything else. If somebody tells you that you are worthless over and over, and if you do nothing to counteract that, then you will come to believe you are worthless, because that’s how your neural connections will form. But if you repeat, and believe, and behave in such a way as to say to yourself over and over, I am valuable, then that’s what you will come to believe.

What is it to value yourself? It’s actually many things. For example, it’s the belief that you are good enough to have an opinion, have a voice, and have a say, that your contributions do matter. It’s the belief that you are capable, that you can learn to do new things and to be creative. It is your ability to be independent, and to not rely on some particular person or institution for personal well-being, andautonomous, capable of making your own decisions and living your live in your own way.

All of these things are yours by right. But they will never be given to you. You have to take them, by actually believing in yourself (no matter what anyone says) and by actually being autonomous.

Your school doesn’t have a class in this (and may even be actively trying to undermine your autonomy and self-esteem; watch out for this). So you have to take charge of your own sense of self-worth.

Do it every day.. Tell yourself that you are smart, you are cool, you are strong, you are good, and whatever else you want to be. Say it out loud, in the morning – hidden in the noise of the shower, if need be, but say it. Then, practice these attributes. Be smart by (say) solving a crossword puzzle. Becool by making your own fashion statement. Be strong by doing something you said to yourself you were going to do. Be good by doing a good deed. And every time you do it, remind yourself that you have, in fact, done it.

10. How to live meaningfully

This is probably the hardest thing of all to learn, and the least taught.

Living meaningfully is actually a combination of several things. It is, in one sense, your dedication to some purpose or goal. But it is also your sense of appreciation and dedication to the here and now. And finally, it is the realization that your place in the world, your meaningfulness, is something you must create for yourself.

Too many people live for no reason at all. They seek to make more and more money, or they seek to make themselves famous, or to become powerful, and whether or not they attain these objectives, they find their lives empty and meaningless. This is because they have confused means and ends – money, fame and power are things people seek in order to do what is worth doing.

What is worth doing? That is up to you to decide. I have chosen to dedicate my life to helping people obtain an education. Others seek to cure diseases, to explore space, to worship God, to raise a family, to design cars, or to attain enlightenment.

If you don’t decide what is worth doing, someone will decide for you, and at some point in your life you will realize that you haven’t done what is worth doing at all. So spend some time, today, thinking about what is worth doing. You can change your mind tomorrow. But begin, at least, to guide yourselfsomewhere.

The second thing is sometimes thought of as ‘living in the moment’. It is essentially an understanding that you control your thoughts. Your thoughts have no power over you; the only thing that matters at all is this present moment. If you think about something – some hope, some failure, some fear – that thought cannot hurt you, and you choose how much or how little to trust that thought.

Another aspect of this is the following: what you are doing right now is the thing that you most want to do. Now you may be thinking, “No way! I’d rather be on Malibu Beach!” But if you really wanted to be on Malibu Beach, you’d be there.. The reason you are not is because you have chosen other priorities in your life – to your family, to your job, to your country.

When you realize you have the power to choose what you are doing, you realize you have the power to choose the consequences. Which means that consequences – even bad consequences – are for the most part a matter of choice.

That said, this understanding is very liberating. Think about it, as a reader – what it means is that what I most wanted to do with my time right now is to write this article so that you – yes, you – would read it. And even more amazingly, I know, as a writer, that the thing you most want to do right now, even more than you want to be in Malibu, is to read my words. It makes me want to write something meaningful – and it gives me a way to put meaning into my life.

Categories: Lifelong Learning, Resources Tags:

Learn to love the questions

November 12th, 2009 No comments

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”

Letters to a Young Poet
Rainer Maria Rilke

Categories: Lifelong Learning Tags:

How to live life?

October 14th, 2009 No comments
Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
Categories: Lifelong Learning Tags:

I don’t have time

October 12th, 2009 No comments

I DON’T HAVE TIME

When I hear that from writers, I want to scream. I said it once upon a time. I wished for 30-hour days and dodged sleep
in order to get “things” done, but never having enough time to get all those “things” done.

No, you don’t have time. Time has you.

I have belonged to a small online critique group for almost six years now. One of our members died one year ago this
week – October 7. Tom was like me. He wrote at night as everyone slept. He received his critiques and dove into his chapters as
if he didn’t have tomorrow. Truth was, he didn’t. He went in the hospital for gallbladder surgery, and didn’t come home.

I often think about his character Hunter Dunn and his book  ”Little Systems.” His book, while fiction, covered an underlying
theme that little systems control our lives, when in truth, we have more control over our lives than we care to admit. Hunter
fought internal demons, finally facing them, realizing he was his own worst enemy. He had options. He just never exercised them.

Tom’s book, incomplete, now sits in his desk.

I don’t care if you want to be a writer or a plumber, a doctor or a teacher. You need to establish your path and lay out 
benchmarks to reach those personal goals. The television, the movie and the dust mop can go to hell.

The only time you have is now. Don’t know how to venture into this writing circus? Search online. Read books. Attend conferences. Take a class. It’s so darn simple to learn, y’all. It only takes time, and the longer you wait, the less time you have.

by Hope Clark, FundsForWriters

Categories: Lifelong Learning, Motivational Tags:

DJ Gregory – Walk On (ESPN)

October 5th, 2009 No comments

DJ Gregory ESPN Walk On Video: http://www.facebook.com/l/9fdee;vodpod.com/watch/1165857-walk-on-espn-video
Blog: http://www.facebook.com/l/9fdee;www.pgatour.com/2008/r/dj.blog/index.html

Hello. My name is D.J. Gregory and I would like to welcome you to my journey. I am 30 years old and was born with cerebral palsy. Due to my disability, I walk with the aid of a cane. During the 2008 PGA TOUR season, I will be traveling for 45 weeks and attending 44 events on the schedule. Each week, I will choose one professional to follow and I will chronicle my experiences while walking the course with him during each round of competition. Along the way, I will also have the opportunity to speak with fans and volunteers.

This journey has been a lifelong dream of mine and this opportunity would not be possible without the generous support of the PGA TOUR, ACCUSPLIT, Southwest Airlines, Ashworth, FootJoy and tournament staff at each venue. I am excited to share my experiences with you and I hope you will check http://www.facebook.com/l/9fdee;PGATOUR.com often and share in my year-long adventure.

An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day

October 2nd, 2009 No comments

By Peter Bregman

Yesterday started with the best of intentions. I walked into my office in the morning with a vague sense of what I wanted to accomplish. Then I sat down, turned on my computer, and checked my email. Two hours later, after fighting several fires, solving other people’s problems, and dealing with whatever happened to be thrown at me through my computer and phone, I could hardly remember what I had set out to accomplish when I first turned on my computer. I’d been ambushed. And I know better.

When I teach time management, I always start with the same question: How many of you have too much time and not enough to do in it? In ten years, no one has ever raised a hand.

That means we start every day knowing we’re not going to get it all done. So how we spend our time is a key strategic decision. That’s why it’s a good idea to create a to do list and an ignore list. The hardest attention to focus is our own.

But even with those lists, the challenge, as always, is execution. How can you stick to a plan when so many things threaten to derail it? How can you focus on a few important things when so many things require your attention?

We need a trick.

Jack LaLanne, the fitness guru, knows all about tricks; he’s famous for handcuffing himself and then swimming a mile or more while towing large boats filled with people. But he’s more than just a showman. He invented several exercise machines including the ones with pulleys and weight selectors in health clubs throughout the world. And his show, The Jack LaLanne Show, was the longest running television fitness program, on the air for 34 years.

But none of that is what impresses me. He has one trick that I believe is his real secret power.

Ritual.

At the age of 94, he still spends the first two hours of his day exercising. Ninety minutes lifting weights and 30 minutes swimming or walking. Every morning. He needs to do so to achieve his goals: on his 95th birthday he plans to swim from the coast of California to Santa Catalina Island, a distance of 20 miles. Also, as he is fond of saying, “I cannot afford to die. It will ruin my image.”

So he works, consistently and deliberately, toward his goals. He does the same things day in and day out. He cares about his fitness and he’s built it into his schedule.

Managing our time needs to become a ritual too. Not simply a list or a vague sense of our priorities. That’s not consistent or deliberate. It needs to be an ongoing process we follow no matter what to keep us focused on our priorities throughout the day.

I think we can do it in three steps that take less than 18 minutes over an eight-hour workday.

STEP 1 (5 Minutes) Set Plan for Day.
Before turning on your computer, sit down with a blank piece of paper and decide what will make this day highly successful. What can you realistically accomplish that will further your goals and allow you to leave at the end of the day feeling like you’ve been productive and successful? Write those things down.

Now, most importantly, take your calendar and schedule those things into time slots, placing the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day. And by the beginning of the day I mean, if possible, before even checking your email. If your entire list does not fit into your calendar, reprioritize your list. There is tremendous power in deciding when and where you are going to do something.

In their book The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz describe a study in which a group of women agreed to do a breast self-exam during a period of 30 days. 100% of those who said where and when they were going to do it completed the exam. Only 53% of the others did.

In another study, drug addicts in withdrawal (can you find a more stressed-out population?) agreed to write an essay before 5 p.m. on a certain day. 80% of those who said when and where they would write the essay completed it. None of the others did.

If you want to get something done, decide when and where you’re going to do it. Otherwise, take it off your list.

STEP 2 (1 minute every hour) Refocus. Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour. When it rings, take a deep breath, look at your list and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour. Manage your day hour by hour. Don’t let the hours manage you.

STEP 3 (5 minutes) Review. Shut off your computer and review your day. What worked? Where did you focus? Where did you get distracted? What did you learn that will help you be more productive tomorrow?

The power of rituals is their predictability. You do the same thing in the same way over and over again. And so the outcome of a ritual is predictable too. If you choose your focus deliberately and wisely and consistently remind yourself of that focus, you will stay focused. It’s simple.

This particular ritual may not help you swim the English Channel while towing a cruise ship with your hands tied together. But it may just help you leave the office feeling productive and successful.

And, at the end of the day, isn’t that a higher priority?