Learn to Change

To do more than survive you have to learn. But the question is how do you learn when you're surviving? Learning also requires that you be vulnerable - open to what others might be able to teach you.

Survival doesn't allow for vulnerability. In our country vulnerability is seen as weakness. The options are fight, flight, or freeze. There's no "learn" in there. No get quiet and listen. No get curious.


Get In My Brain

When I was younger (ahem) and studying all night, I would rest my head on my open book (should give you a sense of my age) and wish the words would somehow penetrate my brain by osmosis.  

Believe it or not, we're getting closer to that possibility:

"In 2011, scientists working in collaboration with Boston University and A.T.R. Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, published a paper on a process called Decoded Neurofeedback, or “DecNef,” which sends signals to the brain through a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, or FMRI, that can alter a person’s brain activity pattern. In time, these scientists believe they could teach people how to play a musical instrument while they sleep, learn a new language or master a sport, all by “uploading” information to the brain."



Higher Education?

“It’s like higher education has discovered the megachurch”  

It's fascinating to watch higher education go through some of the same dilemmas that content publishers (of all sorts of content - from the written word to music) have endured.

A great article on the topic.

Will the Amhersts of the education world be like the indie magazines? What will all this do to higher education marketing? Will the drop out rates for MOOCs turn into pressure to be entertaining? Will this affect the content conveyed? Will teachers then become the next rockstars (ala Korea)? And if so, how will the effective be distinguished from the entertaining?

And what is education anyway? Does education imply learning? Or rather a facility with learned skills?

Learning to Code

Or how to code. Where you start depends on what you want to do with your skill.

For basic websites, here's a good guide for beginners learning html (the content) and css (the appearance). After you read the first page of the guide, hop on over to the website of the creator Shay Howe and go through his slides on the same subject. I thought the slides made the concepts easier to grasp. Or am I just too used to PowerPoint? Plus, I think some visuals on how code relates to output (I'm thinking literally a picture and arrows pointing from code to parts of the picture) would really help, too.

As you get more advanced, more resources for you:


1. JS Fiddle 

2. Class on Javascript by Code Academy


1. Rails for Zombies

2. Ruby Monk

3. A 15 minute tutorial

4. A very accessible guidebook - great on basics

For overall programming resources or how to program/code, there are a number of online courses and programs, like Treehouse.

What would you build if you could program? What are you building?

The Lesson in Struggle

The Universe is trying to teach me something. Why else have I been struggling so much these past two years? What started out as a leap of faith into the unknown has been one lesson after the other - on dealing with uncertainty, facing fear and managing struggle. It's been so difficult that a friend recently said: "I see you feeling really uncomfortable and then thinking that’s wrong because other people around you don’t experience that. But the difference is you are willing to go through that phase of learning. Others are not."

His words helped and so did this article on learning:

"In Eastern cultures, Stigler says, it's just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process. Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle....

All of this matters because the way you conceptualize the act of struggling with something profoundly affects your actual behavior.

Obviously if struggle indicates weakness — a lack of intelligence — it makes you feel bad, and so you're less likely to put up with it. But if struggle indicates strength — an ability to face down the challenges that inevitably occur when you are trying to learn something — you're more willing to accept it."



Confusion is good for you. According to one recent study students who experienced confusion when studying actually did better on the test. In fact, it seems an "impasse" of some sort is required for successful learning.

"Confusion, D’Mello explains, is a state of 'cognitive disequilbrium'; we are mentally thrown off balance when we encounter information that doesn’t make sense. This uneasy feeling motivates us to restore our equilibrium through thought, reflection, and problem solving, and deeper learning is the result." Put another way:

"Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible."

~ George Saunders

Shelter From the Storm

"When you think of Harvard and Yale and all those great universities, they need to have the person already made to go there." Ms. Reifler

I have a complicated relationship with school. It was the only constant in my life growing up in east Los Angeles, but it wasn't always a safe haven. It definitely shaped the beliefs I had about myself and not necessarily in a good way. When I started Stanford I was not prepared - emotionally. In short, I wasn't capable of taking full advantage of a fine institution.

Interestingly, I've come to learn that I was not alone. Many college students lack important soft skills, but no one seems to want to teach these to adults. We're expected to figure it out on our own - often the hard way.

It's something that saddens me to this day. Because it's only now, after years of working on myself, that I finally feel capable of learning.



That old song, "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" is taking on new meaning. Research out of Stanford highlights the effects of connecting with a student's values. Specifically: "Seventh graders were asked to reflect and write about things most important to them –– their relationships with friends or family, or their personal interests. The task was given at critical moments: the beginning of the school year, prior to tests, and near the holiday season, a period of stress for many people with challenging home environments. The results were dramatic: The intervention reduced the racial achievement gap by nearly 30%."

The key was reducing the sense of threat that many students of color and even women in male-dominated fields feel. More evidence, it seems to me, that until we address the emotional health of students, we can't hope to bridge the education and achievement gap.

More eBook Learnings

My first ebook, Create iPhone Apps That Rock: A Guide for Non-Technical People was released in the last quarter of last year and has done surprisingly well. Frankly, I haven't done much marketing beyond emailing my friends that I published it, so I'm happy that it is selling at all. It has been interesting to see, however, which online retailer generates the most sales for me.

Right now Apple's iBookstore is the clear winner. I wasn't sure the trouble of going through their approval process for a publishing account would be worth it, but it was. Now, this may be due to the subject of the book, but I have a new ebook out on the subject of entrepreneurship: 20 Things I've Learned as an Entrepreneur and I'll let you know if this changes which retailer drives the most sales.

Here's the sales breakdown for my first ebook:

Barnes & Noble = 5% of sales Amazon = 20% of sales iBookstore (Apple) = 75% of sales



How to Get Creative

You're not born creative. It's a skill and like all skills has to be learned and exercised. This great WSJ article is a good resource for building your creativity muscles. From the article:

10 Quick Creativity Hacks

1. Color Me Blue A 2009 study found that subjects solved twice as many insight puzzles when surrounded by the color blue, since it leads to more relaxed and associative thinking. Red, on other hand, makes people more alert and aware, so it is a better backdrop for solving analytic problems.
2. Get Groggy According to a study published last month, people at their least alert time of day—think of a night person early in the morning—performed far better on various creative puzzles, sometimes improving their success rate by 50%. Grogginess has creative perks.
3. Daydream Away Research led by Jonathan Schooler at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has found that people who daydream more score higher on various tests of creativity.
4. Think Like A Child When subjects are told to imagine themselves as 7-year-olds, they score significantly higher on tests of divergent thinking, such as trying to invent alternative uses for an old car tire.
5. Laugh It Up When people are exposed to a short video of stand-up comedy, they solve about 20% more insight puzzles. When people are exposed to a short video of stand-up comedy, they solve about 20% more insight puzzles.
6. Imagine That You Are Far Away Research conducted at Indiana University found that people were much better at solving insight puzzles when they were told that the puzzles came from Greece or California, and not from a local lab.
7. Keep It Generic One way to increase problem-solving ability is to change the verbs used to describe the problem. When the verbs are extremely specific, people think in narrow terms. In contrast, the use of more generic verbs—say, "moving" instead of "driving"—can lead to dramatic increases in the number of problems solved.
8. Work Outside the Box According to new study, volunteers performed significantly better on a standard test of creativity when they were seated outside a 5-foot-square workspace, perhaps because they internalized the metaphor of thinking outside the box. The lesson? Your cubicle is holding you back.
9. See the World According to research led by Adam Galinsky, students who have lived abroad were much more likely to solve a classic insight puzzle. Their experience of another culture endowed them with a valuable open-mindedness. This effect also applies to professionals: Fashion-house directors who have lived in many countries produce clothing that their peers rate as far more creative.
10. Move to a Metropolis Physicists at the Santa Fe Institute have found that moving from a small city to one that is twice as large leads inventors to produce, on average, about 15% more patents.

—List and article by Jonah Lehrer

Creating Your Own Website Easily

I know, you can use Tumbler, WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, or Shopify, to name a few, but sometimes these tools don't cut it. What you need is a website with more functionality. Where to start?

Well, you can teach yourself. Here are two handy dandy resources:

1. W3Schools Online Web Tutorials

2. Bootstrap

Word of Caution: these do require some mental effort and a willingness to learn techy talk.

How to Throw a Tantrum

I've been debating whether I should hold on to my WSJ subscription. Great articles like this certainly tempt me. The article goes over "parent management training" and how to use it to teach a child new behaviors, specifically how to have a positive tantrum. It's not about only rewarding good behavior. Instead the approach teaches using ABCs. A stands for Antecedent, the situation leading up to the tantrum, B for behavior and the teaching of new ones, and C for consequences.

The approach comes out of research done at Yale and King's College London where there is a National Academy for Parenting Research.

"The effects can be beneficial for both child and parent. A nine-year study at the Oregon Social Learning Center, a nonprofit research center, looked at single mothers and children with antisocial tendencies—arguing, hitting, tantrums, extreme unwillingness to cooperate.

After the mothers went through a version of the ABCs training, not only did the children's behaviors improve over the long term, but the mothers also exhibited gains in income, occupation and education, according to the study, published last year in the journal Developmental Psychopathology."

One of the best ways to reinforce positive behavior is to be specific in your feedback. For example, saying "I asked you to pick up that toy and you did it," rather than "You're a good girl." This is the same advice given by Faber and Mazlish in their terrific book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.

For more on how to apply these concepts to all communication, see here.

Building Your Intuition

Turns out that true experts in their fields have gut instinct. It was thought that to become an expert in say math, one had to first learn the rules, but new education research is turning that idea on its head. Intuition, redefined as perceptual learning is being taught via online games that are quick, visual and "focused on classifying problems rather than solving them" - which builds intuition. What's an example of that? "In one recent experiment, for example, researchers found that people were better able to distinguish the painting styles of 12 unfamiliar artists after viewing mixed collections of works from all 12 than after viewing a dozen works from one artist, then moving on to the next painter. The participants’ brains began to pick up on differences before they could fully articulate them."

I can imagine so many practical applications of this type of learning. To give it a try hit this link.

Source: NYTimes.com