“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
-Robert A. Heinlein
In the age of information and ready access to seemingly infinite knowledge, it amazes me how many people are unable to get out of their mental comfort zones to expand and strengthen their knowledge, abilities, talents, and creativity. With so many options available, perhaps it’s just too much to filter through and still remain focused. Understandable, given the over-saturation of memes, cat videos, and other myriad distractions. However, getting into a mental exercise regimen is no different than getting into a physical one. We all make excuses for why we aren’t following through. Myself included.
So where does one begin? We could start with the obvious offerings: Wikipedia, Google, etc. These are great research tools, but you still have to filter through a lot of fluff and unreliable, sometimes uncurated data while taking everything with a grain of salt.
Then there are the pay-for-training sites: Lynda.com, Udemy, Treehouse, etc. I used Lynda.com long before its acquisition by LinkedIn. I still use it and find it to be relevant to my career path. These are great resources, especially if your company is paying for it. Take advantage of that kind of opportunity when it’s available. And if it’s not provided by your employer, consider a small investment to hone your skills.
The biggest disruptor (wheee, a buzzword!), and one that I fully support and embrace, is the opencourseware, or Open Education movement which has been available online since 2001. And I’m not talking about a seminar or weekend intensive class on the latest industry fads. This is undergraduate and graduate level academia. I am talking about world-class, top-notch, Ivy league education…entire curricula…for FREE (I use the term lightly as nothing is actually ever “Free”). Some of them are now offering credit, at a very reasonable fee, for their online offerings as well! One of my favorite sites, edX offers courses from several accredited Universities world wide. You can choose from options for free learning, certified learning, and credit toward a degree.
Opportunity is abundant and practically everywhere these days (unless you spend too much time on Tumblr). You just have to recognize it for what it is: work. It requires focus, dedication, and effort. Homeschoolers (like myself) have recognized this opportunity for a long time. The learning can begin as early in an individual’s path as needed. A favorite among the homeschooling/unschooling community, Khan Academy, has K-12 and college curricula, standardized test prep, and evolving college admissions advice.
These are just a few of the offerings available. Take some time to reflect on the path and practice you want to pursue and then get out there and work toward it. It’s a brave new world. 😉
Here are a few more resources to explore:
The Johns Hopkins University