Are you a life-long learner? It’s never too late to start.

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
~Albert Einstein

Back in April of this year (2016) I wrote a piece about life-long learning called Rust Never Sleeps. Here’s an excerpt:

“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.”

Well, I have no more excuses. This month, I’ve finished 24 courses on Lynda.com in UX/UI, Front-End Development, Drupal, and Audio Engineering tracks/courses and there’s no end in sight to the learning available.

Back in the late 90’s I spent a great deal of time absorbing everything I could about the internet. A lot of people thought it was just a flash in the pan, and that I was wasting my time. It didn’t take long for me to land a job though. 20 years later I’m still in the industry and learning more than ever before.

My background and experience in homeschooling, unschooling, alternative schooling, and online education may put me at an advantage. I’m steeped in the concepts of self-motivation, individual merit, and peerless achievement. This doesn’t mean I can’t work in teams or groups. I’ve played guitar in bands for almost 40 years and I know the value of collaboration and love the new sounds and styles that come from writing and performing music with others. It simply means that I also know how to go it alone and can get things done without having to rely on others. For example: I can write music, play all the instruments, record them individually, and produce a final product that sounds like a full band without ever relying on another musician. I took the time to learn how to do these things because I didn’t want to have to wait for someone else to finish their part.

We all have different learning styles and some of you may never get the hang of learning outside of a classroom. However, the online resources are getting better at accommodating a diverse audience by offering live video feeds, forums, chats, exercise files, interactive group sessions, and much more. Compared to what was available in the late 90’s, the offerings are myriad and overwhelming sometimes. I really like having that choice and competition ensuring that things will continue to improve.

So where to begin? There are a lot of options and my advice is to browse through them, try them all, and get a feel for what works for you. Here’s a repeat of links/resources from my previous blog about learning, plus a few more so you can get started learning today! Some of them are completely free, others have free classes and offer certificates for a fee, and others have monthly fees.

Khan Academy
Lynda.com
LinkedIn Learning
edX
MIT OpenCourseWare
Coursera
The Johns Hopkins University
UC Berkeley
Yale University
Aquent Gymnasium

Beyond Work-Life Balance: Honor Your Talents


All through my youth and into adulthood I’ve met many people who were once dedicated to their passions. These are hardworking individuals who, for some reason or another, have relegated their talents to mere hobbies or past-times. Or worse, they’ve let them go and think of them only as childish dreams. More often than not, their reminiscing seems tinged with regret.

There are many reasons for this: family, career, responsibilities, duties, sickness, apathy…the list goes on. It gives me pause to reflect on my own choices as I hear some of the reasons why they just don’t have time for what made them excited and motivated in their youth.

There are some who say their fire just went out. Or perhaps they have an ember glowing and it just requires some nurturing to bring it roaring back to life. It can be difficult to sustain the demands and requirements of keeping all those projects alive and healthy.

I’ve been a musician far longer than I’ve been involved in any career. Some in the music business tend to call me a “lifer”. And they’re correct. I always knew I’d play music. At some point early on I realized that I could still raise a family and enjoy a comfortable existence by taking on a career, while still making time for the thing that gives me joy: Music! Luckily, I also enjoy my career. I’m grateful that it’s in a creative field and gives me an outlet for my ideas, even taking on the role of muse.

Sometimes it does seem like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew: I’m in 2 bands, mc an open-mic at the local pub, host and livestream a weekly jam with local musicians, and perform regularly. Add to that a perpetual appetite for information and learning, the need to get out and discover new places, and a very bad case of procrastination. I also have 5 children. It’s a fine balance, but it can be overwhelming.

I’d love to leave you with an inspirational list of bullet points and advice for re-igniting your latent or neglected talents, but I’m really not a list-making kind of person. If you are, great! Start making a list. I’ll play it by ear 😉 Spontaneity is what works for me and keeps me exploring new opportunities.

So what are your passions and talents and how are you going to re-dedicate yourself to them and honor them?

Rust Never Sleeps: On Becoming a Polymath

“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:
Coursera
The Johns Hopkins University
UC Berkeley
Yale University
Aquent Gymnasium