Since 1977, I have been sending out a newsletter called LEARNINGS. Here is how I began the first issue:
This newsletter—LEARNINGS—is my way of sharing with you what I am learning. Often I learn something with one client that would have been useful with another client the day before. In order to bridge that gap of time and also to bridge the gap of space that separates me from clients and other friends outside Cleveland, I will share my learnings with you regularly in this newsletter.
That statement feels amazingly accurate more than 35 years later. The only real change is that I moved from Cleveland to London and then on to the Crook of Devon in Scotland.
In the earlier newsletters, I shared one or two learnings each time. Then I read a wonderful book by Michael Phillips called The Seven Laws of Money. He describes the Taoist approach to creating Seven Laws about anything.
I like that approach except that instead of announcing Laws, I prefer to share Learnings. I’ve now discovered Seven Learnings about all sorts of things, including Journaling, Love, Retreat, and Diversity. The latest Learnings starts here; the rest are in the Learnings Archive.
I have learned once again—while writing this newsletter—that the easiest way to figure out what I want to say is not to wait for inspiration but to just start writing about how I’m not quite sure what I want to say.
WRITING LAB ONGOING GROUP
Our November writing lab was such a great day that we have continued to meet once a week for two hours. Each of us brings some writing that we are working on and shares it with the group. Our feedback is not suggestions on how to change “errors”, but rather is information about how we as individuals react when we read a particular piece of writing.
We welcome new members to the group at any time. The only requirement is a workshop or an orientation session so that you will have a basic understanding of the feedback process.
LEARNING: I have found that one way to identify skills that I both am good at and also enjoy is to ask myself: “What do I do with flair? What do I do with style?”
WHAT’S THIS OTHER STUFF?
Those of you who work with me in only one area may be puzzled by the other stuff in this newsletter. As a learning consultant, I work with people in various areas of learning—now I am specializing in writing and in life and career planning. If you are now involved in one, you are warmly invited to try the other; if you are not involved in either, you are just as warmly invited to try one or both.
“It’s green.” That’s the answer I got from a student recently in response to a question that has long bothered those of us using the Bolles approach to life and career planning. For the question, see the end of this newsletter.
Recently I was invited to lunch by a client who took a life-and-career-planning workshop with me more than two years ago. At that time Glenn was teaching in elementary school but was interested in retailing men’s clothing. I sent him out with the others on a practice field survey and he made some contacts that same weekend.
Glenn told me over lunch that it took him most of the following two years to make his move. He had to give up teaching—after being named outstanding teacher in his school. And he had to convince himself and his wife that they could risk a low-paying job while he worked himself up in retailing.
When he made the decision, he told a friend at school and she introduced him to the vice-president of a leading Cleveland department store. He had already chosen that store as a top target based on his research. The vice-president spent several hours with Glenn and gave him all the information he needed to impress the people who interviewed him later and chose him as one of twenty executive trainees from a field of several hundred.
Glenn says that the process took lots of time and lots of effort, but it worked. He is now doing what he wants to do and he is very happy.
LEARNING: If I am willing to put in the time and effort, I can do what I want to.
BOOKS FOR THE HOLIDAY
For those of you interested in writing, the book is Writing Without Teachers by Peter Elbow. For those of you interested in life and career planning, the book isWhat Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles.
ROOTS AND BRANCHES
LEARNING: I can discover new skills and take more ownership of old ones when I see those skills in my family and friends. The idea of this exercise is to create a family tree and then, instead of filling dates, filling in skills.
In each circle, put the skills that you first think of when you think of that person. Try to include self-management skills, special knowledge skills, and functional-transferable skills.
You don’t have to come up with a lot for each person; just put down the first two or three that strike you.
Finally, as you fill in your own circle, consider how you reflect or react to the items in the other circles. It is not important whether you react or reflect; what is useful is whether you see more aspects of yourself—reacting or reflecting—and take more ownership of them.
You can also use this exercise to work on preferred people environments, preferred work environments, salary levels, and values.
Please, if you try this exercise, write a quite note about what you learned and how the exercise worked. I have just developed it and I want to adapt and improve it. Thanks.
This is the question to the answer from earlier in this newsletter. Recently I designed an exercise for people to use before venturing out of the room on a practice field survey. Each person lists ten enthusiasms (interests, hobbies, groups belonged to) and tapes on that list as an identification tag. Then people walk around, find people whose enthusiasms interest them, and practice interviewing them.
As I was walking around one group doing this exercise, I noticed someone whose tag said that he belonged to a skydiving club. I was unable to resist asking the inevitable question: What color is your parachute?