Where We Came From

I have a two year old granddaughter. It has been fascinating watching her grow from a fuzzy bean on a screen to actually having a dialect with her. Although I have raised two children I was so focused on feeding, cleaning, teaching, manners and trying not to totally mess up their psyche, that I missed some of the small stuff. With my granddaughter, I get a "do over" without all the worry.

The other day she was being fussy and I was trying to figure out what she wanted. Do you want to color? Your "nanimals"? Ellie (the elephant)? Juice? How about a snack? Everything I suggested was wrong! Then my sweet angel threw herself on the floor of the kitchen and started flailing her arms and legs. I believe that this is the age where our bodies are a cross between human and beast. I stepped back and let her go at it… I can do that, because I’m "Dama". She would cry and look at me every once in a while, when I would look at her she would cry even louder not knowing what to do with my reaction or rather my non-reaction to her tantrum.

After a few minutes, she stopped. She laid quietly on the floor with her arms still covering her eyes. I bent down and gave her a kiss and asked if she was alright. She nodded yes. I said , "Are you done?" She nodded her head again and reached up for me to hold her. I wiped her tear stained face and saw her sleepy eyes. It was almost nap time. I took her to her bed and lay down beside her while "Violet the Bear" played soothing bedtime music. She went fast asleep. That was what she wanted.

I have had a few days like that. I am not sure what exactly I want or need and just need to escape for a moment and regroup. What a joy it would be to throw myself on the ground and flail until "Dama" can figure it out. But of course I can't, my mother raised me with manners. And…..I prefer not to become "(whispers)the crazy lady down the hall".

Sometimes you do just need to vent. Other times, you need to take a breather. And at other times, someone else will have the answer. As an adult, we don’t have the luxury of tantrums (and those adults that do, are avoided at all costs). Yet, it is fun to think that at one point in your life, you were two years old, doing a bad rendition of the break dance.

Why We Are Afraid to Try New Things

This is part three of our series on learning new things. This post talks about why we are afraid to try new things. Follow the links after the post to read the other parts of our series.

Learning something new can be daunting. There are reasons why we avoid trying new things. One is that we fear what others will think of us if they see us try something and we fail at it. Or we fear being outside our comfort zone, especially if it might make our minds look less sharp than we think they are.

We fear what others will think of us if they see us try something and we fail at it. People who make fun of others for looking goofy when trying something new are jerks. These jerks just keep others from trying new things. When anyone tries something new, they are going to look goofy. Or they won't know the answer. Or they will give the wrong answer.

Even when there are few critics (which is never the case, right?), you will always find plenty to improve, change, or be harsh towards. To those of us that are scared of looking like a fool, I encourage you to press on and remember that it’s ok because when you strike out, you learn. And when you learn, the next time will be better.

When I am learning a new dance routine, I have to expect myself to wreck the train several times. On my first attempt, I don't lead well enough. Trying a second time, I lead way too strongly and throw everything off balance. Finally, I sometimes lead just right. It takes repetition to find the right way to do things.

If I don't try it the first time because I'm scared of what I'll look like, then I will never get to the "just right" part.

The same goes with learning something mental. I know when I am facing something new I want to get it right the first time. Whether it's a test, or a project, or task. Whatever. However, I usually have to mess up and get the wrong answer first. And sometimes I have an audience. The audience can be one or several people.

If you are having trouble getting to the right answer, focus instead on looking for what is wrong. Be a critic of the problem and identify the ways it won't work. Make mistakes and figure out how to correct the errors. If you are writing, put something down on paper that is awful. Then go back and make it better. Don't try to hit a home run on the first draft. Get the words down on the page, then go back and edit. The hardest part of writing is first getting words on paper.

Critics can be demoralizing and can paralyze us into inaction. The worst critic of all is yourself. Seth Godin writes a lot on this subject and calls this part of our brain the lizard brain. The lizard brain dislikes change, challenges, and moving forward. What the lizard brain likes is status quo, not rocking the boat, and boredom.

If you want some more reading on using mistakes to get better, check out The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward Burger and Michael Starbird. There is a whole section that deals with failing to make yourself more effective.

Brene Brown spoke about being vulnerable and dealing with critics. It's a twenty minute video but worth the time. (Link to the Roosevelt speech Brene mentions in her talk http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html )

And remember,

"A man's errors are his portals to discovery." - James Joyce

What are some other ways you like to fail in order to grow?


You can find the other parts of our learning new things series by following the links below:

Part One: Three Different Ways We Can Teach Ourselves - By Mary Williams.

Part Two: How to Learn From the Internet - By Maranda Gibson.

How to Learn From the Internet

This is part two of our series on learning new things. This post talks about how you can use internet resources to learn about most anything. Follow the links after the post to read the other parts of our series.

My interest in weather goes way back to the early 90s when our Carolina home was nearly hit by a tornado. We went down to the basement to take shelter and when we came out, the green storage shed behind our house was gone. We never saw it again. As a kid, it’s hard to understand how something that was there just wasn’t anymore and my dad explained it to me in a very grown up way. He explained to me how he had seen the tornado in the woods just outside the back door while we were in the basement, and how it ‘took’ the shed.

Having my dad explain it to me the way he would any other grown up was great, but it woke up extra fear inside of me. I understood the importance of going to the basement and taking cover, because things can change in an instant with storms. What if the tornado had been just six feet to the left? Would our house still be there? Would our things still be there?

Before the Internet, the research that you could do on your own only went so far. What’s been amazing is information that twenty years ago I could have only seen in a classroom setting is now at the tips of my fingers.

So you want to learn something from the internet? There are a ton of resources out there to teach you pretty much anything. I wanted to learn about the weather, so that’s what I’ve shown you here, but you can mimic these tricks for anything from basket weaving to computer programming.

Reading

The free flow of information lends itself to the ability to let the internet serve as a historical archive. You type something into Google or your search engine of choice and you’re suddenly flooded with news articles, photos, and even historical archives. Go to your search engine of choice and type in “weather history 1998” or “tornado data 2012”. If your interest isn’t weather, you can type in whatever you want and find some truly legitimate information. Here’s a list of some of my favorite weather related reading sites:

Watching

Severe weather events happen so quickly that a meteorologist must warn you at the same time that they try to educate you about the dangers of the incoming weather. When you watch coverage live, it’s like getting the most elementary crash course of your life. I highly encourage anyone who is interested in learning about the weather to watch live coverage, or go to YouTube and find recorded coverage of an old event. To find live streaming of a current weather event, do what I do: search for “major city + live TV” and go to each of the local affiliates to see live events.

Some of the more informative live events are archived below. These large outbreaks allow you to learn a lot very quickly.

Online Classes and Podcasts

If you’re trying to use the internet as an educational tool, then you need to know the opportunities that exist online. I’ve found that weather is one of the easiest subjects to research and learn about, and that there are a lot of “enthusiasts” out there, putting together great educational tools, but for most subjects of interest you can find what you’re looking for. For weather, I’ve found some great classes and online resources that not only define terms or give historical data, but help you get an insider’s view on what you should learn about.

I think no matter what you want to learn about there are a number of reputable places online where you can go and find the information you want. I taught myself everything I know about the weather from these resources, and if you have a subject of interest, I strongly believe you can find what you’re looking for.


You can find the other parts of our learning new things series by following the links below:

Part One: Three Different Ways We Can Teach Ourselves - By Mary Williams.

Part Three: Why We Are Afraid to Try New Things - By David Byrd.

Three Different Ways We Can Teach Ourselves

This is part one of our series on learning new things. This post talks about how we can teach ourselves anything with a little trial and error. Follow the links after the post to read the other parts of our series.

Learning something new isn’t always easy, but there are times we have to do it. And we may not have the time or money to sit in a classroom to be lectured. In these situations, we resort to the self-teaching method. The ways we go about teaching ourselves something can vary depending on our learning abilities and the subject. According to LearningRX.com, there are three different learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (hands-on). After a discussion I had with my office colleagues, we found three different ways we can teach ourselves, and these techniques can relate to our learning abilities.

Copy Other People's Work

I'm not saying to steal someone else's work and call it your own. However, if you are a visual or hands-on learner, this technique might help. When I had worked for a security company eight years ago, I had received a promotion that required me to learn the fundamentals of SQL (Structured Query Language). SQL is the typical way analysts and report managers gather data for reports that companies need to help them function. I didn't have any background with SQL, but I was willing to learn to expand my professional background. How did I do it? I used queries that others had written and experimented with them. I broke them up in pieces to see what each part did. Then, I tried to write my own using the same syntax (linguistic SQL rules) to see if my queries would produce the same results. Once I was familiar with the basic SQL concept, I was able to efficiently write several queries on my own. Of course, when I was learning SQL, I would only test my queries in a development environment to avoid any potential catastrophic database issues. Learning this way allowed me to see how a query worked and I applied the visual experience with a hands-on tactic.

Take a Dive and Jump In

This technique is best for hands-on learners. People who learn kinesthetically are most likely to succeed when they can engage with the learning material. For example, a hands-on learner who wants to be a mechanic would want to jump in and start pulling out and disassembling a motor to learn how to put it back together. An article on Utah Valley University's website acknowledges that movement and activity helps kinesthetic learners remember their material. It can be an activity as small as swinging a leg to a more interactive activity like drawing a picture. The article states, "The more skin and muscles you use, the better you remember."

Learn with a Specific Goal

Sometimes we learn best if we know what the goal is. Auditory learners use this method by being told how to reach their goal. A musician is a great example. Someone who is learning music already knows how the piece should sound. They then break the music apart and learn when to play which notes and for how many beats. Their overall goal is to make their instrument sound like the original piece. The Bepko Learning Center gives some helpful tips on how auditory learning can improve their learning habits; one of them is to listen to instrumental music while studying.

Once we are able to see what our learning style is, we can apply these concepts to our study habits. Even being out of the school atmosphere, we still learn at our jobs and hobbies. If you would like to learn more about finding out what your learning style is, check out the links below.


You can find the other parts of our learning new things series by following the links below:

Part Two: How To Learn From the Internet - By Maranda Gibson.

Part Three: Why We Are Afraid to Try New Things - By David Byrd.

Learning Success Through Failure

It’s October which brings about the winds of change. The air is turning cooler, the leaves will begin to change color, and budding authors around the globe are about to change into energy drink consuming plunderers of the keyboard.

That’s right novelists, it’s almost NaNoWriMo time. I’ve partaken in the grueling marathon of 50,000 words in thirty days since 2009 - but I’ve only won once. That’s almost 1400 words a day at the minimum in order to succeed and get your shiny badge and bragging rights.

Success is not guaranteed though. In fact, it feels like failure is.  NaNo seems easy for anyone who considers themselves able to string a couple of stories together, but when the euphoria of “It’s time for NaNo!” wears off and you’re left with the idea of actually having 45K more to go, it’s pretty easy to turn around and run away. In fact, I admit that in 2011 I completely imploded. About four days in, I threw my hands up and walked away.

This article from Psychology Today suggests that failures might actually shape us in a more definite way than success does. The assertion actually makes a lot of sense. Think about your latest success - what did you learn from that specific success. 2011 NaNoWriMo showed me all of the things I needed to do in order to have a better chance in 2012.

When I won in 2012, I knew it was because of two very big changes I made in light of the previous year - I outlined the entire novel and did word games with friends to give big boosts to my word count in a short time. In 2011, I took a very solo approach to NaNoWriMo despite that my friends we were working hard on theirs as well.

I can't do it alone. 

Getting a 500 word boost in a matter of 20 or 30 minutes puts a huge dent in your daily goal. The task was less daunting when I had someone to work with.

Creating an outline meant I wasn’t going to get bogged down in the direction of plot or “what happened then” questions. I had every move that each character was going to make down on the page, so all I had to do was create the story around it.

I honestly think that without my utter and complete NaNo meltdown in 2011, I would not have been able to “win” 2012 NaNo. I learned a lot in 2011 and I applied all of those “well, I’m not going to do that this year” thoughts, which I think helped me succeed. One might even say that my failure was the reason I succeeded.

What’s going to be most interesting to me is competing again in 2013. Will the same drive push me to finish, or will I feel more complacent in succeeding? I wonder how much is to be said for being a back to back NaNoWriMo winner.


Looking for ways to improve your speaking abilities? Here are four more resources:

Meet Our New Intern - Laura

I am happy to present to you our latest intern Laura. (We kind of like that name) Laura is a student at the University of North Texas and is majoring in Advertising. I love the opportunity to mentor - so I personally am super excited to have her around.

By: Laura

Excited. Relieved. Nervous. That sums up how I felt when I found out that I got the internship at AccuConference. I was about to start my last semester EVER, with no real experience in the marketing world. Although my degree plan doesn’t require me to have an internship, I feel that is necessary if I want to find a decent job when I graduate. There is only so much you can learn sitting behind a desk in a classroom. So thank you AccuConference for hiring me!

I googled AccuConference when I applied for the fall internship to learn more about the company and to make sure it wasn’t a pyramid scheme or some company using fancy words like “marketing” or “advertising agency” to sucker in naïve students like me into selling their product door to door. (Yes, this has happened to me more than once.) This has taught me to research every company before I apply. After my phone interview I did a little more research and found the blog. I kept up with the blog while awaiting the response from Mr. Byrd about a second interview and I was happy to see that the current interns wrote about their experiences. This gave me a little insight so I somewhat knew what to expect out of an internship at AccuConference.

I was happy to see that the previous interns enjoyed their time at AccuConference and learned a lot about marketing, SEO, and the business world. It’s also always nice to know that the people you are about to work with aren’t monsters and will treat you with respect. Reading these blogs made me more excited about starting my internship.

I spent my first day training in order to learn more about the company. I knew AccuConference was a conference call service, but because I have never taken part in a conference call in my life, I wasn’t sure what it was all about. By the end of the day I was helping out with a conference call for a well known boxer. I had no idea who he was, but my boyfriend was pretty impressed.

My first assignment from Byrd was to think of a new title for the book they are about to publish. After our brainstorming session at Starbucks, I can now take credit for the first half of the title. It was nice being able to contribute and to know that my ideas could actually be used for a real business. I felt a little sense of accomplishment. I hope I will get many more of these opportunities in the next few months.

I was also introduced to SEO with Maranda. I quickly realized my 3 week summer course on online marketing has taught me nothing. Well, maybe a little but I still have a lot to learn. I’m a “hands on” learner, so I am eager to get started!

Why Adults Can Learn Languages More Easily Than Children

Speaking a second language is a great way to broaden your communication abilities. But many people assume that learning a second language is something they should have tackled as a child, that it becomes too difficult as they grow older. In actuality, children don't necessarily learn languages more easily than adults. Rather, there are certain parts of the language-learning process that are easier as children, while other parts are easier as adults.

When children are young, their brains are in the process of developing. They are malleable and spongelike, always changing and soaking up information. For this reason, learning a first or second language takes place without conscious thought. For children it's more like second nature. A study conducted by Dr. Paul Thompson at UCLA, for example, found that children use a part of their brains called the "deep motor area" to acquire new languages. This area of the brain is activated when you're walking, tying your shoe, or taking a sip of water; it controls unconscious actions. The fact that this same portion of the brain is employed by children when learning languages lead Thompson to conclude that language acquisition is a natural process, something that is second nature, something that a child doesn't have to actively think about. Adults, on the other hand, must think actively about learning a second language. For them it is not second nature, but an intellectual process. This is because an adult's brain has already formed--the circuitry and synapses have been wired to fit the parameters and pronunciations of their first language. Luckily, as an adult, you've already developed the capacity for intellectual learning.

Since adults are capable of grappling with language on an intellectual level, they are actually better suited for becoming proficient in a language more quickly than children. Often we think it's the other way around. We may, for example, observe a child saying a couple of phrases in two languages and conclude that he or she is bilingual. But David P. Ausubel, a linguist at the University of Illinois, points out that children have small vocabularies and use simple constructions to communicate their needs. Adults, on the other hand, communicate in much more complex ways and command very large vocabularies. This gives people the false assumption that children learn a language more quickly. In actuality, adults simply have more to learn to communicate on the same level that they communicate at in their first languages. Moreover, according to Ausubel, adults and adolescents are able to generalize and think in abstract terms. A child needs to hear a phrase time and time again to distinguish a recurring pattern. This type of discovery takes a lot of time and a lot of exposure. Adults can hear a phrase once and understand that that phrase can be universalized across the entire language. The same goes for grammatical patterns: an adult is more likely to realize that many of their first-language's patterns can be applied to the second language, whereas a child's brain has not developed the maturity to think in such abstractions and is therefore unable to make the same connections.

Aware of the differences in language-acquisition processes and aptitudes, experts have realized that teaching methods ought to differ, too. In order to teach a child a second language it is important to expose them to both languages at school and at home. Full immersion will help a child pick up on patterns more readily. Also, using mnemonic techniques like singing songs or having repetitive drills will help wire the new language and its pronunciations into a child's brain. Older language learners often get hung up on pronunciation but learn to understand the grammatical and syntactical patterns more easily. Therefore, adults should concentrate on getting the grammatical fundamentals down so as not to get discouraged by pronunciation difficulties. Once the grammar is down, the difficult specter of correct pronunciation can be slowly chiseled away at and refined over time.