Learning As Adult

Studying in school had never been fun for me. I remembered a language teacher who said my question was too stupid for her to answer; I remembered a teacher who avoids talking to me because my English was not up to the standard she wanted to teach.

Yet, learning has become my favorite activity, now as a working adult.

Technology changed our lives and drive the needs to learn up high that we no longer able to avoid learning new things on a constant basis.

Things changed too fast and we need to learn, unlearn and relearn. "Learn, unlearn and relearn" I first came across with this idea during my first year in the university, my professor keep repeating it even when many of us don't really understand the meaning back then.

Now I figured it out. First, we learn about the basic (says, the basic skill of using the computer), then we unlearn the outdated stuff (for example, the use of diskette as a way to save information), then we relearn the new and trendy stuff (like the use of pen drive and now the Cloud).

As an adult, a working adult, I always faced new challenges. From the use of designing software to suit the need of low-budget marketing strategy for my small business, to the use of programming language to create more interactive learning content for students. I'm on constant needs to learn new skill and knowledge, literally, to be able to survive the competitive markets.

So, how do I learn? I learn to create a system of learning for myself, that suit my learning needs and my learning style. In the process of shaping my learning system, it is both bumpy and windy - full of challenges.

The most crucial element in order to learn effectively, I realized, is self-discipline. Sometimes, you really have to be "cruel" to yourself and set a strict schedule in order to be an effective learner.

After a long journey of learning (which I'm still traveling on), I found the joy and fun of getting myself confused over the unknown and working hard to solve the confusion and create a connection between the new and old experience, just to get myself becoming a better and wiser person.

I wish you all have fun learning new things, getting a bit lost in the big world of knowledge and found the joy in solving every piece of the puzzle.


Waiting for the best timing

Often, before we start working on something important, we heard a little voice in our head saying "now is not the best time to do it, let's wait a bit longer for the best timing".

It is not unfamiliar to me, either.

Yet, we all knew that 'waiting for best timing' is just another sugar-coat for procrastination.

Yes, and procrastination kills chances for success. The sooner you start on something, the better it is. Why? Because the initial stage of executing a project usually are a bunch of trials-and-errors. Learning is expected here, not the instant success.

But why are we procrastinate at the first place?

Applying what I have learned from Charles Duhigg's book "The Power of Habit", I view procrastination as a natural reaction we have for starting something either unfamiliar or difficult.

Starting something we are not sure induced fear, fear of losing something or fear of not gaining things we want. It is the 'reward' we are looking here.

Doing something difficult has to do with the 'routine'. When the routine of carrying a task seem too long and tedious, we tend to stay away from it simply because our brain would like to preserve the energy we had in order to survive.

There are plenty of articles on the internet teaching people how to beat procrastination, so I'm not going to share the techniques here.

The thing is, there is no such thing as 'perfect timing' for anything. Just take action and you will be able to seize the opportunity. A little reminder before you start: get your tools ready!


Time-Management Vs. Self-Management

We have been used to the term "Time-Management", in fact, we believed that we could manage our time.

We all have 24 hours per day, yet, some of us seems to be able to use the same 24-hours to complete double or more tasks than we do.

How? Simple enough, they don't manage their time, they manage themselves.

Self-discipline is what differentiate successful people with the rest of us, in fact, they are a little bit too harsh to themselves.

Micheal Phelps, the Olympic gold-medalist has a rather crazy training routine, he swam more than 80,000 meters, which is about 2 times of the length of West Coastline of Peninsular Malaysia. Warren Buffet has a habit of ready 500 pages daily. Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock has a crazy strict diet plan and workout plan.

Type in "self-discipline and success" in Google and see more than 20 million related results, include this one from  Brian Tracy, author of many best-seller self-development books.

So yes, self-management seems to be way more significant than time-management, yet, we fell for the concept of managing time. Why is it so? Why are we missing the obvious and jump straight into the attempt of managing time?

Because managing oneself required great effort! You'll need to consciously think about your action and thought, modify them when needed, and above all, you'll need to stop yourself from giving in into whatever temptation that distracts you!

What if Micheal Phelps give in to the temptation of lying on the bed and not getting up for training? What if Warren Buffet stopped reading intensively? What if The Rock ate heavily and never worked out?

You have the answer.

Actually, managing one's discipline is not that difficult, at least not all the time. Our brain tends to resist the thoughts or actions that are unfamiliar, for example, you are not a regular visitor to the gym and suddenly you are required to work out every day, you will definitely fail to do so.

As what Charles Duhigg believed, the power of habit is truly powerful because it bypasses our consciousness and allowed our body to take the action without hesitation.

How habit form? Behavioral psychologists have tons and tons of research to prove that habit formed through a framework of "Cue-Routine-Reward". When one received a "cue" - which could be an object, event or a particular time of a day, the brain gets into the automation mode and carry out a series of actions that the conscious mind may not be aware of, and during the process of the "routine", one carries out, he/she might experienced a physical pleasure or emotionally satisfaction aka the "reward".

The reward strengthened the power of the cue, and the next time one saw the cue, it gets easier to go into the routine, which makes the whole process habitual.

For example, at 6.30pm (the first cue), Alan gets home from tiring day at the office and the first thing he saw when he gets in the apartment was the couch (the second cue), he immediately felt the exhaustion and feels like he needs to sit on the couch (he probably didn't think about it), he sat on the couch and pulled out his phone (routine), feels he was rested after about one-hour (reward).

Well, that is an example of a bad habit. Now, take a look at when I change the "cue" from couch to Alan's gym bag. When the cue changed, the routine associated with the cue also gets changed. Now, instead of sitting on the couch, Alan changes to his workout outfit and head to the gym. The reward? Feeling recharged after the workout session and eventually gets the body everyone gets envy of.

So, if Alan has already got the couch-sit-relax cycle of habit, how is he able to change to the gym bag-workout-gets fit habit? I mean, we all have the experience of wanted to change the bad habit but failed miserably, right?

I should have elaborate that in a different post, now, let me make my point clear here: don't try to manage on time, instead, try to manage yourself. More specifically, manage your habits, because after all, we are the creatures of habits.


366-days project (Feb 2016-Feb 2017)

My 366-days project was inspired by a friend who took a photo every day and writes something about the photo. She started on 1st of Jan 2016, after liking her few awesome photos, I get envy of her project but didn't think too much about it.

Then, February came. It was my birth month and I started to think about a gift for myself. I asked myself if I wanted another pair of Nike, a good meal at a fancy restaurant or a new phone? No, I told myself that a 31-year-old doesn't need any of those.

The big question is "what do I want for my life?" I thought about it for days before I finally had the answer: "I want something that last long, I want to be better, I want to be wiser".

How am I going to give myself that? Should I read more or register myself to some short courses? But I have been reading since years ago yet I don't feel like I learned a lot or being able to apply it in life.

Somehow, during the days of thinking about the big questions, the 366-days project idea crashed with the urge to learn, then I got the idea for my very own 366-days project.

My 366-days project: to write my thought after reading an article, or a section of a book, or a news report, or anything that means something to me.

The primary objective of this one-year project is to test if I could do something daily and last for a year. However, it brings more than what I expect.

For a year of reading and writing (I often forced myself to read more just to find ideas for writing), it improved my writing and taught me the way to better organize my thoughts. Besides, it improved my memory of what I've read and written.

After one-year of daily writing practice, I felt I have given myself the best birthday gift ever! It's time to start a new 365-days project and I'm going to reveal it on my next birthday!


Knowing what you know vs. knowing what you don't know

It's always easy to point out the things you know. Soundwave travel in vibration, sea tasted salty, Donald Trump is the president of United State, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook, if you eat too much Lychee with an empty stomach you could kill yourself... and the list goes on. 

How about things that you don't know? Give a moment to think about it and try to give at least 10 things that you don't know. You probably wouldn't give a second to think about it because since you "don't know" it, how suppose you could come up with a list of the things you don't know?

Let me ask you some questions: Why is the sky blue? If I used string-telephone in outer space, will I be able to hear the sound? Why eating too much Lychee with an empty stomach could kill?

I bet you will start typing the questions into Google and search for the quick answer.

Well, searching on the Internet is just a way of learning and that's not my point of discussion here. What I'm curious is why "knowing what you don't know" is way more important than "knowing what you know"?

It gives you a direction to go.

Yes, it is that simple. Knowing the things that you don't know give you a sense of urgency to learn it, to seek the answers. Charles Dughigg, the author of "Smarter Faster Better; the Secret of Being Productive in Life and Business" illustrate the importance of knowing what you don't know with a story Annie, a poker game player.

I have another thought about knowing what you know can help in learning. I got this insight when I was looking at a map for emergency exits at a hotel room a few months ago. When looking at the emergency exits, I figured out that didn't help me to put the direction as I couldn't draw a visualized version of the map in my mind. But when I found the "YOU ARE HERE" label, it all made sense to me.

From knowing my current position, I could easily figure out which direction to go when I step out from my hotel room, to turn left and walk straight until the end of the corridor, the exit will be on my right.

So, it will be similar in learning. Knowing the position of you now provide you a direction to work on. For example, I know I have basic knowledge of using Microsoft Words so if I'm looking for a tutorial on the Internet, I could probably start at the "Intermediate level". Combining with knowing what I don't know - the mail merge function - provide me a clear direction to look for a tutorial on this particular lesson.

Have you spent a moment today to figure out what you don't know?
“True wisdom is knowing what you don't know”--- Confucius


Do nothing and you'll end up with nothing in hands.

We all had a moment like this:

         "You were sitting with a friend or few friends. They were talking about their year spent in building career or self-improvement. They were talking about their 5-years plan. You see the spark in their eyes. Suddenly, you felt... empty, and all your friends, they were just, awesome. "

It wasn't long until you figured out that you were actually feeling "incompetent", and the spark you saw in the eyes of your friends, it is "sense of accomplishment" and "enthusiasm".

Put it in short, you felt "negative" while others felt "positive".

Why? have you wondered about this?

I had been in that situation years ago. I had a feeling to run away from the crowd, hide and never get out from there. Luckily I didn't.

I didn't run away because I finally figured out what cause the feeling of incompetent. Why do I feel like I can't do anything right while others seem to be able to do it without effort?

"Because I didn't do anything"

Yes, it is right. The feeling of incompetent actually is a "self-inflicted wound" for not doing things that I should have done in order to feel the positiveness.

The sense of accomplishment comes from after you get something done, not before it. Enthusiasm comes after you tried something and you actually love it.

For most of the time, if not all, we choose not to do something to avoid making mistakes. Yet, it was the biggest mistake one can make in one's life. Mistakes are precious lessons in life that make us improve and become the better self.

Now, stop thinking about the fear of making mistakes, ask yourself instead, what is the opposite side of fear. Next, make up an action plan and execute it!

Soon, you will be the one with sparks in eyes.


Effort Count Twice

I have just finished reading Angela Duckworth's Grit: The Power of Passion & Perseverance.

Mind blown.

Yes, it is by far the greatest book I ever read (okay, I didn't read many books before!). I first watched Dr. Angela Duckworth's TED talks on Youtube, then I found her book in the bookstore, wrapped in plastic and the price tag said RM80.

I'm not quite sure about the worthiness of it, so I quietly put it down and walked away. There is, somehow, a seedling got planted into my mind about this word "grit".

I remembered the things she said in the TED talk video and watch it again and again for past few months. Not long ago, I found her book again in another bookstore while the bookstore having sales. So I grabbed the book and walked to the cashier, paid, and went home to start reading the book.

Mind blown.

I couldn't stop reading it. As an adult, I wish I learned about this earlier, that "when talent count, effort always count twice"; as a teacher, I know I need to stop praising students on their talent but their effort to motivate continuous learning; as a learner, I know I could be grittier.

Effort count twice. When I first read the phrase, it struck me like lighting. Then I realized for whatever I set upon to achieve and failed to achieve, it was because of the effort I put in isn't enough to enable me in gaining those achievements.

I have thought of being a lawyer, yet, I didn't study hard enough; I have thought of being a psychologist, yet, I didn't what it takes to be one; I have thought of being a successful entrepreneur, yet I lost hope in becoming one before finding a direction to  start my journey.

I failed, because I wasn't putting in effort, not enough.

Get to know more about Angela Duckworth from her website: http://angeladuckworth.com/.

Whoever you are, whatever you are doing or plan to do, I recommend you to read this book.


How writing & drawing on notebook helps getting good ideas?

I have read dozens of articles promoting the benefits of writing and drawing, especially on generating and organizing ideas. 

Yet, I have great confident in my memory. As most people, I find writing troublesome as I think I wasn't a writer who is good at putting words together. Furthermore, carrying a notebook and a pen has no longer a must for me after graduating from school. 

After I started a business and I found that most of the time, my memory betrayed me by forgetting some really important things, such as appointments, projections, ideas for expansion and the list goes on. 

So I wanted to change thing around. I first start by browsing the Internet for some cool ideas about note taking for grown-ups. I found Bullet Journal and think it might fit me perfectly. I went on to buy a good notebook and few pens, watch the video for starting bullet journal and start my own journal. 

It's almost two years I'm using the bullet journal and I'm glad I started it.

Starting the journal is not difficult, but maintaining it is. Making writing a habit can be quite a challenge, especially when I had the firm belief that I wasn't good at writing. Stephen Guise wrote in his book "Mini Habit" pointed out exactly why most people failed at becoming a better self. They always started with a big goal, which in turn, create mental stress to us and eventually we lost the motivation to continue what we started. 

"Break it to mini bite size" is what this book all about, and I couldn't agree more. Of course, knowing and doing is two different things, knowing is not enough, said Johann Wolfgang, we must apply. So I apply it into my life and start breaking this "writing activity" into smallest pieces that required almost no effort from me to continue. 

2016 is a fruitful year for me after I started my bullet journal and writing thoughts down  By writing my ideas, it helps me to retain it and later shape and put it into actions. Ideas could pop up at any moment throughout a day, I even had the experience of having an idea for effective learning in dream, so I forced myself to get up and write the idea down (although I had trouble recognizing some of my writing in the morning, yet, I still can figure it out and expand the idea). 


Failures are good for you, actually.

I have more failure to share than to success. I even will stutter if you want me to share my success story.

I have failed in management, in leadership, in finance, in lots of areas where an entrepreneur should have excel if he/she wants to be successful.

Or should I said I have not yet success, instead of being "failed at"? Nobody shall be proud to be at failing, failure is what shame us.

That's what the society taught us, that failure is shameful. I hold a different view, after I read John Maxwell's book on "Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn". He said failure is only feedback, a chance to learn from mistakes and to never repeat it again.

Yes, indeed, I kept my mind open for failure since then. I grab hard on each time I failed and learn it through so that I would not repeat the same mistake the very next time before I let them go. Yes, I don't beat myself up for failing either.

I only going after the one biggest success in life, that is, to get up one more time than falling.


Nomadic Working Style

I have given up my office space a few months ago. The reasons are because of expansion of business and I'd been sick of trying so hard to get organise and failed after a while.

So, I gave up my work space and get on the nomadic working style. It simply means that I started packing all my tools necessary to do my work in a bag and plan my temporary workstation every day.

In the night before, I will plan my schedule and see where should I go, sit down and work for couples of hours. Sometimes, I ended up working in my favourite coffee shop, sometimes in my partner's office or get back to my company, find a spot, sit, and work.

It has been about 5 months I'm working like this, and the result is: I get more done than ever. I'd observed the reasons on the increase in productivity after working like a nomad.

First, no comfort zone. By moving out from my office space, it simply eliminated a familiar spot that provides a sense of comfort to me. No comfort zone simply make me more alert to what's on hands and what to avoid. Sitting in the coffee shop with strangers around me can keep me on focus mode and make me accomplish more important stuff.

Yet, there are traps to avoid. Security is one, higher expenses is another. Most coffee shops offered free wifi, but it makes you vulnerable on the line. So I packed with myself a mobile online Mifi (mini wifi). Free wifi doesn't come free, it comes with an over-priced beverage sometimes. To control the expenses, I seldom work in coffee shops, once in every 2 weeks, perhaps.

Another benefits I get from this nomadic working style is that I create less burden and gets real on the things that really matter to me or to my work. I used to keep a big mug filled with pens and pencils on my office desk, two big file organisers because I convinced myself that I will need them, some souvenirs, some documents to review and etc. And I admit that I wasn't good at organising things, so I always have a messy table and my partner always need to clean up after me (or at the very least, remind me to keep it clean).

After I work nomadic style, I realised that I will need to get simplified with my belonging. I can't pack a lot of things. In my working bag, I packed along with my laptop, a notebook, some stationery,
office/home keys, a box for small objects like cable and paper clip, a folder to keep documents I needed to review, tissue and hand lotion. It is still sound like a long list but definitely much lesser than when I owned a spot in the office.

I need to plan ahead every night before to ensure that I got the productivity I'm looking for, it helps me to improve my planning and thus made me accomplish more in the very next day. As an entrepreneur with multiple roles, I had struggled to get things done while keeping myself busy for almost nothing. Now, I could control myself better to focus and stayed productive for about 4-5 hours per day and really get things done. After that, I could really enjoy my life, I read more, exercise more and spend more time with family.

Says goodbye to my desk make me a whole lot better.