Dear Daniel’s readers,
I love learning. I am a self-professed lifelong learner. And like a plant that either grows or dies, I fundamentally believe that if we’re not learning and growing, we’re withering and dying.
There is a wide spectrum of options for learning out there in the world, from rigorous academic pursuits to aimless meanderings that allow you to stumble upon random tidbits of interesting information. While all the ways of absorbing and assimilating ideas and skills have their place, sometimes it is necessary to learn something as quickly as possible without looking like too much of an idiot during that process.
For me, it’s catching up and keeping up with the newfangled world of communication and information. I am not one of these youngsters that grew up with the ability to globally connect to everyone else on the planet with a touch of a button, or access to all sorts of information with a quick search on Google. To give you some context, I am one of those middle-aged people that did grow up with a rotary phone and set of dusty old encyclopedias on the bookshelf. So I find that with the ever-changing world of digital connectivity and information exchange, I had a learning curve. A very steep learning curve. And even though I find all this learning to be really enjoyable and fun, I could not afford (literally or figuratively) to lollygag in my pursuit to go from knowing very little to being proficient in the digital arenas of the modern era.
What is the quickest way to go from zero to awesome in the shortest possible time? Simple. Find one or two experts in each area of interest, learn from them, apply what you learn, and emulate their example. What might constitute an “expert” definitely varies from learner to learner. For me, they must have the following criteria: one, their content is useful, usable, and immediately applicable; two, they believe I am capable of applying their advice and content, and don’t treat me like I am stupid (even if I am.) Bonus criteria: they are teaching me in the arena that I am trying to learn—immersion learning can be challenging, but extremely effective. For example, if I want to learn more about Twitter, I want to find an expert that I can follow on Twitter while I’m learning about Twitter.
Here is my list of experts that helped bring me up to speed, very quickly I might add, in the newfangled areas of most importance to me
When I decided it was high-time to improve my presence on Twitter, I decided to follow this guy:
Jeff Bullas: blogging and social media expert
Twitter Handle: @jeffbullas
Following this one person on Twitter might actually be enough to launch you beyond mildly proficient and into the stratosphere of “insanely awesome” at all things related to blogging, social media, and engaging an audience electronically. Basically I could spend hours reading the links he posts to Twitter—I stop only because I fear my brain will actually explode from all the simple, applicable, yet content rich tips he provides. If you only choose one thing to do from this list I’m giving you, choose to follow Jeff on Twitter, and gobble up what he has to offer.
When I wanted to take my experience on Facebook to a whole new level personally and professionally, I decided to “Like” and follow this gal:
Mari Smith: Facebook expert
She’s amazing. She’s smart. She’s easy to learn from, AND she keeps her fans continually informed about the latest changes in Facebook’s policies, features, and details. A must “Like” if you want to dive deeper into Facebook—especially if you have (or want to have) a professional page beyond your personal profile.
When I decided that I wanted to compile anything and everything I’ve ever found important, I was given the push to try the following:
Seriously, Evernote is the best note-taking app ever. I have it synced across all my devices, and find I use it more than any other program or app on my computer, phone, and tablet.
I have the distinct advantage of having a personal connection to TWO of Evernote’s Ambassadors. (Note: Evernote Ambassadors are individuals who are experts in various areas, and promote, blog, and teach about how to utilize Evernote in different ways.) One is Daniel Hedrick, a Photography Ambassador (Twitter: @danielhedrick, Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/danielhedrickphoto), and the other is Brandie Kajino, an Organizational Ambassador (Twitter: @SpoonAndSaucer Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SpoonAndSaucer). I’m super lucky, and can contact either of them whenever I have a question about how to utilize Evernote in new and creative ways. Daniel can attest to the fact that at least a few times a week I’m sending him text messages or calling him with questions about something tech and/or Evernote related, and he is always patient and helpful in my quest to improve my abilities with my technology. Beyond my personal friendships, I also follow Jamie Todd Rubin on both Twitter: @jamietr and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jamietoddrubinwriter. Jamie is a Paperless Ambassador for Evernote, and his ideas and tips for paperless living are immediately practical and extremely inspiring.
When I decided that I just needed to have my mind blown wide open with new and innovative ideas I started watching:
TED Talks: http://www.ted.com
These videos are approximately 20 minutes long, and are the quickest way to gain cutting edge insight, information, and inspiration. If you’re ever having one of those days where the world seems doomed to spiral into oblivion, I highly recommend carving out 20 minutes for an ass-kicking TED talk. If you don’t know where to start, you can’t go wrong with Dan Pink’s “The Puzzle of Motivation”
or Shae Hembrey’s “How I Became 100 Artists”
Since I am one of those old-fashioned girls that still loves to learn by reading books, I also recommend the following without hesitation:
The Tao of Twitter by Mark Shaefer. I was confounded for YEARS by how to engage on Twitter, and I had read many a book and blog in my attempt to learn this style of social media. It wasn’t until I read The Tao of Twitter that it made any sense whatsoever. Beyond being a fantastic primer in understanding the nature of relationships and communication in the realm of Twitter, the book gives a simple step-by-step approach to getting started, transitioning to utilizing Twitter’s more intermediate features, as well as outlining more advanced techniques for honing your Twitter-craft. While using this book to get started on Twitter, I stumbled upon Jeff Bullas (see above). Thanks to Mark and Jeff, I now feel extremely comfortable tweeting and functioning in the Twitter-verse.
The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success by Wayne Breitbarth. LinkedIn is another one of those sites that while I have had a profile forever, but I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how to use or engage on this site with any effectiveness. This book really helped demystify LinkedIn’s usefulness, and how to make the most of its features. I am in the process of re-reading this book for the third time, and re-applying each chapter’s focus and suggestions to my profile. I can already see steady forward movement with each change I make, and can’t wait to see where it takes me when I have completed all the suggested steps.
The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. Fine. I admit it. This one is a stretch. It has nothing to do with technology, apps, information, or social media. BUT is one of my favorite books, and if you’re just looking for a good kick-in the pants to accomplish…well… ANYTHING, this is a must read. The good news: some of the chapters are only one paragraph long. The bad news: you won’t make it through the introduction before putting it down and setting out to accomplish something.
In parting, my wish for you:
Learn lots. Learn quick. Be awesome.
Kristi and I have known each other since we were little. Back then, conversations centered around fuzzy blankets. Now, we get together when we can to belt out karaoke and to talk about tech, creativity, and general geekery. You can learn more about Kristi on her website and her facebook page.