•August 17, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Since I have a long commute I have started listening to books on Audible and thus I am able to listen to many books that inspire me to learn and establish good habits. At the end of the book Scott talks about fostering Ultralearning in the home, school, and work place. Since I have been contemplating doing an Ultralearning project, I appreciate the overall suggestions he makes. When creating an inspiring goal one has to be careful with comparing oneself to the competition; meaning you have to be careful who your reference point or group is and be reasonable. Making learning a priority is of paramount importance. I like Scott’s suggestion that our workplace should have learning-driven approach and assign employees projects and allowing a portion of time to projects that will dramatically improve employees skill set.
There is a famous psychologist, Laszlo Polgar, who did use the 9 steps in training up his three daughters to become world-class Chess Masters. The oldest girl Judith, played Garry Kasparov, considered to be one of the best chess players of all time, when she was 17. her father had decided to train his three girls to be Chess Masters. Laszlo believed that his daughters could be educated and trained to become exceptional learners. Lazlo studied the biographies of great intellectuals and he believed that he could train his girls to be geniuses. They started at a young age and studied intensively. In ULTRALEARNING, Scott systematize they’re learning process in his 9 point strategies.
Thankfully, we are given advice on how to start our first Ultralearning project. I must admit that’s where the rubber meets the road when I decide to start my own Ultralearning project. Ultralearning projects take time and effort to plan and you have to overcome your own fear a failure or inadequacy. Scott lists 5 Steps that one can follow. My issue has been that there is so much information out there that it is difficult to choose the best resources. We now have Edx and Coursera courses, as well as blogs, and thousands YouTube videos. It is overwhelming. This issue has been addressed in what is called the Paradox of Choice, a compelling commentary about the overwhelming choices we have in Western Society. Scott has some good advice to start your project.
ULTRALEARNING is a good, but challenging read. Will we have the courage to take the challenge and learn something difficult. This is a type of book that will not be successful unless you try the strategies listed. It is one thing to read the book and another to commit to an Ultralearning project. I hope to do so, but first I have to take my project management certification program. Most likely I will focus my Ultralearning project on a skill set that will keep me employable and in demand. Scott is a new breed of learners such as Cal Newport (Deep Work), James Clear (Atomic Habits- he also wrote an exceptional preface), and Barbara Oakley (A Mind for Numbers) that I wish were around when I was young. If I knew what I know now, I definitely would have been a more sophisticated learner. I applaud Scott Youngs ability to sift through thousands of pages of information, plus interviewing scores of achievers, in order to systematize a process that anyone can follow. Enjoy.


•August 17, 2019 • Leave a Comment

While taking a course called, “Learning how to Learn”, I was first introduced to a young man by the name of Scott Young. He was traveling the world, while learning the local language in 3 months and then moving to another country to relearn another language. For the class he was discussing his MIT Challenge-which basically meant he crammed 4 years of MIT computer science classes into less than a year. He was able to do this through taking MIT’s OpenCourseWare, a bit of grit and determination and the ability to intensely study for almost 12 months straight. During his travels, Scott also decided to reach out to other successful learners and listen to their stories. I would like to think that when Scott completed his MIT challenge the seeds of this new book were planted.
His first published book, called ULTRALEARNING, is the fruit of his investigations. The subtitle says it all- “Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career”. What exactly is ULTRALEARNING? Let’s get this out of the way first, it is not easy: it’s hard and frustrating and requires stretching outside the limits of where you feel comfortable. While anecdotes are not scientific proof, they do add weight to Scotts thesis that we can all be successful at Ultralearning. One of the beauties of his book is that he has made friends with people such as Eric, who decided to create his own video game, even though companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars in order to make viable and popular games. Or another friend named Lewis who mastered such languages as Spanish, Italian, Gaelic, French, Portuguese, and others. These folks were his inspiration and mentors. What these people had in common was a shared pursuit of extreme self-directed learning projects.
Ultralearning uses strategies for acquiring skills and knowledge, that is both self-directed and Intense. There are several reasons why Ultralearning will improve your life, such as learning hard skills to remain employable, enriching your personal life, and acquiring challenging personal goals; such as becoming a photographer, chef, or musician.
In today’s society, there is a concept known as skill polarization and this is leading to the fact that average is over. In our careers, many medium skilled jobs are being replaced with new technologies and these new technologies are difficult to master. I find myself in this situation and have been seeking training ever since completing an online MOOC called “Learning how to Learn”. Please watch the episode where Scott is being interviewed. As a lover of lifelong learning I understand the importance of updating when’s skill set in order to be competitive in today’s Landscape. Ultralearning is lifelong learning on steroids.
One interesting chapter deals with a musician friend, de Montebello, who volunteers to take on an Ultralearning project and decides to become a public speaker. Although he had a background as a musician, de Montebello was never good at public speaking. He decided to go out of his comfort zone. Montebello relates how he decided to attend a meeting of Toastmasters International. By luck and a chance meeting, he decided to enter the Toastmasters world championship of public speaking. A mentor saw something special and encouraged him to enter the event. The story goes on to relate the strategies he used in order to qualify for the Toastmasters competition. His Drive and Attention to detail landed him a spot in the competition. In preparation, de Montebello took acting and improv classes in order to bolster his presence. He actually became a semifinalist in the International Competition, which changed his career trajectory. We may not become professional speakers, but we can use this personal story as an example of how to succeed at a difficult skill. Stories and anecdotes illustrate the 9 principles Scott uses in order for the common person to become an Ultralearner. They are Metalearning, Focus, Directness, Drill, Retrieval, Feedback, Retention, Intuition, and finally Experimentation. Metalearning means learning about learning. You grasp how knowledge is structured and acquired within your subject of study. This concept enables you to learn quicker and grasp your subject on a deeper level. The ability to focus on a subject is of paramount importance. “In the realm of great intellectual accomplishments an ability to focus quickly and deeply is nearly ubiquitous”. For those of us who struggle to focus, this will be a difficult principle to master. Each principle is first illustrated by poignant stories, followed up by an explanation, and then certain strategies are suggested in order to strengthen one’s capacity to master the learning strategy. Scott is keenly aware of our challenges with focus, so he addresses issues such as our problem in starting to focus, which is manifested in procrastination. All the strategies take up the core of the book. And it is impossible to do them justice in a short review such as this. Let the reader enjoy delving deeper into the 9 strategies Scott elucidates in ULTRALEARNING.

Designing Your Life-A Review

•March 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I like the title of Bill Burnett and Dave Evan’s book, “Designing Your Life” (How to build a well-lived, joyful life). When talking to others about career building I now discuss the idea of mimicking how designers build their way forward, using their method of designing; rather than trying to find your passion. The idea is to think like a designer and the necessary steps to take in designing and building a life. Another new idea is the notion of reframing your questions in life. Here is an example: a dysfunctional belief might be ‘if you are successful you will be happy’. To reframe this belief would be to say ‘true happiness comes from designing a life that works for you’. The authors list several real-life anecdotes that infuse a sense of authenticity on how to connect concepts to reality. In working through this book I am having difficulty being concise as there is so much good information that pertains to living a good life that I will only touch on a few significant aspects that spoke to me. We are all looking for happiness and living a meaningful life, and a large part of this focuses on what we do for a living. The authors ask the question, “What does a well-designed and balanced life look like?” This is a book to be digested in small chunks and I encourage the reader to set aside time for reflection. In order to receive the most benefit one must work through the questions and, if possible, discuss with trustworthy friends. In fact, one of the suggestions is to ask for help. You should seek out a supporter that will give you honest feedback. I started a reading group to discuss this book’s contents. Life By Design focuses on the rubric of: Curiosity, Bias to action, Reframing, Awareness, and Radical collaboration. You are asked to start where you are and you will assess where you are in your work life, play, love, and health. You will also be asked to write a short reflection on your Work View and Life View. The adage, ‘the more you put into it the more you will get out of it,’ pertains to these activities. You are encouraged to follow what engages and excites you. Or another way of looking at it is, what gives you energy and what sucks you dry? I have been pondering the popular advice that all you need to do is find your passion and how this advice doesn’t seem to capture reality for most of us. Other writers are now questioning this common wisdom as well. Most people don’t know. A well-designed life makes better sense if you can align who you are, what you believe, and what you do. The authors also give valuable tips on How Not To Get a Job. They give you insight on understanding job descriptions, and how to take this into account when writing a resume. A curious insight is to focus on offers and not jobs. The dysfunctional belief is, ‘I am looking for a job’ and the reframe is, ‘I am pursuing a number of offers’. I am a midlife career-changer and this book was both encouraging and an eye-opener which encouraged me to refocus my viewpoint. I learned I had to ask the right questions. The journey continues …

Destroyer of the gods-a book review

•March 28, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Christians were the first true atheists. They were a new sect that was considered dangerous and they refused to worship the traditional gods. Notice the little “g”. Christianity was considered odd, as it was a trans ethnic religion that included children, slaves and others of low status. It did not matter if you were Roman, Greek, slave, free or barbarian. This was something totally new for the culture of the Roman Empire. Most religious practice was centered on one’s ethnicity, social status, city or family. Paganism was intertwined with society and affected most economic activity. Since Christians would not be involved in pagan worship nor partake in food offered to idols, this affected their families, social, and economic interactions, which then led to severe distrust and often persecution. This new sect was disruptive and the elite did not approve of Christian practices.
We may be a post-Christian society and be living off the fumes of our Judeo-Christian past but the fact that we still believe in one God testifies to the influence of the early Christians. “Destroyer of the gods” is a treatise on early Christian distinctives in the Roman Empire after the death of Christ. Dr. Hurtado wants to address our “cultural amnesia” concerning the impact of the first three centuries of Christianity on our “commonplace assumption about religion.” He is referring to how society refers to a single deity, God, or the fact that our religious affiliation can be separated from our ethnic or family background and the idea that religion is a choice. This was not the case when the Way exploded onto the polytheistic scene, disrupting the Roman Empire.
Destroyer of the gods focuses on such features that made early Christianity distinctive and odd amongst the other religions of the time. These early Christians were comprised of people from all social ranks, which included several sophisticated and talented intellectuals. Such luminaries include Justin Martyr, Ignatius and Tertullian. Another unique aspects of early Christianity were the place of books in the life of corporate and private worship. The use of the codex over scrolls, which eventually led to the modern leaf book was influenced by Christianity’s emphasis on the written word.
What I enjoy about this book is that it is well-written and lucid but meant for a wide range of non-technical readers. The book is not meant to persuade one to become a Christian but instead, gives a proper understanding of early Christianity and its affect on the present. The book is well researched and offers extensive notes listing sources for further study if one wishes. The early church fathers wrote to convince a hostile and skeptical world of the merits of the faith. They were often persecuted and put under severe pressure to renounce their fledgling religion. They were reviled for disrupting the social unity of the culture and suffered family and economic rejection. Today, we live in a post-Christian, late modern society that does not appreciate a religion that claims there is only one way to salvation. In some respects our world is like the early Roman society in which Christianity was just one little taste of religion amongst many. And an odd one at that. It is encouraging for me to see how early followers of Christ responded to their accusers and often thrive despite severe distrust. They were unafraid to expect obedience to their Teacher and live a moral life that was at odds with idol worship so prevalent in the Empire. Maybe Christians today can learn from the past and be bold in their belief and successfully contend for the faith in a winsome and attractive manner.

What Color Is Your Parachute? Review

•March 27, 2017 • Leave a Comment

If you only had one book to choose from in order to be successful in your job hunt then this would be it. “What Color Is Your Parachute” by Richard Bolles has been a perennial bestseller for as long as I can remember and has been in print since 1970. The beauty of this manual is that it is written in a friendly, down-to-earth style that interjects humor with the very real task of properly preparing for the job hunt. I have often thought that the modern day job hunt is an excruciating way of seeking meaningful employment. Only modern man could have thought up the Job Interview. This edition gives you an update on what has changed in the world of work that is valuable to know. Of particular concern is the length of the average job hunt has increased dramatically. And it’s opposite, that is, the length of time the average job lasts has decreased dramatically! All is not lost as there are principles to follow that will greatly enhance your ability to land that dream job. Bolle’s gives you 18 principles which may expedite your search and land you an interview. A few examples such as, Creative job hunting rests on finding answers to three questions: What,Where and How. Or, Use contacts or bridge people to get in for an interview. You definitely do not want to mass-produce resumes and send them out randomly. Recently, I signed up for LinkedIn and was able to download all of the pertinent information that one would normally use in a resume. It is easy to update and you choose whom your contacts will be. It’s almost like Facebook for professionals without the personal drama and foul language. Mr. Bolles highly recommends LinkedIn and states that it’s the site of first resort if some employer is curious about you. I have had employers contact me after looking at my profile. In chapter 7 we find the self-inventory: part one in which the job seeker learns how to describe themselves in six different ways. You learn the difference between skills, talent, and abilities and how to translate your work activities into transferable skills. You will discover what your goal, purpose or mission in life is and what type of work conditions yuo thrive in. You will also figure out if you’re more comfortable dealing with people, things or data or which combination works best for your temperament. These are just a few of the questions you will be answering and you’ll delve deeper into other areas of your personality which will then be documented on the famous “Flower”. There are seven pedals that need to be filled out which will describe your self inventory on one sheet. Included on your petals are descriptions such as: My favorite working conditions, What I can do and love to do, My goals, purpose or mission in life, and My favorite knowledges are fields of interest. This is a job-hunting method in which you have a 12 times better chance of finding work than other job-seekers who do not use this method. There is no doubt that this inventory will take much time and serious thought on the part of the career–changer. This strategy will help you focus on what is important to you and increase your odds of landing that coveted position at Apple or Google. As Yogi Berra said, “You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there”.

Get in on this deal.

•June 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Don’t miss a 50% off summer sale from Baylor University Press this weekend (June 10th-12th). The sale is intended for graduate students, but anyone with the code may order! Use discount code BJUN at http://baylorpr.es/s50-off, which applies to books published before 2015. Happy shopping!

The Last Lecture: Some Thoughts

•December 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I have been listening to Last Lecture and taking stock of what it is that is truly important to me. I listen to the tape as I grudgingly drive to work-often depressed and wondering what I can do to better my lot in life. Don’t get me wrong-I am thankful for having a decent paying job and having good medical insurance although I can thank my wife for that. The nature of my job taxes my emotional strength and my ability to try to bring sanity out of challenging daily situations. I am a few years older than the author and am not a professor but I am in education and can over-analyze situations. When he found he had pancreatic cancer he came face to face with the fact that he did not have much time left to live. He had 3 young children and a wife to consider and prepare for his eventual demise. Before he was diagnosed with cancer he had been asked to give a lecture and he decided to talk about childhood dreams and how they were fulfilled in his short lifetime. He went on to talk about how we need to remember our childhood dreams and seek to discover how to fulfill these dreams. I remember years ago I had written about a dream to travel and be paid as a photographer. I had actually forgotten about this dream until I happened upon this note. I had actually accomplished this but not in the way I had imagined. I was hired on as a videographer based near Cape Canaveral for The Big Red Boat that hosted the Warner Bros characters. We were taking 3 and 4 day cruises to the Bahamas and would visit our own small island as well. I would video tape passengers involved with various tours and events and then they would be edited into a pre-made video “donut”. The work was grueling and not well paid. But I also got to soak up the sun and meet others from all over the world. Needless to say, I did not last that long and ended up quitting but not before having my share of pina coladas and fun. This experience enabled me to work as a video programmer for a much larger company and much better pay. That is for another story though. My point is that we often have dreams and when they happen they might not be what we expect or as satisfying as we expected. They may even leave us with disappointment and frustration. I have not listened to the whole book yet but one thing that I had hoped mentioned would be questions of life after death, God and the after-life. Surely that would be of main concern and trump the idea of living ones childhood dreams? However, the venue for giving the lecture was for professors to impart wisdom founded upon a life time of hard work and labor. We all will die and the prospect of death will often bring us to question the status quo and come to terms with God and the meaning of it all. I often wonder how I would live my life if I knew I had a few months to live-it’s a hard question to answer. I am pretty sure I would quit my job and focus on present and past friendships. I surely would at least talk more directly to others about our purpose in life.


•October 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Steven Pinker just came out with a new book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century which is somewhat styled after Shrunk and Whites ‘Elements of Style’. He was speaking at a local private school campus located in the hills of Danville Ca. What was interesting was how focused his talk was . He is an eloquent, persuasive speaker and it is no easy task to keep an audience attentive while digressing on ways of writing. We are reminded that we are to communicate ideas when we are writing and not submerge our message with excess verbiage.







Too many books

•January 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I needed to take a sabbatical after teaching Special Education for 12 years and am attempting to use my time wisely. Needless to say I am also sleeping more and reading more. I love to read and collect books but I have this ADD thing going where I check out 20 to 30 items from my local library which is hooked up through Link+ to academic libraries throughout California and Nevada. Maybe I should never have discovered Link+ as my tastes run from photography, art, film, society, education, biblical studies, theology, good fiction, finance, economics, money management, politics etc. I have also discovered Coursera and MOOCs from institutions such as Harvard, Yale and MIT. Presently I am taking a MOOC from Harvard about the Letters of Paul. I encourage people to check out these online coarses as they are improving dramatically. Now I can say I am taking a coarse from Harvard.

My wife and I

•January 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

My wife and I