7 Books That Changed My Life – And Will Change Yours Too!

Reading time: 5 mins

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Now that’s what I call stacking!!!

Happy New Year People!

I hope that you had a great one but now we’ve finished the last of the turkey and put away the Christmas decorations for another year, we’ve got some work to do!

Usually the New Year is the time in which we reflect and look at ways to improve our lives! As you guys know, I’m a massive fan of Personal Development books and in honour of 2017, these are 7 books that made a major impact on my life!

This blogpost will give you a mini-review of what they are about & how it helped my life. I hope you enjoy!

1) The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

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For me, this is the greatest personal development book I have ever read.

This is the book that will make all the other books work. Period.

I use The Slight Edge in everything in my life: from teaching, to learning to code to even writing this blog. If you will buy one book this year, buy this one! I’ve reviewed it already for this blog, so please click here for the full review!

2) The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason

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This is the Granddaddy of personal finance books and it is an absolute classic. Written in the 1920’s just before the Great Depression, this book actually started off as a collection of pamphlets that Clason wrote advising people on how to manage their money.

The book is a collection of fables that centre around a man called Arkad – an extremely wealthy merchant that lived in Ancient Babylonia over 4000 years ago. Arkad spends many of the stories advising friends, children and other merchants on how he made his wealth.

Please note. This book will not give you the secrets to picking the latest tech stocks (it was written almost 100 years ago – for goodness sake!) But it will give you universal principles on how to earn, keep and invest money. I still consult this book to this day. If you are absolutely clueless about personal finance (as I was), this will be a great investment!

 

3) The Complete Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

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If “The Richest Man in Babylon” was the beginner’s class on Personal Finance, then Dave Ramsey’s book is the intermediate/expert class that will take you finances to the next level.

Personal Finance guru Dave Ramsey takes you through a 7 step plan that is designed to get you out of debt, build an emergency fund and if you have the stamina, help you become financially free. Please note: I said financially free NOT rich. In the very simplest terms, Financial Freedom means that if you lost your main source of income (your job) you would have enough assets (things that make you money) to cover your expenses/costs of living – which is perfectly achievable. This book seriously changed my life. It taught me how to eliminate my debt, budget and basically get my money right. Dave is frank and straight forward and the stories in the book are very motivating! A must buy!

4) The Education Of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg

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Author Michael Ellsberg believes that the formal education that is taught in schools and universities, apart from teaching you technical skills, teach you very little on what it takes to be successful in the real world – especially if you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur. After meeting and interviewing several millionaires and billionaires, Ellsberg sketches out in this book, the alternative ‘life degree’ of key skills that will help you get promoted quicker, start a business, meet the right people and have a more fulfilling life in general.

How this book really helped me was it taught me that skills like sales, networking and marketing were not just skills for entrepreneurs but skills that everyone should learn. The book has plenty of case studies and personal exercises to help you put them into practice. The sections about networking and sales are absolute genius and has helped me massively in my personal and professional life. I recommend this book especially to young people out of Uni or those that may be jaded by formal education and traditional careers. It’s a great book!

5) Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck

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Carol Dweck is a professor of Psychology at Stanford University who’s main specialism is in Performance and Motivation. Dweck through her research found that most people’s thought processes when undertaking a new task or skill came in 2 flavours:

a) Fixed mindset – These people believed that the ability to perform a task was directly linked to your innate talent and that this could never change.

b) Growth Mindset – These folks believed that ability was flexible and could grow like a muscle if you worked on it.

Her research showed that the majority who were at the top of fields had a ‘Growth’ mindset which caused them to practise more, keep learning and bounce back from failures – and these things are the building blocks of lasting success. This book has a very special place in my heart. Dweck’s book, backed by lots of clinical research,  has a lot of practical tips on how to develop a ‘Growth Mindset’ and this has proven invaluable as I am taking on my greatest challenge to date: learning how to code. Whenever I have felt down about my progress, I remember the lessons in this book. If you are learning any new skill, please read this book first.

 

6) Seven Strategies For Wealth And Happiness by Jim Rohn

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Jim Rohn was a giant in the Personal Development industry and some say he may have been the greatest of them all. Rohn was the personal mentor of Performance Coach superstar, Tony Robbins and you can see where Tony got his groove from!

Rohn talks about 7 areas in which we should focus our attention on to maximise our lives. He talks about the obvious areas like finance and career, but looks at the less obvious areas like health, family and even spirituality. Jim’s very simple, folksy but direct style is fantatsic as he breaks these complex areas down and each line really hits home. Jim believed that “nothing in your life will change until you change” and spoke about improving your ‘philosophy’ which is the way that you think about life.

This book changed me profoundly as it made me look at, analyse and work on my own personal philosophy. I have read the book at least 5 times and I always come away with something different. This book inspired ‘The Slight Edge’ and it is an excellent companion to it. If you are serious about Personal Development then you need to read this book!

7) Mastery by Robert Greene

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Now Robert Greene is a divisive figure: He wrote the best-selling book “The 48 Laws Of Power” which described ways that you could manipulate, steal and crush your competitors (and sometimes even your friends) to gain power and influence. This book is not the CareBears…

But… I absolutely love Robert Greene’s style of writing as he seamlessly mixes psychology, science and history in ways that are elegant and beautiful and I think that this book is one of his masterpieces.

Greene expands on the ‘10,000 hour rule of mastery’ which was made popular by Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller, “Outliers”. The premise is simple: In any field in the world, whether it is being an winning Olympic athlete to a world-class coder, the masters in that realm spent 10,000 hours perfecting their craft.

But it’s not as simple as it seems. What Greene’s book did for me was show me that there are different stages on the path to mastery that will require you to do different things like finding a mentor, discovering a suitable niche, experimenting as well dealing with often difficult people and troublesome organisational structures. “Mastery” gave me a roadmap on what to do and what to avoid as I try to become a expert coder and the best that I can be in my life!

Well I hope these mini-reviews helped! If you pick up one of these books, I’m sure that it will make a real difference to your year.

What books have helped improve your life? As always please share! Leave your comments below or tweet me @karlwebdev & give me your feedback!

Thank you and see you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev

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My 10 Favourite Blogposts of 2016

goodbye-2016

I think that most people would agree that we are all happy to see the back of 2016…

Good Morning People!

I hope that you all had a very safe, fun and fulfilling Christmas! I just wanted to say a massive thank you to all you guys that have read, shared, retweeted and liked my blog. This is my 30th blogpost and my blog has been read by people in over 40 countries – its amazing and I really appreciate all the love and support!

I just wanted to leave you with my 10 favourite blogposts so far. Most of these blogposts struck a cord with you guys and I also despite the down days enjoyed writing them! As always, thank you for journeying with me as I get into the world of tech and self-development and please share this post far and wide and hopefully it can help someone else!

1) The Simple Idea That Helped Me Learn To Code Better 

My most popular post to date – I’m so happy it could help people!

2) It’s Good To Dream…

Given the current social climate right now, we must still believe that things can get better and everyone can get a fair shake in life. Glad it resonated with people…

3) The One Hour Study Method That Drastically Improved My Coding

4) Book review of “The Dip” by Seth Godin

An absolutely brilliant book by Seth Godin and I talk about “The Dip” a lot in my blog – a game changer!

5) BOOK REVIEW of “The Slight Edge”

For me, this is the greatest Personal Development book I’ve ever read and started me on my new coding journey! Please read!

6) 3 Subjects You Hated In School But Will Make You A Better Person. Period.

7) Techdegree Journal 5: How JavaScript Functions Are Like the Marvel Cinematic Universe

I’m really proud of this blogpost. I was very shy of writing a ‘technical’ blogpost as I am still learning the ropes but the support I got really gave me the confidence that I wasn’t writing gobbledegook – cheers!

8) Book Review “Show Your Work”  by Austin Kleon

This book inspired me to write this blog. Another life changing book – a must read!

9) Code like A Rockstar: How Programming A Website Is Like Producing A Killer Song

I am a music teacher by trade so as I was learning to code, I started seeing a similar pattern when I created a professional quality song to writing a successful program. Any guys that are interested in music production, this blog will give you an insight of what happens in a music studio.

10) How To Stay Motivated When Coding Gets Hard

This is how I handle my ‘Dip’

If you have any questions or you wanna say something, please leave your comments below or tweet at me @karlwebdev.

Well this is the last blogpost of 2016! Have a great NYE and see you next year!

I am taking a short break so I will be back on Thursday 12th January!

Take Care!

Karlwebdev

The Simple Exercise That Busted My Stress & Boosted My Happiness

Reading time: 5 minutes

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D’oh!

Have you guys ever had a Homer Simpson ‘Doh!’ moment? Where you were looking at the answer to a particular question and you were racking your brain to figure it out? Only for a friend/colleague to come along and in literally 5 seconds, points out the solution that has been staring you in the face all along? All you can do is slap your head in disgust & laugh it off-feeling silly for not being able to figure it out…

As I mentioned in my previous blog post as I have been learning to code, I’ve hit what Seth Godin called ‘The Dip’, the slump between being a beginner and becoming a master when learning a new skill and I had to develop a number of new strategies to help me power through.

As well as being in my current profession as a teacher, learning to code and (trying to) have a personal life, everything has been… overwhelming. I’ve been feeling a little stressed as a result. Realising that stress and anxiety are not only a danger to effective learning but can harm my mental health, I started googling looking for solutions. There had to be a better way…

The ‘Don’t’ List

Eventually I came across the videos and books of craniosacral therapist and author Julian Cowan Hill who in his writings spoke about the ‘better/worse list’. In the following weeks, I found that Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey used a similar method he called the ‘Daily Note’. For simplicity, I call it the ‘Don’t List’.

It’s incredibly simple. All you do is grab a blank sheet of paper (or use the an ‘note’ feature in your smartphone) and create 2 columns: DO & DON’T. Now over the course of a week when you are at home or work, study the things that you do over the course of the day and add it to the list.

The items that you would add to the DO column would be things like:

  • Whenever you do things that you find enjoyable 
  • Things that put you in a ‘flow’ state (aka ‘the zone’ – doing a task where you are so engrossed in the task that everything around you fades away and you lose track of time)
  • When you do things that make you feel energised
  • When you speak to people that make you feel good
  • Anything that puts you in a positive state of mind.

The items that you would add to the DON’T column would be things like:

  • Things that stress you out or make you anxious
  • Things that are repetitive and boring
  • Things that are mentally or physical draining
  • Whenever you talk to people that make you feel negative etc.

Here’s a sample of my list (names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Do (Positive)

  • Computer Games
  • Tai Chi
  • Writing my blog
  • Taking a walk & listening to music
  • Talking to good friends
  • Thinking about business ideas
  • Teaching
  • Planning lessons
  • Coding
  • Organising debates for the class
  • Being present in the moment
  • Working with Sam/Michelle/Jamie

Don’t (negative)

  • Hearing gossip/office politics
  • Lacking sleep
  • Over doing things
  • Hearing bad news
  • Having a cold
  • Dealing with Sarah
  • Marking
  • Information overload/over-complicated tasks for no reason
  • Pointless meetings
  • Rushing around
  • Coffee
  • Eating a heavy lunch (makes me drowsy)

When I first saw the exercise, I thought “yeah right buddy – that’s not going to help me!” But I didn’t have anything to lose and tried it for a week… then 2 weeks… then 3… and over 2 months later I’m still adding to it! There’s a 4 interesting patterns that came out of this exercise 

1) The DO column showed me where my strengths were

I love teaching and communicating so it didn’t surprise me that teaching and writing this came up as one of the things I enjoyed the most. Writing this blog is something that I love to do & I have loved to write since I was a wee lad.

2) The DO column taught me things that I didn’t know about myself

But there things that did surprise me that kept appearing: planning lessons and discussing ideas for the college are almost the opposite of talking to a group of rowdy kids but I found it fascinating & enjoyed brainstorming with others.

3) The DON’T column showed me that effect of dealing with negative people 

I hate mind games & office one-upsmanship with an absolute passion. At work, there were people who because of gossip and their passive aggressive movements that left me feeling frustrated and drained. Don’t get me wrong, no one is perfect and we all have rough days, but when you are dealing with people that are always negative they tend to put you in a negative headspace.

4) The DON’T column showed me how food and lack of exercise had a major effect on my mood

I used to be a massive coffee head, especially when facing a rough Monday morning. But after the initial ‘high’, the ‘caffeine crash’ would leave me feeling stressed, irritable and anxious. So what did I do to combat this effect? Drink more coffee and the cycle would repeat. Eating a heavy lunch made me sleepy and sluggish which hurt my work performance

 I found that the opposite was true when I practiced Tai Chi and had  Green Tea – doing Tai Chi and going for a walk made me feel more grounded & in control and gave me the a ‘high’ that did not send my energy crashing to the ground.

Although the main reason why I started this list was to ease work stress, I found the results so revelatory that I applied to every area of my life. Here’s 2 things you do once you got a good block of stuff on your list.

Do more in the DO list

One of the things that I realised that made the positive difference to my life was talking to my close friends. But because of my hectic life I let that fall by the wayside and although I was getting more done professionally, I felt empty and generally unhappy.

After noticing this on my DON’T list I made a deliberate effort to put in a call at least once a week and all the positive energy and clarity I got spilled into every area in my life. I used to think that all the different parts of my life were separate & they had no real effect on the others – how wrong I was. Make sure you try to do things that enrich & fulfill you. This will give you the energy to face the speed-bumps of life.

Minimise the things in the DON’T column

I know this list is not perfect. If you have a nightmare boss or an annoying colleague, you can’t exactly just tell them to throw themselves in the ocean. But you have a lot more power than you think. For example, I realised that certain people and situations made me unhappy so I tried to minimise my time with them as I could, stopped the gossiping and complaining & this generally made me feel happier at work. 

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If this is your boss, good luck trying to get away from them…

Another thing that kept on cropping up was a colleague would send me over complicated reports that I didn’t understand & I had to muddle through to get the info that will let me complete my work. From my list, I realised that I could do 2 things:

  • I asked for her to send me a brief summary highlighting the main parts of the report 
  • If she sent them over & when they were vital to complete my daily tasks, I would politely tell her that I couldn’t complete it then and schedule a better time to do it.

This immediately freed up my time & I felt less frustrated – what a relief!

To-Do lists are not complete

When I initially started this list, part of me thought that it wouldn’t work because it was too simple and too obvious to make a real change in my life. But that’s the beauty of it. What I starting to realise that the simpler the method is, the less likely that it can go wrong.

The problem I found with a lot Personal Development books is that most of them talk about doing more: working harder, stronger, faster, longer – but I realised doing more doesn’t mean that you getting the important stuff done. The beauty of this list is that it brings a mindfulness to your life and from there you can make better decisions.

I double/triple/quadruple dare you to try this – what have you got to lose? Try it for a week & I put my life savings on it you will be shocked at what you see!

Let me know how you get on in the comments below or tweet at me @karlwebdev – I would love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading & see you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev

Are You a Secret Agent Or A Gardener?

Reading time: 4 minutes

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Alan Titchmarsh would beat up Jason Bourne any day of the week…

My Old Man

My Old Man (my father) liked gardening. After a hard day of crunching numbers as an accountant in the City, he would come home and put on his battered jeans and tatty shirt and potter around the garden. For a hyperactive 9 year old, gardening was… boring. I mean, The Old Man would stroll up and down, turning over the soil, watering the plants and removing the weeds. As a man from The Old Country (Africa), Dad had a special appreciation to the Earth that I, the London city dweller never appreciated. After a couple of months (sometimes years) of work, Dad would proudly put the greens, fruits, tomatoes and onions on the table and with a weary grin say “there is no better taste than food planted by your own hand”. Boring. Boring. Boring.

But as I have grown older, I think that The Old Man was into something…

Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist

During the journey of changing my career, I decided to blog for 3 reasons:

1) It would be an online ‘diary’ to show myself and others how far I have come in learning to code

2) To help other people who want to change their career path especially in Tech

3) To become a multi-millionaire blogger who is best friends with Kanye West, Mark Zuckerberg & Richard Branson*

(*OK, I’m only kidding but if it did happen, I wouldn’t say no!)

Social media has really opened my eyes to a whole new world. It has allowed me to talk to incredible people from all around the world. But I’ve also noticed another interesting pattern…

Sometimes, I will be contacted by an ‘expert’ or ‘guru’ who will bombard with direct messages telling me “How To Be A Billionaire in 10 Minutes” or “How To Be A Property Magnate in 2 Weeks”.

That always give a great chuckle.

If Direct Messages were weapons, Mr ‘Expert’ would be whacking me on the head screaming BUY! BUY! BUY! while I sent my money to his email address propertygurumillionaireexpert@gmail.com. But why do people fall for these scammers time & time again. Because we view success like a Secret Agent…

007: You Only Succeed Once

Hollywood has messed us up. Anything worth having in life is meant to be sexy, fast, fun, exciting & you’re meant to look good while doing it. I feel that our relationship with life change has gone the same way as James Bond on his latest mission: whether it losing weight or changing our careers, we are told to “follow our dreams” and go “all out”. Like a James Bond film, we expect every single moment to be exciting, meaningful and to have a happy ending. We want it and we want it NOW, damnmit!

But it’s not like that. Most of the time it’s… Boring. On this road, many of us won’t be jumping out of planes like Mr Bond but our journey is slow and steady – It’s a process and not an event. 

2 Life Lessons From Gardening

When I first started to learn to code, I was informed by the bright neon coloured advert that I would be I would be “job ready within 6 months”.

Yeah right.

A year and a bit in, I still don’t know what I’m doing. Learning to code for me has been a bit like watching ‘Inception’ – just when I thought that I understood the movie, my mate came along and told me something about that 10 second scene that gave the film a whole new meaning to me. But… I am making progress. I’m in a state of “comfortable confusion” – I still don’t know what I’m doing but I am having fun doing it. In honour of Papa WebDev here’s 2 things I picked up that has helped me in my journey.

1) Be Patient 

In our garden we had an apple tree that produced the most sour apples that you could ever taste. It’s like an apple tree had a secret affair with a lemon tree and our tree was the lovechild. I recently discovered that from being planted to producing fruit, an apple tree takes 6 years to mature. Yet The Old Man was patient and stuck to his schedule. Everyday from 6pm to 7pm, he tended to that tree and the garden, trusting that it will produce crop.

Sometimes I get impatient with coding and I want to throw a hadoken at the computer screen but I remind myself that there is always a lagtime between planting and harvest.

2) Weed and Protect

Patience doesn’t mean being passive. it’s not like you plant things in the ground and you forget all about it. My Old Man, when the shoots started to come up, would regularly, walk around the garden, pulling out weeds, repairing holes in our fence and put special barriers around certain plants. The Old Man explained that when plants are young, they are weak and insects and animals can quickly gobble them up. Weeds can grow next to them and suck up all the nutrients from the soil, starving them before they mature – you have to “protect the garden, or you lose the garden”.

Likewise whenever I have tried to make a positive change in my life, certain ‘weeds’ like bad habits, people and circumstances seem to come up that stops me hitting my goals. It takes daily effort to keep on doing the positive actions that will make my life better and not to be sidetracked.

Not Shaken But Stirred

I’m not patient person. give me the Hollywood version of life any day of the week. But an entire life doesn’t fit well into 3 hours.

I read an article where the current Head of MI6 said if James Bond was a real person, he would never make it as a Secret Agent because he known for taking ‘moral shortcuts’. Even in the real world, the ‘James Bond Way’ wouldn’t work.

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James didn’t take it too well that he was going to be made redundant…

As much as I would like to be Mark Zuckerberg in the 180 minutes it takes for Daniel Craig to complete his mission, I know that deep down my Old Man was bang on the money with his approach. I’m hitting the Dip in learning to code but rather than giving me a shaken Martini, Bond Girl and PP7 pistol, give me the battered jeans and tatty shirt and one day, I too can taste the crop that was planted by my hand.

I think I get it now Pops. Thank you Old Man.

As always thank you for reading! Which one are you: A Secret Agent or a Gardener? Leave your comments below and/or tweet at me @karlwebdev.

See you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev

3 Fail-Safe Ways To “Power-Up” Your Learning

Reading time: 5 minutes

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That’s what happens when you eat ‘magic’ mushrooms! Don’t even think about it kids…

 

Introduction

As I mentioned before, I’ve been coding for a year now & I’m currently on Teamtreehouse’s Tech Degree.

Although I made a promising start, I found it really difficult and I often had to repeat certain sections of the course before it sunk in & I had to completely change my whole way of learning to become more efficient. 

But something was bugging me… Why didn’t I develop this improved method sooner? Why did I struggle for 6 months before I hit my breakthrough?

Surprisingly, I found my answer in an argument 2400 years ago…

Meno’s Paradox

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Is it me or does Socrates look a bit like Sir Anthony Hopkins?

Meno’s paradox is a famous argument that allegedly took place between Meno, a young Greek general and Socrates, the world famous philosopher.

While arguing with Socrates, Meno’s asked “and how will you enquire into a thing when you are whole ignorant of what it is? Even if you happen to bump right into it, how will you know it is the thing that you didn’t know?”

To put it in every day English:

you can’t search for what you don’t know.

I couldn’t look for a better way because then I didn’t know I needed a better way…

I started to realise that the old saying “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” is poppycock.

What you don’t know will KILL you.

The Darkside of Goalsetting

A lot of motivational books today, talk about setting ‘big scary goals’ and then working your way towards them. But goal setting assumes that you have total control over everything…

Sorry kids – life rarely goes exactly to our perfect plans. On the motorway of life, your paper map won’t tell you about the accident that’s just happened or the detour because of emergency gasworks.

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“So much for riding my bike up the hill then”

But like a good satnav, these 3 “power ups” in your learning will help you gain “real-time” information that will help you navigate easier through the twists and turns and help you become a learning MacGyver.

1) Break Something!

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HULK SMASH PUNY CODE!!!!

Now before you set fire to your office (or your boss) that’s not what I mean. Especially in the coding world ‘breaking something’ to try new things and be willing to fail. I have learnt 10 times more when I’ve had to fix a problem that has stumped me when creating a website than merely following a code challenge. Failures, setbacks and obstacles forced me to think in new ways to solve a problem. Even if I didn’t get the solution or it didn’t work the way I wanted it to I gained a valuable experience.

Ultimately, where you make your bread & butter is your ability to solve problems – guess how you do that? By actually doing them! This experience makes you valuable. So here’s a new saying for your records:

If it’s not broken, break it and see if you can make it better!

Please note: there are only rules when it comes to ‘breaking something’

  1. Don’t break something that can’t easily be reversed
  2. Don’t break something that is not yours or you don’t have the permission to do so i.e an important work project, your Dad’s ecommerce site, your brother’s prized iMac.

2) Become a T-Shaped Learner

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This is a brilliant idea that I got from the book “The Extra One Per Cent”by Rob Yeung. A T-Shaped learner not only has a vast knowledge of this subject area (the vertical pillar of the ‘T’) but they should have a wide range of knowledge in different subjects (the horizontal bar of the ‘T’). Yeung’s research points out that time and time again, creativity and deep learning comes by combining ideas together that would previously not connected.

As a music technology teacher, many of my ‘aha’ moments came when I looked at problems from a musician’s viewpoint rather than a programmer. Also my teaching knowledge has helped me immensely in researching and organising my thoughts for this blog. Take up a new hobby or practice something completely unrelated to coding and business and the deeper you go in learning about other stuff, you will be surprised to see the new and clever ideas that you will generate.

3) Talk to people

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Rest In Peace Bob Hoskins.

As an introvert, I am really bad at this but is so necessary. Talking to people is not only about gaining their insight, but it forces you to organise and break down the concept in a way that another person will understand. How many times have you had a tough problem and you’ve gone to someone else to talk about it and then halfway through explaining it to answer pops into your head!

The reason this happens is because it forces your mind to methodically and carefully go through the problem and gives you the “space” to see where the core of the problem is. In programming, this concept is called “Rubber Ducking” and it instead of explaining your problem to human being you would explain it to a rubber duck – how fun! But humans have the added advantage of being able to give you new insights & whole new ways of dealing with problems in the future.

Thank you for reading and please let me know what you think? Have you got any ways of “powering-up” your learning? Please comment below or tweet at me @karlwebdev.

See you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev