Category: learning

Voters: Bring your Best Self to the Polls

“People’s memories are so short that what has them down today could be forgotten by next week if the court or whatever else becomes the issue,” Tom Ingram, political strategist. 2020

We may not want to admit it, but our elected leaders are a reflection of us.  And, at this moment, our national leaders are not a group we can be proud of.. According to Pew Research, in 2019, 21% of Republicans and 14% of Democrats said they trusted government (that ratio typically shifts with the Party in power). Today, only 18%[1] approve of the performance of Congress.  My overseas friends and colleagues agree (“What’s going on in the USA??”).

Most of us complain about elected national leaders. We complain, “They only care about themselves; are in the pockets of lobbyists and other special interests; are polarized and unable to work together for common good; are callous, or corrupt.”  Some of these officials, as well as a few candidates who won in the primaries, even believe in debunked conspiracy theories or spew hatred and openly show glee for the constipation in Congress. Is this really what we want from our leaders, whose power and position make them role models for people of all ages.

I think we can all agree that national leaders, collectively, are not showing wisdom, maturity, or the ability to work together, let alone the foresight we need to take us into an increasingly complex and uncertain future.

We are fed up, but, as the old comic strip character Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy and (they) is us!”  We have elected and re-elected people who are not willing or able to learn and lead in complex times. They don’t or can’t draw out our better angels or help us through any sacrifices we may need to make for a better country and world – or even for a better today. Some are even willing to cheat in our elections because they feel it is the only way they can win. This immaturity of elected leaders is a sign of a democracy in trouble!

We, the voters, are responsible for this mess. And only we, the voters, can do something about it.   

It’s time to go inside ourselves to discover why we have allowed this to happen.

A Call to Evolve Ourselves

Today’s world is changing fast, and so must we and our leaders. We can’t avoid these changes. Pandora’s box is open. We can futilely try to put all the unleashed forces back in. We can become angry, fearful, and blaming  — retreat and give up our power to leaders who promise to take care of us.  Or, we can roll up our sleeves and take on our power to  create and help transform the world around us.  For us as voters in 2020, this means rethinking our collective vision of the future. It’s time, too, to examine and evolve assumptions about race, the poor, the rich, corporations, progressive and conservative philosophies and values, climate, our role in the world, and democracy itself.

It is from this continuously developing, and self-responsible view of ourselves that we can and must research candidates, think about the future they will lead us into, and then decide our vote.

Leaders Are “Us”

This continually maturing view of ourselves also applies to the leaders we select.  The decisions our elected leaders make (or don’t make) have effects across many time horizons: short, medium and long-term.  And because the USA is so powerful economically and morally in the world, our national leaders also have very broad influence – planetary, in fact.  We pay our leaders more in money and power because their impact is so deep, long, broad. So, we have a right to expect them to deliver on all these fronts.

The leaders we elect should, therefore, be a match for complex times. We will expect them to face into and help us deal with life-changing matters like technology and automation at work and in life, climate and planetary issues, wealth and opportunity inequities, demographic changes, changing urban and rural needs, security threats (including future pandemics), long festering issues related to race, a complex global political environment.  We will ask them to help us turn differences into creative solutions vs. vilification and win-lose. And we will expect them to evolve with the challenges of the times and help us do the same. It’s more than the stock market, or specific legislation, that’s at stake.

So, when you vote, plan to select national leaders who can help us move into and thrive in changing times. Vote for people who have maturity, integrity, and wisdom, as well as empathy and experience . Vote for people who have sufficiently evolved themselves to be able to take on the roles we entrust to them. 

And, remember as you prepare to vote: our leaders are us. Be sure your choice reflects the best of a continually evolving and maturing ‘you.’


[1] Gallup, as of September 13, 2020.

Upgrade Yourself As a Learner: Reason #5 (of 5) Evolve Yourself – Be the Most You Can Be in Life

It’s not just about thriving in the changing world of work. It’s also about being and becoming the best possible version of YOU. Like everyone, human nature and changing life conditions, challenges and opportunities continually call you to evolve through various stages of your life. The direction of this evolution can (and you probably agree, should) be toward greater maturity and wisdom. As you grow in experience and learning, neurons and connections in your brain multiply, enabling you to build new and more complex perspectives and capabilities appropriate to your life stage and the requirements around you.

There are theories of human development that describe how healthy human beings are propelled by nature to evolve our views, self-image, and scope of concern and impact over time.  Generally, we start out dependent on others. First, as a child and teen, primary care givers and educators influence our development.  Then, we become part of work and social groups and are influenced by their world views and thinking. Psychologists generally agree that many people don’t move out of this stage where group influence dominates.

In the next stages, if we choose to accept full responsibility for who we are, we become more self-managing, willing to take stands, aware of external influence and manipulation, facing our own self-created limitations, and taking risks to achieve our dreams and potential.  We become independent thinkers, examining facts and various perspectives and deciding for ourselves what is true, even when it disagrees with those in our sphere of influence or even our own deeply held assumptions and beliefs.  

Each of these leaps forward in development is fueled by new insights, knowledge, and skills.  That is, movement through these development stages requires learning and personal change.  Learning is really another word for evolving.  The greatest learners thus create the most developed and fulfilling lives.


We live and work in a rapidly transforming era of work and life. We will never go back to the days when information took 100 years to double, creating a kind of stability that made doing more important than becoming.  But today, lifelong learning, lifelong becoming, is both an economic and a life imperative.

Learning is the dynamic that underpins our success at work and in careers. It is essential to co-evolving with technology. Learning enables us to survive and thrive in an information saturated world.  When we know how to learn – really know how – we are better able to help others learn. And, of course, learning is how we change and evolve ourselves to be all we can be in this one precious life. This doesn’t mean that change is the only dynamic in our lives.  We obviously need stability of purpose, guiding values, intimate relationships, and a core but evolving identity. But learning is one major way we know we are alive.

Science is giving us new insights about ourselves as changing beings, capable of learning at higher levels so we can rise above, tap into, and channel the chaos of our times.  Technology and the complexity of the modern world are pushing us to develop in new directions and ways. We can’t go back.  That is not how living systems operate. They – we — learn.

But the learning mindset and practices that got us here are not good enough for the future we are creating. It’s time to upgrade this critical human ability – our ability to learn.


Transform yourself and how you learn.  Sign up for the SMARTInside Online Course.

Upgrade Yourself As a Learner: Reason #2 (of 5) Thrive (Survive?) in an Information-Saturated World

According to IBM, it won’t be long before human knowledge via AI and the Internet of Things will double every 12 hours! Let’s go back in time at how this compares to earlier information doubling rates.  In 1982, a genius inventor, Buckminster Fuller documented and then anticipated this information speed-up. Here’s what he saw:

  • 1800-1900 Information took 100 years to double
  • By 1945 Information was doubling every 25 years
  • By 1982 The doubling rate increased to 13 months

IBM anticipates information will soon double every 12 hours!

What does this have to do with learning?  Information is what feeds learning. But it is easy to feel overloaded. Too much of it can lead to stress that reduces learning! As a 21st Century learner there are few ways you can avoid the vast information haystacks containing what you want and need.  You also have to process data in whatever form you find it (A meeting? Report? Article? Conversation? Virtual Reality? Class? App? Podcast?).  And…as you process information, you also have to recognize and adjust for bias and manipulation. After all information is power, and various degrees of distortion and corruption always lurk in power’s shadows.

Your dealings with the information world don’t stop there. You still have to bring what you need into your working and short-term memories, and then convert it into the memories, skills, and attitudes you want to preserve. No need for despair, though. Thanks to insights from neuroscience, psychology, and adult learning we know more about how to better use our brains to process information and turn it into something useful. And there is an increasing array of practices, tools and services to help sort through the fog for better learning results.

Think about it.  How sharp are your information processing and learning skills in the face of this information proliferation? What are you doing to keep yourself vibrant and to cope with the information saturated world around you?

Next up: Reason #3 (of 5) to upgrade yourself as a learner: To co-evolve with technology

Upgrade Yourself As a Learner: Reason #1 (of 5) Ongoing Work and Career Success

It’s clear by now that the skills and knowledge you bring to work today will be insufficient or even obsolete tomorrow.  This is true for professional and specialist skills as well as manual or service skills, which need continual upgrading and adaptation. It is also true for broader capabilities – like decision-making, communicating, thinking creatively – and learning itself.  Complex challenges and relationships continually up the ante and change the rules.  And most companies want to be agile, innovative, fast-learning from failure, and able to sense trends and opportunities in early stages.

This fast-changing skills scene is why executives say they are looking for lifelong learners. Meantime, employers try to find out whether you are a quick learner, a person who will adapt to and help shape change; somebody who will notice opportunities and have the courage to learn about and grab them.

“The skill of learning skills is a lifelong advantage.”  Seth Goden

The changing job skills scene today is one reason why learning is important.  But learning is also vital for career success into the future.  It is not the old days where you could follow reliable career path within a company – or any predictable career path, for that matter.  The life span of companies today is shorter. McKinsey reports that 75% of the companies listed in the S&P 500 won’t exist by 2027. In addition, many large and small new companies will arise, along with opportunities to gig-it alone. The World Economic Forum predicts that 65% of the kids currently entering primary school will have jobs that don’t exist today. That means that, as your career unfolds, the work available to you will require skills that you can’t easily predict today.  

An advanced ability to learn is and will be critical to your ongoing work and career success and fulfilment. 

Think about it.  How would advanced learning skills and confidence affect your success and agility at work?  Your Career?

Next up:  Reason #2 (of 5) to upgrade yourself as a learner: To thrive in an information saturated world.

5 Big Reasons for Upgrading HOW You Learn

There is a learning crisis both at work and in the world. It affects our ability to thrive in fast-changing times – at work, in careers, at home — lifelong.  It’s a crisis because our ability to continually evolve is essential for quality decisions and creating the future of society, organizations, and our and our children’s quality of work and life. Having worked globally on massive change initiatives in companies and agencies, it’s clear to me that the most essential ingredient in change – each individual’s ability to prepare for and thrive in it — is NOT up to today’s challenges. We need a new focus and, beyond that, a way of thinking that helps everyone, as psychologist Robert Kegan says, to move out of dependency into a way of life and learning that is self-authoring and self-transforming.  Learning is the fuel for this shift.                      

The most obvious implication of a world that requires learners to constantly adapt and grow is the need to build the capacity and motivation for lifelong learning.  (PEW Report,  2019)

Many adults are stuck in the learning Dark Ages, tackling 21st Century learning situations with 19th Century mindsets and practices. This in spite of major advances in neuroscience, developmental psychology and adult development that everyone should know and use in their personal lifelong evolution. It’s time for better learning. Technology is getting smarter and we are at risk of becoming “dumber” in response.

To survive, to THRIVE, we must be better learners!

Learning is a meta-skill that affects everything you do, what you are able to achieve and contribute at work and in life, and more .  First and foremost, it is a personal capability.  It determines how fully you will evolve, how you think, how you read and listen, how you interact with others, and even your confidence to thrive in fast-changing times. It includes your ability to notice when there’s an opportunity to learn (we miss many each day).  Concentration, memory, bias detection, skill-building, attitude change, even creativity and innovation are part of or depend on your learning prowess. So does your ability to follow through on goals and dreams, to implement the habit changes important to you, and to get what you need from the vast array of resources that seem to overwhelm today.

Is it time to upgrade your learning based on these new insights and to meet today’s learning challenges?  Let’s go a bit deeper. 

Here are 5 big reasons why, no matter what your job or age, it’s critical to expand and sharpen this most important human capability– your ability to learn.

  1. For ongoing work and career success
  2. To thrive (survive?) in an information saturated world
  3. To co-evolve with technology
  4. To help others learn
  5. To evolve yourself; be the most you can be in life

In the next five posts, I’ll focus on each of the above reasons, hoping that your awareness of yourself as a learner (continually developing person) will increase and that you will want to master the advanced capabilities you will need as we accelerate toward the Singularity: the time (sometime before 2045) that futurists predict computer smarts will exceed ours.

Hopefully, these posts will seed conversations that bring learning out of that closet where we store meta-skills like decision-making, interpersonal communication, and (of course) learning, that we think we’ve mastered, but have taken for granted and not updated for the times.  


Next up:  Reason #1 (of 5) to upgrade yourself as a learner: For Ongoing Personal and Work Success

SMART Learning 4.0 — a Learning Upgrade for Our Times

Our brains need a learning upgrade today.  It’s an upgrade that must draw on practical, advanced, and science-based approaches we can use when we are learning alone, learning with others, and when we support others’ learning. It also has to be powerful enough for drawing lessons from past experience, learning in the present moment, and achieving longer-term development goals that require reliable processes and persistence.

Learning 4.0 is this upgraded learning approach for our times – a fourth revolution in learning and a framework that applies in virtually any learning situation. It relates to today’s unique learning challenges and draws on what  neuroscientists, developmental psychologists and adult learning specialists know about how our brains work and how learning happens.  We can and must bring these advanced and sometimes surprising insights into how we learn and help others learn.

The Qualities of a SMART 4.0 Learner

What’s it like to be a 4.0 learner – a “smart” learner?  Try on this description.  As a 4.0 Learner…

  • you have an enhanced imagination where the future you want to create for yourself — the future that drives and motivates your development — is so real that you rarely miss any learning opportunity that will accelerate you to that goal
  • you easily access relevant, and often hard to access, parts of your brain/body to help you learn— e.g., your feelings, conscious and unconscious self, short- and long-term memory, your brain’s executive functions, even brain waves and other physiological processes — to help you learn
  • you recognize bias and distortion
  • you find patterns, key points, deeper meaning and messages use different techniques for different resources; manage your attention and concentration.
  • you step outside yourself to monitor your assumptions, and you take sometimes difficult steps to change a belief, attitude, or intention.
  • you are a change agent — changing your own habits and influencing people and things around you so that you can bring your learning to life in the real world. 
  • you learn confidently and competently anywhere, anytime, with any resource.
  • you help individuals and teams learn, using advanced learning practices.
  • you use new technology to serve you at work and at home; you co-evolve with it. As technology gets smarter, so do you!
  • you are confident in your learning methods and capabilities


Learning 4.0 Practices

Being the 4.0 learner described above, means being expert in advanced learning practices. The seven practices of Smart Learning 4.0 reflect the current understanding of how learning journeys proceed into and through your brain and ultimately into your behavior.  We can say with confidence that your desire and ability to excel in each of these practices determines how efficiently, effectively, and enthusiastically you can keep up with change and develop yourself throughout your life. The practices range from noticing the first glimmers of a learning opportunity (Practice #1) through to using what you learn in life and work (Practice #7).

  1. Hear the Call. Learning opportunities are everywhere. They call to us from the past (a failure or success?), the future (your career goal, the business strategy), outside (a water cooler opportunity), inside (a regret, discomfort), and arise from wonder and random curiosity. 4.0 learners notice more of these calls.
  2. Create Future Pull. Our views of the future affect our motivation and what we pay attention to. 4.0 learners create compelling visions of the future they want to create, knowing that this will help set and keep them on track for success.
  3. There’s a lot of information in lots of formats out there. 4.0 learners take some time scanning for the best ways to learn something. And they know how to use search tools and  access experts and services.
  4. Connect the Dots. Sometimes learning journeys are preplanned. Other times, they unfold from one step to another. Sometimes a journey to a new or updated capability combines the two. 4.0 learners see their learning as a  connect the dots process, with some dots planned, and others added as learning progresses.
  5. Mine for Gold. Information has to come into the brain before it can be processed and sent to long-term memory. 0 learners muster the concentration and attention to bring that new information in. Then they expertly extract the “gold” it contains for their needs. They know that what often seem to be memory problems are actually concentration and attention problems. You can’t remember what you don’t bring into your brain!
  6. Learn to Last. We know that without extra steps to “file” information in long-term memory, most of what we bring into short term memory disappears after 24 hours. 4.0 learners take additional steps to ensure they convert new knowledge into memories, skills, attitudes and even creative ideas.
  7. Transfer to Life. I’m sure you can cite many examples of things you know and can do, but don’t use or do.  0 learners recognize when they need to take additional steps to change a habit or to make or influence changes in their environments so that their learning converts to action.

Everything we learn happens as part of a learning journey that includes most or all of these 7 practices.  Some journeys are very quick — happening only in a minute or two. Others may take years to complete. Also, when you are helping others learn or are learning with a team, it is useful to decide which practice is most relevant at the moment. Then focus your help there.

Learning 4.0 is a science-, psychology-, and adult learning-based framework for designing and managing your own learning.  It is an important brain process upgrade that will help you thrive in a fast changing world of work and life.

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It’s Time to Upgrade Your Brain’s Learning Software

Everything is changing around us. It was challenging enough to deal with the “then normal” pace of change before COVID19. But it’s clear, even bigger changes in work and relationships are on the horizon.  This creates a massive learning challenge (opportunity!). We all need upgraded and new skills and attitudes about work, family, careers, social interactions, personal change and more.  But most people approach these changes with outdated learning mindsets and skills.  It’s like using a car to “drive” into space!

Think of Learning as a program that runs in your brain and body (yes, your body is part of your learning system!). This critical program runs on the equivalent of neurological and social hardware.  From time to time in your life you have to upgrade to a new version of this critical software.

You have updated your internal learning “programs” two or three times in life. It’s now time for a fourth upgrade that is equivalent to what in business is often called Industrie 4.0 . In the world of I4.0, the things around you are “smart” – sensing, communicating, cooperating, making decentralized decisions).  These create the need for a matching learning program for all of us.

Here are the three internal learning programs that are in use today but need an upgrade:

  • Learning 1.0 (Search). This is the learning programming that you were born with: to develop through trial and error and imitation.  Learning 1.0 comes with a massive built-in human capability that provides powerful basic neurophysiology and also makes learning intrinsically rewarding.  We were designed with the potential to be learning dynamos. 
  • Learning 2.0 (Social and School): This is the learning programming and discipline that teachers and parents helped you develop so that you could succeed in the school environment. With L2.0 you internalized the value systems, models, and information you needed to join society as an adult informed by knowledge amassed throughout civilization.
  • Learning 3.0 (Self-Directed): This is the post-school programing that, with little or no guidance (maybe with the help of a periodic mentor, coach or course)  you are inventing and cobbling together to deal with adult responsibilities at work, at home, in all aspects of personal life.  For most of us this L3.0 version is a kind of survival upgrade that we invent as we go along.

These internal “programs” are not good enough for learning  today. Success at work and in life requires a fourth upgrade:  Learning 4.0.

  • Learning 4.0 (Smart): It’s early days for this learning upgrade which draws on neuroscience, psychology, and other relatively recent discoveries about how we as humans transform through our lives. L4.0 is an advanced capability that enables us to be active, skilled and successful lifelong learners in this rapidly changing, connected, digital, knowledge age.

How up to date is the internal program that drives and guides your personal learning and change? Is it time for you to upgrade your learning “software? Without this new Learning 4.0 software to guide learning, it will be very, very difficult to keep up with the increasing complexity and speed of change, to match wits with technology, or to become all you can be in these complex times.

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