Open an Account at the Knowledge Bank, Part 3 thousand hours. That’s how much time you must invest before you can master a new skill, as some experts claim. To build your Knowledge Bank, you must master the third part of the trilogy, application, which follows discipline and assimilation.

When you apply what you have learned, you practice or “try on” your new knowledge before you master it. How does it fit into your work and your life? For example, if you have learned a new method to better facilitate meetings, then begin using it in your next meeting. Adjust it where needed. As you use this new knowledge, ask questions like, “How else could I use this knowledge?” or “Is there some other way I can apply it?”

Author Napoleon Hill wrote the classic book, Think and Grow Rich in 1937, outlining 13 principles for leading a successful life. The fourth in the list is specialized knowledge. When I first read this book in the 1980s as a young professional, I was impressed with how simple Hill’s writing was. I remember him speaking of the importance of applying what you learn. With application comes knowledge. All these years later, Hill’s advice is still fresh and meaningful to me.

Consider the beauty and tranquility of a Japanese garden. The gardener must learn various techniques for carefully pruning shrubs and trees, meticulously sweeping leaves, and raking gravel to create traditional patterns. It takes months and years of practice to become master gardener of a Japanese garden.

What is different about the Knowledge Bank that I have covered in these past three posts is that it belongs to you, and you can build your bank so that it provides riches to you and to others. When you invest your knowledge in others, it pays dividends in their lives and in yours. You will feel good knowing that you played an important role in helping others learn and grow.

How much do you have invested in your Knowledge Bank?

How are you sharing your knowledge wealth with others?

Open an Account at the Knowledge Bank, Part 2


Image by Anna Langova

How often have you attended a presentation at a conference or professional association event, taken a mountain of notes, come home and filed them away for “further reading.” And…you guessed it…”further” never happens.

Once you have disciplined yourself to learn (last week’s blog post), you are ready to assimilate, that is, absorb the information. As you absorb it, don’t just read the words; let them seep into your memory so that as you study it, you begin to understand it and how it works. Ultimately, you will be able to easily recall the new information from memory when you pick it apart and add meaning to it. Without meaning, all you have are just words on a page.

How can you assimilate when you are already in “information overload”? Who has the time to assimilate anyway? Here are three tools to help you:

Mind Mapping. One of my favorite tools for capturing information, taking notes and outlining a presentation is mind mapping, created by Tony Buzan. Mind mapping is a colorful way to capture information in a nonlinear, creative way rather than traditional linear note taking. It’s great if you are a visual learner. Even if you are left brained and more analytical, you can still benefit from mind mapping. Engineers in my training programs who claimed they could never use it discovered that they enjoyed it more than they initially thought.

Speed Reading. It took a school teacher, Evelyn Wood, in the late 1950s to discover speed reading. She noticed that by using the sweeping motion of her hand across a page, it acted as a visual guide as she read. She went on to establish the most recognizable speed reading course in the world. To get your eyes ready to speed read, check out this helpful eye exercise for speed reading created by Nevit Dilmen.

Memory Improvement. Mnemonic devices and images are just two examples of tools that help you remember information. As a child, you learned the alphabet using a song. To remember the length of months, it was a poem that anchored that information in my memory bank…

“Thirty days hath September…

April, June and November.

All the rest have thirty-one,

Except in Leap Year, that’s the time,

When February’s days are twenty-nine.”

A favorite site is Mind Tools. The best part: Be sure to sign up for their free weekly e-newsletter; you may get a free goodie.

As you can see, it takes a lot to not only keep up with information that’s coming at you; it requires discipline and assimilation to absorb it and remember it.

What can you do to better assimilate important information that you need to retain?

Open an Account at the Knowledge Bank

2Imagine what life would be like if you had your own private Knowledge Bank. Each time you wanted to fill your head with information, you would go to the Knowledge Bank for a withdrawal. What would happen if one day the bank teller said to you, “I’m sorry. Your Knowledge account is overdrawn. We can’t give you anymore knowledge.” That would be devastating. Fortunately, there are no limits to acquiring knowledge. Discipline, assimilation and application are the keys to making your brain work more efficiently.

Let’s look at Discipline. If you want to learn more, you have to get into the habit of making room in your life to make that learning happen. If you say, “I need to read more industry publications to keep up on what’s happening in my field” and you never read the journals — they just pile up in your office — then it is time to change that message to your brain from intent to action. Instead of saying, “I need to read…” say, “I am reading now…” Make it active in the present tense. You can say “I need to” for years without taking any action.

When you set aside time every day to do the learning, it will happen. Before you know it, it will become a habit that you won’t think about. You will simply do it.

I recently stumbled upon the Good Life Project’s excellent interview with Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything…FastHis simple five-step process will open up your eyes to how simple it is to adopt discipline into your life to learn anything. It requires focus and practice to get to mastery. His process includes daily practice. That’s right. Daily practice. When you set aside time every day to learn and do the things you really want to, you begin to know and master them in a shorter period of time.

What is it that you have been postponing that could use the focus of discipline?

How can you make time every day to learn the things you really want to learn?

Next week we’ll explore assimilation.

Please, Thank You and You’re Welcome

thankyou1-424-x-283Three simple polite expressions are missing from our culture these days: Saying “Please,” “Thank You” and “You’re Welcome.” Yet, these statements are so simple to say. They don’t require any extra energy…just some thought. For me, being polite became rote from the time I was a child. My parents taught me well.

There is a distinct difference between “Pass the peas” and “Please pass the peas.” Adding “please” adapts a command to a request and extends a common courtesy to the other person.

I recently facilitated a training program for a client. As I was distributing a handout for a special assignment, a participant said, “Thank you.” I stopped and said, “Thank you for saying thank you.” She replied, “You’re welcome.” She was taught well.

While visiting a longtime friend, her ten-year-old daughter said, “Thank you.” A few minutes later when I thanked her, she said “You’re welcome.” Her mother taught her well.

There was a time when exchanged pleasantries like these were common place. They were part of our cultural norm. We gave them no thought because everyone had been taught Manners 101. I long for those days when people extended simple courtesies to one another.

While attending a meeting recently, I ran into a man who I hadn’t seen for more than 20 years. He said he would like to get together some time to talk about getting into the kind of business I am in. Then he said, “Do you have a minute to sit and talk now?” We sat down. One hour later, after presenting a great deal of useful information to him, I wrapped up our conversation. He said he appreciated my time and gleaned many good ideas from our time together. A few days passed. A week, two weeks passed. Nothing happened. He never sent a simple thank you email. He sent me no handwritten thank you note. He never extended a small gesture of any kind. What is an hour of someone else’s time worth when you are on the receiving end of valuable information that will shorten your learning curve? To me, it’s worth – at minimum – a follow-up thank you of some kind.

How often do you add “Please,” “Thank You” and “You’re Welcome” to your everyday conversations? When someone goes above and beyond and delivers real value to you, what could you do to show your appreciation? Consider doing something more. At minimum, a simple thank you email or note positions you well. Giving a $10 Starbucks card to someone who has helped you somehow goes a long way in positioning you as a thoughtful, grateful person who valued that time spent together.