Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Laid off or earning a six-figure salary: it's time to crack a book and get curious about the world

Have a friend who hit me with this the other day: "What's the big deal about Twitter? I don't get it." In fairness to him, a lot of folks don't "get" Twitter and in truth it's not for everybody. But the fact that it's the fastest growing social networking site in the world right now indicates that somebody sees the value in it. So maybe it isn't for you, but does that mean you shouldn't understand it? Or are you so comfortable in your routine that it's easier to simply write it off as another flash in the pan? Thought of this today when I read marketer Seth Godin's blog on lifelong learning. Seth is a master marketer (and yes, some folks don't "get" Seth either) who writes books and sends out a daily musing to those who sign up on his blog. (read the full blog here)
His piece today was aimed at recently graduated college kids who are looking for work, but I think it applies to all of us, no matter our age, our employment status or our interests. The world is full of folks who stopped thinking, and learning, years ago. They're satisfied with having others think for them, stopped reading long ago and are so set in their views of the world that nothing can move them. It's time to crack a book, challenge our assumptions and open up a bit. Seth's recommendations to the college grads:

* Spend twenty hours a week running a project for a non-profit.
* Teach yourself Java, HTML, Flash, PHP and SQL. Not a little, but mastery. [Clarification: I know you can't become a master programmer of all these in a year. I used the word mastery to distinguish it from 'familiarity' which is what you get from one of those Dummies type books. I would hope you could write code that solves problems, works and is reasonably clear, not that you can program well enough to work for Joel Spolsky. Sorry if I ruffled feathers.]
* Volunteer to coach or assistant coach a kids sports team.
* Start, run and grow an online community.
* Give a speech a week to local organizations.
* Write a regular newsletter or blog about an industry you care about.
* Learn a foreign language fluently.
* Write three detailed business plans for projects in the industry you care about.
* Self-publish a book.
* Run a marathon.

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