Thursday, September 28, 2006

The GOL! Club

As usual, my posting frequency has gone down. Once again, I am sorry for the delay. Hopefully an explanation of my doings will show why.

I have just started a club at Queen's University called the GOL! Club (Goal-Oriented Living) and it is taking a surprisingly large amount of my time. In fact, it has its own website. As a result of this preparation, I have not been posting.

However, all is not lost. I have scheduled 2 interviews -- one with a medical student and one with a doctor and professor of "history of medicine" -- and once I have either transcribed them or uploaded them (I will be recording the interviews), you may partake in the sexy, sexy new information. Oh, and I am lining up another interview with a husband and wife physician team: Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide of the Eide Neurolearning Blog. It is quite an interesting site, I must add. I always was a sucker for the nature of knowledge acquision.

Even if you are not planning on pursuing medicine as a career, I have a feeling that you may find the interviews interesting, enlightening and even educational!

Education? From this site? Who would have thunk it?

So in closing: Visit The GOL! Club's website. It's awesome, you may even set some goals!

If you enjoyed these learning tips and motivational strategies, maybe you'll enjoy the other posts. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend! (Click the envelope below this.)

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Your life's direction

Who cares the most about where you end up in life? Whose responsibility is it that you find your direction?

I hope you can see where this is going. Only you have responsibility to find and choose your direction in life. Without getting into philosophy, all the choices you make in life are yours.

So what are you going to do with your life? What's up with your undergraduate degree? It's ok if you don't know what you are going to do right now. Most people don't. Some people think they know, but have just been programmed by society, their parents, infomercials, etc.

It is your responsibility to actively search for what you are interested in. (Re)assess your path, find out if it reflects who you really are. If you can't tell, investigate.

I'll use myself as an example, because I'm always around me.

I am currently on a path to enter medical school. Frankly though, I do not know if this is the right profession for me. For a while, I just bitched to other people about how I didn't know what I was going to do. I was sort of complacent, and useless about it.

As a side note: My friends must be pretty tolerant, because this sort of stuff would annoy me after awhile.

Eventually, I started doing something about it.

The first stage was "soul-searching". I looked at my interests; looked at my beliefs about life; and I even bought a book called "Do what you are" - it assesses your personality type and shows jobs/fields that you may be suited for. If you know me, you can borrow it if you’d like.

That moved me somewhere. I gained a better understanding of myself, but I still wasn't getting what I was looking for. Inspired by Ian Yberra's blog, I found that I needed to find out more about my potential career in order to give it a fair assessment.

The next stage is what I am in now: Researching my options.

I started this by talking to one of the career services’ counselors at Queen's University. She gave me some inspiration to investigate the medical profession further. I've just looked through a book called "So You Want to Be a Brain Surgeon?" And soon I will start contacting some doctors to find out what the profession is truly like.

I'll update you as that progresses, I may even post some interviews.

Frankly, I'm going steal this quote straight from Ian Yberra: It is ok not to know what you want to do, it is not ok not to do anything about it.

If you are like me, which I assume you must be a little true because you are still reading this, you may be confused about your options. Go out there and investigate. I promise people will be nice to you, since you are taking an interest in their lives and treating them like an expert. If they aren't nice, I'll join you in TPing their house.

Get out there and investigate your options! This is your life we are talking about! Go!!

If you enjoyed these learning tips and motivational strategies, maybe you'll enjoy the other posts. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend! (Click the envelope below this.)

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Image Problems Resolved

Wow, I forgot that free image hosting isn't reliable.

Well, if you were unfortunate enough to see all of those crazy notices from putfile about my pictures expiring, I'm sorry.

Things should be resolved now. However, if you notice any broken or screwed up images, please do not hesitate to email me or comment on this post. By the way, if you notice any broken links or glaring errors in general, you would be doing me a great service by telling me.

I'd like to thank Jessica for alerting me so quickly to this image craziness. Thanks.

I'll be posting an update tomorrow in the evening about "Your life's direction". Enjoy the rest of the site for the rest of the time.

If you enjoyed these learning tips and motivational strategies, maybe you'll enjoy the other posts. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend! (Click the envelope below this.)


Friday, September 15, 2006


Recently, I've been noticing that we have become obsessed with the complexity of life. In order to eat more healthily, we have to follow some fancy diet. In order to discuss an issue properly we must use confusing language and a pedantic structure. By the way, I do see the irony of choosing such a complicated word.

Yet, people used to – and continue to – use very simplistic guidelines to dictate their eating habits; these people have lived very healthy lives. The most effective discussions and arguments are those where both parties fully understand each other.

Furthermore, in trying to do perform a task, like running or golfing for instance, the best athletes of these worlds do not break down each aspect of their stride or swing into its components while performing. It would just ruin everything.

There's something very Zen about this way of thinking. "Be the golf ball. Be the shoe."

If you have to think about too many things at once, you aren't giving the overall task the attention it deserves.

In the same way, education -- or any type of learning for that matter -- does not need to be difficult or overly complicated. The methods that work are the ones that are the simplest.

Let me ask you a question: What does the ideal student do?

Seriously think about it. What does the ideal student do?

I can only speak for myself, but I'm going to assume you said something like:
  • They study well before a test comes.
  • They don't get drunk a day before their exam.
  • They complete their assignments on time.
  • They use their time effectively for studying.
  • They attend class.
  • They pay attention.
  • They have opened their textbook for the purpose of reading it.
There is nothing complicated on this list. Yet you may or may not be surprised at how many people do not do these simple things. I'm not going to say that they are all easy to do, but they are definitely not hard to understand.

I was chatting with a friend of mine, whom I would say does extremely well in school - while still having an active social life and an attractive girlfriend. He was mentioning that he doesn't do anything crazy to study for his tests. He devotes a lot of time to his studies; takes notes; reviews them; and takes breaks when he needs to.

By the way, if you are thinking something like: "Oh he's probably really smart, but I can't do that." Let's consider two things:
1) If you are smart and you don't do anything for a test, will you do as well as you could have? Definitely not. It is possible for smart people to screw things up. I have seen it too many times. I'm guessing you've seen it too.
2) If you don't think yourself intelligent (which I disagree with, BTW), won't a concerted effort help to improve your grade? Definitely.

If you study more, you will do better than if you don't. That's it. Simple.

If a technique is not working for you, drop it. (Hint: Don't watch TV while studying.)

Before you concentrate on awkward techniques and quick & easy methods, remember simplicity. It works much better and doesn't clutter up your mind. When live seems to be really complicated, take a step back and reflect. It’s all gravy from the outside looking in.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Experiments in learning that don’t explode

As people make the transition from high school to university they find that many aspects of their lives and mindsets change. A newly discovered freedom – or at least awareness – causes people to reassess what they know to be true or good.

Naturally, this leads to a lot of experimentation. In university such experiments may involve alcohol, drugs, sexuality, social interaction, physical activity and much, much more.

While I will neither condone nor oppose these types of experimentation, I think that people must come into their own perspective in their own way. Might I suggest one more – oft overlooked – area of experimentation? The way you learn.

This is the perfect time to experiment with your learning. Right now, we are still relatively young. Even if you are not, there is a comparatively small time investment needed in order to improve the way you learn. Think about it: if you spent one year trying out new learning techniques – honing in on what suits you the best – then even if you only live ten more years (definitely more though), you will have ten more years of improved learning. Relating this back to Monday’s post, it would be a very solid investment.

In finding out the nature of the way you gain knowledge you can increase the speed and ease of your learning. Taking in information will become less of a chore and more of an incidental process – or better yet, it will become fun.

I would recommend reflecting on all the areas and ways in which you learn. However, to get the ball rolling, I’ll give you some examples:

In-class note taking

How do you take notes in class? Do you write down everything? A lot of professors tell me not to, but then it seems like I’m missing something from my notes when I come back to them. There’s a line between expediency and deficiency. Work to find what works or what doesn’t work for you.

As well, have you ever tried previewing the material before class or reviewing afterwards? I must say it’s really helpful. Even if you don’t fully grasp the material at the time, you’ll find that even the mention of something vaguely familiar during the lecture will boost your confidence and increase your attention span.

I have already written a post describing Note Taking Tips (in class).

Listening to music
I’ve heard many arguments from both sides, so I’m hesitant to render a verdict for either. I’ll give you what I know, and what works for me.

Some people say that studying with music allows them to keep focused longer and keep a nice tempo going to their work. Some people say it energizes them. There was even a system, popular in the mid-1980s, called Super Learning [new window] that taught that people learned best while listening to 60 beat-per-minute Baroque music.

On the other hand, personally I’ve found music to be too distracting. I always want to start singing along, drumming things, etc. I’ve had a few teachers say that music can be distracting, but I usually take their advice with a grain of salt. A while ago, my friend mentioned a study done where participants learned some material with and without music. The variable was the level of musical competence of the subjects. Can you guess who learned better with or without music?

Well, I guessed wrong. Actually, the people with a higher level of musical competence actually learned more poorly when they listened to music. This makes sense, because their brain would become more active in the “musical areas” of the brain; taking focus away from the studied material. (I believe Jenna told me this, so if you are reading this and I have misquoted you or the study, go ahead and correct me.)

However, I have to mention that I have been listening to music on an off while writing this post…

Study Groups

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this already. Many people find that study groups help them by bringing people together to teach and learn the material. I find that teaching others helps to solidify the material in my mind. When you actually have to explain something, you have to have a higher and more complex level of knowledge about the subject. Personally, I don’t like study groups because I’ve found that we get too easily distracted and start talking about the Nintendo Wii or shoes. Try it out for yourself!

And more!

I have written other posts regarding the following things you should try experimenting with:
  • Memorization techniques – This is probably one of the most valuable techniques you will learn.
  • Environment – You may want to incorporate things that help you learn, calm you or provide motivation.
By the way, you should also try to expand this philosophy to other aspects of your life. A change in diet can change your energy levels and even the way you think. An occasional reassessment of your personal beliefs can also bring about lasting positive change in your life.

Keep your experimentation positive and you can’t go wrong. Without change there cannot be growth; growth is the key to life. So get growing!

If you enjoyed these learning tips and motivational strategies, maybe you'll enjoy the other posts. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend! (Click the envelope below this.)

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