Learning your craft

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This week I have learnt the valuable lesson of learning your craft first, before starting on something you want to do. This week I have been reading a book on blogging and although nothing I have read has been groundbreaking stuff, I keep on having moments of saying to myself “why didn’t I do that” or “that makes sense.”

Writing a blog can seem like such an easy thing. You just sit in front of a computer, write what you are thinking about and then publish it for the world to see. The problem is that just because a blog post is on the Internet for the world to see, it doesn’t mean the world is seeing it. The two most important things with a blog have nothing to do with the words you type, the two most important things are being easy to find and making sure when people come, that they will want to stay and read other posts.

What do people come to your blog for?

I liked the example that was used in the book I was reading. It went something like this – Say you were searching for a recipe on the Internet and you stumbled upon one on a blog, you click the link, you like the recipe but you see other posts and the blog seems to be about the life of the family… lets call them the Smith’s. You don’t know them so you don’t care about their last holiday and at the moment you are in a recipe finding mood, not a mood for finding out about a family you don’t know or care about.

I wish I had taken time before I started this blog all those years ago to think why people would come and what would make them say. I think in life many of us are so eager to just get going with things that we rush in to things. The problem is with something like a blog, everything about it is your image, your brand and you can’t take it back. So if you go wrong to start with, you can’t take it back.

Don’t rush in

So over the next few weeks I am going to be trying to teach myself not to rush in to things, to learn from this experience and make every new start the best it can be. There are already blogs about everything on the internet, putting off launching for a few months isn’t going to affect you but not starting it right might have a huge impact.

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Back to School

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There seems to be a rise at the moment in the number of training and educational courses available for people to take these days online, in classrooms and through distance learning. Running courses has become a big industry and big business, with many new companies starting to run them.

Bettering yourself

I am a huge fan of people who want to learn more and want to do something to better themselves, either just for themselves or to help them in to a better or different career. I think learning shouldn’t stop when you finish school, college or university. Many of us learn things by ourselves without being on a course, which is great also but sometimes I think it is good to have a syllabus to follow and a qualification at the end of it, to recognise the learning that you have done.

A few years back I took my Certificate in Fundraising through the Institute of Fundraising here in the UK. I already knew a lot about fundraising but it was fun to put that knowledge to the test, to learn more and have my knowledge of the subject recognised with their certificate.

Choice

The problem with the proliferation of courses available, is finding the courses and providers that are quality and that are worthwhile doing. There are many companies out there who want to take your money and get you on a course, so you need to be careful what you invest in. Before picking a course you should take time to think about what you want to study and what you want to get out of your study.

When choosing what course to do, you want to know what you will actually be covering on the course and what people who have done the course before you have gone on to do and what they have got out of it. If your reason for study is to get on another course or to get a job, you need to be sure that your course is recognised by the institution or company you want to move on to next.

For many people the cost of studying can put them off. If you fall in to this category I have some advice. First thing is to look and see if there is any funding available to pay your course fees? If there isn’t can you put together a savings plan to help you cover the cost? Lastly is to look at what you earning potential might be if you had the qualification to work out if a loan was a sensible thing to take out to cover the cost.

Cost barrier

If paying for a course is out of the question, why not have a look at free courses that are available. There are many to choose from online and there may be some happening in your area. Learning is fun so don’t let money be a barrier to it.

I always want to learn more about the world around me and the things within it, so I am a big believer in studying just for enjoyment. I think studying and being successful on courses can make you feel better about yourself, which is something that everyone can do with in their life. So even if you can’t think of a reason to do a course, sometimes the only reason you need is because you want to. Never forget that there is always more to learn.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

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The title of this blog is one of my favourite quotes. Sometimes I love planning and preparing for things, like events and going away, more than I do the actual thing itself that I am planning to do.

I think the better prepared you are for things happening in your life, the better they will actually turn out and if you want to maximise what you get out of life you have to be prepare the best you can. Time spent preparing is a great investment of time.

Having a baby has encouraged us as a family to prepare even better for things in life. Before we had our baby if things weren’t fully planned out or if we forgot to take things we needed with us for the day it wasn’t the end of the world, but now with a baby it is so crucially important we have everything we need to care for her with us at all times.

Seamless transitions

Those of you who don’t have children would be surprised about how much you actually need to take with you when you are travelling with a baby. Then if you are staying away from your home for a few days, planning can make the difference between the success and failure of the trip, as caring for your child in a different environment can be even trickier. At home you know where everything is, you have access to washing machines, tumble driers and other appliances, you have stockpiles of supplies of everything you need and everything is where you want it. Preparing well enables you to change and move environments and still be successful no matter what it is you are doing in life.

With the Internet at most of our fingertips all the time, preparing has never been easier. There is a wealth of knowledge, experience and information out there that can help us be better prepared than we have ever been before. The Internet allows us to quickly learn from others failures and successes, it makes it possible for us to make even more educated guesses at what is the right and wrong thing for us to do, or the right or wrong thing to buy.

Overwhelmed

The only downside of the Internet is the overwhelming load of information that is out there that is irrelevant. The real skill of researching is being able to quickly discard and sift the information you are viewing so you get to what you want a lot quicker.

I get such a buzz out of learning and researching. Knowing a lot about what you are going to do gives you an air of confidence and can make you feel happier about the things going on in your life. When you leave education you don’t spend as much time studying things and preparing for things gives you the chance to study and I think we should always take opportunities to study and learn more.

Projects

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All of my adult life, I can’t remember a time where I didn’t have a project on the go. I am one of these people that likes to fill my time with things, likes to experiment and likes to achieve more than I already have. A project can be anything from creating a piece of art to re-organising the running of your house.

Pressure

The current big project I have on at the moment is to get my book ready for publishing and to get it published by mid September. After releasing “Unbreakable Bond” in EBook form, I then successfully crowdfunded the costs of making it available in print, both of these were big projects in themselves. Now however, because so many people have so kindly given to get the book to print, the pressure is on to make it happen, as it is something that has to happen.

Getting a book published is not an easy task. There are many moving parts to this project and I have to keep on top of them all if I am to hit the deadline. Before I can even get in to the admin side of getting it to print, I have to get the book proofread and formatted by professionals and I need to work with a graphic designer to get the book cover completed.

Putting the hard work in

I want to one day get my book in to bookstores like Waterstones, this means however that I can’t just go through a one stop online shop, that register an ISBN for you and handle the printing and distribution. For my book to have the possibility of one day getting in to bookstores, I have to register the ISBN myself, get my book printed by a company in the UK and get a contract signed with a distribution company that has routes in to traditional bookstores. I am determined to get my book in to bookstores, so it means that I have to work a lot harder than if I was just happy with it being available online, that I could do in 5 minutes and is something anyone can do these days.

Stressful

Projects can be stressful and can take over your life at times, so you need to be careful with them. Mot projects you will do in your spare time, you won’t be paid for them and most will cost you money, so you need to be careful not to get too carried away. It is important that you don’t let a project interfere with your work, your finances and your family life.

You only get out of a project what you put in to it. For me personally I would rather try really hard at something and get something out of it that I am proud of, rather than just spending some time on something, not really trying hard and not being too impressed by the outcome. The key thing when doing a project is knowing what you want to get out of it. Once you have finished a project its then time to look at if you got what you wanted out of it and look at what project you want to do next.

Not every project I do is successful, but I don’t think I have ever had a project that I didn’t learn something from.

Learning the Language

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What is one of the most common things people buy when going abroad, on holiday, for work or to live? I think one of them has to be a phrasebook. There are a million and one different phrasebooks out there converting many of the much needed questions and phrases from your language to the language of the country you are travelling to.

Now to me, I personally think the phrasebook system is floored. You may be good at picking up foreign languages and learn how to ask a host of questions correctly in another language, but what is the point in doing this if when you get out there you can’t understand the answer you get from the local that you converse with. For every question you ask there are many answers and it’s pretty hard to learn all the possible answers there could be, I also think it would be pretty stupid to do so.

Spending time learning how a language works, it’s form and structure, will help you form the questions you want to ask and help you work out what people are telling you in response. You don’t get these things from memorizing information as memorising is not learning. Being able to spurt out a lot of facts and information doesn’t make you intelligent, it just means that you are good at retaining things in your brain.

I think in so many situations in life we all just want to skip to the answer or to the end. This way of thinking though means we miss out on the learning and just spend our life finding out answers instead of how to do things. If we stopped to do the studying and the learning we would actually be equipping ourselves with something worthwhile and long standing.

A phrasebook shouldn’t be treated as a shortcut and you shouldn’t be fooled in to believing that reading a phrasebook on your journey out will give you everything you need to get by in that country. There is no shortcut in my eyes to real learning and real knowledge acquirement.

My middle brother like to visit different countries most years, but before he goes anywhere he always invests time to learn the language and to make sure he can understand people in that country, rather than just learning the odd phrase, which I have lots of respect for. In today’s day and age there are many different options out there to help you learn a new language, it’s not a case of just going to a class any more so no one should have any excuses.

I think the whole phrasebook concept is something that also reflects on the way we communicate with others in our own countries. A lot of people in conversation are guilty of just talking at people and either not listening to people’s responses or not understanding them. For these people, when people do give a response to what they are talking about, sometimes they don’t know what to do with it or or how to respond back so they just move the conversation in another direction.

The best way to invest in yourself and others is to educate yourself properly and learn how to hold a conversation with other people. There is a difference between throwing phrases at other people and being engaged in a two-way conversation.

Home Brewing

Over the last couple of months I have ventured in to the world of Home Brewing. After visiting friends in Baton Rouge and seeing them excel at it I caught the bug for it. Over the last year I have been reading up on it and getting advice about the art of making the perfect brew. Then a few months ago I went and brought my first set of equipment and got to work on making my first batch.

The process took a bit longer than it should have, but last night I finally got to taste the produce of my hard work. I went in with low expectations but was pleasantly surprised by how drinkable it was and felt proud of my first attempt.

I think you get a great satisfaction and sense of achievement when you make something yourself. Adding skills to your belt is also so rewarding. By doing something different you have a new conversation topic around friends, you can make new friends through it and be encouraged to take on more challenges. I had a few trepidations when I started Home Brewing but I am so glad I pushed through.

I don’t like getting drunk but I do enjoy drinking the odd glass of quality alcohol. I think in the 21st century thanks to the aid of cooking programmes on TV and the internet we are, on the whole taking more care and being more creative with the meals we eat, so I think we should also take that approach in to what we drink.

By Home Brewing I know exactly what is going in to my drink, I can experiment with flavours not available in my local shops and can brew the beer, ale or lager to my taste. Home Brewing is also a good long term investment as after you have laid out your start up costs the ingredients to make a huge batch are quite cheap. You would be hard pressed to find a pub, bar or grocery store that sells it for cheaper than you can make it.

The message I have learnt from this is: when something seems hard or complicated don’t be put off, give it a go. You will learn more by doing something and failing than you will by just reading about something.

Holiday

I have now been back in the country for more than a week but I am still buzzing after two weeks spent roadtripping across America.

The buzz has inspired me to write this blog post on the importance of holidays. Now I am more than aware that being in a position to take and afford holidays is a privileged position because not everyone is able to, but I think those that can should. Holidays can be expensive depending on where and when you go but I think they bring back a lot more value in other ways.

The two main things a holiday can do the first is give you energy by being away from work or school and removing the stress and strains for a little while, the second is give you memories that will last a life time. If you had stayed at home that last Tuesday would have followed the same pattern as any other but by being away you remember it so much more clearly as it is different and because you aren’t doing things on holiday that you do everyday it lodges memories that you will never forget.

I think you can learn a lot by going to another country. Before you leave you get to test your planning and organizing skills to jump through the necessary hoops to make it happen. Whilst out there you will be really working on your communication skills especially if there is a language barrier and you will also be learning how to communicate with people of a different culture and background.

I think going on holiday can bring you back a better person with more understanding of others and a knowledge of a different culture which are all helpful in day to day life.

So go for the sun, the food, the entertainment or whatever your reasons are for choosing a holiday destination and I promise that you will benefit from your holiday in more ways than you originally thought. Not sure when my next holiday will be but I know I will treasure it when I go on it.