Making Mistakes Again and Again …


When was the last time you made a real ripsnorter of a mistake?

I don’t mean some little misstep which resulted in a few minutes of inconvenience or a slight alteration in your route.  I am talking about the type of mistake that you reflect on continuously for a long time, the type that matters, that changes your path.

“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.”

~ dryly observed by Oscar Wilde

I like the attitude here, but have a quibble …

We all make mistakes, since we are human and therefore not perfect.     Many of us also hate admitting that we have made a mistake, so we reframe our mistakes as “experience, which does have a much nicer ring to it.

However, I wonder if we do ourselves a disservice when we try to tidy up our mistakes by rebranding them … and that is exactly what we do when we call a real screw-up alearning experience”.

We will learn much more when we correctly and humbly identify a really big mistake as exactly that … a mistake.   A mistake is when you are wrong or misguided … period.  You do not automatically learn something when you make a mistake, except in tangible actions like touching a hot stove burner or doubting your spouse’s decisions.   Most mistakes require reflection in order to learn from them.

Yes, mistakes should be learning experiences … but before they can be vehicles for our learning, we might just need to recognize them for what they truly are … an “oops”. Continue reading

3 Reasons to Celebrate National Trivia Day on January 4 …

Trivial Pursuit PiesAs if we needed another holiday now …

Did you know …?

I enjoy trivia and have been known to spend hours reading exotic lists of information which has little or nothing to do with my work, my family, or my life.  

I don’t particularly like the word “trivia”, since the connotation is something of no value.n Originally, the Latin term “trivia” meant  “grammar, logic and rhetoric“, all of which are essential for a person to be truly considered educated.

Nowadays, many of us seem to focus only on knowledge related to what we do for a living and knowledge of our passions (hobbies and recreational interests).   Trivial knowledge is much broader in scope.

If we only know what we need to know, we really do not know very much, do we? 

I know that …!

I have happily participated in trivia nights and thoroughly enjoyed these experiences.   I enjoy the feeling of figuring out the answer to some question that just does not come up during the workday or the instant gratification of being able to say “I know this one”:)

Why bother …?

I present three rationales for this life-long habit.  The first reason may be personal to me only, but the other two pay dividends for anyone who appreciates and acts on them :

1)  It’s fun:)

Learning things is just fun, in my experience.   Learning things is fascinating to me.  I learn some trivial facts simply because I find them interesting or thought-provoking.  

When I learn something unusual or arcane about a subject, I may be moved to learn more about that subject.  I may also think about similar issues, situations, or topics.   Who know where a train of thought might lead one?

Maybe the ability of trivia to spark other thoughts is the real value here.

2)  It helps me refresh my mental capabilities.

Learning is a skill and you can increase your ability to learn just as you increase muscle tone or build physical endurance.   Practice, practice, practice … reading, reflecting on, and retaining trivial knowledge, combined with the ability to recall that knowledge at an opportune or proper time, will help you stay mentally alert and enrich your daily life.  

Being equipped to learn well is one of the critical skills that makes some people more successful than others.   Practice on the inane, so you can carry out the essential.

3)  Every once in a while, trivial information becomes useful.

Think McGyver, when apparently inconsequential information saves lives and solves problems.   Sometimes, simply knowing how one substance interacts with another might make all the difference.

We also “do not know what we do not know.”   Until I starting researching National Trivia Day, I did not know about the dominance of African American jockeys in the ranks of Kentucky Derby winners.  Knowing this adds a welcome bit of information to my knowledge of our rich and diverse history.

So raise your glasses high to celebrate the worth of trivial knowledge. Then go visit one of these sites and get trivial ..

119 Amazing Facts About National Trivia Day via Mentalfloss This may well be the ultimate trivia site.   Myriads of odd facts – do not click unless you have some time to spend.

Happy National Trivia Day via   More interesting and relatively useless knowledge, along with a dandy list of suggestions for celebrating this auspicious occasion.

The Ultimate Holiday Site via Hallmark – Your source for all those trivial holidays that most people happily live without celebrating or even being aware of.

Being extremely trivial today and loving it in the Heartland ….


3 Ways We Waste Our Professional Development Time and More …

Class circleA workshop is not learning.  Learning is what happens as you absorb and use the information gained in the workshop to change your behavior, attitude, and world.


Three things happen too often in organizations when people attend off-site learning events:

1)  They do not learn anything

2)  They learn, but are not recognized for what they have learned

3)  They learn and are recognized, but nothing else happens


The reasons why this is so vary:

1)  Those responsible do not set professional expectations for those attending.

If the employee has not been told why they are going away or what is expected of them as they return, they will fill that void with their own ideas about what should occur and what is important.

This is great for those at the higher end of the self-motivated employee list, but disastrous for most others.

2)  Those responsible do not follow-up in a timely or focused fashion with those who attended.  

Asking and probing about what the employee learned goes a long way toward reinforcing both the focus of the employee’s time away and the importance of what they bring back.

Asking a month later doesn’t count …

3)  Those responsible do not trust the change process to actually, well, change things.

Ever had the experience of coming back from a workshop or conference just brimming with enthusiasm and on fire to make things different … to be eitehr ignored or even worse, told to cool it?

To use the professional terminology, that “sucks”.

4)  Those responsible do not recognize or accept the value of learning.

Sigh … I hate to speak ill of those responsible, but some managers and leaders just do not value learning.   Maybe they believe that learning consists of fads which are temporary and just waste time.   Possibly they feel that formal learning, as occurs at workshops and professional conferences, is not a valid method for transformation and change.   Some may just not be very bright and do not appreciate the value of learning, because their own learning has not been valued by others.

Whatever the cause, if the learning brought back by the employee is not valued, it will probably not survive.

5)  Those responsible view learning events as just that – events, to be checked off a list or a personal development plan. 

This reason relates directly to number 4.  If learning is not valued. learning events are seen at best as necessary evils.   Something to be endured, completed, and filed away.  We’ve probably used the term “butts in seats” to describe this mentality, which views the events as the requirement, rather than the outcome of the event.


So, some simple guidance:

1)  Identify the expected outcomes of any learning event and communicate those expectations clearly to those attending … before the event.  

2) Explain specifically  how you expect them to meet these expectations.

3)  Prepare those attending by providing support materials or preparatory activities to enhance what they will receive at the event.

4)  Schedule immediate follow-up after they complete the learning event.  No, not the morning after they return … a little later.   Let the learning gel for a small amount of time.  

5)  Listen to what they say.  Ask questions and probe to find how their knowledge has changed and how deep their committment is to what they have learned.  Reflect on what they now have to offer.

6)  Collaboratively plan on how they will share their new knowledge with the organization.  Keep in mind:  They are now the experts in whatever they were sent off to learn.

7)  If  legitimate and overriding reasons exist not to use the new knowledge, explain those and thank them for their efforts.   These reasons must be compelling and significant.

8)  If change is to occur (Best Scenario), support them with resources, action, and words through all levels of the organization.

In this day, formal professional development less often comes in the form of a day away at a workshop or a week at a professional conference.   The advent of online professional development, distance learning, virtual conferences, and other cost-effective learning events has changed the landscape … in some ways.

You still have to plan, follow-up, and support those who learn on behalf of the organization.

What have I missed or misstated?

Remembering both time-wasting and world-changing conference experiences in the Heartland ….




National Day of Listening – November 23, 2012


Friday, November 23, 2012


Well, talk about good timing …

We do not always focus as much on listening as we ought.   Listening is a powerful learning tool and a way to connect with others.


An oral history project with the mission …

“… to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.”


This year:  Honor a Veteran

Take some time to talk to a veteran or a family member of a veteran and ask them questions to honor their contributions and learn about what they experienced.

Here’s some possible questions to get the ball rolling, from the official website of the National Day of Listening  …

  • Were you in the military?
  • Did you go to war? What was it like?
  • How did war change you?
  • During your service, can you recall times when you were afraid?
  • What are your strongest memories from your time in the military?
  • What lessons did you learn from this time in your life?


A wealth of useful support material awaits you at the StoryCorp site.  Enjoy and remember to:

Talk  … 

Listen … 

Share … 

Any questions?

Thinking about what I want to ask and who I can listen to in the Heartland ….



The Difference Between Education and Learning

WARNING:  This post NOT based on any well-crafted academic studies or even a book by some popular author/celebrity/rock star/professional motivator.

Recent posts and comments have focused on aspects of learning and education.  Maybe it’s time I talked about my perception of these two terms.

I am well aware that other fine definitions for both terms exist. I’m just thinking out loud here.


Education to me means receiving knowledge in the form of facts, experiences, and reflection.

You can do this individually.  I can read a book and remember what I read.  I can do something and experience emotions about what I am doing.  I can reflect in solitude upon the meaning of those facts and emotions for me as a person.


“We teach best what we most need to learn.”  Richard Bach

Taking those facts, experiences, and reflections to a state of synergy, where they form a new understanding.   While this can happen individually, I see it at its most powerful when sharing knowledge.

If I only learn and do not share what I learn, that knowledge benefits only me and only in a very internal way.  I enjoy knowing things for the sake of knowing them and frankly, sometimes I am the only one who cares that I know something.

If I learn something and then share that knowledge, I have created new learning, both for myself and for the other person.

My greatest joy is sharing knowledge with someone who benefits from that sharing.

Considering how to spread the joy in the Heartland ….