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Accelerated Learning for High Achievers

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Most are aware of accelerated weight loss and fitness programs because of common, frequent advertising exposure to such; particularly because an alternative channel is selling discounted, super-sized, fast food meals on Tuesdays after 3 pm. However, with the exception of foreign languages, most people do not hear about general accelerated learning.

Accelerated learning and skills development occur regularly with athletes, musicians and other artists committed to performance activities. Unfortunately, most consider high achievers’ intelligence (or breadth and depth of knowledge) to be gifts, not outcomes of development. As such, most do not consider “learning” to be a skill, something that one can enrich and nurture, with the expectation of improvement. Instead, most engage in the activity of learning as if it were always “performance time” without expectation of sharpening the tools before and route to performance.

Moreover, school systems often place students into “tracks” of courses without attempting to modify teaching strategies and student learning skills, except for the very least capable students who receive a “special” education. The worst of systems are essentially saying, “We will present the information in a uniform manner and the students must learn it as they are able. It is not our role to teach them how to learn.”

The information growth curve over the past thirty years has been phenomenal. With the explosive expansion of information content, instructors are very challenged to screen it. As such, students actually are increasingly responsible for their own learning. However, instructors must clearly define objectives, provide multi sensory demonstrations of the materials, and assure that students have high-quality access to the best curated, relevant information and experiential-type resources as they are able to identify. The instructors then act more as guides, directors, coaches, tutors and cooperative participants in the group learning processes (similar to working in a student chemistry lab).

Learning is basically founded upon exposure to a logical presentation of materials, coordination, re-organization, and application of information, leading to lattices of multi-functional data that is progressively and meaningfully arranged for memorization and future use. You put it all together logically, sequentially, a single piece of data at a time. Then, knowledge becomes simply the ability to recall and apply it as needed. As you simply accept this (A→ B →C) “one piece of data at a time” concept, that you have always performed, you simply recognize the requirement for sometimes time-intensive fact acquisition, association-building, and retention. We were not all born with identical anatomy, physiology, and apparent functional strengths. But, over time, the learning process becomes easier, and more efficient, as with any practiced skill.

You may accelerate this process in a couple of ways:

You can incorporate concurrent complementary strategies (A1, A2, A3, A4, A5) → B → C, at any stage in the process. In this example An are alternate ways by which to characterize data A to enhance retention, B represents the application of a variety of memorization techniques and C is the endpoint. You can also better prepare yourself for learning as PE→A→ B →C, where PE in the diagram represents preparing your Preparation and Environment. This refers to adequate nourishment, rest, self-motivation, establishing objectives, gathering your resources, studying in a quiet, non-distracting settings, and engaging in intermittent relaxation as you learn.

Most school systems and teachers have their preferred teaching styles/methods. In public systems, without the obligation to demonstrate high performance in all of their students, materials are often presented in whatever manner is most expedient, frequently via efficient lectures and moderate homework assignments. You need to enhance the learning experience by exposure to more nuances of the materials. Any one of these multiple information facets or perspectives (An) may be the one that stimulates the individual learner.

As an example, “Why is the NCAA D1 level college football training approach so successful at creating professionals?” Teams apply the following: team members are provided play-books, they watch film, they are verbally instructed by coaches, they perform strength and conditioning exercise, they practice physical game skills and plays/strategies on the field, and they eat (well) and live together to increase team member familiarity and bonding. The football team engages every physical and mental sense, and psychological tool, robustly and repeatedly, to reinforce knowledge, skills and the ability to execute all spontaneously and under duress. Moreover, unlike the instructor who teaches a class with an expectation of yielding a bell-curve performance from the students, the football coaches recognize that half of the team cannot underperform. Rather, the entire team must perform not only competently, but superiorly in the interest of winning, as well as for scholarship and job retention for all. There is baseline ability magnified by intent, strategy, assistance, and incentive.

The NCAA regularly demonstrates that intensive, immersion type, holistic training for the understanding of concepts, facts, and practicing skills can deliver high-performance athletes. If the same approach is applied to general academic subjects you will see more Heisman trophy equivalent academic performances in all students. As well, you will see more “instructor of the year” performances by teaching staff. There are real barriers, aside from institutional financial status. How do you overcome the adverse influences of union mentalities, tenure-sustained apathy, social biases, environmental disincentives, and the lack of immediate incentives particularly for socioeconomically disadvantaged students who are always asked to live with promises of delayed gratification while others are rewarded (or paid) no matter how the students perform? As a topic beyond this tome, you address these challenges as you are able, at least not failing to acknowledge their existence.

Accelerated learning for the high academic achiever is not based upon accelerated presentation of materials and voluminous assignments. Accelerated learning strategy utilization is the regular application of comprehensive, enhanced learning strategies, reinforced by a holistic, “all in by all” commitment to succeed. There are many opinions regarding the optimal technologies to accompany this approach. And, the larger, as well as more socially and academic-skills diverse the participants, the more challenging it is to pace a class. However, to the best of its component capabilities, the strategist should assure that all students have the resources to engage the learning techniques. Moreover, parents, guardians and the community must understand the objectives, with the school becoming a center for excellence.

Accelerated learning is a perspective, an attitude, a toolbox, a set of strategies for effective, efficient, holistic, generous, and needs-sensitive application, with recognition of individualized paths to the most prolific outcomes.

Please, Don’t Start a Nonprofit

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

As I write this, I’m about to begin writing a new book in collaboration with a partner that’s been a nonprofit leader in the fundraising and donor management space for more than 30 years. I look forward to writing more about it in the coming weeks and months ahead, as this is an exciting partnership.

As I prepare to write the book about growth and sustainability, in my notes, I have a notation about the consolidation of the nonprofit sector. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about addition and subtraction.

I’ll tell you what I mean.

In Central Florida, there are over 45 charities that are focused on cancer or have some sort of funding or program for cancer services. Wouldn’t it be great if we could consolidate these into, say, 10 and get the expert teams into the same organizations to collaborate and bring their knowledge and expertise under fewer roofs? Wouldn’t it be great if instead only a couple of handfuls of teams leveraged the resources of the donors for more significant impact?

Not too long ago I spoke to a guy who told me that he was thinking of starting a nonprofit. I told him that he should carefully consider if that’s really what the industry needs. I told him to think about these questions:

  • What makes you think you have the expertise to be a non-profit CEO? What makes you the expert? (Let’s say you’re starting an education nonprofit. What in your background qualifies you to be the expert? Having an interest in a particular area, is a great start, but how have you developed your skills to understand what makes a good program?)
  • What makes you a leader that people will want to follow? (I know that this may be tougher to answer, but there are a few questions you should ask yourself. Are you someone who enjoys being front and center? Do you like being the high profile person that is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in your organization and setting the path? Are you interested in honing your leadership skills, which are always a work in progress to improve? Do you command respect?)
  • Who would you involve in your organization that would be the experts in the program, fundraising, marketing, and finance areas? (You don’t want to be like the majority of nonprofits that are merely surviving because that drains a lot of energy. Do you know the kind of people that would help your organization succeed success?).
  • What is your vision for the organization? (I know that lots of people speak about vision, but I’ll be candid with you. Not many people have a vision that motivates others to want to be part of their story. I think it’s one of the reasons a lot of folks end up just treading water in the nonprofits they create. I’ve also seen shifting “vision.” Vision doesn’t change depending on the wind. Leaders have to have certitude and clarity of vision.)
  • In those early days of your nonprofit, especially during the first year, how are you going to market yourself and grow your fundraising base? (I know there are many organizations out there that are volunteer-driven, and if that’s how you want to operate your business, that’s your choice. For me, when I grew a non-profit I once established from my kitchen table to a charity with over $74 million in revenue, I knew that the impact I wanted to make was going to take money–and lots of it).

I know there are millions of people out there who want to make a difference. That’s a great thing. It really is. But, before you go to the default position of starting a nonprofit organization, why don’t you think about it long and hard? Does it make sense and for the issues you want to help to create another nonprofit? How would your organization differentiate itself from the competition? Would it be better to start a foundation or perhaps begin a for-profit social enterprise? Or, would it be better to work in close collaboration with an existing nonprofit and, maybe, brainstorm a new area, or help develop a great program that makes a robust impact in the community?

Whatever you do, think long and hard about it before starting a nonprofit.