The following is an excerpt from my latest book, The Road to Awesome: 99 Ways to Upgrade Your Life.
It’s available now at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.
Do you realize how extraordinary a period of history you live in? We live in a world where ideas can be transmitted almost as fast—and sometimes faster—than the speed of thought. If you’re 40 or older, could you have ever imagined a time when you could look up anything in a matter of moments?. Did you ever think that you would be able to someday order a book and start reading it seconds later? That’s the everyday mundane of today, and it’s frankly quite amazing.
So why aren’t you taking advantage of this amazing resource in a meaningful way? Way beyond simply looking up something on Wikipedia, what are you doing to advance your knowledge and skills? Are you using the vast resources available on the internet to make yourself more valuable? Whether speaking in terms of career or general satisfaction with life, we live in an age where what you know and your ability to apply that knowledge is far more important than where you learned it. Many companies today care more about your ability to get things done and help them be profitable rather than how prestigious your degree is—at least the companies that want to stay relevant in today’s marketplace.
A Wealth of Viable Options
The same is true for you. If you want to stay relevant, not only in vocational terms, but in your ability to be a functional and productive member of modern society, consider looking into furthering your knowledge with online classes. Here are some fantastic resources to check out. Some are free while others cost a little money, but all are top-notch:
- Coursera: coursera.org
- Drumeo: drumeo.com
- Thinkwell: thinkwell.com
- Canvas: canvas.net
- EdX: edx.org
- FutureLearn: futurelearn.com
- Khan Academy: khanacademy.org
- MIT Open Courseware: ocw.mit.edu
- Craftsy: craftsy.com
- ITunesU: apple.co/1FseWb5
- Udacity: udacity.com
- Udemy: udemy.com
- TED: ted.com
- Lynda: lynda.com
- Skillshare: skillshare.com
- And many more. Check out SkilledUp.com.
“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you.
If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.”
Get the Most Out of Your Online Classes
Treat your time in front of the screen as if you were paying per credit hour to sit in a university classroom. Take notes and be inquisitive. Simply sitting and being an disengaged student won’t cut it, so fight to pay attention and get the most out of the experience.
Take advantage of any and all available additional resources such as downloads and links to additional information. I would suggest compiling a file of notes for the course, whether on paper or digitally. If you’ve got a desktop and a laptop available at the same time, why not sit and watch the video on the desktop while taking notes on the laptop? If that’s not an option, rather than going full screen when you view the video, keep the video as small as possible so that you can type notes into a separate on screen window as you go.
In the case of TED talks and other venues where you get a chance to learn from experts and industry leaders who don’t normally offer regular classes, find out how to keep up with them on social media. Don’t discount how much you can learn in 140 character increments, especially when the people you’re following send out links to resources they’ve found personally beneficial. You can also get involved in Q&A sessions on Twitter and other social media streams, so keep in the loop and make sure you don’t miss those opportunities.
Asking questions is also one of the best ways to learn. Admittedly, the times when you’ll be able to submit questions to online teachers can be rare, but pose your questions anyway—even if only to yourself, and then later do the legwork tracking down answers on your own.
Join online forums related to your chosen course and get involved in the discussions you find there. Avoid appealing to trolls and lowest common denominators by not participating in pointless arguments, but don’t be afraid to defend your positions on relevant subjects in a proper debate. Some educational websites also offer study groups that you can join, and you can look for associated Facebook groups as well.
Above all, make time for your chosen course of study. Like college, showing up for every other class isn’t going to get you very far. Sure, many online classes are available on-demand, but you should still pull out your calendar and schedule a regular day and time for your class and treat it as non-negotiable. Put your best effort into the class and you’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll learn.
I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.