It’s the time of year when we celebrate academic achievements at graduation ceremonies across the country and the world. Commencement is a beginning of a lifetime of learning. It’s also a time when students begin to create their professional narrative.
In her 1968 anthology of essays, ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ author Joan Didion writes about character and self-respect. Her words provide wisdom for all new graduates beginning to navigate the world of work.
“Character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life – is the source from which self-respect springs.”
“Self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth…To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent…Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.”
“To live without self respect is to lie awake some night beyond the reach of warm milk….counting up the sins of commissions and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promise subtly broke, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.”
Character is the foundation of our American Dream. Belief in self is the foundation of success. Being comfortable with who you see in the mirror each day is the definition of self respect.
If we continue to learn from the wisdom of others, we will sleep well most nights and have plenty of warm milk to sustain us as we write our story.
In a 1999 Harvard Business Review article ‘Managing Oneself’, Peter Drucker suggested that to build a life of excellence you would need to ask a series of questions. One was, how do I work? I think his advice applies equally to the question, how do I learn? and informs the ongoing conversation about the role of online learning in higher education.
We all learn differently. Some of us require peace and quiet to reflect on a topic we are trying to understand. Others need the energy of a group discussion to collaborate and solve a problem. Until recently, most of us had one choice, sit in a classroom and listen to a lecture. Maybe you could record the lecture on your iPad or smart phone, taking photos of charts and power point slides. For the majority, the method to transfer knowledge was unchanged.
Enter the ‘edupreneurs’ and venture capitalists of Silicon Valley. In less than a year, ‘how we learn’ has become part of our national conversation. Rather than embrace the challenge of change, many institutions resist innovation online in defense of educational quality. But what defines quality?
I believe it’s the interaction between student and faculty and colleagues. It’s the opportunity to employ every possible resource to create an effective learning environment. In the end, quality of learning is defined by the quality of what is learned.
The Silicon Valley folks learned from some of the best professors in the world. And how they learned is the catalyst for a new approach to learning. Online degrees, ‘flipped classrooms’ and blended learning are all labels for alternate ways to meet the student in the place where he or she will best learn.
One of Drucker’s other questions is ‘what can I contribute?’ As educators, our primary role is to prepare our students for their future. We contribute to society when we actively engage all the senses to create a classroom (in the cloud or on the ground) that provides the foundation for every student to build a life of excellence.
Why spend two precious days on the USC campus prior to the LA Times Festival of Books? If you are a writer, this is the place to be and the investment of time will be an investment in the quality of your writing. Not only will you learn from elite writers about their craft, but you will have time to write in the company of other authors in the beautiful Doheny Library.
Too often we become immersed in our research on a topic that we forget to write, or we forget our own voice in our writing. Following the ‘Red Room Method’ of writing under the guidance of Red Room founder, Ivory Madison, you will try an alternative for putting words on paper. You will write. And your colleagues will join you as an incentive to keep you going.
Afternoons are reserved for conversational ‘duets’ with some of the most prominent writers in the country; Stephen Chbosky, Susan Straight and Amy Wallace. Deputy editor of Los Angeles Magazine, Nancy Miller and vice president of Writers Guild of America West, Howard Rodman will join the dialog.
In addition, USC Dean of Religious Life, Varun Soni will moderate a panel with novelist, Keshni Kashyap and illustrator Mari Araki discussing their graphic novel, ‘Tina’s Mouth’.
Plan to join us on April 18 & 19. Join the conversation and continue writing.
On Thursday, April 18 at the second USC Writers Conference author and filmmaker Keshni Kashyap and illustrator, Mari Araki will discuss their book ‘Tina’s Mouth’. Described in one sentence by Kirkus Reviews: “Indian-American high-school student with a thing for Jean Paul Sartre struggles with existential angst in this graphic novel debut.” Published in January, 2012, ‘Tina’s Mouth’ received both a starred review from Booklist and was recommended #5 on Entertainment Weekly’s “Must List”. In January the book received the APALA award for best young adult book.
The panel will be moderated by USC Dean of Religious Life, Varun Soni. Join us for two days of writing and conversations with authors and their editors, illustrators and mentors.
Find out why the USC Writers Conference is the one event you should include on your literary calendar this year. Learn more and register.
The second USC Writers Conference returns to Doheny Library on Thursday and Friday April 18 & 19. Once again the conference will be held in advance of the LA Times Festival of Books. This year’s theme is ‘Duets: Writers and their Editors, Illustrators and Mentors’ highlighting critical partnerships in achieving writing success. This year the conference expands to two days with two morning sessions led by Red Room Founder and CEO, Ivory Madison. Group writing sessions are included in the agenda each day along with panels led by accomplished writers. Featured this year is USC alumnus, Stephen Chbosky author, screenwriter and director of ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’.
Registration is now open. USC students are eligible for scholarships for the two day conference.
Are you suffering from the incumbent’s curse? Have you grown complacent in your organizational comfort zone, overconfident in your worth to your employer?
In his new book ‘Unrelenting Innovation’, USC professor Gerard Tellis describes companies whose success has led to lethargy and overconfidence. He defines the ‘incumbent’s curse’ as protecting the current product mix and resisting change. His examples of organizations embracing change are relevant to individuals as well as organizations.
In an interview with Time.com, Professor Tellis reflects “All of us who have been 10 to 20 years in a job have to ask ourselves whether we are not already beginning to suffer from the incumbent’s curse. It takes a crisis to get an incumbent to change. The people who have done the best after losing their job have started entirely new businesses and made a success of it.”
What are you doing to avoid the ‘incumbent’s curse’? Are you keeping up with current trends in your career field? Are you maintaining your professional network? Being aware of changes on the horizon will guide you on areas to update your portfolio.
And, never stop learning. Take advantage of online resources and professional association conferences. Create opportunities to leave your comfort zone and continually refresh your skill set. It should not take a major life crisis to create a new direction. If you embrace change rather than resist, you may avoid the incumbent’s curse.
It’s the new year and the health and beauty industry is in overdrive to encourage you to create a new you. A weekly subscription will deliver pre-made food to your door and presto you will be half your size by summer! A regimen of creams will roll back the years on your face. And, enrolling in a free short course will catapult you to the executive suite.
There are no shortcuts to success; in health, life and work. Luck does play a significant part in the road to our dreams, but it’s hard work, persistence and being there that will get us where we want to be.
For the new year, resolve to fail at something. We all learned to ride a bike by falling off, snowboard after inhaling a mouthful of snow and driving… well we may still nick a concrete pillar in a parking lot.
Lifelong learning is about learning from mistakes. It’s the incremental experiences of failure that create the building blocks to success. So plan to fall off a bike and skin your knee. Proudly wear the scars of your attempts and treasure the experience of failure as you celebrate your achievements.
At this time of year we wish you the best and encourage you to reflect on the year past and wishes for the new year. In that spirit, we share the poem ‘Holidays’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows;–
The happy days unclouded to their close;
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;–a fairy tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where,
But lovely as a landscape in a dream.
We spent a significant amount of time doing research into where we will obtain our undergraduate degree. We consider the academic ranking, costs and opportunities for employment after graduation. We go through a similar process when we begin the search for our first full time job. In both cases we are trying to discover where we ‘fit’ – where we can be successful.
And yet, when it comes to lifelong learning we often go to the low cost provider.
In recent months ‘massive open online courses’ (MOOCs) have emerged as a new trend in higher education, providing students with free access to elite educators and content . Silicon Valley is now the center of ‘educational disruption’ with organizations, funded with significant venture capital, emerging to challenge the way traditional education is delivered. It’s an exciting time for the student. And an exciting time for higher education in the US.
The life long learner can now design a mosaic of educational experiences to fit their individual career goals. The ‘free’ MOOCs can supplement both continuing education and advanced degree programs. In some cases, the student can invest in a quality continuing education certificate and supplement it with a series of MOOCs.
But education doesn’t just occur in the classroom on campus or online. Learning takes place in the application of knowledge to our workplace and with social interaction with colleagues.
To position yourself for success, use the same process you employed to find the right college and the right start to your career. Manage your education as you manage your career success. Think about how you learn: reading, writing, discussion, application or a combination of all four. Experiment with all the new ways education is being delivered.
Do your research and invest in quality and reputation when you are seeking to earn a credential or certificate. Finding the right educational fit as a working adult will prepare you to advance and find success in the workplace.
There have been hundreds of ‘self-help’ books published over the past 30 years, but one stood the test of time. Originally released in 1989, Stephen Covey‘s ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ identified seven key habits that informed individual good behavior. Forbes Magazine named it one of the ten best management books ever. The C Suite in major organizations today is populated with executives who follow his tenets. In memory of his recent passing, let’s remember what he told us, that he thought we should already know:
1. Be proactive. 2. Begin with the end in mind. 3. Put first things first. 4. Think “win-win” 5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. 6. Synergize 7. Sharpen the saw; that is, undergo frequent self-renewal.