Continuously Improving You

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Free Online Learning for Children and Adults at Khan Academy

I’ve heard about the Khan Academy before, but I never went to check it out until just recently. I was listening to Salman Khan’s TED Talk, Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education, and really enjoyed the idea that he was sharing. Although it seems as though the focus is on teaching kids, adults will find plenty on the site that they can use for their continuous learning.

 

 

I just now went to the website to check it out and it does look like they have some courses that I’m going to take in Finance and Computer Science.

For teachers, there is some research going on right now where schools are using the video lessons on the Khan Academy website to replace the “teaching” part of teaching. The students go home to watch the lessons, then they come to school where they can get help on their “homework” from the teachers and other students. The benefit of watching the lessons at home is the opportunity to pause and rewind and to soak in the lessons without having the pressure to understand it all on the first go through. Here’s a great place to go to read up on this project from the viewpoint of members of the Los Altos School District – http://lasdandkhanacademy.edublogs.org/.

 

 


Continuous Learning – Take University Classes for Free

In Daphne Koller’s Ted Talk, What we’re learning from online education, she talks about Coursera, a program that gives people the opportunity to take online university classes for free. The universities that are involved in Coursera are using it as a method to study online education. The courses that are available aren’t eligible for college credit, but they are taught by well known university professors from well known universities, Duke, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford to name a few. Many of the courses do provide certificates of completion that you can provide to your employer or prospective employers.

 

 

This is a great way for you to add to your continuous learning.

Some of the classes that are offered through Coursera in September 2012 are:

  • Model Thinking
  • Securing Digital Democracy
  • Statistics One
  • Introduction to Computational Finance and Financial Econometrics
  • and Modern & Contemporary American Poetry. 

There are 26 classes being offered in just the month of September.

Go to www.coursera.com to see all of the classes that are being offered each month. I’m already signed up for Dan Ariely’s class, A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior, coming up in March 2013. I’m going to enroll in the Model Thinking class that is being offered in September.

Go check it out.. The classes are free.

 


TED Talk – Try Something New For 30 Days

In my last post I wrote about my new addiction; TED.com. It’s been such a treat and I’ve enjoyed having it on my drive to and from work. This will be one of many… many… posts on some of my favorite TED talks.

In this TED Talk Matt Cutts shares with us the great idea of trying something new for 30 days.

As Matt says in his talk trying something new for thirty days is a great way to start a new habit or stop one that you don’t want to do anymore. It really is less threatening to think about doing something for only 30 days rather than approaching it as if it’s got to be forever.

Can you imagine how much continuous learning and growth you can have in a year by running with this idea? For the personal and professional coaches this can be an excellent addition to your toolbox to use with your clients.

So what are you going to do new for the next 30 days?

 


Continuously Learning with the TED Android App

Great for Your Education on Wheels

I just recently started watching and listening to TED.com again. I came across the TED Android App somewhere on the web, and one of the thoughts I immediately had was what a great idea for something to listen to on my daily commute to and from work. I snatched up my phone, and made a visit to Google Play  to download and install the app. I’ve been as close to commute heaven as one can be in stop and go traffic ever since. It’s a great way to take a situation that blows goats and use it to your advantage; a trick I learned from Anthony Robbins many years ago.

Some of my favorite TED Talks so far are:

Daniel Goldstein: The Battle between your present and future self

Daphne Koller: What we’re learning from online education

Ian Dunbar on dog-friendly dog training

This is just a small sampling of some of the Ted Talks that have I’ve enjoyed in just a week or so of using my TED Android App.

If you’re an iPhone user, there is a TED iPhone App.

I’m looking forward to listening to more great TED Talks.

For those avid Ted fans out there if you have any favorite TED talks you’ve listened please comment and share with the rest of us.


Create A Not to Do List – Idea from “Good To Great”

One of the audio books I just finished reading is “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins. The main focus of the book is on looking at companies that were able to go from good to great , and what it was about those companies that helped them make the transition from being just a good company to being a great company.

Although the focus of the book is more on what businesses can do to become great, I asked myself the question, is there anything we can take from this book and apply it on an individual level for personal and professional continuous improvement. And guess what…

There was something from the book that we could take and apply on a personal level. In this case it was the idea of creating and following a “Not to do List”.

One of the habits a leader of one of these “great” companies practiced was to make a “Not to do List”. This was one of those “DUH” things for me. It really hit home as what a great idea that makes so much sense, yet I never thought of doing it.

One of the key topics that many personal and professional development gurus, Brian Tracy comes to mind right away, is the importance of time management. We only have so much time during the day and if we don’t learn to focus on engaging in activities that are going to lead to the achievement of our goals we are going to be wasting the finite amount of time that we have. Sir John Marks Templeton took this idea of using time properly to an extreme and he went so far as to proclaim that if we spend too much time watching television we will never become successful. I can’t remember the exact number, but I want to say it was really extreme like more than 100 hours a year or more than 20 hours a year.

I eventually took what I was reading over and over to heart and started looking at things in my life that I was doing that were time wasters and making it a point to stop doing those activities. Simple enough. I just kept in mind those things I would normally do that were not leading to achieving any of my goals and did my best to not do them. The thing is it didn’t seem that I was being all that successful.

When I read about the CEO of a company that Jim Collins discussed in “Good To Great” who would create these Not To Do Lists I thought it was a great idea for all of us to use on a personal level. Many people already regularly use to do lists. I’ve used them since I was a kid. I never even thought about doing the opposite by creating a not to do list.

I’m finding that using a Not to Do List is just as powerful, if not even more powerful, than using a To Do List. Now I can’t imagine not having a Not to Do List to help me stay focused in life on achieving my dreams and goals.

So my questions for you….

1. Have you ever used Not to Do Lists?

2. If so have they helped?

3. If you haven’t used Not to Do Lists do you think they will help?

Now Go Be Successful In All Areas of Your Life!!


Staying on Budget With a Daily Expense Record

In this video I go over a Daily Expense Record that I created in Microsoft Excel 2007 so that I can work on some continuous improvement in my finances. This expense record will allow me to monitor my finances on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. Another great feature of this tool is that I’ll be able to quickly tease out expenses I need to complete my taxes at the end of the year.

 


My Financial Peace Experience – The Second Class

Achieving Financial Independence

The Dave Ramsey Way

My Financial Peace Experience – The Second Class

It’s a week later. Technically, it’s been longer than that, because I’ve already fallen behind on the time between when I’m actually in the class and the time I write the blog post, but let’s make believe that’s it’s a week later.

Friday night and my wife and I are off to our second class of the Financial Peace Program.

The second class of the Financial Peace program was ok. There wasn’t anything jumping out at me that seemed like it was going to have a dramatic impact on my Financial Peace. In this second class we watched a video where Mr. Ramsey talks about the differences between men and women in the way they relate to money and he spoke about two different personality types that a person can have in regards to money. Those personality types are Nerds and Free-Spirits. Interestingly, my wife and I both feel that we posses both of these personality types. We each have our “nerdy” side, as well as each possessing a free spirit aspect to our personality. The topic was kind of interesting, but I just don’t see how this is going to play into my journey to financial peace. That doesn’t mean there won’t be something of value for others, it was just really difficult for me to get anything out of it. I’ve gone back through the work book, I’ve listened to the cd, and I’ve pulled out my Anthony Robbins approach to asking “Well, what is good about this?,” yet I’m still left wondering what I can get out of this particular class to aid in my financial peace. I think I’m going to have to be content with knowing that this will be part of the program that just didn’t hit home for me.

In a 12-week program it’s understandable if every single week isn’t going to be a home run. And, everyone is going to have a different experience with each class depending on where they are coming from. So if you’re reading this and thinking, “Oh man, this guy didn’t get anything out of this class, I don’t think I’ll ever sign up for one,” think again. Just because I didn’t get anything out of one class doesn’t mean the whole program isn’t worth checking out. Remember, it’s hard to go through something like this without something sticking!!

Now Go Be Successful In All Areas of Your Life!!


My Financial Peace Experience – The First Class

Achieving Financial Independence

The Dave Ramsey Way

Crossing the Bridge to Financial Freedom

Crossing the Bridge to Financial Freedom

Getting to the point where we are financially independent isn’t only about having a high paying job or bringing in tons of money. That certainly helps achieve that goal, however there are other actions that we can take that will also help us on the way; complimentary actions. Specifically, we can help ourselves along the way by learning to get out of debt and stay out of debt. One of the most known proponents of the get out of debt and stay out of debt approach is Dave Ramsey, well-known author and founder of “Financial Peace University”.

I’ve picked up Dave Ramsey’s books a few times and glossed over parts of them. I’ve heard about him from friends and family, and I’ve even been on his mailing list so I receive blog updates. But I’ve never gone deeper than that into my “Financial Peace” education.

Not until last week…

My wife is a member of a church that runs Dave Ramsey Financial Peace seminars and decided it would be a great idea if we signed up for the next one. Although, I was a little familiar with Dave Ramsey’s program and never took the jump to go all the way through one of his books or one of his seminars I decided it wouldn’t hurt to commit to the 12 week program. I once heard something in one of my personal and professional development programs along the lines of “it’s hard to read a book, listen to an audio program, or take a seminar and not have something from it stick.” Although I wasn’t super excited about the idea of attending this program, I was thinking there might just be something in it that I’ll gain; that will stick, and will help me along my way to financial independence.

Since I need something new to blog about I’m taking this as an excellent opportunity to share with you my experience with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Program. If you’ve read along this far I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seat as you read on to learn more.

 

My First Financial Peace University Class!!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the first class of the Financial Peace University. My wife and I arrived and met the other people in the program. There were a total of 9 of us in the class. The cost to us was $100 and that included the materials consisting of a cd program that complimented what we would watch each week in the way of a video, a hard cover workbook, a hard cover copy of Dave Ramsey’s best seller, Financial Peace Revisited, and a handful of other odds and ends.  All of the materials we received for the class, by themselves, were well worth the $100 we paid.

As I mentioned above, the meeting each week would consist of all of us sitting down to watch a video. After the video we’d go over some discussion questions, and we’d be assigned some homework. The first week’s video gave us a break down of what to expect over the 12 week program, specifically that it’s based on taking baby steps. It turns out to be a total of 7 baby steps, some of which don’t seem like baby steps to me. They are:

Baby Step 1:  $1000 in an emergency fund.

Baby Step 2:  Pay off all debt except the house utilizing the debt snowball.

Baby Step 3: Three to six months expenses in savings.

Baby Step 4: Invest 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans.

Baby Step 5: College Funding

Baby Step 6: Pay off your home early

Baby Step 7: Build wealth and give!

After giving us a breakdown of the “baby steps” we’ll be using, the class focused a great deal on that first baby step of saving up $1000 for an emergency fund. Mr. Ramsey really drove home the idea of what an emergency is and why we need to be ready for one. We’re all going to have things come up like car repairs, Christmas presents, etc. and that we should not rely on a credit card to deal with these “emergencies”. It’s important to save up this emergency fund and have it ready for the expected emergencies. If you plan for them you won’t ever get caught reaching for a credit card to deal with them.

The other thing that Mr. Ramsey discusses in this first week is that everyone should learn as early on in their financial education as possible is the concept of compound interest. It’s amazing how time makes such a difference on the amount of interest that we can accrue on savings if we let the interest build and compound.

As we finished up this first class we went over our homework which consisted of going home and developing a basic budget and starting on that first Baby Step of getting $1000 saved up in an emergency fund.

I still don’t know what all I’m going to get out of the next 12 weeks, however I’m sure I’ll get something of value; something will stick. I’m confident the first Baby Step will be achievable fairly fast. My wife and I are in a place financially for the first time since we’ve been together where we have more money coming in than we have going out. We’re still playing catch up for the years where this wasn’t the case, but the time for that catch up shouldn’t be more than a a few months. I’m excited and looking forward to the journey.

If you want to see all of the other cool stuff Dave Ramsey has in his Financial Peace University go check out his website at www.daveramsey.com.

Now Go Be Successful In All Areas of Your Life!!

 


Lynda.com – A Great Resource for Online Tutorials

With computers and the technology that they bring being such a huge factor in our personal and professional lives it behooves us to learn everything we can about using them. One of the resources that I’ve just started using to help expand my professional skills is Lynda.com. I can’t emphasize enough how impressed I am with the selection of topics Lynda.com offers and the depth they go into for the tutorials that you can select from.

My professional background is balanced between years of experience in counseling and an almost equal number of years in IT. What I’ve found in my years working in Information Technology is that the range of computer skills that a person employed for a company have go from very basic, almost non-existent, to extremely competent. It’s easy for me to take basic computer skills for granted and to fall into the belief that everyone already knows how to use a computer, and have the basics down for using office productivity software such as Microsoft Office.

This, however, is not the case. I’ve even run across executive directors of companies I’ve consulted for who didn’t have the knowledge to use Microsoft Word properly to format a business document. What are all of these people who are lacking the basic skills in computers and office productivity software going to do to acquire the skills they need to function effectively in the work place? What can all of us do to stay polished and up-to-date with our skills?

Go to Lynda.com

It does require a monthly subscription to use, but it is well worth the $25 per month for the professional education that can be gained from the video tutorials that are offered there. If you don’t think you’ll use it that much you don’t have to keep paying every month, however you’ll find the selection and quality of the programs so great that you’ll probably end up keeping the subscription indefinitely. I have!

Lynda.com offers video tutorial series on Windows 7 and Mac. If you happen to use either of these at home, or at the office, or both, wouldn’t it make sense to learn all you can about how to use them. There are series on Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, and more; much more. Are you looking to make a career change? Lynda.com has a 3 1/2 hour long program on creating an effective resume.  The selection offered has something for everyone and you’re going to find many valuable video tutorials to increase your professional development.

Add Lynda.com to your action plan for Continuously Improving You!


Don’t Forget – Know When To Sell

I’ve mentioned before that a very important aspect of investing and making money in the stock market is knowing when to sell. Again, the common saying is buy low – sell high.

Right?

Yet, how many of us have also been taught to invest in the stock market on a regularly basis and hold our investments for the long term. If you look at the chart for the S&P500 you can clearly see that it does indeed go gradually up from the very first day it was first measured to today.

Historical Chart of the S&P 500 Stock Index

Historical Chart of the S&P 500

There are of course some down times… Times like the great depression. Times like late 2007 and 2008.

But what do “they” tell us to do? I don’t know about you, but it seems to me “they” always advise us to just hold on to our stocks because the value of those stocks will eventually go back up. “They” tell us we will only lose our money if we sell during these down times. But what happens if we hold on to our securities during these down times and we lose ALL of the profit we had earned over all of the years? How many years will we have to wait to regain all of the value of our stocks? Chances are that it could be many years. What if you’re older and are relying on your stock investments for your retirement? Will you even be alive to see the values of your stocks go back up to what they were before the last downturn?

I’m bringing this up over and over again because I believe the average person doesn’t realize the importance of knowing when to sell their stocks so that they can limit their losses. It seems so logical to me now, but I’m one of those who always believed if the market crashes it’s no big deal. It will eventually come back up. The key word here is eventually. Like I said before, will that eventually happen while we are still alive?

Guess what? I don’t believe this hogwash anymore. We need to pay attention to the market and watch our investments so that if we see the market losing value we can sell our stocks and limit our loss.

This is how the rich do it and if you want to be wealthy, this is how you will need to learn to do it. Just before the down turn of the market in 2007 and 2008 many members of Congress, who are privileged with insider information, sold their stocks and got out of the market. They limited their losses and kept themselves from being financially ruined like many of the common American citizens experienced when they lost their life savings.

As a side note, to this day it is illegal for individuals to use insider information when trading stocks unless they are members of Congress. Yes, you read that correctly. It is ok for members of Congress, the leaders of our country who are supposed to be looking out for us, to utilize insider trading without going to jail for it. It’s perfectly legal. Matter of fact, based on a study done by Alan Ziobrowski, Ph.D., the average stock performance for US Senators from 1993 to 1998 beat the stock market average by 12%.

Let me put this in perspective for you. There are professional mutual fund managers out there who are paid to invest in stocks who can’t beat the market. These are people who do it for a living, yet it is very rare for a professionally managed mutual fund to beat the market, let alone beat it by 12%. I don’t know about you, but I have very little respect for politicians in general and I highly doubt they are more intelligent than professional mutual fund managers.

Now that I’ve ranted about the evils of our leaders in Congress, let’s get back on track with our knowing when to sell. We have to have an exit strategy.

If you invest in a stock at $80 a share and it goes up to $100 per share you might want to put in a stop/loss order for $95 a share. In general terms, what this means is if your stock ever drops down to $95 per share it will be sold. Now let’s say your stock rallies and it goes up to $110/share. Great!! You are making some money. Now you can go back and cancel your stop/loss order for $95 per share and set a new one for $105 per share. You are not charged anything to place these orders until they are carried out. By doing this you are limiting your risk and controlling your loss. Again, this is just the basics. I encourage you to get out there and get educated. Look for books on investing and go find some quality websites where you can go to increase your knowledge on investing.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on Investopedia.com lately and I think it’s a great place to start.

I’ve got one gripe, and it’s the reason I’m sitting here right now typing out this post.

I just went through the beginning investor tutorial on investopedia.com and they don’t even hint at the idea of knowing when to sell. As a matter of fact they hint a whole lot at buying and holding no matter what. It kind of makes me wonder if the people that run investopedia.com are members of “they”. I’m really eager to see if and when investopedia talks about the idea of selling to limit your losses.

But who am I to talk. I’m just some yahoo who is learning this stuff for the first time and wanting to share what I’m learning as I go through the process.

Although I do have that one gripe I’m still recommending investopedia.com as a place to go to start learning about investing. It’s all about taking action and getting out there to learn what you have to learn to become financially literate. Start there and start looking for some books on Amazon. Keep an open-mind and stay focused on your continuous financial improvement.

Now Go Be Successful In All Areas of Your Life!!


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