Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Elliott Masie's Learning 2014 Conference in Disney World. In addition to hanging out with Mickey and an Abba cover band (I'm serious), it was an awesome four days of jam-packed learning. From personalized training and gamification to improving the on-boarding process, the conference pretty much covered it all.
There were some excellent quotes from the presenters (who, by the way, were only allowed to use five slides or fewer in their presentation). Below I share the top five that have stuck with me.
1. "Dream big but think small every day." As the featured keynote, Robin Roberts of Good Morning America covered a lot of topics including what it's like working at GMA, her impressive basketball skills, and how she prepared to interview the President. Her best point though, in my opinion, was when discussing how you achieve your dream job. She shared some of her first work experiences, which included a stint as a radio DJ for a country music station, and said that no job was too small. Every day is a learning opportunity and there is always room to grow and learn no matter where you are. So while you should always have your eyes fixed on your BIG dream (working at GMA, becoming SES, publishing a book, etc), you should focus on making small improvements in your daily life. These small improvements eventually add up and will help you move up the career ladder. Roberts also noted that while she never wanted to stay at that country radio station, she never made them feel like she was too good for it-- because being there was a valuable experience, even if it wasn't the end goal.
2. "There is always time to reflect." Think about your work day right now. If you're like me, meetings, emails, and timelines are probably making their way to the top of your head. You're thinking about all the tasks you need to do before the day is done. While that's natural (and not necessarily bad), we rarely dedicate time to reflect. Nick van Nam, author of the new book, You! The Positive Force in Change, shared that studies now show that people over the age of 25 CAN continue to learn, but that involves reflecting on what you've learned in the day. Did you skim an interesting article? Hear a helpful quote from a colleague? Learn about a new online training course? van Dam recommends taking 15 minutes to actually think about those things and find a way to bring that into your daily life. We are all busy, but there is always time to reflect and share what you learn, we just don't make it.
3. "Think of yourself as Oprah on steroids." One theme was pretty clear throughout the conference -- engaging a virtual audience is tricky. Many people said it was their biggest challenge after budgets. Engaging an audience online is not the same as in-person. As a virtual presenter, you cannot read body language, you can't hear laughter after you attempt a joke, and you can't physically see if people are listening. So how do you engage them? Judy Schwartz of Yahoo! said you should be a bigger, louder, more energetic version of yourself. Basically, be Oprah on steroids. She enforced the importance of having a sense of humor, storytelling, and adding in your personality, even if you are reading through quarterly budget metrics. Couple energetic, Oprah-like presenters with interactive activities such as polling and questions, and your online trainings will become significantly more engaging and therefore, more helpful to your audience.
4. "So you're, like, not measuring anything?" Bobby Flay is a pretty well-know chef at this point in his career (he also made an amazing Thanksgiving dinner in 30 minutes right on stage -- impressive). But did you know he has never read a book about cooking? Perhaps more shockingly, he doesn't measure ingredients or takes notes! When asked by Elliott Masie if he ever measures his ingredients he simply replied, "No, I just work until it's good." Now, I'm not necessarily advocating for this. In government, it is important to track what you've done and pass along your information to colleagues, departments, the public, etc. But what is important about Flay's statement is he does what works for him. He learns on the job and keeps trying news ways of doing something until it is perfect. He doesn't settle for good enough. He is agile, innovative and not afraid to make a mistake. While everyone else is reading recipes or writing down their successes, he just keeps trying to new things and works off of experience. By living in the moment, he is able to learn and apply that knowledge in future situations.
5. "I just kept shooting basketballs." What does shooting free throws have to do with learning? According to Dave Hopla, the best foul shot coach in the world, a lot. He has trained everyone from the New York Knicks to middle schoolers and his key to success is simple- perfect practice. Hopla argued that he was naturally a bad basketball player, but through hundreds of hours of practicing and committing it to muscle memory, he has become the best. He does the same thing every time. He doesn't do anything fancy. He does what works and continues to do that until he is perfect. He shared that while everyone was telling him he wasn't good enough, he just kept shooting basketballs and has now made over 1,200 shots in a row (a record!) Hopla is a perfect example of the power of concentration, learning from your mistakes, and perfecting your skills. He is also a great example of the power of positive thinking and dedication.
These quotes, while slightly all over the place, have a shared theme: we all learn differently but what matters is that we are learning. Every experience is an opportunity to grow and become better at you job. The people who are successful don't forget that.