As we start a new school year, many students – both in high school and college – will be learning a new language. For most of my life, I have been fascinated with foreign languages and spend time every day honing my skills. While I spend much time learning from books, there are some great tools for the more tech savvy that can make language learning more fun.
Pimsleur Language Programs
One of my favorite tools, particularly for working toward conversational skills, is Pimsleur. Their product typically provides 30 half-hour recordings that guide the listener from no language skill through the path to conversational knowledge. I used Pimsleur Chinese 1-4 to help improve my Chinese proficiency – and was pleased with the results. While Pimsleur can be expensive, it’s probably one of the best tools if your ultimate goal is fluency. Note, while they have traditionally been a CD-based program, they have have an app too.
Another favorite for language learning is Duolingo. This is probably the best-known mobile application for language development. Duolingo offers a variety of languages from typical European languages such as German, French, and Spanish to less common languages such as Yiddish and even fictional languages like Klingon. In my experience, Duolingo works best with languages sharing our alphabet. But if you’re willing to work a little harder, their Asian language tools are pretty awesome too. Duolingo has some really nice features such as weekly competitions on the leaderboard and some social aspects too.
As I’ve started trying to learn Japanese, I came across this app. It’s particularly fun as it’s a good mix of game and learning. This particular tool is great for learning the Japanese scripts. In addition to Japanese Dungeon, versions exist for Korean, Russian, and a variety of European languages. What makes this app so fun is that it plays like an 8-bit game where you fight orcs. Get a character right and you hit an orc. Otherwise, you will be hit. As you progress, you can unlock more characters with different stats and level your character up to deal more damage.
The above are my current favorites. However, there are countless other tools out such as Rosetta Stone, Hello Chinese, Drops, and too many others to enumerate. So, if you are looking to expand your language skills, head to your mobile app store and get learning!
Most developers focus their time on learning new technologies or languages. They go to tech conferences and expos, read about new frameworks online, and take the occasional class on Coursera or Udemy. This is great, but I think too many developers are lacking critical skills in other domains.
I taught myself to program. Then, when I finally went to college a little over ten years ago, I decided to get a degree in psychology. Why? Because I wanted to better understand people. Like many developers, my interpersonal skills weren’t the best. I figured that by learning more about how people think, it would benefit me professionally.
Now, I’m getting ready to start my masters degree. Not in computer science, but in business. I already know programming incredibly well, so the next step for me is to better understand business. Not only will this help me as an entrepreneur, but will also help me should I ever transition back into the workforce.
Where do you focus your educational efforts? While learning more about your trade is a great idea, don’t ever forgot to hone those ancillary skills that will improve not only your marketability but also your ability to understand how to use your trade to the benefit of the world you work in.
Most people would say that I’m a successful person. I’ve started my own business, enjoyed 20+ years of a happy marriage, raised a wonderful daughter, earned a third degree black belt, and done so much more. Of course, each of us may view success differently. To some, success may be earning their first million before 30 or to earn their MBA. Success may be marrying the woman of your dreams or buying the car you’ve always wanted. Regardless of how you define success, the formula is pretty much the same.
The relationship between drive and success is well defined. Tommy Hilfiger said: “The road to success is not easy to navigate, but with hard work, drive and passion, it’s possible to achieve the American dream.” Chuck Norris also recognized the connection: “I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will always have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish.”
But what too many people seem to ignore, is that the opposite is also true – without drive, you will have a very difficult time being successful. When I look around, the people I most often see struggling to get by are the same people who have little – if any – drive. They buy their next lottery ticket and hope this is the one. They put their money into fad diets because it’s easier than working on the body they want. They rely on whatever easy method or get rich quick scheme they can find. And where does it leave them? Exactly where they started.
My wife has often says I’m driven by a rubber band. She says that I never stop, and that she believes I could achieve anything if I set my mind to it. I’m thankful to have that drive. It has served me well. But to those of you who have not achieved the success in your life you have wanted, why do you think that is? Are you driven to success, or just driven to the couch to binge watch the next season of your favorite show? Are you as interested in learning Italian as you are sitting on the deck all summer? If you’re not getting where you want in life, what do you intend to do about it?
It’s never too late to change your life to be what you want it to be. However, you need to start by taking charge of your life and focusing on the things that will drive you toward the success you wish to achieve!
Last January, I made a decision that profoundly changed my life – I started scheduling and planning my time. Most people are subjected to schedules and plans at the workplace, but few take their life so seriously. As a consequence, we all end up in a place we never intended to be. We all have hopes and dreams, but we fail to plan the steps necessary to get there. During the last year, I started my business full time, completed 61 college credits in 6 months, read four books in Chinese, and accomplished more than I have in years. None of these things would have happened without planning and scheduling.
Pen & Paper
Many people may use electronic tools like Google Calendar or their iPad Reminders. While these are both great tools, they are way too easy to ignore. I have found that using a written planner is so much more effective. Every night, I plan out out the most important things I need to accomplish the following day. On Sunday, I plan the big items I need to accomplish throughout the week. I take notes of what happened in any given day so that I can reflect on my progress later and see where I can improve. I nearly always have my journal nearby so that I can capture anything important to me.
While I prefer to do my scheduling and task lists on paper, there are some things that simply work better via electronic scheduling. For instance, when I write a blog post, I schedule it to be published at a future date. That way, I can write several posts during one block of time and have them go out during the upcoming month. For my social media, I use HootSuite for the same purpose. I can schedule all my media for the week or the month and not worry about it during the week. This ensures that my blog and my social media are constantly fresh and updated without the necessary worry about posting every day.
The End Result
Through the use of scheduling tools, I have found that I am able to be substantially more productive than ever before. Tasks get accomplished on time, more gets done, and I have more free time to focus on the things I enjoy in life. Even more importantly, I know where my life is headed. I have a plan, and I know where I’m going. Do you?
So many businesses today are doing what they DO NOT want and confusing it as the right thing to do. Maybe they feel like they need employees to follow the 9-5 workday to achieve success. Perhaps they are doing things just to “fit in” with other businesses, and at their own expense. Even still, most businesses that I’ve encountered have some aspect of their work that adds no productivity or value, yet they continue to “go about their business” anyway.
However, I need to be clear… the asterisk in the title is there for a reason. The message conveyed is both good and right in its true nature, not to be confused with or distorted into a message of business driven by greed, hedonism or self-gratification. So long as a business’ goals and core values promote good in an ultimate and absolute sense, it’s hard to go wrong. Simply consider how each decision relates back to the mission and vision of the company.
Personally and vocationally speaking, my efforts are focused on helping other businesses, organizations, and individuals to do exactly what I’ve suggested. If we don’t want to do something, we’re certainly not going to be capable of doing our best work. We can put on a good show and do enough to get by, but the world would be so much better if every business and every person was operating at peak potential for the sake of making the world a better place. Let me know what you’re doing that you shouldn’t be, and I’ll do my best to help you do more of what you want* in any way that I can.
Most people with any type of investment account are concerned with the kind of growth their investment will achieve. News sources provide up-to-the-minute stock updates. Talking heads on cable news talk about the likelihood of a recession. All around us, people are concerned with investments. But what most people ignore is investments in themselves. Beyond college, few people pursue any further education or training to advance themself. People want to achieve more, but few will put in the effort to make it happen.
Businesses are often the same. Recently, I spoke with a potential customer about an app for their business. The customer indicated that they were very concerned about losing business to a big-name competitor. They wanted to be able to more effectively compete with the giant in the industry. When I asked what their budget was, they indicated that they had $250. I could tell similar stories about other businesses too.
Are you making investments in your future? Today we have more options than ever to better ourselves. Innumerable websites offer online training, books on any topic can be found to hone your skills, and online groups and forums abound for connecting with others. Are you exploiting those opportunities?
In the end, whether it is our personal life or our business, we must be willing to invest time and money if we wish to see growth. Otherwise, we will constantly be at the bottom of the totem pole wondering why we can never get ahead.
As the new year begins, many of us will be making resolutions. “I’m quitting smoking” or “I’m going to the gym every day”. Typically, these resolutions don’t last into February. Why is that? Maybe it’s because we believe that, magically, just because the year changed our behaviors will change too. This year, instead of focusing on a resolution, why not set measurable goals for the year. For example, instead of a resolution that says “I’ll quit smoking”, you instead set a measurable goal such as “I am going to smoke two less cigarettes each month until I have quit this fall”.
Resolutions frustrate us because we see ourselves as failures when we mess up. When we want to quit smoking, after we’ve messed up once or twice, we abandon the resolution and continue with the old behavior. When we set goals instead, we innately recognize that we have a road to travel to reach our destination. We also acknowledge that there will be bumps along the way on the road to success. A setback today does not end our journey – it merely means we need to keep trying and working harder to reach our goals.
Where you find yourself next January will be determined by what you do this year. If you focus on resolutions, you’ll be in the same place next year with similar resolutions. If, instead, you focus on goals; you’ll start to see your life progress in the direction you want.