At a point when our nation is struggling to fill high level positions and outsourcing to find people with the necessary education, why is there such a rise in the belief that college is a waste of time? The answer is simple. We are not getting a meaningful education. By the time we finish a 4 year degree, we believe we should be ready for our career. But the sad truth is that little of your education applies directly to the path you have chosen. Rather than disregard higher education altogether, we should be working to restructure it instead. Now, that is a thought for a different post, or a different website altogether. What I focus on is how I can make a difference in my own life, right now. And you can too.

According to Derek Halpern, the reason college pays off so little is that we all come through school with the same skills, the same education, the same beliefs. There is nothing to set you apart from the crowd. Those that stand out in the field are those that went beyond the standard education, and -here’s the catch- continue to do so throughout their career.

Complacency is a silent killer of hopes and dreams. Allowing yourself to settle keeps you from growing with the times. What works now will not work in 10 years. No matter what job you have, the industry changes and you must change with it. That’s why you should create a Personal Learning Network.

A PLN is anything you do in order to learn. Whether it is directly related to your career or hobby, a PLN is a powerful way to grow your mind. My PLN is all about literature, whether it is reading it or writing it myself. Your network can be made up of websites, books, people- anything as long as it teaches you something.

I have a wide range of resources where I get my information and inspiration for writing and reading but here is a list of the essentials that I think you would benefit from as well.

My Literary PLN:

  • Anything by John Gardner. On Becoming a Novelist, On Writers and Writing, and The Art of Fiction have been extremely influential in my path to becoming a writer.
  • TED Talks are not only inspirational but informative
  • Youtube has online university lectures, interviews with experts, and pretty much anything you want to know. Some of my favorite channels are Brandon Sanderson’s Camera Panda, Wes Cecil and Politics and Prose.
  • As a writing resource, my go to is usually OWL Purdue to check grammar rules, syntax, types of criticism- basically anything you need to know in a snap
  • For reading I love going to Literature Map to find new authors
  • The Rumpus where you can find books and articles about anything
  • BookRiot– where you can connect with other readers
  • Goodreads– check my account for what I am reading, planning to read, and have read

 

Just because I read these books or go to these sites doesn’t mean I am growing as a reader or a writer. What makes the difference is intention. Just like the passive college student who is getting little out of their education, I would get very little out of this practice simply by absorbing the information. I developed this PLN with the intention of using the information in a mindful, purposeful fashion. How can this help you with your writing and reading goals? How can I use this to further my understanding? Why does it matter? These are all questions to consider when you come across new information. Without getting down to the why of the matter, there will be no significance to this information.

So how can you create your own PLN for the new year?

  1. Decide where you want to grow. Do you want to be better at drawing? Do you want to get into meditation? Do you want to read more intentionally? Do you want to become a better writer?
  2. Research. Find the experts in this area. Subscribe to their newsletters or Youtube channel. Read news articles. What are the standard books to read? Start off with the basics, even if you think you know it already. It may surprise you. As you continue to grow, delve deeper into your specific interests.
  3. Ask your self “Why does it matter?” Challenge yourself  as you read. What can you do with this information? How does this change your outlook? What will you do differently? How will this set me apart from the crowd?
  4. Finally, Implementation. Find a way to incorporate these things into your life. Use this information to innovate at your job, or take a project in a new direction.

Don’t be a bystander in your own life. Take the initiative to change your world view and your mind. Whether you want to improve your personal life or your career, a PLN will guide you along the way.

What do you want to learn in the New Year? Or do you already have a PLN? Have you seen changes in your life because of going above and beyond in your educaiton? Share your goals and experiences in the comments. I’d love to hear suggestions of new resources as well! Maybe you’ll find a resource for your PLN right here.

 

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