Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Learning How to Learn (I): Activities


If you have been through school you'd have asked yourself or someone else if all you were taught were relevant in the first place. You look at all the information you are required to soak in and you wonder if it could be learned - and if it can, then you wonder if you could learn it. I look back at my over twenty years of formal education and I realize I was never taught how to learn. I am just now learning how  I learn and it is amazing the simple stuff I am discovering.

How do you learn? Have you ever learned how to learn? I ask this not as a trick question - although it feels like one - but because learning isn't automatic. It is a skill - an art in it's own right - and must be learned itself. Think about it, how did the ancients learn how to learn? Many ancient cultures have left us glimpses into how they taught their children how to learn. They told them stories and fables, they took advantage of their childhood and teenage years to input the life information they wanted to pass across. They raised their children in peers, groups, cults and fraternities. This developed communal learning and ensured deeper lifelong learning experience. But how do we "modern" cultures learn?
In the next few articles we will look into modern ways to learn. I will in effect show you ways I am learning how to learn. I will give examples where it suffices and will also be very incisive and informative. So lets get right to it.

Learn by activity and NOT just by reading. This is important. We are trained to read and read and finally it will become a part of us. I have taught my students for a few years now this same principle of reading until it sticks that didn't work with me. My excuse? That was exactly what I was taught. So, I was probably saying to myself that, "although it didn't work with me it must work with someone else for my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and hundreds of other teachers to say it works." 
I am only now realizing that what is wrong remains wrong even if the whole world says it was right. Until fairly recent world history, people of different cultures - from the Chinese to the Greek, Indian to Aboriginal - believed the world was flat. It was until people like, Herodotus, Pythagoras and Parmenides, postulated a possible spherical earth that the whole world population began to entertain its possibility. The earth didn't become spherical when they postulated it. It had always been so and all the people and cultures of the earth thinking it was flat wouldn't change it.

    Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. - Benjamin Franklin

It is the same with the "read, read, read" approach to learning. In fact, when you learn by activity you learn faster, recall better and enjoy the process. Do not take only my words for this. Pause and think of the things you do perfectly and without thinking about it like riding a bicycle. Did you learn them by reading about them or by taking activities on them? I already know your answer and this is so because your brain relates to activities and develops a pattern for doing it again and again. 
Finally, I realized, while I was learning to write, that no matter how much I read about writing I didnt know how to. It was until I began to write that I became better and better. Today I am an author, write regularly for a blog and for other people.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Start small or Stay small

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
-Arthur Ashe
I sometimes feel our present human culture is obsessed with having things BIG. We like big businesses, big cities with big buildings. We like to be referred to as, the person with "The biggest ... in town."
Big isn't bad. In fact, I like it big also, but, although culture teaches us to celebrate big, nature shows us to cultivate small. Look around, everything in nature starts small. From the trees to the fishes, the bull to the person, they all start small. I was reminded of this principle when my baby girl, Jamila, was born exactly two months today. As I looked at her lovely white eyes that day, I wondered how a human life could begin in such a small way. But then again, I thought, "In what other way could it start?" Two months on and it is evident to all the way she has grown so well.
This same principle ensures that countries grow, provinces grow, families grow, and you grow. Whole countries - take your mind to the greatest ones - are established with something as small and fragile as an idea. Not races and ethnicity but an idea. It begins with that spark of a creative moment that in the minds of a few, which they fan until it has ignited a flame that burns every heart that hears of it and makes many willing to stake their existence for its realization or nothing else. It is the same with great businesses. Pioneers identify a need that must be met. A problem that cannot go unsolved and they stake all they have and are to seeing they help solve it. 
Greatness doesn't come from mindlessly achieving some BIG stuff - like making so much money - but by growing from small to great. Do not be afraid of starting small. More often than not, it the fear that keeps you as an underachiever and not the fact that what you have started is small.
I and a small team have started a project to support public schools education in Nigeria. At present we have given out thousands of exercise books but their is still more to be achieved. We are setting up free libraries in these schools and we will take it one small school library after the other. It will be our joy to see hundreds of schools with the libraries they need but before we get there we will do with the small we have - one school. Care to join us? CLICK HERE

Friday, 1 August 2014

Sit and Watch Your Life Reel Through!

I love sports. My interest in sports pushed me to know the rules of many sport events that I would never participate in or probably never witness others playing. In particular, like 75% of the 170 million people in my country, I love football. I so love football that I used to sit long periods at a time discussing the players’ rumors, the possible transfer headlines, the problem with referees and lots more. Sometimes our discussion leads us on journeys back in the days and we vividly describe events that happened then.
Recently in one of such discussions we traveled back in time to the world cup event of 1994 – US ’94 it was popularly called – and discussed the many euphoric moments. Our country was represented for the first time on the biggest football stage on the planet. We went there as African champions and I vividly remember thinking – rather erroneously with hindsight - that we would be certainly unstoppable after gloriously conquering Africa just some months earlier.
Suddenly it dawned on me that this sports event I was vividly describing was twenty years ago! Where had all the time gone? Twenty years! If this was US ’94 then I am twenty years in the future. The obvious question that arose was, “Was this the future I envisioned?” I refused to answer not because I didn’t know the right answer but because I didn’t want to hear it.
Our lives do not come to us all at once. I remember my father describing fifty-year-old events “as though it were just yesterday.” Our lives come in years, and years in months, and months in weeks, and weeks in days, and days in hours, and hours in minutes and seconds. It stands to reason that what you do with the seconds – the very second you are living through right now – determines what will be the outcome of the results you will produce in the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and ultimately in your life.
If the next twenty years – 2034 – would bring better outcomes I must ask myself the difficult question, “What am I doing with this second?” It is the same with you and your friends and your family. We have all the power to choose what we do with this second but we have no power whatsoever to determine the outcomes we would experience in the next twenty years.

Choose wisely.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Power of Movement

There is an interesting story in the history of ancient Samaria. It was of a time they were besieged round-about by a great Syrian army and there was no way of going into the city or out of it. Typically, supply ran short, inflation hit the economy and life became so hard that people couldn’t buy the cheapest foods. In one gross instance, two women negotiated to kill and eat their sons to survive and actually succeeded in killing one.
When things seemed to only spiral downwards, four lepers negotiated the unthinkable amongst themselves. They reasoned that they couldn’t go into their own city because death was imminent for the merciful able-bodied talk less of the physically handicapped. Their other option was to head for the camp of the Syrian army – their enemies. They would most likely be killed but they had a slim chance of engendering enough pity to get food. They summarized their discussion this way: “Why sit her until we die?” and moved towards the Syrians. This seemingly insignificant half-hearted movement of four lepers saved a nation.
I like that question and I think it is important we intermittently ask ourselves this question. Why sit in our conditions and die? Why sit in poverty and die? Why sit in confusion and die? Why sit in ignorance and die? Nothing moves until you move. Nature responds to movement and never to inaction. If you remain the way you are things will remain the way they are.
I remember that I have always desired to be a published author. I especially wanted to write a book that will draw the attention of international publishers. This was an ‘incredible” dream considering the fact that I had no foundation for such. I set out working on my first book, Do it Like Kids, and sent out applications to numerous companies. I got rejected by several but didn’t feel hurt because I wasn’t popular enough to be hurt. It took four years and one evening I received an offer for an all-expense-paid contract with a lovely company.

If I hadn’t moved by writing and pursuing the dream, it wouldn’t matter how long I spent dreaming over and over of being published, it will never happen. If I didn’t move by writing and pursuing, but rather sat back to wish, the dream would be dead today. It would have been said of me, “He sat until his dream died.”

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Creating External Balance in Your Life

We have laid a foundation of how important balance is in life and success. We all have various roles and responsibilities to carry out at the same phase of life. We could be parents, spouses, employees, employers, teachers and students, at the same time. With each of these roles there are accompanying responsibilities. Balance is when you know your specific roles and follow through with corresponding responsibilities. Imbalance is when you do not know your corresponding responsibilities to roles or have knowledge of them but mix them up.
          When you have internal balance settled – the “two peace-steps”; peace with God and peace with self – then you will have laid a proper foundation for external balance, which shows itself as peace with the world.
          External balance is the outer you. It is what the world sees. It is your ability to be organized, to stay focused, and to prioritize every action in your life. Without external balance you have no physical prove for success. People respond to tangibility and external balance creates tangible things. Some years back while sharing my “great” visions of the future to my wife (then fiancĂ©), Gift, she interjected and said, “I have heard a thousand of your dreams. Can you do one for me to see?” I realized at that moment that I may have internal balance but lacked sufficient external balance to bring to bear my dreams and aspirations.
          External balance begins with a vision. What do you see with your mind’s eye? What has your heart captured, or like the ancient prophet put it, is your “heart inditing a good matter”? Vision forms the framework for all success. It turned corn to cornflakes, potato and rice to Pringles, and lemon to lemonade. It is vision that initiates the process of taking nature’s gift to finished products that add value to human life. It is vision that gives you a blueprint for your success journey.
          Then we go to goals – long term and short term. Do you have them? It was Earl Nightingale who likened the mind to a huge caterpillar, which can be used to do a hundred-man days’ work is an hour, but is controlled by a small steering wheel. The mind is to a human what the steering wheel is to a caterpillar. Without goals there may be movement but no direction. If you lack direction you will not arrive at your destination.

          Finally, what is your plan for accomplishing your goals? A plan breaks down your goals into smaller and easier to accomplish bits. Anything can work if you have a plan that clearly outlines strategies for accomplishing it.