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continuous learning

Ideas to make your life less virtual and more real

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Ideas to make your life less virtual and more real

As much as I love my virtual world and bubble of supportive and like-minded bloggers and twitterers, I'm still a raging extrovert at heart who prefers personal interaction nine out of ten times. Remember people? Actual human beings, sometimes smelly and obnoxious yet superbly entertaining? Here are three things I've done this week to meet such creatures, and a virtual bonus.

Before I tell you about the first, attention must be paid to last Saturday night that I so thoroughly enjoyed going out with my girlfriends. The joy, the laughter, the dancing - my bruised toes bear proud witness, and yes, next time I'll wear something more comfortable. Ladies and Gentlemen, if you haven't yet been to participate in the Gay Bingo at the Rose Room in Dallas, I thoroughly recommend it. There's money, CDs, show tickets, T-shirts and lots more to be won, and to round the evening off, you can go dancing at The Round-up Saloon. Meeting lovely lovely Matt and his friends made our night, in case you read this, thanks again for a wonderful time! :-) If you're more into the traditional style, when was the last time you went out with friends to have a game night, or bowled?

The first recommendation I have (not only for extroverts, of course) is joining a Toastmasters club. Founded by Dr. Ralph Smedley in the 1920s, Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization that has helped and continues to attract millions of men and women around the world to improve their communication and leadership skills. Not only do you learn how to give effective presentations, you also practice time management and team work skills. All this takes place in a friendly and supportive environment that welcomes people from all walks of life and levels of shyness. For $4.50 per month, joining a local club is the best possible affordable investment you can make in yourself. Find a club near you, or have your employer sponsor one, and visit as many meetings as you like before making the decision to join. More information here, and you're welcome to ask me, too.

Secondly, I participated in a free workshop held at a local hotel to learn more about how to do business with the Government. Now, the training topic you are interested in can be anything at all. How about photography, or Tango? The point I wanted to make is if you have a few hours to spare during the week or on the weekend or in the evenings that you don't want to spend alone on your couch, check your local listings for free courses that are offered at your colleges, google your topic of interest, and find groups you can join. Some websites to get you started are meetup.com and trainingmagevents.com. For both browsing and marketing purposes, in case you have your own business or want to start one, I invite you to search conferences that are held in your area on allconferences.com. They're organized by field and region, and who knows - you may even talk your boss into sponsoring your next weekend in Vegas.

Last but not least, my friend and role-model Yvonne invited me to another Forum of Expatriate Management (FEM) round table discussion which she facilitated this week. From a professional perspective of somebody eager to learn about the grassroots and backgrounds and corporate needs of their field, a forum like this one is the best place to sit, listen, and take notes. I've written about it before, and can only say the participants don't disappoint. Some new faces, some known ones, another yummie lunch sponsored, by the way, by this company that'll go on my resources list, and I cannot think of a better way to spend a couple of hours. Is there a professional forum available for people in your line of work? Is there anyone you can ask if you have a particular question regarding best practice or successful planning? Why not start with the q&a section on LinkedIn, where you can search and pose questions if you're registered. For those times that the virtual forum is no longer effective, I challenge you to offering a meeting in person in your offices, for example. It's a great way to informally get your hands on the pulse of your industry.

The virtual bonus is virtual, because in my case it's international and via teleconference. By all means, you can make yours an in-person event. It also works as something essential and not only as a premium: the mastermind group. As Napoleon Hill stated in his widely acclaimed bestseller "Think and Grow Rich: (It's) the coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony. No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind." I was invited to one such group by fellow FIGT participants, and last week was our first tele-conference. That one hour of talking to five other like-minded expat coaches has left me energized, motivated and hopeful for the future of this business we're all in, so I thoroughly recommend sharing concerns, exchanging opinions, and providing support in a group with a focus that suits your situation.

Which one activity to aid your personal or professional growth are you going to commit to for the following week?

Til next time, have a good one!

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Image by Beverly Goodwin flickr, Creative Commons License

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Coaching certification

Good day to you, my precious readers! This week I am writing from Phoenix, Arizona, where I am taking part in the AYE Conference. Attending workshops and seminars is just one of the ways to keep up with continuous learning opportunities as well as growing as a person and becoming the best (enter your profession here) possible. For coaches, there is one slightly confusing element in the picture. Here's why:

As of 2008, the US life and business coaching industry is not regulated by neither state nor federal boards. A number of privately held organizations have published their generally applicable standards of professional and ethical conduct, but so far no one institute or code has been stipulated as mandatory requirement for the profession.

A word about these organizations: the International Coach Federation ICF and the International Association of Coaching IAC are the largest in the market so far. They were both founded by Thomas J. Leonard (1955 - 2003), also founder of CoachVille School of Coaching, in an attempt to foster professional standards for continually evolving coaching methods by putting in place certification programs and guidelines.

The fact that both ICF and IAC were initiated by the same person might be confusing for those of you who wonder which certification to pursue. If I’m not mistaken, the ICF came first, so the question on my mind was, "why form another one?", unless there was something wrong with the model. I understand that nowadays, while the IAC enjoys greater popularity and has more members, the ICF aims to be perceived as independent, not affiliated with any schools, and striving for the highest level of moral and professional accomplishment for its members. They do, however, "approve" training institutes that offer courses specifically geared towards complying with ICF credentialing standards.

Certification is a process that takes time and money, so I suggest you study their websites, mission statements, ethical guidelines, and certification methods thoroughly to see which best fits your values and needs before making your decision. The differences you may find are subtle, both rely on written examinations, audio recordings of your own work, testing for evidence that you are complying with their understanding of coaching competencies and ethics. I do believe that association with one or both of these organizations can definitely be helpful in terms of networking, advertising, continuous learning, and having your information be made available to potential clients, and am still wondering myself which route to pursue.

As for the necessity of certification, depending on who your customers are you may find that some businesses trust and insist on the ICF or IAC stamp on their coaches’ credentials, while others hire coaches on account of their experience and personal fit into the company culture. On a side note, it may seem redundant to some to apply for a certification of “Master Certified Coach”, which requires over 2,500 hours of paid coaching work, when in fact over 2,500 hours of paid coaching work could be considered sufficient proof in and of itself that the coach is doing a great job. As always, the decision is up to you.

Til next time, have fun learning something new!

Thank you sgame for the free medal!

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Continuous Learning

Confucius said: I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

Learning comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes you imitate, sometimes you discover, then you remember or tap into your own experience. Learning takes place in formal and informal settings and is a process through which you gain knowledge and ability.

There’s more to it than storing information: you also need effective access to your memory, a keen eye for sensing your environment, the ability to link that to what you already know, apply it as well as recognise patterns. It is the basic requirement for adapting to your surroundings and your life, as it changes and broadens your horizon and helps you adopt updated versions of reality. Unfortunately, as is the case with so many other things: if you don’t use it, you lose it. Skills like speaking foreign languages that aren’t practised regularly are quite easily forgotten.

Continuous or life-long learning has more recently been used in the business world to encourage a pro-active workforce that keeps up to date with not only technological advances but also acquires skills that will allow them to multi-task. A few short decades ago, everything you learned in college or your apprenticeship were sufficient for your whole career – in the fast paced environment we live in now, this is no longer true.

Continuous learning does not necessarily mean getting as many degrees as you can – it has to do with learning how to learn from everything, i.e. from life itself. It’s not only about accepting responsibility for doing the best in your job but also for your self. Keeping an open mind and adopting a positive attitude, it's amazing how much opportunity for learning and improvement is out there!

Without compromising your values (see this post), as a life-long learner you are flexible, unafraid of and open for new experiences, all of which are useful to you in deepening your understanding of yourself, others and the world around you. You’ve known since your schooldays that you can learn anything if you have to… but it’s the stuff that really interests you that you easily master and reach levels of excellence. Keep an open mind, too: Thoughts like “I’ll never get this, I'm too old” or “I’m a girl, what do I know about quantum physics” have a way of proving themselves true eventually. Think and know that you can learn (from) anything you want to.

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