The Importance of Self-Learning and 5 Key Steps to Put Into Practice

Genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person.

― Immanuel Kant

We’re born as self-learners. As children, we rely heavily on our ability to learn from our surroundings and the actions of others. As adults, however, it’s easier to pass the buck onto others and ask for help rather than to spend the frustrating hours, days, or weeks learning ourselves. Our innate ability to learn and adapt becomes dull.

When I posted my “Day in the Life of a Happiness Engineer” post, I had quite a few friends reach out asking how they could score the same type of job. Many of these individuals came from a completely non-technical background so landing a job in the tech industry seemed like a long shot. They didn’t have experience in tech, and it didn’t seem like something you could just “pick up.”

That, of course, isn’t true.

Regardless of your background, it’s completely possible to learn a new career field. Hell, it’s possible to learn anything. Perhaps more importantly, it’s possible without going back to school. Heading back to formal education is a knee-jerk reaction and isn’t necessary unless your intended career field has some sort of required credentials.

If formal education isn’t necessary, what exactly is the secret sauce to self-learning? Here are five keys I’ve put into practice myself.

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5 Lessons I’ve Learned From One Year at Automattic

As of a few days ago, I’ve now been working for Automattic, makers of WordPress.com, for just over a year. It’s hard to believe that just a short time ago, I was ending my trial and starting full-time on a product that I both love and believe in.

I’ve written quite a bit about the trial process and what a day in the life of a Happiness Engineer looks like. But, I haven’t written much about insights working for a distributed company or how I now view customer support. In other words, what I’ve learned over the past year working at Automattic. In no particular order, here are the top five items.

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A Day in the Life of a Happiness Engineer

This week, many of us at Automattic are documenting our day to give everyone an idea of what it’s like to work for an entirely distributed company. If you’re interested in reading more you can follow the tag #a8cday at WordPress.com and on Twitter. Here’s my day as a Happiness Engineer.

Whenever I tell someone I’m a Happiness Engineer, I normally get a blank stare followed by one of two reactions:

  1. The person pretends like they know what that means and no further questions are asked.
  2. A short chuckle ensues with the follow-up question, “So, what does that mean?”

I definitely understand. Before working at Automattic, I had no real idea what a Happiness Engineer might do.

So, what does a Happiness Engineer actually do on a daily basis? The short answer: we do whatever it takes to make the user experience as great as possible at WordPress.com. For those that want more, here’s my complete schedule from October 6th, 2014 to give you an idea of what it’s like to work for a company that is 100% distributed.

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How to Become More Creative

This post was previously published on the Crew blog.

How many uses can you think of for a paperclip in three minutes?

If you’re average, you’ll probably be able to drum up 10 or perhaps 20 different uses. I came up with 11. The somewhat famous paperclip test was created in 1967 by J.P. Guilford as a measure of divergent thinking. It’s part of a group of assessments known as ‘alternative use tests’ which measure creativity.

Incomplete Figure Start

 

The above example shows a common incomplete figure exercise. This test asks users to complete the picture in each window. This is another test of divergent thinking, the more creative you are the more interesting the results tend to be (see below).

Incomplete Figure exercise

 

Creativity is often viewed as something you either have or you don’t. But that’s not entirely true, according to a study completed by Harvard, creativity is 85% a learned skill. That means we can improve. The question is how?

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How to Improve Your Reading Retention on Any Device

This post originally appeared on the Crew blog.

Last Tuesday, after running errands, sitting in traffic, and finishing a normal work day–I still had time to read for nearly 2 hours and 45 minutes. In just one day, I finished nearly half of Essentialism by Greg McKeown. With this kind of speed, my Amazon Wish List would be toast within weeks.

Now comes the confession: I wasn’t actually reading. I was listening. Essentialism was my first audiobook. It felt a bit like cheating, like audiobook listeners couldn’t really call themselves hardcore readers. Another problem? While I easily finished the book, I doubt I remember half of the information.

This led me to explore the science behind reading retention. It’s easy to blame technology for what appears to be our growing lack of retention. But perhaps we’ve been asking the wrong questions. Instead of asking on what we should be reading, we’re much better off solving the issue of retention by asking how we should be reading.

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