Categories
Mindsets

“… you fail, only if you don’t learn from failure.”

Failure is very much a part of our daily life experience. How we approach failure is important. Om Mailk published a terrific post about failure, titled “Failure is part of learning“. It’s well worth reading.

The morning also reminded me of a vital life lesson: you fail only if you don’t learn. A lesson successfully learn cannot be called a failure.

Om Malik

Categories
Education Tutorials Useful stuff

Teaching kids fractions

Our son is learning fractions at school. He’s finding them a little challenging, so I’ve been trying to help him. On one hand, my math knowledge still seems to be sufficient at his level. On the other, I don’t remember doing this stuff like he does it at school.

I found a couple links that will hopefully be helpful to him (well, aside from the examples I worked through with him, some artful diagrams with blocks, and loads of patience), so I thought I’d share them –

I also found the Khan Academy videos on YouTube (also worthwhile if you just want the videos):

Kids these days have such awesome resources available … (and, thankfully, so do we parents!)

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Dawid Małecki
Categories
Business and work Writing

School fees for writers

When I changed careers I knew I would have school fees to pay even though I have been writing (and doing a share of content writing) for a long time. The difference was that I was shifting from writing articles about themes that mostly just interested me professionally to a focused content marketing career. It has proven to be a challenging transition.

Writing for myself vs professional writing

When I write for myself, I write to share an idea, an argument or something I find interesting. The result I have in mind is to share something interesting with you and hope you find it interesting too.

Content writing is a little different. On the one hand, I believe strongly in writing as a blogger. What do I mean by that? To me, writing as a blogger means sharing something with your audience in your voice. It is not, as Nathan pointed out recently, “flogging”, it is something real.

When I think about great marketing writing, I think about articles that share something useful in a personal voice, not jargon filled PR language (I am being introduced to PR as a recent addition to my projects and it feels very different).

At the same time, marketing writing has a tangible objective: add to the business’ bottom line. Marketing writing that doesn’t help the business make money in a meaningful and measurable way isn’t particularly effective. With that in mind, my goal has been to learn to write material that converts more effectively and intentionally.

Although my previous body of professional writing continues to draw traffic, I wrote those articles to inform, educate and satisfy my curiosity about the stuff I wrote about. I wasn’t always writing specifically to convert readers into customers. That happened mostly organically because customers were often drawn to my content and reached out to me because they felt I would be able to help them.

Making those school fees count

In my current position, our emphasis is on measurable performance. We focus on producing content that generates leads that our sales team can convert. Writing that sort of content isn’t as easy as it may have seemed to me when I began. I like to think I write fairly well but writing well isn’t enough. The writing has to achieve a tangible result. That is the purpose of my professional role, ultimately.

This is where those school fees come in. “School fees” are those experiences you go through when you learn to write more effectively. Just being a good writer isn’t enough.

You have to learn to adapt your writing for your objectives and that can feel like starting from the beginning. It can feel a lot like those early, bewildering years in first grade, although with stubble and a family depending on you being a quick study.

Making the transition to this approach can be challenging. It isn’t uncommon to write something I feel is particularly insightful and informative only to receive feedback from my boss that it falls short because it doesn’t adequately address a particular set of needs. Sometimes the feedback can be tough because, after all, I write “fairly well”, right?

I think a big source of frustration is that I have an attachment to my writing. How can you not have an attachment to your work when it is an expression of your personality shaped for a specific purpose? That personal investment in your work is what differentiates it from a stereotypical PR publicity piece and gives it meaning in some way.

Writing something that people really resonate with is a great feeling, probably second only to writing something that feels meaningful in the first place. Sometimes those hits are surprises, too. I’ve written a number of articles that I wouldn’t have thought would have been particularly interesting and turned out to be pretty popular.

As with photography, you don’t usually see all the misses in between because they don’t make it to publication. In between all of those is a series of creative crises, intermingled with short growth spurts.

These school fees can really bite at times although they tend to be worth it in the medium term even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.

Image credit: Pixabay

Categories
Miscellany

Small wins when learning a new language

Small wins when learning a new language include being able to have a short conversation about the cost of take-away coffee or checking if your doctor’s office has an early time-slot in your new language.

The big win is being able to type that, coherently, in the new language!

Image credit: Pixabay

Categories
Mindsets Writing

It’s ok to dislike your writing, just not yourself

I came across this great piece of advice from Neil Gaiman about how it’s ok to dislike your writing but you shouldn’t dislike yourself for writing it.

https://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/139093894706/mr-gaiman-how-can-i-get-past-the-self-loathing-i

I may have a story in progress somewhere and I often wonder if I can write fiction well enough to be worth publishing. Being able to separate my feelings about my work and my feelings about myself for producing work that doesn’t meet my expectations of my work (as if I could actually have remotely reasonable expectations when I am still learning how to write well) makes it easier to treat the whole process as a learning experience and keep going.

Categories
Education

A little project: Stuff to teach our kids

I started a little project for our kids yesterday. It is still pretty early stage and nothing fancy but my son wanted me to share it with, well, everyone. It is called “Stuff to teach our kids“:

Our kids, probably like yours, are insatiably curious about the world around them. I started off sharing videos with them in a playlist on YouTube. I then started finding other things elsewhere on the Web to show them and had an idea: why not create a website with videos, links and other resources that they can learn from?

This is just a little space I created for our kids. It may have stuff your kids would find interesting too. If you found interesting stuff for kids, get in touch and share it? I may share it here.

I decided to create a WordPress site for it because the stuff that my kids are interested may interest other kids and I am a fan of sharing knowledge on the Web, generally speaking.

At the moment my strategy is to write up posts with videos, quotes and links about topics our kids ask me about. I also like the idea of being able to point our kids to a single resource to begin their learning journey. I realised that I was collecting materials from all over the Web to share with them and it made sense to share it all this way.

Yesterday the kids asked me about tsunami’s so I published this:

http://stufftoteachourkids.org/2016/02/tsunamis/

We watched an episode of COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey this morning and I had to share some information about Tardigrades:

http://stufftoteachourkids.org/2016/02/have-you-met-the-tough-tardigrade/

If you have any great resources, tips or fascinating topics to share with our kids, let me know? I have started compiling a list of sources I use when I want to research topics for the kids on the site.

Categories
Education Science and nature

Electronics kits are making a big comeback

Our son is fascinated with electronics kits and we bought him a really basic electronics kit with a light bulb, motor and a couple wires and other components. He also has a couple great kits we or family have bought for him to work with.

He built a solar powered helicopter (it doesn’t actually fly but the rotors turn in direct sunlight), has a light chemistry kit and my mother recently sent over a kit which he can use to create a sort of cable car using a used can.

I came across this segment from SA radio (702?) on SoundCloud about the resurgence of interest in these kits. My mother has worked at Wits University for years and I remember playing with little kits her engineer colleagues helped put together for me. This brings some of that back and it’s pretty exciting.

His current project is building an Arc Reactor (as seen in the Iron Man movies) and we have been getting some help from one of the engineers my mother works with. He has sourced a couple resources for us which I’ll share in another post. As much fun as this stuff is, it definitely requires some planning.

As for electronics kits generally, I’d really like to get into some of the other kits available. I have a few recommendations from friends on Facebook including littleBits, Arduino and Raspberry Pi but we haven’t gone down that road yet. Some of the kits can be a little pricey. Of the three, I like littleBits the most but that is a pricey option.

It’s great to see kids interested in this stuff. I sometimes worry they will wind up spending all their time glued to a screen of some kind (we all spend too much time staring at screens as it is). Working with hardware is also a good way to learn about software and how things work, generally. Seeing my son so excited about physical components and building things is really fantastic. What do your kids play with? Any recommendations or tips?

Image credit: Electronics by Nick Ares, licensed CC BY SA 2.0

Categories
Education Mindsets

Pushing my linguistic envelope

My teacher was so impressed with my blog post about Hebrew being the key to my Israeli identity that he sent me a somewhat more advanced text about my home city, Modi’in and suggested I read it and discuss with my class.

Pushing my linguistic envelope

Pushing my linguistic envelope a little although I’m amazed at how much I can learn from a brief text written at a higher level.

No pressure …


If you haven’t read my post yet, here it is:

Finding my Israeli identity in Hebrew