The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order. Alfred North Whitehead.

Before you try to change something, increase your awareness of it. Tim Galwey

For the first twenty-five years of my life, I wanted freedom. For the next twenty-five, I wanted order. For the next twenty-five years, I realized that order is freedom. Winston Churchill.

The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is more important than the eye… The hand is the cutting edge of the mind. Jacob Bronowski (ACT)

The world isn’t interested in the storms you encountered, but whether or not you brought in the ship. Raul Armesto

Those who face that which is actually before them, unburdened by the past, undistracted by the future, those are they who live, who make the best use of their lives, those are those who have found the secret of contentment. Alban Goodier


“99 percent of success is built on failure.” – Charles Kettering

“The ultimate creative thinking technique is to think like God. If you’re an atheist, pretend how God would do it.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.” – Linus Pauling

“One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive one.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Innovation opportunities do not come with the tempest but with the rustling of the breeze.” – Peter Drucker

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

“Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer injury to our self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their self-importance, learn so easily; and why older people, especially if vain or arrogant, cannot learn at all.” ~ Thomas Szasz

“One must learn by doing the thing. For though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try.” ~ Sophocles 

“If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need.” ~ William McKnight, CEO of 3M 

Consider the frog and the scorpion. Give me a ride across the stream. But you will sting me and I will die, replies the frog. But then I would drown, argues the scorpion. The frog swims, carrying his passenger, feels an ominous sting. Why, he asks. Because it is my nature, replies the scorpion.

Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival. W. Edwards Deming

In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists. Eric Hoffer

Sixty years ago I knew everything; now I know nothing; education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance. Will Durant

“Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.” Jim Rohn

You learn more quickly under the guidance of experienced teachers. You waste a lot of time going down blind alleys if you have no one to lead you. W. Somerset Maugham 

“Education is the acquisition of the art of the utilization of knowledge. This an art very difficult to impart. We must beware of what I will call “inert ideas” that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized or tested or thrown into fresh combinations.” Alfred North Whitehead

“Learning is not so much an additive process, with new learning simply piling up on top of existing knowledge, as it is an active, dynamic process in which the connections are constantly changing and the structure reformatted.” K. Patricia Cross

It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning. Claude Bernard

Sometimes the last thing learners need is for their preferred learning style to be affirmed. Agreeing to let people learn only in a way that feels comfortable and familiar can restrict seriously their chance for development. Steven Brookfield

A little learning is a dangerous thing. Alexander Pope

Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.
Thomas Szasz

“Students learn what they care about . . .,” Stanford Ericksen has said, but Goethe knew something else: “In all things we learn only from those we love.” Add to that Emerson’s declaration: “the secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.” and we have a formula something like this: “Students learn what they care about, from people they care about and who, they know, care about them…” Barbara Harrell Carson

Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. Malcolm S. Forbes

The great end of education is to discipline rather than to furnish the mind; To train it to the use of its own powers rather than to fill it with the accumulation of others. Tryon Edwards

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. John Dewey

“We learn something every day, and lots of times it’s that what we learned the day before was wrong.” Bill Vaughn

“Knowledge is not a commodity to be traded between expert and novice. Rather, it is a construction of ideas negotiated by the learner in a social setting.” Rosamar Garcia

“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.” Samuel Johnson  (Performance support 101)

“There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge… observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination.” Denis Diderot

“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Albert Einstein

“He who asks a question may be a fool for five minutes. But he who never asks a question remains a fool forever.” Tom J. Connelly

“The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.” Alvin Toffler

What we must decide is perhaps how we are valuable, rather than how valuable we are. F. Scott Fitzgerald

Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago. Bernard Berenson

Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.  Oliver Wendell Holmesquotes2



Last days of the world’s fastest ocean liner


On its inaugural voyage in 1952, the sleek S.S. United States set the record for an Atlantic crossing (3 1/2 days) and more than sixty years later, the record still stands.

The United States was the Concorde of its day: high tech, expensive, and luxurious, the fastest way across the ocean. Made of lightweight aluminum with R&D funded by the Department of Defense (since the United States could be converted into the world’s fastest troop ship.)


In June 1958,  my father, a career Army officer, was transferred to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) just outside Paris. We were to travel on the S.S. United States!

Right before departure, a general officer decided to fly instead of sail, and we were upgraded to First Class. Another military brat and I landed our own cabin. We went to see the movie Run Silent Run Deep four times. Burt Lancaster was aboard but we never got to talk with him.

By the way, our household furniture traveled with us, in two humongous crates stored in the hold.


I learned to eat in the First Class dining room of the S.S. United States. Caviar, squab under glass, beef Wellington, tornedos Rossini, sorbet. The waiters encouraged me to order everything I might want to try. I took them up on it.

One evening we had just sat down to dinner when the ship rolled 20 degrees starboard. Every plate on the tables crashed to the floor. Half the guests left immediately. The crew installed ropes along the halls and stairways so you could cling when the ship lurched back and forth violently.  North Atlantic storms are vicious.

No one saw this coming. Today we’d get amber alerts on our smartphones before hitting the bad weather.


Photo from The New York Times, October 9, 2015

The S.S. United States sailed its last voyage in 1969.  Various groups have tried to save it but they’ve run out of money. The S.S. United States will either be moored in concrete or, more likely, cut into pieces and sold for scrap.

Given a choice of speed or luxury, people opted for speed, and airplanes wiped out transoceanic cruises.

This is but one more example of technology knocking the stuffing out of an entire category, wiping out the best performers at the same time as the worst. Remember typewriters?



Back to ground zero thinking

Twenty days into vacation and my obsession with work has finally disappeared. I have a fresh slate to work with. I’m open to new priorities and adventures.

Çesma, Turkey

Çesma, Turkey

Çesma, Turkey

One thing that is less than idyllic and puts me in fighting mode is the god-awful wifi aboard ship. For $250, you get unreliable, low-bandwidth wifi that sometimes crashes once a minute. To add insult to injury, my cruise line censors content. Details at What are they thinking?

Çesma, Turkey

Most of the towns and islands on our itinerary have ancient roots. Çesme reached its zenith in the middle ages under rule of the Genoese. In 1566, the Ottomans took over. In the twentieth century, watermelon replaced wine as the main crop, and Çesme became a windsurfing destination and home port for countless yachts. How do towns like this retain their identities?


Consider Ephesus, which was founded by the Achaeans in the Bronze Age. Four centuries later, in the 10th century BC, Ionians and Attic Greeks built Ephesus atop the older city. The Temple of Artemis, the largest building in the ancient world, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and home to the “many breasted Lady of Ephesus” was burned down by a loony in the third century BC. Ephesus was variously conquered by the Lydians, Persians, retaken by Ionians, Alexander the Great stopped by, the Egyptians under Ptolemy III ruled for a while, joined the Roman Empire, became second only to Rome as a trading center.


It was raided by the Goths but rebuilt by Constantine. In 614, Ephesus was partly destroyed by an earthquake. St. John probably wrote his gospel here. Rumor has it that this is where the Virgin Mary retired to after the Crucifixion. The Byzantines ruled for three hundred years. The Crusaders passed through. The city was abandoned in the 15th century. To-date, archeologists have excavated only 15% of the ancient city.

How does a place like this retain its identity?

Real Learning explained

Excerpt from interview with Learnnovators

Learnnovators: We are excited about having reviewed your new book Real Learning.  We couldn’t agree more with Laura Overton (Founder & CEO, Towards Maturity) that this is a manual to empower self-directed learners in really practical ways. Could you give our readers a brief on your book that is also a part of a larger part of your Real Learning project please?

Jay: I’d be delighted.

Millions of knowledge workers and their managers have been told they are responsible for their own learning but have no more idea what to do than the dog who got on the bus (Now WTF do I do?). I want to turn them on to what we know about how brains work and get them off on the right track for their meta-learning journey.

real cover

Real Learning seeks to empower people to use their wits and increase their mental capacity. Real Learning helps workers build a sound learning process. “Teach a man to fish.…” Improving one’s capacity to learn pays compound interest for a lifetime.

Real Learning is for people and small groups of colleagues who are taking their professional development into their own hands. No instructors, no classrooms. It’s DIY learning.

For nearly half a century, I’ve helped learners through Learning & Development but L&D only reaches a small sliver of the workforce and their approach is episodic. It doesn’t do much to improve the organization. Most people are unaware that learning is even a variable. I’d like to show the people L&D never reaches how to learn to learn.

Personally, this is a way for me to pay back the people I have learned from over the years and to leave something of value behind as my legacy.

Forgive a stretch analogy, but I’d like to do for learning what Luther did for religion: make the sacred knowledge transparent. Bring things out in the open. (Luther’s big move was to translate the Latin Bible into something ordinary worshippers could read.)

Naturally, the Real Learning project has my fingerprints all over it. I believe:

  • People learn most from experience, not courses.
  • Informal learning sticks because it is need-driven and usually reinforced with immediate application.
  • Learning is ultimately the responsibility of the learner.
  • The world is changing so fast that staying in one’s comfort zone is not an option.
  • Learning scientists and neurologists have discovered many ways to improve learning but few people apply or have even heard about their findings.

I hope to inspire hoards of people to experience learning something significant and remembering how they did it. Again and again and again. Instilling motivation is the key variable for readers who sometimes need shock treatment to experiment and try new things.

With such a huge need, I’m counting on serendipity and newsworthy quirkiness to get publicity started. We’ll need pilot tests, too. That’s what I’m working on now. If you know of an organization that would like to have hundreds of independent learners getting better at what they do and has the ability to monitor feedback, invite them to join me for a pilot session.

Information about the Real Learning project is at

The complete interview with Learnnovators is here.



Airline madness


I’m writing this from the first class cabin on a United flight from Houston to Munich. We have been plied with champagne, prosciutto, steak, cheese, (had to pass on the salad and ice cream sundae courses), free-flowing wine, and cognac. I’m sitting in a comfortable wide seat that converts into a bed. You’d think I’d be a happy camper.

I’m not. I don’t like to deal with companies that employ bait-and-switch tactics to fool their customers. United is not alone in the airline industry; collusion sees to that. When it comes to marketing and meeting customer expectations, they are all stupid. Dumb as dirt.

The concept of market segmentation calls for differentiating groups of customers in order to appeal to the most profitable among them.

What other industry would take their most loyal, high-spending customers and single them out for shabby treatment? I’m thinking of airlines and Frequent Flier Miles.

Bait and switch
United awards frequent fliers with miles on future flights. Frequent flier miles are paying for most of this first-class flight from San Francisco to Mallorca and Athens with return via Istanbul. I’d amassed a third of a million miles, so I felt confident when I called United’s Mileage Plus to redeem them.

Oh, silly me. I spent the better part of an hour on the phone being told why I couldn’t fly on this flight or that, how my miles weren’t adequate for upgrading from economy on Lufthansa, and a host of blackout dates. By the time my itinerary was selected, I felt frazzled and kept repeating in my head “I am dealing with idiots.”

I ended up with an itinerary I would never have chosen for myself. “It’s the best we can do.” Depart San Francisco at 7:24 in the morning. (I prefer mid-morning departures.) Lay over in Houston for three hours. Fly to Munich and wait five hours for a flight to Palma. Then fly from Palma to Athens via Copenhagen (spending the night in the Copenhagen airport). Pay $1,200 out of pocket to upgrade my flight back to SFO (you can’t use frequent filer miles for that).

Frequent flier miles are a booby prize. They are funny money that doesn’t enable you to buy what you want.

Remember, this treatment is reserved for United’s best customers. You can’t determine what flights are eligible on the web, so you can’t plan your own itinerary. You have to talk with a human who looks things up and usually reports “that’s not available” or “maybe if you wait a month and call back” or “you’ll have to fly from Spain to Greece via Denmark.” Aggravation. Can I be the only person who feels deceived and cheated by this system?

This makes no sense to me. I’ll do everything I can to avoid flying on United ever again.

I tried to transfer miles for a friend since I don’t intend to use them. United offered to transfer enough miles to buy a $777 ticket for a fee of $1,200. Huh? It was the same story with Lufthansa, Air Canada, and a host of other airlines.

In sum, the marketing strategy of airlines seems to be: encourage your very best customers to join a program where you can piss them off. Well, guys, it’s working.

Customers Last
My fight today originated in San Francisco. I flew from SFO to Houston first class. Entertainment? Infomercials on a tiny screen. No music, no movies, no route maps, just crapola television.

Would you like something to drink? “A mimosa.” I might as well have asked for a sky-hook or a Quetzalcoatle.

The fellow behind me complained that his tray table was filthy. “Couldn’t they have cleaned this before we got on board?” The cabin attendance responded “Do you can me to call someone to clean it up?” The implication was that this would delay our departure. He made do with his dirty table.

United offers two types of service.

There’s domestic, which is bare-bones, no frills, trashy. Back in the cattle-car section, you have to pay fo food and more than likely it will be junk food, potato chips, and crap loaded with high fructose core syrup. (A cabin attendant once told me “I can’t believe we are doing this to people.”) Leg-room is so scarce I don’t understand how tall people fly.

There’s international, with plush seats, decent food, and free booze. Why the stark difference? Competition from foreign carriers who would never try to foist off lousy service.

United recently acquired another former competitor. Less competition means less incentive for United to provide decent service. They’ve got us over a barrel.

I believe in karma. In time, the present incarnation of United will die and be reborn as a dung beetle.

I’m sitting on the deck of a villa on the island of Mallorca. I plan to spent the next three weeks in bliss and reflection. No more vitriolic blog posts, just enjoyment of life.


The Cluetrain Manifesto in action

themanifestoSixteen years ago, The Cluetrain Manifesto foretold the impact the Internet would have on companies’ relationships with their clients.  Some companies have yet to get the clue.

Excepts from the 95 Theses:

  • Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
  • Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
  • People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
  • There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.
  • Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
  • In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business — the sound of mission statements and brochures —will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court
  • Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.


CIGNA insurance refused to pay for my drugs because it was the second time in a year I asked for a refill in advance because I was going on vacation.  The story is online.

Here are a few Tweets from yesterday evening. I had warned them and they blew me off anyway. These guys put their undocumented in-house policies ahead of human decency and common sense.

cigna10 cigna9 cigna8 cigna7 cigna6 cigna5 cigna4 cigna3




CIGNA called me this morning and said this shouldn’t happen to anyone. They are reviewing their policies. They are reviewing their internal procedures. They are sorry this happened.

Too bad they didn’t say that yesterday instead of telling me this was the way things were, policy is policy, and I would not be allowed to speak to a person higher up.

I’m off on vacation. I think CIGNA’s doing a little damage control.


Real Learning

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” –George Bernard Shaw

 Aha! is becoming Real Learning.  The old name didn’t fit the book. newname Aha! captures the spirit of “Oh, I see; that’s how you do it.” Cool. Unfortunately, the term Aha! only focuses only on the magic moment of enlightenment. It doesn’t suggest the work that comes before (knowing your goals, tuning your networks) or what it takes to make learning stick (taking action and reflection). As I worked with it, the term began to feel too close to the self-help snake oil that fills bookstore shelves. Creepy. I am out to help people learn how to improve their lives by learning to learn and don’t want to be confused with the charlatans and their faith-healing promises. Real Learning is based on neuroscience and what’s proven successful, not the standard self-help bullshit. Real Learning is what the book is  about. I’m not going to give you a sales pitch. (If that’s what you’re after, look here.) The book is a natural sequel to Informal Learning.  The earlier book talked about the importance of informal learning.  Real Learning explains how to do it . Change is a pain at this point, but as Jack Welch said, it’s best to change before you have to.

Jane Hart’s Top 100 Learning Tools


It’s time once again to contribute to Jane Hart’s annual survey of tools for learning. I was the first person to take part in this project some nine years ago and now it’s an annual ritual. It’s enlightening to review what’s best in the toolbox.

My top tools for learning are:

  • Experience. Extracting the lessons of simply living my life.
  • Friends. My colleagues in Internet Time Alliance and colleagues.
  • Books. I have an extensive library and am in the midst of looking back through to refresh what I’ve learned from them.
  • Journals.  I buy a new black book at KaDeWe in Berlin every year to draw and write in.

These won’t be on my submission to Jane, because for purposes of the survey:

A learning tool is any software or online tool or service that you use either for your own personal or professional learning or for teaching or training.

      1. WordPress. My blog is where I reflect on things and share them with others. I’m still old-school on this, writing whatever I feel like. One reader complained, saying “I thought this was a blog about L&D.” Well, no, my blog covers whatever grabs my attention and that’s less and less about L&D.
      2. Twitter. I learn new things every day, following the links offered up by the 250 people I follow. I have 9,000 followers who provide feedback or answer my questions. (Jane has 26,000 followers.)
      3. Skype.  I like to see the person I’m talking with. Also, Skype’s great for talking with a group of people at once.
      4. Google. Many times I’ll be searching my own sites. I really enjoy using Google to search images. They are very useful when I’m trying to get different perspectives on a concept. If I need to remember who someone in a photograph is, Google will tell me about 80% of the time.
      5. YouTube. I tap YouTube for entertainment and publishing videos. YouTube also showed me what we wrong with my fridge and taught me how to create 300 dpi imagery with Photoshop,
      6. Flickr. Flickr enables me to enjoy memories of times past. Since 2001, I’ve posted 32,000 photographs.  I’ll admit to revisiting Monterey Car Week half a dozen times.20018082444_08f995c1e3_z
      7. I curate five topics on (example). You really learn something when you share it with someone else. As master curator Robin Good suggests, you need to give your opinion to add value. It keeps you on your toes. Plus, searching for fresh content puts you in touch with the latest news.
      8. Diigo. Bookmarks are my external memory. In the course of researching two books, I’ve created nearly 3,000 bookmarks. (Here are the current bookmarks related to my book on DIY learning.) A side benefit is the ability to share your bookmarks with other.
      9. SurveyShare. I take surveys to find out where groups are at. One is currently collecting feedback from people who read my new book.
      10. The cloud. I store all my files online, in Dropbox, Google Docs, and iCloud. Since I work on three or four different computers, it’s great to have all my stuff available no matter where I’m signing in from.

Honorable mention:

VLC. This little freeware tool plays just about any video format you can throw at it.

iMovie. As movie editors go, this one’s simple as can be. It has its limitations, especially if you want to edit multiple tracks, but the output is excellent and it’s free on Macs.

PowerPoint. I’m not your conventional, bullet-pointed presenters. I use PPT for making simple diagram, for storing visuals, and keeping up with visual models. Every year I start a new PPT of general graphics.

neuronsPowerPoint image for Aha! book