Wednesday, August 31, 2005


"Get Out of Your Knowledge-Cage and Keep Learning" by Nick Usborne

I subscribe to about fifty e-mail newsletters. They cover a wide variety of subjects in which I am interested. The new learning I pick up daily invigorates me. It assists me to live my life passionately to the full ...forever. It also gives me useful material to share in my coaching and teaching practices.

One of the newsletters I read is "Excess Voice". It is about writing online by Nick Usborne, author of "Net Words". His offering from yesterday included some interesting observations on the subject of life-long learning ...a key to success in our 'information age'.

Nick makes his living by writing. So as you read what he shares about how to keep on learning and why, note how he does it.

If you'd like more of Nick's wisdom, you can sign up for his a bi-weekly newsletter here.

By the way, I stipped all the code out of Nick's original e-mail article and transferred it here in about thirty seconds by using a wonderful little program called emailStripper. (You also can use it to practise 'netiquette' by stripping all those irritating 'jaggies' from the e-mails you send to friends.) emailStripper is available for free from here. I suggest you check it out.

Now here's Nick ...

"Get Out of Your Knowledge-Cage and Keep Learning"

"I learned most of what I know about the craft of copywriting in about three years, from the age of twenty-one to twenty-four.

"What I learned launched my career and provided a living for the following fifteen years or so.

"The second spike of learning has taken place over the last ten years, largely due to the arrival of the web and the unique challenges it represents.

So why didn’t I learn anything for the fifteen years before the web?

"Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Of course I learned a great deal, from every new job I worked on. But the foundation of my knowledge remained the same.

"Those first three years gave me skills and an approach that worked. And because they worked, that’s what I applied, job after job and year after year.

"I was good at what I did and essentially applied the same learning time and time again.

"In once sense, that’s OK. But if the web hadn’t come along, would I have ever learned the sense of growing my underlying understanding of the craft?

If the world doesn’t kick you, kick yourself.

"The timing of the arrival of the web was perfect for me. It came at a time when I was probably stagnating a little.

"But what if there is no major upheaval or new medium around to force you to review and grow what you already know?

"What if you have been a copywriter for five years now, and started out well into the Internet boom?

"What if the business world fails to give you such a kick in the pants that you HAVE to learn more, and in a hurry?

"You have to find a way to kick yourself.

Some ways to kick yourself

"Here are a few ways to give yourself a good kicking.

"First, try something completely new, something that will challenge and stretch everything you think you might know.

"For instance, if you write brochures and ads for a living, launch yourself into some direct marketing work. Or vice versa.

"This may sound contrary to the idea of sticking to your niche. However, anything that can rattle your knowledge-cage is a good thing, and will help you grow in all areas.

"Also, if you are employed and always working on the same products or services, do some moonlighting work. Freelancing on the side will bring you into contact with other industries and new people. It’s a great way to expand your knowledge.

"Here’s something different. If you are a copywriter, why not put your skills to the test and launch your own side business? Use your copywriting skills as a means of creating a whole new stream of income. Believe me, nothing focuses the mind so clearly as copywriting for a product or service when it’s your own money on the line.

Concluding thoughts

"It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know “enough”. Yes, what you already know might be sufficient to earn a living. But there is always more to learn.

"And if you are anything like me, you’ll find that life can get pretty dull if you’re not learning something new on a regular basis.

(c) 2002-2005, Nick Usborne. All rights reserved. Excess Voice is published by Nick Usborne at 11580 Avenue Claude-Legault, Apt 2, Montreal, QC H1G 4P8, Canada. Reproduced here with permission. Reproduction of material from Excess Voice without written permission is prohibited.

Now It's Your Turn!: What do you think and how do you feel about what Nick shares above? What tip can you share about how you jog your learning? (My 'Comment Section', in which you can share anonymously, will open to you when you click on "Comments" immediately below this post.)

Until next time, how can I help you? (You can contact me by clicking here. Also, contact me directly to be added to Patton Associates’ S-M-A-R-TBriefing™ Mailing List. Check out recent samples here.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Why North Americans Get So Sick, Suffer So Much, and Die Too Soon!

I started reading the 'hot' new wellness book, "The China Study" by Colin Campbell, during my professional development reading time this morning. Its cover jacket purports to provide the definitive, scientific answers to the above questions.

So far in my reading, Campbell, who is a world renowned scientist, has lived up to the cover's billing. In fact, I'm excited by what I am learning because it is empowering.

I'll post my book review as soon as possible.

Now It's Your Turn!: What is it about the current health field that "bugs" you the most? Campbell, who does not strike me as a conspiracy theorist, suggests that we, the public, have been deliberately confused about issues surrounding our health. He says we are the victims of an intentional misinformation campaign by a number of 'authorities' in society that we have wrongly trusted. Please share what you think and how you feel about the 'wellness/ diet industry'. (My 'Comment Section', in which you can share anonymously, will open to you when you click on "Comments" immediately below this post.)

Until next time, how can I help you? (You can contact me by clicking here. Also, contact me directly to be added to Patton Associates’ S-M-A-R-TBriefing™ Mailing List. Check out recent samples here.)

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Shorten Long URLs

Shorten Long URLs:
"I send out URLs of interesting articles and sites to friends all the time. But sometimes, those URLs are about..."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


"More Effective Decision Making"

Life comes with difficult challenges, but individuals can take steps to solve problems more efficiently.

There are five, key steps according to University of Alabama at Birmingham clinical psychologist Timothy Elliott, Ph.D.. These were reported by NewsWise earlier today.

Hopefully, you will find them as helpful as did I. Here are Elliott’s five steps. I’ve suggested a sixth for your consideration:

1. Get the facts! “Don’t try to solve something that you don’t have all of the information about.”

2. Stay positive! “Trying to solve a problem when you’re frustrated or angry only limits your ability to think.”

3. Be creative! “Sometimes the simplest of problems seem complicated because we aren’t willing to be creative in our solutions. Try bouncing some ideas off of a friend or family member.”

4. Consider how well you understand the problem. “Make sure you understand who or what is causing the problem.”

5. Consider the positive and negative outcomes of each possible solution.

My suggestion on the last step is to weight the pros and cons carefully but as quickly as possible. This way you will avoid what I call ‘decision paralysis’.

After you have executed Elliott's five steps, here’s my sixth …

6. Make your decision comfortably knowing the you have done the best you know how in making the wisest choice. Remember: Life is no fun without some risk. And we learn fastest and best by making mistakes. Babies learn to walk by falling down and getting right back up again.

Now It's Your Turn!: What are your biggest challenges in making good decisions? What tips(s) would you add to what I’ve shared above? (My 'Comment Section', in which you can share anonymously, will open to you when you click on "Comments" immediately below this post.)

Until next time, how can I help you? (You can contact me by clicking here. Also, contact me directly to be added to Patton Associates’ S-M-A-R-TBriefing™ Mailing List. Check out recent samples here.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


"The Crucible of Disgrace" ...A book review of "Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed" by Jonathon Aitkin

A new biography of Charles Colson shows a flawed and gifted man.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby

Charles W. Colson

Charles W. Colson:
A Life Redeemed

by Jonathan Aitken
WaterBrook Press
CAN or U.S.

"Almost 30 years after Watergate, former FBI official Mark Felt (aka "Deep Throat") brought the story back to the headlines. In June he admitted he leaked information that instigated the downfall of President Richard Nixon and members of Nixon's executive team. Among these men was special counsel to the President, Charles Colson. This bodes well for the July book release Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed.

"Most biographies penned about evangelical church leaders tend toward hagiography; critics found fault with John Perry's generous portrait in Charles Colson (2003) for this very reason. However, in Jonathan Aitken's surprisingly frank, richly detailed offering, Colson (a Christianity Today columnist) is portrayed both pre- and post-conversion as a gifted but flawed man.

"As a study in contrasts, Colson's story makes for an absorbing read. By turns Aitken describes Colson before his conversion as hard-drinking, chain-smoking, loyal, ruthless, heavy-handed, smart, dirty-dealing, an advocate for the underdog, anxious, aggressive, shy, cocky, impatient, micromanaging, driven, and the purveyor of practical jokes. Aitken's research included more than 200 hours of interviews and access to personal letters, papers, and taped conversations. The prose is vivid, and Aitken avoids becoming bogged down in minutiae. His is a very readable narrative.

"To understand Colson's polarized characteristics, Aitken looks at Colson's parents, two opposite personalities. Colson's father, Wendell, was a hard-working lawyer who modeled diligence, academic achievement, and patriotism—and a love for practical jokes. He also found time to do pro bono legal work on behalf of Massachusetts prisoners. Colson's aptly named mother, Dizzy, was a prolific spender who had a flair for the eccentric (once she arrived at the White House clad in only her underwear and a slip under a light overcoat). Aitken attributes the absence of motherly praise and longing for recognition as possible explanations for Colson's early ambition.

"Almost half the book is devoted to Colson's pre-conversion years. His restlessness comes through, a sense that nothing is quite big enough of a challenge—whether it's seizing control of his high-school newspaper using strong-arm tactics or later climbing the proverbial ladder of success. Those familiar with Colson's autobiography, Born Again, will experience some déjà vu. Aitken writes with the raw language of the Nixon inner circle as he details how Colson masterminded dirty deals and smeared opponents. Colson is described as second only to Nixon as the object of political hatred in the early 1970s: "His reputation, as much as his actions, led to his indictment in 1973 on Watergate-related criminal charges." This led to a short prison term for Colson.

"Aitken characterizes Colson's Watergate involvement as "major in terms of its political immorality, but minor in terms of its criminal illegality" (which some readers may dispute).

By this point in the story, it's evident that Colson's choice of biographer is a brilliant one. Aitken, the author of seven books, including Nixon: A Life, was a Parliament member and cabinet minister in Great Britain. A perjury conviction ended his political career in 1999, and Aitken served a seven-month prison sentence. Few biographers are so empathetically credentialed! (Aitken notes that Colson gave him complete editorial control over the content.)

"Aitken painstakingly unfolds Colson's maturation—his coming to faith, his time in prison, his mania for control (still a problem, Aitken shows), a few relapses into the "old Colson," his early flirtation with becoming a Christian celebrity. Aitken even tells of a dubious maneuver in which Colson plants supporters in an awards program, resulting in a standing ovation for himself. Perhaps the most poignant contrast in the book is seeing the impatient, controlling Colson grow through a tender relationship with his autistic grandson, Max, who forces Colson to slow down and make someone else's timetable a priority.

"Colson's track record as husband and father is another study in contrasts. After his single-minded pursuit, loyal courtship, and marriage to his first wife, Nancy Billings, Aitken chronicles how Colson later left her and three small children to marry Patty Hughes, his wife of now more than 40 years. Aitken writes that Colson now is firmly against divorce, and sees his divorce as one of the worst sins he committed as an unbeliever, calling it "the unhappiest and least attractive part of my life." As a father, Colson's workaholism kept him mostly absent from his young children's lives. He tried to compensate by spending time with them during their teen years.

"Aitken doesn't sidestep Colson's ministry clashes. He includes a near disaster with prison chaplains in 1976, the departure of CEO Gordon Loux, and the unflatteringly portrayed role coauthor Nancy Pearcey played in the dissolution of her and Colson's writing partnership several years ago.

"Despite these troubles and others, Aitken notes Colson's considerable accomplishments. He founded Prison Fellowship in 1976 and has visited more than 800 prisons in 40 countries. Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree ministry distributes 600,000 Christmas gifts a year to the children of prisoners. Operation Starting Line aims to bring the gospel to all prison inmates in America over the next decade. The "Centurions" educate handpicked leaders on worldview issues (a relatively new Colson passion). BreakPoint, Colson's 15-year-old daily radio program, is carried by more than 1,000 radio stations, and he's penned 23 books with sales of 10 million copies worldwide. In 1993, Colson won the Templeton Prize for progress in religion. He's also made ecumenical strides, helping launch the controversial theological discussion group Evangelicals and Catholics Together, which Aitken maintains may be one of Colson's "most enduring achievements."

"It's an impressive list. But perhaps the biggest contrast in Colson's life is that, like so many great leaders, these successes were forged in the crucible of disgrace, difficulty, and defeat. As Colson says, "Without being stripped and broken, I could not have gone out and served Christ in the way that happened." Aitken's account of Colson's journey will remind readers of Christ's transforming, life-changing power—a contrast of his grace in light of our sinfulness. Good news for us all."

Copyright © 2005 Christianity Today.

Cindy Crosby is an author and book reviewer for Publishers Weekly.

This article first appeared in the August 2005 issue of "Christianity Today" (Vol. 49, No. 8, Page 69) as reported in "CT Direct" a publication of sister organization "". Used by permission of Christianity Today International, Carol Stream, IL 60188.

It sounds like this new book will be a terrific read. I'm waiting for it now.

Now It's Your Turn!: If you already have read the book or choose to do so , please let me know what you think and how you feel about it. (My 'Comment Section', in which you can share anonymously, will open to you when you click on "Comments" immediately below this post.)

Until next time, how can I help you? (You can contact me by clicking here. Also, contact me directly to be added to Patton Associates’ S-M-A-R-TBriefing™ Mailing List. Check out recent samples here.)

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