Know and Learn to Use Your Gift

Dear companion,

You are gifted with a key talent.

Amazingly, all of us are born with distinct qualities and proclivities that we develop into our signature talents. I feel very competent with striking up random conversations with strangers; don’t ask me to organize three boxes of old files.  I can do it, but it doesn’t excite me. My wife on the other hand will be in color-code heaven. Having said that, it’s important that you identify what is, and isn’t, your gift that will bring great success, fulfillment, and happiness.

Why?

A wise proverb says: “A person’s gift makes room for her, and brings her before great leaders.”

Your unique, signature talent is like a key patterned to unlock precious doors.  Your signature key belongs to 1% of all keys that can open thatspecificdoor called wild success.  Behind that door awaits an audience in the presence of great leaders. How do you make “room” for yourself when you are in a crowded room–how will you stand out? It’s not by using your nominal key representing basic, ubiquitous skill. Use the key that has your name on it.

Now, let me help you identify your gift–your signature talent. It is that “thing” about “you” that either:

  1. People often tell you that you are really, really good at
  2. Often gets you in “trouble” because the gift is driving you and not the other way around

The first point is self-explanatory, so let me expound on the second point.

  • Smart people can become arrogant real fast.
  • Talkers can hurt others’ feelings very quickly, with just one utterance.
  • Very organized people can struggle with flexibility.
  • Nice people can become doormats.
  • Analytical people can become paralyzed into inaction.
  • Entrepreneurs can become ADHD-fueled and never finish what they started.
  • Great listeners can fail to be heard.
  • Ambitious people often isolate their friends and family.
  • Visionaries may find that their airplane is empty.

You get my point?

Your most amazing gift– your key signature talent that makes you very valuable–can also become your downfall and derailer if you fail to learn to use it properly.

Like a knife, your gift can be used to hurt or heal.  How you hold it, use it, makes all the difference.

Thus, I encourage you to reflect, identify your signature talent, and use it wisely.

  • Smart people can become humble.
  • Talkers can season their speech to touch the heart and mind.
  • Very organized people can prepare systems that afford them flexibility.
  • Nice people can say “no” nicely.
  • Analytical people can learn to use feedback loops to encourage action.
  • Entrepreneurs can find accountability partners to keep them grounded.
  • Great listeners can listen to their own advice and speak up.
  • Ambitious people can learn to see wealth and success in non-material ways.
  • Visionaries can learn to shape direction by talking up with and not down to people.

So, remember that you are gifted.  There are some things, or maybe just one thing, that you do so well and only 1% of the population can do it. Identify it. Learn to properly and wisely use your gift. Failure to do so will turn your gift into a derailer.

Why not choose to use your signature gift and key to “make room for you” and bring you “before great leaders”?

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

5 Steps to Overcoming Adversity (Article)

How do you handle adversity?

Dear companion,

None of us are strangers to adversity. You may be experiencing a lay-off, divorce, serious illness, or a terrifying depression. Perhaps you lost a friend or loved one. Maybe you carry a deep hurt that no one knows about. Or, you could be feeling completely stuck in your professional practice. The truth is that humanity is plagued by difficulty, conflict, confusion, and adversity. Your situation is real, and I’m here to acknowledge it— not minimize your pain. How can we overcome this adversity and move forward with dignity?

There are 5 steps in the journey to learning to overcome adversity. As you read on, take your situation and imagine applying each step to your specific context.

1. Have your “momentary” pity party – get it out 

At first, it’s okay to sulk, shut down, or cry. Stay in bed for a day. Get away from the immediate situation by taking a long drive to a city a few hours away. Turn off your cell phone for a day and watch your favorite movies. Replay the situation and feel horrible about it. The key is this: have a great pity party, whatever that means to you, but promise yourself to make it intense and brief. Then, make a commitment to stand up tall once you are finished. Also, never do anything that will hurt yourself or others. And yes, it’s normal and healthy to feel emotional.

2. Assess and “own” the part of the situation that you do have control over

Now that you have given your heart and emotions proper attention, turn to your brain. Think very honestly about your role in the situation. It may be very small or very large, but almost always we contribute to both our successes and troubles in life. Maybe you were wronged by a person who you knew in your gut you shouldn’t have trusted. Perhaps you could be more punctual or receptive to feedback. Whatever your part, own it. Truly own it. Maybe it’s not something you did, but something you didn’t do that could have helped the situation? As much as we like to think about and replay the part of the situation that we have no control over, stop. Within your little circle of influence, assess and “own” any personal contribution to the adversity and learn from it. You will be better because of it.

3. Write down and commit to a realistic and measurable action plan for moving forward that includes the likelihood of the worst-case scenario happening 

Getting through adversity requires proper planning and implementation, not wishful thinking. Thus, find the time and space to sit down and write. List out all the possible outcomes in your situation. Rank them from best to worst. Then, plan very carefully and in detail as if the worst-case scenario will occur. This is not pessimism; it’s being a wise-realist. In the event that your nightmare comes true, you are ready and prepared to tackle it with strength and wisdom. If anything better than your worst-case scenario occurs, then you will be relieved, thankful, and ready to move towards resolution. And never, ever, even in planning for the worst-case scenario, do you stop engaging in hopeful activity like prayer, meditation, or connecting with your beliefs and values.

4. Take stock of all the blessings you have in life– adopt this new mindset– and give big thanks 

Now, to bring life to your heart, mind, and plan, it’s critical to dig deep and find gratefulness by counting all the blessings in your life. Start as far back as you can remember. What good has come your way? In what ways can you say, ‘I’m blessed’. Yes, there is always someone in a worse or better position than you. But, take a moment to look over the fence on the side that points to “I’m doing well in this area of my life”. Perhaps you have musical talent, or know how to be a good listener. Maybe you are a good writer or make a delicious soup that bring life to the sick. Perhaps you have endless energy and bring life to a party. God made you special. I’m telling you—you are beautifully and wonderfully made. You are worthy.

5. Trust the process – You are not alone and the entire human race can relate to you

You are not alone. You may feel alone during times of adversity, but know that you are running a marathon in the lane of life. This is not a sprint. To the right and left of you, in front and behind you, people are moving along experiencing very similar adversities. Together, we acknowledge that life is hard, unfair, but also we acknowledge that living life well is a testament to the beauty and courage of people who pick themselves and others up and move forward. So, trust the process of life. Things come, things go, but your integrity and sense of purpose is something you hold dearly in your hands. Things happen to you in life—but you decide how you respond and who you become in the process. We all do. Take comfort in knowing that your experience is simply proof of your humanity. You belong and fit in with the rest of us.

In conclusion, circumstances must not dictate our joy and peace. Fulfillment comes from knowing who we are. Strength comes from being able to successfully endure life’s adversity with poise, integrity, a well-planned response, and hope. You’ve got this.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

The Need for Inspiring Training

Dear companion,

Are you inspired by your organization’s training?

When I started my career as a teacher 15 years ago, the professional development we received was not always inspiring.  If you don’t know, in public schools, traditional training often happens like this:  it’s Friday afternoon, you’re exhausted from teaching all week, and the staff is physically crammed into a small classroom without AC where someone is mentally cramming a PowerPoint into your brain.  This is often called a “non-negotiable” training in education circles.

It’s not hard to imagine why teachers keep teaching the way they always have: little has been done to engage them in meaningful and personalized learning. You better believe that this has a trickle-down effect on teachers and the motivation they transmit to students.

Fast forward 15 years. The other day, my school psychologist shared how the district’s special education department had provided a very lengthy PowerPoint (containing very important information) that needed to be shared with all staff members at school sites. She needed me to provide her with a staff meeting date for sharing the information so that we could be in “compliance”.

I immediately arranged a meeting with my site’s special education team to review the purpose of the training and the PowerPoint.  What did we really want to accomplish? As we reviewed the information together, I thought to myself, there is no way teachers are going to take anything from this session if we just dump this information on them on a Friday afternoon! There has to be a better way!

Research shows that individuals are more likely to be motivated to engage in learning when the information presented aligns with their interests (Renninger, Hidi, & Krapp, 2014) and values (Schunk & Zimmerman, 2012), and when the training is structured to encourage and foment the trainees’ positive sense of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977; Pajares, 1996) and attributions (Schunk, 1990; Weiner, 1974).

Knowing the research, our team brainstormed and leveraged our collective intelligence to create a much more personalized, differentiated, and meaningful training.

We sent the PowerPoint ahead of time so staff could read and review it. However, each of the five members of our site’s special education team planned a more interactive learning session.  Based on their self-identified strength of knowledge and experiences related to the topics included in the presentation, we negotiated how each teammate would become the facilitator of a small “special education topics” workshop.

When the Friday’s staff training came, after a brief introduction, the staff transitioned into break-out sessions. Teachers were able to choose and attend the special education topic most interesting to them.  The smaller groups created great engagement. Teachers were nodding, waving their arms energetically, taking down notes, pointing to charts, and generating more questions for the team to follow-up on.  Teachers were also given time to rotate into a total of three distinct sessions. To wrap up, each facilitator shared some highlights and key questions that emerged from the small group sessions.

Teachers can be very protective of their contract time. And, on a Friday afternoon, 30 minutes past the scheduled end-time, teachers still wanted to engage in more conversation! It was good stuff.

Why?

Learning for adults happens more readily when it is meaningful because it is aligned to personal interests and occurs in smaller group settings where there is less fear to take risk to participate.

So, I ask you today: How does training occur in your organization? Is it a one-size-fits-all approach or are you able to influence the way you receive and engage in training?

People are inspired when they have a voice in what and how they learn.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

References

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological review84(2), 191.

Pajares, F. (1996). Self-efficacy beliefs in academic settings. Review of educational research66(4), 543-578.

Pintrich, P. R. (2003). A motivational science perspective on the role of student motivation in learning and teaching contexts. Journal of educational Psychology95(4), 667.

Renninger, A., Hidi, S., & Krapp, A. (Eds.). (2014). The role of interest in learning and development. Psychology Press.

Schunk, D. H. (1990). Socialization and the Development of Self-Regulated Learning: The Role of Attributions.

Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (Eds.). (2012). Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications. Routledge.

Weiner, B. (Ed.). (1974). Achievement motivation and attribution theory. General Learning Press.

4 Types of Knowledge

Dear companion,

Do you know the four knowledge types?

You should if you are interested in knowing how to close knowledge-based performance gaps in any area of life.   According to Krathwohl (2002), knowledge can be categorized into four types: (1) factual knowledge, (2) conceptual knowledge, (3) procedural knowledge, and (4) metacognitive knowledge.  It’s important to know the distinctions and to understand your own knowledge strengths and areas of need to better meet your personal and/or organization’s goals.

Factual Knowledge

You can define factual knowledge simply as the terminologies, specific details, and basic elements within any domain.  This is the information that can and must be learned through exposure, repetition, and commitment to memory.  Luckily, since our memories are not the best places to store facts, we can help ourselves by knowing where to access factual knowledge when we need it (i.e. where to find the information in our books, online, our notebooks or journals, or asking that person who you know knows it!).

It is common knowledge that to be successful in meeting a goal, you need to know the related  “facts”.  A salesman better know the facts about the product or service he is selling! The CEO better know “the facts” about his core business if he or she wants to have credibility.  A school principal better know “the facts” about good teaching methodology and pedagogy.  How else can he or she be an instructional leader?

Conceptual Knowledge

Related to factual knowledge, conceptual knowledge can be understood as knowing the interrelationships and/or functions among the details and elements that make up a larger structure. This definition includes (1) knowing information classification and categorization, (2)  knowing principles and generalizations, and (3) knowing theories, models, and structures.  Basically, conceptual knowledge is knowing that facts can be organized in meaningful ways.  Taking the example of a business marketer, it is not enough to know the details of his or her products or services and that of the competition. There must be conceptual knowledge of the differences and the meaningful competitive advantage of one over another.

Procedural Knowledge

This knowledge type is critical for success in goal attainment because it puts the “what” into action through the “how” process.  Procedural knowledge can be understood as knowledge of (1) subject-specific skills and algorithms, (2) subject-specific techniques and methods, and (3) criteria for deciding when to use the right procedures.  Many times, we see others performing wonderfully, and we ask ourselves: How do they do it?  We can read their books or watch their videos to learn the needed factual and conceptual knowledge, however, knowing “how to” put that declarative knowledge into practice requires…practice!  When you cognitively know “how to” do something, then you need to physically try it and pay close attention to both the process and outcome. If you are listening to your body, your mind, and your gut (using all your senses), you will gain information through multiple feedback loops, and those loops of information will guide your analysis and future actions in becoming better at “how to” do it.

Metacognitive Knowledge

This is probably the least paid-attention-to knowledge type because sometimes it feels uncomfortable to reflect on what is happening inside your world. We fear what we might find.  Metacognitive knowledge can be understood as (1) strategic knowledge, (2) knowledge about cognitive tasks (i.e. contextual, conditional), and (3) self-knowledge.  Because people are complex, and groups of people only add to the dynamic of complexity within a system, having a good measure of metacognitive knowledge (that is, engaging in this type of thinking) is critical to your performance, well-being, and success. For example, if you are meeting a client who shares vastly different cultural values and ways of knowing than you, then it behooves you to be paying attention to contextual clues.  Like a dance, you move together, in sync, and there is no way of knowing beforehand what the next step is going to be! You must be aware of yourself, the person as he or she moves and speaks, and the situation as it unfolds. You bet that you better be listening and making the most of your information inputs.

If you have any goals in your personal or work life, pay attention to your knowledge needs– it will help you to increase success and goal attainment.  Answer the question: Am I lacking factual, conceptual, procedural, or metacognitive knowledge?  By addressing gaps in knowledge, you will be on your way to greater learning and success with your goals.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

Reference

Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory into practice41(4), 212-218.

Learning gratefulness

Dear companion,

Do you practice gratefulness?

We live and work in a world of making the most, of maximizing. We obsess on the bottom line. It applies to life as much as business. How much can I get out of this? How can I increase my portion?

The danger of pushing our desire to maximize is that we might be inadvertently squelching the spirit of gratitude. When we are grateful, we are content with having less and others having more. We are happy to share more of our share with others.

I am reminded of a Jewish law that promotes the redistribution of resources to others. Leviticus 23:22 says, “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.” If you own the land, this directive might not sit well. What do you mean don’t maximize my reaping?

However, a blessed land owner, like a blessed person today, has learned to be grateful. He or she doesn’t judge the less fortunate because of the differences in their resources. He or she gives thanks, and in the spirit of gratefulness, does not reap the “edges of the field”.

How about us? Do we shut others out by squeezing out or hoarding everything? Give your co-worker that extra project so that he or she can shine. Teach your colleague that “new” skill so that he or she can get closer to a promotion. Share a client with a friend who is just starting. Take 10 minutes to debrief a situation with a friend, even if you are super busy.

Let’s learn to practice gratefulness, be it at work, at home, or with your loved one. It is better to give than to receive.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

Learning to trusted

Dear companion,

Do you know how hard it is to learn to trust others, ourselves, and our life’s path?

Learning to trust is one of the hardest goals to accomplish. By nature, we worry. We fret. We doubt. We double- and triple-guess ourselves. Why?

Our experiences tend to be a source of worry. We remember the times similar to now that played out wrong in our eyes. Unconsciously or perhaps even consciously we tell ourselves that we will never allow ourselves to be played the fool.

However, there is liberation in learning to trust. When you make your best effort to live, love, and work with understanding, you can accept the outcome of trusting. There is liberty in taking the risk of trusting because the alternative is to live or work in fear– a fear that limits our potential for growth and development.

So, as you contemplate if you should trust what is in front of you, remember: put your heart and mind together, add some hope to the mix, reach out to your trusted advisors, and know that desired outcomes flow from honest attempts to build, achieve, and dream. Forgive yourself if you get it wrong. Your silver lining will be your life lessons learned. At least you tried. And that is more than many can say to have accomplished.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia