Circles

I did a lot of thinking yesterday and today on the subject of my own behaviors and attitudes. I came to the conclusion that I have been putting too much focus on things outside my circle of control. Doing this has caused me a great deal of frustration. It’s not entirely my fault – certain things were made to appear as though they were within my control, or at the very least my influence, but in reality those things fell into my circle of interest/concern. If I focus my attention and behaviors on items that fall within my circle of control, and a few things in my circle of influence, I’ll probably be a lot more satisfied.

All of that thinking made me want to find a nice illustration of this point. So, here is someone else’s depiction of the three circles we should all be aware of:

circles-of-control

Many people focus their attention and behavior on things in their circle of concern/interest, the outer circle. Most of what we see and hear on TV, radio, internet, etc. falls within that circle. You have no control, or even influence, on what celebrities wear or who they date or whether your football team wins on Sunday.

In the middle is the circle of influence. The spectrum of influence is wide – we have a small degree of influence over presidential elections, or who wins American Idol. We have a much larger degree of influence over the happenings in town council, or what school bus seats our kids sit in. We still don’t have complete control over these things, but we can at least sway the decision makers or have a say in the matter.

The central circle is that of control. Real control. I picked what clothes to wear this morning. I chose to help the old lady across the street. I earned an A on the science exam. Sure, there are times when certain things we think we control turn out to be a little less controllable than we thought, but in general the things that fall into this circle are consistently our decisions to make.

Focusing our time and attention on the things within our circle of control enables us to slowly extend ourselves. If I do a good job controlling Project A, then perhaps I will be given control of Project B, and I’ll earn a say in what happens with Project C. In contrast, if I focus my time and attention on items that fall outside my circle of control or influence then I will be devoting a large amount of time to things that I have no power over, and there’s a good chance that I will feel a lack of control over my life and I will spend my life on a roller coaster of highs and lows dictated by other peoples’ choices.

So there’s your deep thought for the day.

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On Organizational Leadership and Decision Making

Here are some great resources about organizational leadership and decision making that I have recently read:

Leaders as Decision Architects

Community Alignment Model

A leader’s checklist of catalysts and inhibitors

Building an Organization that is Less Busy and More Strategic

I enjoyed reading these articles because of my personal issues with project planning, decision making, change management, etc. and I found that these articles put into words some of the ideas that have been floating around my head.

Specifically:

  • the difference between the two types of thinking – one type is based on intuition and emotion, while the other comes from analysis and logic. I think the author is right on in their assessment that both types of thinking can lead to positive outcomes. In my opinion, successful use of both types can create meaningful change in an organization. For example, taking the time and making an effort to create a long-term mission and vision (Type 2) can provide opportunities for creative (Type 1) thinking so long as it properly aligns with established goals. And, in some cases, spontaneous innovation (Type 1) can lead to deviations from the established goals so long as the overarching mission and vision (Type 2) can be modified without doing harm.
  • a community alignment model incorporates the visible organizational hierarchies with the invisible ones. The official reporting structures are great when you want the highest-paid person to make decisions, but more often than not there is an invisible or unofficial hierarchy and you’ve got to take it into account in the decision-making process. And you’ve got to ask yourself, why is there an invisible hierarchy in the first place? A transparent organization would identify those differences and make official changes to reflect how information flows and decisions are made in practice, not just in theory.
  • it’s all too easy to fall into the trap where you have to be busy in order to be productive. Constantly running around putting out fires might look great on your resume now, but the organizational burnout that you and your coworkers experience in the long run may lead to dissatisfaction and a lack of motivation over time. Focusing on the distinction between *urgent* and *important* is the key here – prioritize your tasks based on the following four categories to make sure that productivity trumps general busyness:
    • Important and Urgent
    • Important and Not Urgent
    • Not Important and Urgent
    • Not Important and Not Urgent

While researching the difference between visible and invisible hierarchies I found this cool graphic:

2014-26-Aug-Gray-Image1

So true.

Hopefully you find these resources to be helpful!

Binary

I was browsing Reddit this morning and happened across a conversation about binary (http://www.reddit.com/r/thebutton/comments/34dm3d/oh_my_goodness_i_actually_clicked_and_got_red_and/cqtqlyi)…you know, the weird language of 0’s and 1’s? I’ve known *what* binary is for a long time but up until today I never understood how it worked, in the sense of how do you represent a number – say, 300 – in 0’s and 1’s. But thanks to a very clear explanation in that Reddit conversation, I think I’ve finally got it.

When you write the number 300 you are using *base 10*. There are zero 1’s, zero 10’s, and three 100’s. Every place value bumps earlier place values to the right.

When you represent the same value in *base 2*, or binary, you start with 1’s, then 2’s, then 4’s, then 8’s, then 16’s, and so forth. It would show up as 100101100 because you have zero 1’s, zero 2’s, one 4’s, one 8’s, zero 16’s, one 32’s, zero 64’s, zero 128’s, and one 256’s. Get it? Remember that each new place value bumps previous place values to the right, so your 1’s is the furthest place value to the right and the 256’s is the furthest place value to the left.

It’s so easy!

My UoPeople Story

Every now and then I’m asked to document my experience as a University of the People student. As I was writing it down this morning, I thought it might be helpful to post on this blog as well.

My experience at the University of the People has been better than I ever could have imagined.

After graduating high school in 2003, I made two attempts to earn a degree. In both cases I was only able to complete a few semesters before having to drop out for personal reasons. I felt like a failure and to make things worse I had racked up nearly $20,000 in student loan debt. At that point in my life, I felt as though I would never be able to get a higher education and earn a degree that would open up new doors, personally and professionally.

In 2011 I read an article online about University of the People. UoPeople claimed to be the world’s first tuition-free online university. I was skeptical – a tuition-free college education sounded too good to be true. But the idea stuck with me and from time to time I would search the internet for any news or reviews about UoPeople. After seeing a few more articles about how UoPeople had partnered with reputable partners like Hewlett-Packard and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation I decided it was worth the $50 application fee to take a risk and apply for the first term in 2012. I was accepted shortly thereafter.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my classes at UoPeople. The 100% online format, use of Open Educational Resources, and focus on peer-to-peer learning under the tutelage of highly qualified instructors have allowed me to study on a flexible schedule while still ensuring that the courses are rigorous. I also appreciate the fact that my classmates come from all over the world – where I first thought that such a blend of perspectives might be difficult to deal with, I have found that exposure to so many different cultures and ways of thinking has only improved my own learning.

In July of 2014 I graduated with an Associate of Science in Business Administration. I proudly display my diploma in my office at work. My employer values my higher education and the fact that UoPeople is an accredited institution. Just this past year, I was able to use my degree to obtain a professional registration (Pennsylvania Registered School Business Specialist) which verifies my expertise in the profession. I could not have done this without my degree. I am continuing my education through University of the People and hope to complete my Bachelor’s degree within the next two years and, if it becomes possible, an MBA as well.

Try out the Degreed bookmarklet

Degreed is my go-to tool for aggregating all of my learning in one place. Whether it’s logging my UoPeople credits to running daily imports from my Goodreads, Khan Academy, or Udemy accounts or just using the Degreed bookmarklet to catalog videos and articles I’ve found online, Degreed can track it.

If you haven’t seen it yet, visit the bookmarklet download page here and install it in your browser of choice. It makes cataloging your learning as easy as the click of a mouse.

For example…while browsing Reddit I found a video of the new “beer mile” world record holder. Good stuff.

Or, if you would prefer, a more scholarly video on the future of Parkinson’s disease research.

Getting Caught Up

Here’s what I’ve been learning lately:

University of the People

  • just took the final exam for BUS 3006 – Business and Society
  • just took the final exam for PSYC 1504 – Introduction to Psychology
  • getting ready to register for the April 2015 term

Udemy

  • I’m on module 14 out of 235 in Rob Percival’s Complete Web Developer Course

CodeAcademy

  • I’m 26% of the way through the course on HTML and CSS
  • I’m 16% of the way through the course on Python