Learn outside your comfort zone

When was the last time you learned something exciting?

I know mine. It was last week when I read an article about quantum computing. I’m not a physics or math or computer science devotee, but the idea that just by changing how we structure the way a computer processes information, it may be capable of computations we can’t yet imagine — now that’s fantastic idea. I even tried to relate it to accounting in my last blog so I could write about it (not sure I succeeded).

Quantum computing is not directly related to my work or my life (that I know of, ha) but that thread of a thought made me start thinking just a little differently. If quantum computing is possible — what else is possible? Is it possible that problems I’ve been trying to solve but haven’t yet, well maybe I just haven’t been processing the information in the best way? Maybe if I could turn my brain’s series of ones and zeroes into something multidimensional… Now that’s a different way of thinking.

When was the last time you challenged yourself to learn something outside of your comfort zone? I usually start my blog brainstorming process by scanning my accounting, business and local news emails, then going through blogs I follow, or folks I’m connected with on LinkedIn or Twitter — and it’s easy to see a lot of us are talking about the same things. If I see one more LinkedIn update that’s a repost of an HBR article (jk! I just did that, too). With all the talk of disruption and innovation in the business world (which really is it’s own sameness cycle), how can anyone be truly innovative if we are all talking about the same ideas?

Your best idea may come from somewhere you’ve never expected — but if you’re not out there listening, reading and learning in new areas, you might miss it.

In honor of it being a great time of year to promise to yourself that you’re going to do new things, here are a few of my favorite places to learn things that might be utterly unrelated to anything else I’m doing:

Longreads.com and Longform the app:
Longreads.com and Longform the app are two spots that compile the best longform writing of the day — from New Yorker essays to the AV Club’s year end lists to stories from independent websites, you can read about anything here. Let them scan the internet for you so you can spend more time reading and less time browsing different websites.

A magazine and website, Wired is the home for breaking tech news — and really since tech touches all aspects of life nowadays this means so many things. You’ve probably heard of Wired already, but it’s still great. Just saying.

This one’s a bit of a cheat for me as far as learning something different: I’ve wanted to learn to code for a while now, but I’m just now committing to it. CodeSchool has you watch videos for courses and actually do exercises to practice your coding skills on the website. There are learning pathways that show you what you need to know for front end web development, Ruby, iOS and more. If you want other options, you can also try TreeHouse or CodeAcademy — there’s a lot of options out there.

Take an online course in, well, anything:
Coursera, Khan Academy, Skillshare, Udemy, edX: there are many many websites now where you can learn anything from personal finance to video production to basic psychology to nutrition to guitar — anything you can think of. Pick something that sounds interesting.

Let’s commit to doing one thing well this year: learning something we never expected to.

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