The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Linkedin Learning (formerly Lynda.com) offers more than 14,000 online courses that fall into three broad categories: business, creativity, and technology. Many of these courses are geared towards developing new, in demand skills, such as coding, marketing or web design.
However, during my time exploring that vast catalogue of content, I came across nine great courses that focus on learning and self-development. And so I took them, got my nine crisp, shiny certificates of completion and gained new insights into time management, meta learning, accountability, habits, and decision-making.
Here are some of those insights that you can use to develop an edge in, well, pretty much anything.
What is Linkedin Learning?
1) Learning Agility
2) Holding Yourself Accountable
4) The Six Morning Habits of High Performers
5) Time Management Fundamentals
6) Making Quick Decisions
7) Improve Your Thinking
8) Practical Creativity for Everyone
9) Extreme Focus for Effective Performance
Linkedin Learning: Pros and Cons
This course covers the fundamentals of how we learn, and guides you through the process of prioritizing what you want to learn. It also offers helpful worksheets to formulate your own learning plan, and briefly touches upon what the future of learning may look like.
Learning Agility begins with a 4-phase model of learning:
Part of the course invites you to step into an imaginary time-machine and travel ten to twenty years in the future, and respond to three learning-related questions:
Here are some of my answers: web design, SEO, marketing, copywriting, meta learning skills, basic neuroscience, public speaking, mandarin, piano, guitar, singing, humour writing, jiu-jitsu, weightlifting, and mental models. Okay, maybe I went a bit overboard.
Another component of the course involves reflecting on an ideal learning experience with the person of your choice, anywhere in the world:
For this section I came up with two utopian learning scenarios. In the first, I am at Tim Ferriss's house, and he is teaching me about his learning strategies and how he applies them to languages and entrepreneurship. In the second scenario, James Clear and I are at the Bodleian Library. He is walking me through his process of building his world famous blog, and writing the bestselling book Atomic Habits.
I found the course informative and helpful, especially for formulating a self-directed learning plan and reflecting on my current learning goals. It is brief, but still has a lot to offer.
2 — Holding Yourself Accountable: Dorie Clark
This course offers a method for cultivating an accountability mindset, and is especially geared towards professional life. It covers what accountability is, how it differs from responsibility, how to prioritize projects, and how to overcome common obstacles that may prevent you from delivering on your promises.
Dorie Clark, the author of Entrepreneurial You, makes use of systems thinking in the course to help you navigate the labyrinth of accountability. Forcing mechanisms are part of that system; they are tools that require you to step up in order to follow through with a particular commitment. Signing up to give a talk at a conference, or deliver a project or product by a certain deadline force you to make the progress necessary to succeed. However, Clark also recognizes the dangers of overpromising, and addresses expectation management as part of the course content.
Holding Yourself Accountable also delves into boundary setting, which is another effective system for ensuring that you stick to your commitments. Using statements like “I always” and “I never” ensures that you are clear on your non-negotiable routines and expectations. James Clear calls this the never miss twice rule, and is practically foolproof way for sticking to habits and desired actions.
Fundamentally, Clark says that your identity is what contributes the most to how accountable you are. If you see yourself as an accountable person, you act in accordance with this self-conception, which leads to a virtuous circle.
I can tell that I will be coming back to my notes for this course many times in the future.
3 — Motivation: Daniel Pink
Daniel Pink is the author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. In this Linkedin Course, he illustrates the power and limitations of incentives. Incentives are a common, highly effective way to motivate people. For employees, it might be money or status. For kids, it’s candy. And video games. And money.
However, incentives like these serve to narrow our focus on a particular problem. As a result, they work best for straightforward, linear tasks with clearly defined outcomes, like reaching a sales target or scoring a a certain number of points in a basketball game.
For more complex projects with many moving parts, monetary incentives aren’t the best motivators. In the course, Daniel Pink identifies three essential motivating forces that work more universally: purpose, mastery, and autonomy.
Having a clear sense of what you want to accomplish, as well as why it is critical for you to achieve it, will help you stay motivated to complete a task or project. Similarly, improving at something that is important to you and moving towards mastery will ensure that you don’t rely on temporary spurts of inspiration.
Lastly, being able to work on your own terms and having the freedom to complete tasks without constant scrutiny can keep you motivated during what Seth Godin refers to as the dip.
One of my favourite parts of the course is when Pink differentiates between two types of purpose. The first is Purpose with a capital P, which involves making a large positive impact. Contributing to a highly effective charity or helping to solve a societal problem would fall into this category.
On the other hand, there is purpose with a small p, which remains a powerful motivating force. Making a small contribution to your team at work or to your local community garden may not be groundbreaking, but it offers a firm sense of purpose. Recognizing these two types of purpose and using them strategically can help you to motivate yourself, your team, or your loved ones to take action and keep on course.
There are many more nuggets of wisdom in this Linkedin course, and I highly recommend watching the videos and actively engaging with them.
4 — The Six Morning Habits of High Performers: Hal Elrod
Hal Elrod, the author of The Miracle Morning, outlines his morning routine in this course, which follows the SAVERS acronym:
Silence: starting the morning off with some meditation or quiet reflection can really set the tone for the day to come. If you are trying to come up with ideas or think through a problem, Elrod suggests using a 10 minute timer and pausing to take note of ideas you may have during the sitting session.
Affirmations: these are best framed as commitments. The self-help world has really done a disservice to affirmations. Don’t say to yourself: “I am a millionaire” or “I am a money magnet”. Rather, say things like “I am committed to becoming a millionaire, by working harder, making better decisions, saving more money, etc.”
Visualization: Many athletes use visualizations to get into the right mindset for performance, and to achieve a kind of internal victory before ever stepping onto the field. Picture yourself doing an important upcoming task, whether it is waking up early, making sales calls, or performing a song in front of an audience.
Exercise: Getting your blood pumping in the morning is an excellent way to raise your energy levels and achieve a small victory early in the day. Elrod suggests a seven minute workout like this one to get both cardio and some anaerobic movement in.
Reading: The ultimate habit of highly successful people. As Harry Truman said: “not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Even if it’s only 5 pages a day, that still amounts to ten to twelve books per year. If you want to improve in any area in your life(e.g. relationships, money, work), reading can only help.
Scribing: Taking down notes and reflecting on your day is a fantastic way to learn and improve. Elrod recommends the 5 Minute Journal, an excellent journal book with gratitude and affirmation prompts, which I have adapted for my own journaling purposes. Writing in the morning is especially effective, as you can put down your thoughts on paper before the noisy whirlwind of life sweeps you away.
My Favorite Quote:
“Your level of success will seldom exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become.” - Jim Rohn
5 — Time Management Fundamentals: Dave Crenshaw
This course separates time management into three different sections: space, mind, and time. Mastering each of these three areas frees up ten hours a week of that you can then allocate in whichever way you choose.
Dave Crenshaw introduces some new terms that help to uncover some common organizational inefficiencies. One such term is a gathering point, which is where unprocessed items in your life congregate. Pockets filled with receipts, drawers of clutter and even a mind occupied with to-do lists are all gathering points.
While some highly disorganized people have upwards of 100 gathering points, Crenshaw recommends that you trim the number of gathering points in your life to about five or six: a physical inbox, a portable inbox, an online inbox, a notepad, and an optional wildcard. I found the process of reducing the number of gathering points highly liberating, and it has helped me keep my workspace more organized and clear.
Another term introduced in the course is switch tasking (or switching costs). After establishing that multitasking is a myth, Crenshaw demonstrates an exercise showing that switching between tasks actually hinders progress and results in increased stress levels. By committing your attention to just one carefully-chosen task at a time, you can actually complete the task faster and more effectively, which allows you to move on to the next.
If you are struggling with organization or scheduling, this course may just change your life.
6 — Making Quick Decisions: Todd Dewett
This course covers the various parts of the decision-making process, and offers a framework for making better choices given serious time constraints. It packs an incredible amount of actionable information into a very short time frame, and gives you tools you can begin using right away to start making high-quality decisions.
Some of the insights I gained from the course include:
Clocking in at under 22 minutes, this course is a great introduction to the principles of good decision-making, and perfect for someone who hasn’t done too much research into the subject already.
7 — Improve Your Thinking: Michael Shermer
This course, offered by the renowned scientist and author Michael Shermer, commits itself to examining some of the faulty reasoning that leads people astray when thinking through problems. He addresses the human tendency toward thinking like a lawyer, thereby falling prey to confirmation and desirability biases, and reveals how to think more like a scientist.
While much of the information in this course may be familiar to those who have encountered Shermer’s work before, I found it helpful to review concepts like post-hoc reasoning, anecdotal vs. data-driven evidence, and ad hominem arguments.
Fundamentally, if we want to think like scientists, we need to be skeptical of our deeply cherished beliefs, dedicate ourselves to seeking out the truth wherever it may lead us, and understand our own fallibility. Behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman once said that despite his extensive awareness of human biases, he wasn’t much better than the average person at overcoming them. While this may seem pessimistic, recognizing that we aren’t perfectly reasoning beings can go a long way towards helping us rethink our beliefs and values.
8 — Practical Creativity for Everyone: Dave Birss
This Linkedin Learning course covers the basics of creativity and idea-generation. It establishes that the traditional brainstorm which companies have used for decades to come up with new insights is woefully inefficient, and there are far better ways to come up with new ideas in organizations. For example, having individuals come up with their own ideas separately and then convening to build upon those ideas is much more effective.
Another myth dispelled in this course is that creativity is a skill. In fact, it is a collection of abilities: organizing, remembering, imagining, and analyzing all fall under the umbrella of creativity. Improving at any of these can help you to generate better ideas and refine the ideas you currently have.
To improve at imagination specifically, David Birss offers a free, web-based story dice activity to flex your storytelling muscle.
In a previous article I wrote on how to have great ideas, I discussed the importance of alternating between states of focus, inattention, relaxation, and absorption in order to develop more dynamic and divergent thinking abilities. In David Birss’s course, he conveys an important concept that arises before those states even occur: inputs, processing, and output. In order for our outputs(ideas) to be of high-quality, we need to provide ourselves with inputs (media + habits) that feed out brain, instead of polluting it.
9 — Extreme Focus for Effective Performance: Bill Williams
This course, while somewhat basic in its scope, discusses some important ideas about developing your concentration skills.
There are different types of focus that are optimal for diverse goals and actions. Internal focus is primarily self-oriented and relates to individual thoughts, moods and states, while external focus is geared more towards the environment and the people in it. Narrow focus is when attention is primarily directed towards limited tasks with clear outcomes, while broad focus involves taking off the blinders and considering a problem more openly. As a result, there are four combinations of focus that can be employed depending on the nature of the project or task at hand.
Additionally, the course helps you discover what your distraction patterns are, as well as how to set up an environment that is conducive to distraction-free work. I particularly liked the parts about grit and mental rehearsal, two factors that lead to increased performance through deftly directed attention.
Linkedin Learning: Pros and Cons
The Linkedin Learning platform is an invaluable tool, but it's not for everyone. Business professionals, small business owners and existing members of the Linkedin community all stand to benefit from the service. It is a great resource to give to your work team if you are a manager, and the short, segmented learning chunks are ideal for encouraging completion. It also has a lot of unique content that sets it apart from other online learning platforms.
However, it is fairly expensive at $29 a month (or $19 a month for a yearly subscription), and may not be the best choice for people looking to learn on their own accord. With a wide variety of free online learning options available, those on a budget might not find enough value in a Linkedin Learning subscription to warrant getting one.
Fortunately, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial which gives you unlimited access to the entire library of Linkedin Learning courses. You can browse through the courses, and see if the platform is worth it for you. As many of the courses are $50 when bought individually, you can get a lot of value from your trial in a short amount of time, with virtually no risk.
If paying money to learn seems too old-fashioned to you, Coursera, Udemy and edX are free(ish) alternatives. Just make sure the vet the courses well, as some of them may be run by less-than-reputable instructors.