Getting Educated About Education

I feel a bit challenged when discussing the state of schools in the U.S. because we are not the world leaders in education like we should be. The interesting assumption is that this has something to do with how smart our kids are, and this is not at all the case. Other countries seem to have a different level of focus on education, perhaps because they have more to prove and therefore take it more seriously. Whatever the reason, our public school systems are falling behind and not setting a good foundation for students, which is leading to young adults entering the world without the stability and security of a solid education.

There are particular areas, most notably science and math, in which our public school systems are very much behind other countries which puts our children at a competitive disadvantage in today’s rapidly evolving, technologically proficient world. School systems in many parts of the country appear to segregate and compartmentalize themselves, only teaching subjects relative to jobs in need in that particular area. For example, areas that are heavy with factories or farms are more likely to teach skills related to those industries as opposed to technology or leadership skills. This puts those students at a distinct disadvantage and limits their potential to become part of the global economy.

One of the most important factors in a quality education is the teacher, yet the profession does not offer the salaries or incentives to attract as many qualified and talented people as are needed. Teachers today face hardships, both financially as well as getting the support and resources needed to do their job to its fullest potential. It is critical that we value teachers and give them the tools they need to be successful at educating our children.

As important as a teacher is to a child’s education, the parent is equally vital. Parents must initiate and maintain a role in their children’s education in a way that will effectively help and encourage them. A parent must ensure continual motivation as well as enforce the completion of assignments, projects and all the due diligence that is necessary for successful advancement.

There is a big difference between parents who act as supervisors and parents who see themselves more as managers. Supervisor parents just make sure the child does his or her homework, whereas manager parents work alongside the child, giving them a regular opinion so that they know they’re doing things right. Manager parents motivate and make the child feel encouraged, proud, loved and confident.

And finally there is the role of the student and his or her responsibilities for their own success in attaining an education. This starts with students understanding and respecting the importance of education. From this comes self-motivation to do well and seek out knowledge in every way possible.

Education is more than just knowing long division or reciting Shakespeare sonnets; it builds self-esteem and allows us to be confident in ourselves whatever the endeavor. Education broadens individuals and makes them want and seek more out of life. It is this mindset that, above all else, positions a person for a successful life.

So when we look at the problems plaguing our public school systems, we need to recognize the issue for what it is: a blockade to raising a generation of successful, productive children who will one day be faced with these same challenges when raising the next generation of students. We must refocus, reprioritize and revisit where we put our resources, as individuals, as parents, as professionals and as a country.

If you would like to ask Dr. Williams a question about this article, or have a suggestion for another topic he should address in an upcoming article, please send an email to williams@honigcompany.com.

 

Advertisements

How To Market Yourself

February 17, 2014

In today’s competitive world, standing out can be a challenge if you don’t know how to market yourself properly. Whether it’s during an interview, dealing with clients or even with your relationships, you need to know how to market yourself to others in order to succeed.

 

Perhaps the most important thing is to care about what you do and exude self-worth. You need to know what you’re marketing, your value and how people will benefit from you so that when you speak, you sound genuine and passionate. The next most important thing is to find your strengths and develop your own personal marketing plan.

 

The first step is learning about yourself, and there are three different ways to do that. The first way is asking your trusted peers what they think are your strengths and weaknesses. They are the ones who know you the best and who will be honest with their perception of your character. Next is to find people who you aren’t as close to, but who have interacted with you enough to share some valuable insight into how you come across. This insight is especially important because this type of point of view is probably how others perceive you, and you want to make sure it’s how you want to be perceived.

 

The third way is to do a self-evaluation. You already found out what other people think about you, now it’s time to understand how you think about yourself. This will also help you gain self-confidence, which is essential to self-marketing. Think of how you were five years ago, how you are now, and how you expect to be five years from now and determine how you have progressed, and how you hope to progress. Credit your benchmarks and accomplishments, and acknowledge what you have done to succeed thus far and what qualities you posses that drove that success.

 

Once you have learned about your self-worth, strengths and weaknesses, you can use them to enhance the practical tactics to market yourself to other people. Some common tips to doing so include making sure to give more than is requested or expected. If a client is expecting you to simply sell them a piece of furniture and be done with you, try going above and beyond to really make an impact on that person so that they remember you, and tell other’s about your great service. Word-of-mouth is one of the best marketing techniques there are, and you can get that by marketing yourself and making a lasting impression. Be careful that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t sell them the furniture and offer to come help them decorate their whole house when you know you won’t be able to; you never want to get stuck underperforming.

 

Another tip for marketing yourself to others is identifying what that person needs and wants. This can be true for both business and relationships, as every person has needs and wants, and when they are fulfilled, especially unexpectedly, it can create a lasting impression. Once you’ve identified what it is they are looking for and determined how you can help, be sure to be congenial and passionate and really show that you enjoy what you’re doing. When people can tell that you love what you’re doing, they are usually reassured the outcome will be great.

 

There are of course, some challenges to self-marketing. You may think that you’re being passionate in a job interview or when selling a product, but it’s very easy to come off as insincere. Don’t be over zealous; it comes off as looking desperate. While compliments can be nice, don’t overdo it as you may risk the chance of rubbing someone the wrong way. Another big challenge is making sure to listen. Sure you want to market yourself and make sure that person knows every great thing about you, but you need to stop and understand that people like to talk about themselves. Stop talking about you and what you have to offer, and ask about the other person.

 

Finally, always, always, always, no matter what, have faith in yourself. Confidence is key, and being comfortable in your own skin will show other’s that you are a genuine person who is capable of succeeding. Never sell yourself short; the only things that you can’t do are the things that you don’t try hard enough to do, and marketing yourself to others is no exception.

What is Friendship?

From an early age, people have a natural tendency to develop friendships with other people. These friendships continue to form, grow, strengthen, lessen and end all throughout our lives. But why is that? Why do we have some friends that we are closer to than others, and how do we know which friends are good for us and which ones are not?

 

For starters, we need to assess what a friendship actually is. You may think it’s someone to talk to when you’re down or go to the movies with, and you’re right, but what makes you want to do those things with that person in the first place? A friend is someone who you have a connection with. It’s someone who shares similar interests, but not necessarily all of the same ones.

 

Most importantly, friends are people who you have an openhearted connection with, and whom you can trust and be honest with no matter what. There are also different levels of friendship; not everyone can be your best friend! The depth of a friendship is determined by the level of trust you have in them. Close friends may be people who you would tell your deepest, darkest secret to, while others may be people you want to go to a baseball game with but wouldn’t necessarily talk about family issues. That’s the social aspect versus the soul aspect of friendship.

 

So why do we want friends? It’s more so that we need friends. We as humans need relationships with other people, we need social interaction, we need other people to help us identify ourselves and determine right from wrong. Friends balance us and provide support and stability in our lives. They can bring us happiness, excitement and comfort, and inspire us to achieve our goals.

 

There has to be a balance in a friendship, a balance between giving and taking. You can’t just always talk about your problems and never ask about your friend’s, or always let your friend pay the bill and never offer to pick up the tab for lunch. There has to be a balance between giving and taking. The same thing goes for the way your friends act too. You need to be able to assess what friends you have balance with and what friends are just takers.

 

To assess your friendships, take inventory of your friends and ask yourself, “What does this person bring to the table in my life? What is their purpose in my life?” This goes back to the social versus soul aspect of friends, but also, introduces a new category: friendships that just aren’t working out.

 

Maybe you argue a lot with this friend, or feel like you can’t trust them or like they use you; this is when you have to evaluate that friendship and how it affects your life. If that friend is bringing nothing to the table, making you feel bad or wasting your time, you need to ask yourself, “Is it me, or them?” You shouldn’t just go and cut them off cold turkey; just because you don’t share the same characteristics or values today, it doesn’t mean later down the road you won’t. But if they are putting a damper on your life and causing you to be unhappy, you may want to consider distancing yourself from them. But try to faze them out as opposed to completely eliminating them.

 

Friendships typically happen naturally, but what if you want to find new, good friends? First of all, you have to know yourself, and know what you’re looking for in a friend. What many people don’t understand is that you don’t need more people to feel friendship, you need more purpose in those people. You can have all the friends in the world, but without those special connections with certain people, your need for human relationships and interaction will never be fulfilled.

 

It’s best to go with your gut and your heart at first when you meet someone new. Do you feel like that person will be someone you can trust and enjoy being around? Do you share similar characteristics, beliefs and ideas? What do you want from this person and what do they want from you? These are all questions you should ask yourself, and be able to answer in order to find and determine good friends.

 

Overall, you should appreciate and respect the friends you have, because without them, life would be a very confusing and isolated place. Your friends are a special kind of family so cherish and think of them every day.

The Importance of Faith

The holiday season is upon us and I am brimming with Christmas spirit. For me that doesn’t include shopping, decorating or parties; well, at least not yet. It means having faith in something greater than us; something to believe in.

When you were a little kid and you believed in Santa Claus, do you remember the feeling of faith you had in him on Christmas Eve? You were on your best behavior all yearlong, trying not to be bad because if you did, Santa would find out and you wouldn’t get any presents. Then on Christmas morning, you’d run to the tree and find your presents that were exactly what you wished for and your faith in Santa was greater than ever. Your belief in Santa Claus inspired you to continue having faith and doing good all yearlong. As adults, we don’t have Santa Claus to keep our faith up anymore, and in fact, we sometimes find it difficult to have faith at all because we have the fear of disappointment. But that conviction is ironically what makes us more susceptible to life’s challenges, while faith and belief, drives us forward.

Faith can come in all shapes and sizes. There can be contradictions about where our faith should be put, but in the long run, faith in general is what will drive you forward. There was a news story recently about an anonymous businessman, dubbed “Secret Santa” and every Christmas he gifts $100,000 to people he’s never met in hundred dollar increments. On this particular day, he handed one hundred dollars to an atheist man with a heroin addiction and a family to support. He started to cry, overwhelmed with the gesture that restored his faith in having a better life. He is now in recovery and has found his faith, all due to a random act of kindness that made him believe that he was being looked after, and that there is hope. That faith gave him the power to transform his life.

Unfortunately, there is a shortage of faith right now, and not enough Secret Santas to help restore it. Many people are struggling financially and feeling hopeless and since we tend to believe in only what we can see that usually narrows down to money. But do you know who is in control of getting that money? You are. Although it may be difficult to envision money coming to you when you don’t have it, becoming discouraged and lacking the faith in yourself to achieve it will only make it more challenging. It takes day-to-day faith and determination to stick it out.

The reason why many of us are non-believers in faith is because of our past. We let our previous disappointments affect our present and blame an invisible being for our failures. Well, guess what? If you were to have that attitude when you still believed in Santa, you would be getting a big old lump of coal this Christmas. Maybe you got your hopes up for a big job and didn’t get it. Yes it’s frustrating, but think of how many people don’t get jobs, and, furthermore, how many more jobs there are out there for you to go after. Rejection is only a sign that life is taking you in another direction. Having faith opens our hearts and minds to opportunity, we just need to pay attention.

If you are skeptical about your own success, you may inadvertently hinder yourself. Our negative beliefs about ourselves create negative outcomes. If you say, “I’m never getting that job,” you probably won’t, because you’ll unintentionally not work as hard for it, or come off like you don’t care about getting it. Kind of like a kid saying he doesn’t believe in Santa because he’s skeptical about getting the present he wants, and then getting coal because his parents felt like he was being ungrateful. Never be ungrateful for anything, especially opportunity. Maybe you’re embarrassed about your hopes and dreams, so you keep them a secret or don’t try to achieve them at all. That will only hinder your chances of succeeding. By telling your friends and family, you’ll not only receive support but you’ll self verify that you have faith, and that you believe in yourself. If you believe with intention, you will get what you want.

So when you put your children to bed on Christmas Eve and you see faith in Santa Claus in their eyes, encourage them to always have faith; faith in life and in themselves. The belief that something wonderful may happen fuels our day. Our faith gives us a reason to get up in the morning, and it should do so every morning… not just when there are Christmas presents under the tree. 

The Art of Being Thankful

While many of us enjoy Thanksgiving as a time for food and football, it’s important to remember that this is a time to cherish what we have. It’s very easy to feel entitled and take many of our basic needs, such as food, shelter and family, for granted. Instead of complaining about dry turkey or annoying cousins, join me in a Thanksgiving promise to be more grateful throughout the entire year.

One day when I was a little boy, my mother made me change out of my good clothes before going out to play. I didn’t see the point, and when I complained, she would say, “When you pay for them, you’ll appreciate them more.” As an adult, I now realize that she was trying to instill in me a sense of appreciation for everything I had, no matter how big or small.

Historically, each generation makes fewer sacrifices than the last. Luckily, most of us grew up with more than our parents and grandparents. In giving our children more than we had, we can run the risk of unintentionally instilling a sense of entitlement. While it is wonderful to give your children an iPod or other expensive toys, there should be a sense of understanding that goes along with the gift that it is a gift that was paid for by working hard and honestly, and is something that should be appreciated and not expected. Whether it is washing dishes or getting straight A’s, let your children work toward their gifts. Rewards are not a given; they are earned.

As adults, it can be easy to live in the mindset of entitlement and take our lives for granted. When you feel entitled to something you do not possess, be thankful for what is in front of you. Focusing on the positive puts you in a loving, productive headspace. Ironically that is exactly the right psyche to work toward what you desire.

It can be difficult to shift from entitled to grateful. One way to do this is by volunteering to help others, perhaps at a homeless shelter or other place that assists people who are experiencing misfortune. If you make an effort to connect with those individuals, you will realize their stories might not be that different from your own. It is important to realize that we are not immune to hard times. Appreciate where you are in the here and now.

Another helpful tool is to keep a gratitude journal. When you wake up in the morning, think about every little thing you are grateful for. Keep a notebook by your bed and write it down. You’ll be overwhelmed at how much good is in your life.

Before you get wrapped up in the holidays, reflect on what is important to you. Concentrate on others that have less and serve them. This year, instead of or in addition to, making those New Years’ resolutions, make yourself a Thanksgiving Promise – a promise to be thankful during the year ahead for what you have, and to make an effort to instill gratitude in your children, family and friends.

And if you want to enjoy some good food and football that’s OK too!

Embracing Diversity

The world is constantly evolving and it is important for us to continually embrace the ever-increasing diversity of the cultures and people around us. Whether your perspective is from times past or from the prejudices of today’s world, we are all on a learning curve that must be based on tolerance and understanding. Only when we truly attempt to understand different cultures, mindsets and environments can we embrace our collective diversity. All it takes is the willingness to step outside your comfort zone and having an open mind to diversity.

Intolerance occurs when we do not understand another person’s motivations. While most people expect diversity, they don’t respect it. The solution to this is balancing our confusion and anger with curiosity and innovation.

Moving from anger to acceptance, we must modernize our views, pre-conceived notions and definitions. Change within a culture is grounded within two different types of thinking: traditional and new wave. Traditional thinking is based on strict religious concepts whereas new wave thinking opens the doors to a way of living with far less boundaries.

While you cannot force a person to change, you can expose them to different ways of life and an alternative way of thinking and, possibly even alter their frame of reference. For example, if you never met someone from a particular country, you might hold prejudices toward them and keep your distance. But the more you know someone, the more his or her humanity comes through. Maybe you realize you both like baseball or loved the same bands in high school. Judgments are mostly based on ignorance, so be curious about something revolutionary to your psyche and it will greatly expand your horizons.

People with an antiquated perception of culture or race have been raised a certain way and changing their perceptions can be a slow and laborious process. New information needs to be spoon-fed, only giving them knowledge they can psychologically and emotionally digest. It is hard for people to change, but if the world is moving fast, their old ways of thinking will ultimately isolate them.

If you want your children to embrace diversity, educate and expose them. Travel to different countries, cities or even neighborhoods. Children are naturally open and it is the parents who hold judgments. Sit down with your children and let them talk. You’ll be surprised at their honesty.

Embracing diversity will make our future world a better place. A diverse world is a successful world with a thriving economy, a healthy and happy population, less violence and crime and countries and people working together. Each ethnic or cultural group holds a piece of the puzzle that can solve the world’s problems. If these diverse groups – each a piece of the puzzle – can come together, we will have a world filled with peace, prosperity and acceptance.

How to Achieve Inner Peace

When you think of inner peace, you may conjure up images of the Dalai Lama. But you don’t need to meditate with a monk’s discipline to get it. It is more accessible than you think. Inner peace means coming to grips with who are, your purpose in life and feeling comfortable in your own skin. It is living your life with integrity; all concepts you can implement in your day-to-day.

We all have busy lives. While driving, studying for finals or preparing for a presentation, inner peace may seem light-years away. Yet it is something you were born with, but the moment you begin listening to other people’s views, it dissipates. You can have degrees of inner peace; it is not an all-or-nothing concept. Everyone can achieve it.

Start by being true to yourself. If you sit quiet, you can hear your own thoughts and opinions. We spend a lot of time trying to satisfy those around us. It is something you must get past so you can find out who you are.

Another way to find inner peace is to recognize the presence of the higher power. Take comfort in His existence and relish the present moment. The occasions when we are on vacation or a relaxing drive are the key to a calm psyche. There is no worrying about the present or regretting the past. There is only what is happening now. You have experienced those joyous moments countless times but they don’t register as inner peace. Next time, notice how your spirit feels in that space. Keep up the activities that feel good in your mind and body. Do them often. 

The biggest obstacle to achieving peace is when we live our lives to make others happy. By doing that, you are trying to gain approval that can never be had. Whoever is making you feel that your dreams are not worth pursuing is obviously not happy with their own life. If you feel pressured to succeed in a career that you do not love, think about what brings you joy. Sometimes, trying to satisfy others is a fruitless endeavor if they don’t know themselves. Their love will never be enough to justify your life’s compromise.

Inner peace is about aligning self with self, self with purpose and self with God. If you live according to your own truth, you will no longer need the approval of others to feel good about yourself. Although it may be scary at first, the confidence you gain will be palpable. You’ll notice the peace of mind right away. Start living with integrity and your life will seamlessly fall into place.