Changing a (Social) Habit – You’ve Been Grokked

Based on #DevLearn 2015 Session 307 (9/30/2015): “Building Your Social Habit”.
Speaker: Mark Britz, Sr. Manager of Onsite Learning Events, The eLearning Guild

​This was by far one of the most interesting and practical sessions of the conference. With the intention of encouraging others to increase their social (learning) habits, Mark covered the basis for habit formation and then gave nine tips for doing it.

He says that habits are comprised of a:

  1. Trigger
  2. Routine
  3. Reward
In looking at his own social learning habits, he shared his personal example:
  1. ​Trigger – encountering relevant content
  2. Routine – sharing content (i.e., findings, creating something new)
  3. Reward – altruism, validation, critique

​​I found the revealing fact that one of Mark’s reward factors is validation​. And he wasn’t talking about software validation. He meant, honest to goodness, personal validation, as in feeling affirmed in whatever the content being shared/discussed.

I don’t know about you, but this should be a key question we ask ourselves when we put content out there for social learning: Do people in our social network grok ​the content? You know you want to, so check out the definition of that word here​.

Don’t you think that if there was some way to connect our content to the same energy and excitement that others feel when they are personally validated, that this powerful connection would be the glue that draws learners back again and again to the content being shared?

Mark closed out the session by sharing nine things you can do to increase social learning habits. These are best summarized in the picture he shared. For the picture and more detail on the nine items, please see my raw notes from this #DevLearn session here.



Formalizing the Informal

Based on #DevLearn 2015 Session 104 (9/30/2015): “Learning with Friends: Best Practices in Adopting Social Learning”.
Speaker: Chris Nevkinda, Ph.D., Director of Global Learning, Cannon Financial Institute

​Dr. Nevkinda based his best practices on Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, which posits that people learn from their connections to share:

  • Knowledge and expertise
  • Where to find information
  • Diverse opinions
  • Different approaches
  • The latest currency, or up-to-date knowledge

He says there are four requirements for social learning:

  1. ​Observation/Attention – factors that impact attention.
  2. Retention – anything used to help remember and increase usefulness, like tagging, keywords, and structure.
  3. Reproduction – items that increase the learner’s ability to reproduce the desired knowledge, skills, or behaviors.
  4. Motivation – Stimuli that increase the imitation of the desired learning.

Nevkinda summed up his entire talk in three words: “formalizing the informal.” I like to think of this as bringing the implicit into the explicit or exposing tacit knowledge.

You can see this happen on my work’s internal social community (called Philips Community) when someone in the field asks a question that then gets answered via those who connect in that community. Many times this shared insight is new or not yet “formalized” with any education, training, or learning. Yet, the simple question and answer exchange on our social platform can yield significant benefits to Philips employees, giving them the knowledge, insights, and the know-how they need when they need it.

Dr. Nevkinda shared five best practices to formalize the informal:

  1. Give the social learning some structure, such as the use of filters to unclutter content.You’ve visited web sites where there is so much content that you get lost just trying to find what you’re looking for. The ability to filter and search for content on a social platform is crucial to finding what you need.While I was at the conference, this made me think of how a colleague of mine created a learning path for a new course. With a simple diagram that she disseminated to learners in a variety of ways (including our internal social community on Socialcast), learners were able to see what modules or topics to take in their curriculum, the estimated length of time required to complete them, and a suggested order in which to engage the content. Yes, a diagram can provide structure. Use them!
  2. ​Use short videos to provide comments, feedback, and (create) coaching opporutnities.Literally, an image or short media clip is worth way more than a thousand written words.
  3. Enhance engagement through social tools, like tags, intuitive searching, ratings, and likes.This one kind of speaks for itself, no? How often have you found yourself drawn to exploring a topic that has garnered a lot of “likes”?
  4. Focus on skill development.This practice gives learners what they are looking for in the shortest possible time. Sharing new ways of doing things in a social context builds employee repertoire.
  5. Create shared experiences that drive and encourage participation by responding in the community instead of email.This is probably the most practical tip. I think we have all experienced searching the archived email graveyard for some tidbit of knowledge only having to ask the person who sent us the original email to resend it because we were unable to find it. When you share knowledge in the social community, it not only becomes archived, but also much more searchable as well as reaches farther through the myriad of people connected in the community.

Thank you for reading this far! Hopefully, you found it helpful in your journeys in social learning. If you’d like to read my raw notes from this #DevLearn session, please view them here.


Time for a Facelift

This site is long overdue for a redesign and facelift, especially since I retired from triathlon in 2014. I’ll be retiring the triathlon theme to shift the focus of my site to professional topics that interest me, like project management, learning & development, and instructional design issues.

Stay tuned for some new posts as I head to Las Vegas for the DevLearn 2015 conference. I’ll try to live blog my sessions there. For the most part, since there are so many interesting topics that are hosted concurrently, I will focus on social learning and social media.

Sith Lords Revealed

Cue the catchy bass intro, super sax rift, and arpeggios on the keyboard…

Revvin’ up your engine
Listen to her howlin’ roar
Metal under tension
Beggin’ you to touch and go

At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. About a year in the making, I had asked my son’s high school friend, Pat Rentz, if he would be interested in racing a triathlon relay with me. So a few months ago, we decided to give it a go and make the Spring Sprint Triathlon (May 6, 2012) the race to debut Team Sith Lords with Pat leading out on the swim, me holding on with the bike, and Jay Simbulan anchoring the run. We all wanted to win, but looming ahead was the defending winners of last year’s men’s relay, Team Jon Martin, featuring none other than Pat’s older brother and former collegiate runner, Mike.

Highway to the Danger Zone
Ride into the Danger Zone

Team Sith Lords

Team Sith Lords: Jay, Me, Pat

At last we will have revenge. The original vision for our team was to race with the two brothers. However, Mike had signed up with his team before we did. And now that this past weekend’s race is over, I would have it no other way. Instead of two young brothers, we have Pat plus two old dudes. Yes, I know. Very formidable.

The week before the race, we looked at Spring Sprint results from the past two years. According to our calculations, the race would be decided by my bike split, that is, how much of a margin (if any) would I be able to give Jay to hold off Mike on the run. Mr. Mike, able to run a 5K in the low 0:18s versus Mr. Jaybo, able to run a 5K in the low 0:20s and sub-0:20s. The strategy called for Pat to finish first out of the water, followed by me building a two-minute cushion, and Jay holding Mike off to the line.

This is how it played out (sax rift blaring in the background). Read the rest of this entry »

Comeback Progress

Blowing off the cobwebs from this blog. Whoosh! Wow, something appears to be missing. Why, yes, there is something missing. I never wrote a race report for the Ironman 70.3 California race. Well let me get that out of the way with a brief sentence or two. Here goes:

Crappy swim. Decent bike. Crappy run. Crappy race. Perfect, a tri-crapthlon.

Back in January, someone warned me that the Oceanside race would be ugly if I didn’t make progress on dropping the weight that I gained since Ironman Coeur d’Alene last July. And on race day in latte March, it showed most evidently on my pathetic 2-hr plus half  marathon that day, which was more like a mental tune-out cramp-run-walk.

Today, I am thankful for that ugly race wake-up call. I’ve lost a total of eight pounds (five of them since the race). What a big difference it made today on my La Jolla Half Marathon performance. Not only did I run through the entire race, but I executed a good race strategy and worked  through an almost-cramping right calf during the last 3.5 miles of the race.

Eric and I running up the Torrey Pines Reserve

Eric and I running up the Torrey Pines Reserve

I started out the race with Eric Heiser (who was shooting for a time of 1:44). My only goal for today was to do better than two hours, with my “ideal” time goal of 1:50. I paced with Eric through the first six miles up Torrey Pines. Because we went out a little faster than usual, I even had time to make a bathroom pit stop at the Torrey Pines Reserve. Because I was able to hang with Eric like the old days for six miles, I realized my 1:50 goal was very doable.

And although my PR for this tough course is 1:40, I was very pleased with my execution of the Torrey Pines hill and the climb up to Prospect Street during the last mile of the race.  I think it was  my strongest hill performance that I’ve had on this course in the last four attempts. After the first climb up Torrey Pines Reserve, I pulled back a little bit for the next two miles, and stayed within one minute of my pace goal. My thinking behind this was to avoid cramping, which has happened all the previous years I have done this race by the time I reach the La Jolla Shores at mile 11.

After about 9.5 miles  I felt the cramps coming again in my right calf. But I truly believe that because I held back a little bit, I was able to finish strong up the last climb and hold off the cramps until after I crossed the finish line.

So there you have it. Eight pounds lost and a much better half marathon race in line with my current weight. Official time 1:50:28. I hope to be back to my Ironman weight (12 more pounds to go) by July, and then I would like to lose an additional 12 pounds by October.

Reflections of 2011

It’s that time of the year again, to take a look back on this past year and reflect on my race performances and training. During this year’s training, I traversed a total of:

  • 33,6217 yards or 191 miles of swimming
  • 2,039 miles of cycling
  • 1,023 miles of running

I started the year with three goals. But just to let you know up front, I only achieved one of them. They were:

  1. Complete an Ironman triathlon.
  2. Finish in the top 5 of the Malibu Triathlon.
  3. Qualify for the Boston Marathon.

You might recall I started 2011 with a hip injury I incurred last December during the Tuscon Marathon. So I remember focusing on rehabilitation, strength, and conditioning for the first quarter of the year. With some great physical therapy, I recovered in time to make my running debut at the San Dieguito half marathon. That course was a lot of fun with quite a few rolling hills. Although I quasi-promised my physical therapist that I would run it in two hours, I was very pleased with my time of 1:47.

Easing my way back into running, my buddy and I were shooting for a sub-5 hr time at the Oceanside race. I ended up having a decent race. But for the second year in a row, I suffered with cramps during the run portion of the race after a good bike split. I can’t be too disappointed with my time of 5:27. There’s still a lot of work to be done in the coming year if I expect to have any chance of finishing this tough course in under five hours. This year I plan to do more strength training. I’m hoping that going back to the gym will help mitigate against cramps by building up my muscular strength. I find it difficult not to go too hard while cycling so I can have enough juice for the run. I’m reluctant to ease up on the bike portion since it’s my strongest part of triathlon.

The middle portion of 2011 focused on training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene. When I look back on the training and the race itself, it’s unimaginable that I even did that race. Seriously, I am amazed at how driven I was. Training seemed like having a second job, with 15-18 hrs of training per week in addition to working full time. At this point, I do not plan on doing another Ironman in 2012. I can’t see myself doing that insane training again during the next twelve months.

There aren’t very many people in the world who can claim the moniker of Ironman, so I’ll always be proud of that. After having completed the biggest race of my life, I honestly believe I can do almost anything I put my mind to, with or without diarrhea! You’ll have to read my Ironman race report to understand that one.

Other than the race experience itself, the peak of physical fitness and endurance that I felt the week before the race was an unbelievable feeling. My training certainly prepared for that race because the feeling of power, speed, and strength that I felt is indescribable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Striking Gold at Big Rock

Big Rock Medal

Big Rock Sprint Triathlon Medal

It was a last minute decision to enter this race, the last tri of the season. Make no mistake. My main motivation was to podium and get a shiny medal. Is that lame? Oh well, who cares, right?

I raced the Sprint event last year and missed 3rd place in my age group by 2.3 seconds. That stung, especially since I tanked out, aka didn’t go all out, for the last quarter mile. I vowed to make it a different race this time around. If I didn’t get a medal this time, it would not be because I wimped out during my sprint to the line.

Pre-race preparations starting the day before did not go well. I spent most of my Friday afternoon setting up, configuring, and all around geeking out with my new iPhone 4s that arrived in the mail. Although a good thing, needless to say, staying up late oohing and aahing over my super cool phone did not make for a good night’s sleep/rest for the race since I hurried to start packing my race bag at 9:30 PM with a wake up alarm looming at 3:00 AM, and heading out the door by 4:00 AM.

The drive was relatively uneventful save for the occasional slowing to navigate through some fog that obscured my view through the windshield. I reached the Lake Perris State Recreation Area (SRA) a little after 5:00 AM with darkness still enveloping everything. Volunteers were arriving at about the same time. I could tell that the race organizers were still setting up for the race.

That’s one of the things I like about this race. It’s so casual and laid back. Take the Transition Area. You just kinda show up and pick any spot you want, no assigned spots. And so I picked the end spot of the second rack near Bike In/Out. I set up my transition area relatively slowly under the light emanating from the narrow beam of the headlamp I wore. Setting up the area seemed automatic to me, and so I found it amusing to hear the banter going on between a n00b first-timer asking 101 questions to another more experienced female racer. The n00b had brought her one-ton mountain bike to the race. I chuckled when I heard them talking about the swimsuit with laces she was wearing and where she would change into her bike clothes after the swim.

I went for my 10-minute/1 mile warm up a little after 6:00 AM so I could be back in time for the pre-race talk and do a swim warm-up before my start time of 7:36 AM. Oh yea, if anyone has any idea why my bowels go hogwild before races, please let me know. I think I must have gone to the porta-potty seven times (and only three trips were for #1). BTW another thing I like about this race is the prayer the race director does before the race. I think it’s refreshing. Read the rest of this entry »

Post-Malibu Blog-a-blog

Surprisingly, I’m pretty happy about my 7th place age group finish at the Nautica Malibu Classic this past Sunday. No, it wasn’t a podium finish. Yea, for sure, I’m a little disappointed that 36 seconds separated me from a medal, but nevertheless, I am pleased. And so I celebrate my accomplishment and improvement over last year’s Malibu race.

By the numbers… Official time was 1:37:09. From last year, Swim was 1:09 faster, T1 was 0:27 faster, Bike was 0:25 faster, T2 was 0:02 faster, but Run was 0:12 slower. Oh, and I beat all the individual celebrities, except the top male celeb, who was a former professional NFL player.

Certainly, there were a couple of things I could have done better like maybe swim faster (I “stopped” to sight about three times – I could kick myself for that). Sure I could have fought harder in the end to keep my lead over 6th place, who re-passed me in the last 20 seconds of the race. Despite these two little hiccups in my race, I recognize my swimming has improved, but I definitely need to continue working hard at it to improve even more. Another plus is that I’ve consistently placed in the top 10 of my age group in these non-Ironman races. So in this field of 105 for my group, I’m right there so close that I can taste the metal of that medal.

What I really wanted to write about after Malibu is not so much about the race itself, but rather about this blog. A close friend from my UCLA days suggested I write on a more personal level:

Thought for you. You have been consistently posting your times for training. How about turning the corner and story telling? Pull the curtains back on your own experience going from an inactive to agressive triathlete? Just a thought. You write well and you have lots of life changing experience now.

A very interesting proposition, one that would definitely take up more of my limited time. I figure I would give it a try for a little bit now and then instead of my regular, mundane race reports. Here are a few topics I’ve thought about exploring:

  • Why I don’t like exercise
  • Why improvement is not good enough
  • What drives me
  • What motivates me to wake up at 4:00 am most days a week to jump in a pool or run (aka WTF is wrong with you?)
  • How do I endure long hours of training or maybe a better question is why?
  • Why suffer when you could be sleeping in

Would any of my readers find these topics even remotely interesting? That is, of course, assuming I have at least one reader other than myself.

Of course, there is the tried and true: “What? You lost how many pounds and now you are a triathlete?” Or “Huh? You used to look like a blob and now you have a hot middle-aged body?”

Okay, stop laughing.

Seriously though, I’m reluctant to write more about my former struggles with weight. For almost all my life, I was the fat guy. I don’t want to be known as the guy who used to be fat. Quite frankly, I don’t have patience for obese people. They are wasting their life away. And losing weight is not what drives me now in my triathlon pursuits. Losing weight is what exercise is for. And then once you lose the weight, you’re done with exercise. Not me, man. I still have dreams to go after, even at age 45. And exercise is not a part of those dreams. My dreams are realized through ambition, discipline, hard work, perseverance, endurance, and training.

So this has been a very strange race report. If there is anyone out there reading my blog, please take a moment to comment and let me know if I should write a little differently from time to time. I appreciate your feedback.

Out of It

That’s how I felt mentally coming into the Solana Beach Triathlon four weeks out on the flip side of Ironman Coeur d’Alene. Physically, this past week was the first week that I felt I was back at full strength, able to do regular workouts without feeling fatigued after 15 minutes. But if I had to do it over again, I definitely would not be signing up for any races for at least one month or more after completing an Ironman.

Is this the new normal when I actually sleep well before a race? Or is it a sign of waning motivation? In any case, I felt very rested waking up at 3:30 AM even if it was only five hours of sleep. Out the door at 4:45 AM with Gooberfish (racing in the Duathlon), and we still were not even close to being the first ones in line to enter Transition even at 5:15 AM. I finished setting up my transition area (in between going to the bathroom four times), then waited around for about 2.5 hours before the old fogies wave started at 8:25 AM. I chatted it up with an “old friend” (emphasis on old), Erik, from LA Fitness. We’re back in the same AG again since I turned 45; and with him being a venerable 47, we have couple of years to fan the flames of this “old rivalry”. Erik, why do you keep describing me as old?

Even as I put my wetsuit on to mozy on down to the beach for a warm-up swim, I just could not find any motivation to do this race. It wasn’t until I lined up at the front of the start line—why did I do that? Must be a glutton for punishment—that I started to feel the spark of competition again. I reviewed my three goals for this race:

  1. Swim as hard as possible without hyperventilating. (Cue Star Wars: Let go of your feelings, Luke… Fear is of the Dark Side).
  2. Kill yourself on the run (i.e. sub-7:00 minutes/mile).
  3. And yes, I’m putting it out in writing: Cross the finish line before any “old rivals”!

Read the rest of this entry »

I Am An Ironman

This is the sixth and final article in the Ironman Chronicles series.

Well, I did it! I am officially an Ironman, one of the elite few people who have competed in a triathlon swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and then running a marathon (26.2 miles). 1406. is my new favorite number.

I think this whole race was highly unusual for me. First off, my business trip earlier in the week totally distracted me from the race so I didn’t even think too much about it. I thought that was a good thing, not having a lot of pent up nervous energy. Then for the first time in three years, I actually got a full night’s sleep before a race, 7 hours.

My main concern about this race was the swim. The weather here in Coeur d’Alene can change from day to day. But the stars must have been aligned today because the weather was picture perfect with minimal wind to kick up the waves and cause a swell in the lake. So basically the water was very calm.

After dropping off our Bike Special Needs and Run Special Needs bags, Eric and I got ready for the swim in the changing tent. We basically just sat in the tent since it was warm and waited until about 6:00 AM to put on our wetsuits. The race starts promptly at 7:00 AM with a mass start, basically 3000 male and female athletes jockeying for position in the water.

Read the rest of this entry »