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Improve your brain power and career; it’s easier than you think

Regarding your brain, it truly is an organ that you use or lose, and as new pathways are formed every day and you teach your brain to master the simple things, your professional life will thrive as you are freed up to focus on the complex tasks at hand.



Use it or lose it

Modern neurologists say that your brain is an organ that loses functions when not used. Many people equate activities to riding a bike, noting “it’s just like riding a bike,” but many functions, particularly professional functions are lost when not practiced an used. When you don’t use a language for several years, much of it is lost. When you haven’t used a particular contract in a decade, you won’t remember every single word as you used to. If you don’t talk on the phone but for rare occasions when you used to all day, much of your polish will be gone.

Just as the brain loses functions it does not practice, it also gains strength with functions that are repeated. This phenomena is called neuroplasticity, and Dr. Charlotte Tomaino describes1 it as the brain building new neural networks for anything you do with repetition, explaining that when she was writing her most recent book, writing by hand as she normally did became cumbersome, so she took to typing, which was a rare task for her. At first, she had typos, and she was slowed down, but as she typed each letter over and over again, her errors were reduced, and she formed a pathway in her brain that told each finger where to go due to repetitive behaviors.

Good news – you can improve your brain

The good news that neuroplasticity brings us is that you can work to improve your brain, and to improve your daily tasks. Most people will not devote time to carving out a routine, but imagine two workers – one who writes four blog articles every day, and one who writes once per week – the first worker will be much faster at finding inspiration, producing content, formatting, and promoting than the person who does so once per week.

Imagine two more workers, one who makes it a point to make five cold calls every day, and the other gets around to five on the last day of every month. The first worker will have a much more polished pitch, be more confident, and have better recognition of buying signs. Again, imagine two professionals, one who does his own filing at the end of every day, and the other who does his filing at the beginning of each quarter. The first will more readily know where each file is and what it contains, while the other will likely struggle to tell you much about the location or contents of each.

Repetition is difficult, it takes devotion to any task, especially the menial, tedious tasks that professionals often see themselves as too important for. But if you can master the simple menial tasks with ease, and forge new pathways in your brain, your fluency in that task will be tenfold someone who is out of practice.

So, work on your brain – schedule calls for yourself on a regular basis, read your contracts frequently instead of relying on what you remember from the first time you read one, write more frequently, type every day, and repeat the tasks you wish to master, whether you like them or not. Doing so with the tasks you most abhor can cut down the amount of time you spend on them in the long run, so quit procrastinating, and get working on your brain’s neuroplasticity – you’ll shine brighter than your competitor for it, and you’ll never be slowed down by something as simple as slow typing.

1 Dr. Tomaino’s blog

The American Genius (AG) is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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  1. GlenFastandFuriousGould

    May 13, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    great article, really good information.

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Business News

Claire’s deep debt may force them into Chapter 11 bankruptcy

(BUSINESS NEWS) Millennial nostalgia reaches peak levels as decades-old jewelry store Claire’s declares bankruptcy.




Poor, sweet Claire’s. The place I got my ears pierced in fifth grade along with countless other tweens over the years. Where nearly all my accessories from age nine to 19 were purchased.

The place I swore to stop shopping because apparently my skin is allergic to every material they use. Looks like losing me as a customer has had a huge impact, because Claire’s is filing for bankruptcy.

Formerly the go-to haven for all things sparkly, cheap, and sold in multipacks, the fashion accessory chain is now suffering the same fate as many other mall-based retailers.

Although inexpensive accessories remain popular, mall foot traffic has slowed significantly enough that Clarie’s and other retailers are suffering from crushing debt.

Claire’s current debt load is $2 billion, with a $60 million interest payment due March 13 of this year. More pressure is added with $1.4 million due to mature next year as well. Their debt load is over 10 times a key measure of their annual earnings.

Filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy means the decades-old store can remain open while a more formal plan for turnaround is established.

The chain has been around since the early 1970s after a merger. Longtime Claire’s owner Rowland Schaeffer founded Fashion Tress Industries in 1961, which at the time was a worldwide leader in fashion wigs.

By 1973, Schaeffer acquired jewelry chain Claire’s, and renamed the merged companies Claire’s Fashion Accessories. For several decades, the Schaeffer family ran the business, with Rowland’s daughters eventually taking over.

In 2007, Apollo Global Management LLC acquired the business from the Schaeffer family for $3.1 billion. From 2010 to 2013, the company added an additional 350 stores, and had over 2,700 stores globally.

Although the takeover was successful in terms of adding stores, it also added a huge debt to Claire’s, from which it has not been able to recover.

Early in 2017, the company withdrew their initial public offering and continued struggling despite operating over 3,000 stores worldwide.

As part of the Chapter 11 agreement, business control will pass from Apollo Global Management LLC to other lenders.

To stay afloat, they plan on selling merchandise in CVS Pharmacies and Giant Eagle supermarkets in hopes of reaching customers outside of the standard mall habitat Claire’s previously occupied.

So while Claire’s isn’t dead quite yet, you may want to stock up on BFF necklaces and 20-pair earring sets while you still have the chance.

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Business News

Toys ‘R’ Us to close all stores by week’s end?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Toys “R” Us just announced they’re dying, and fast. As in SURPRISE, all their stores might be closed by the end of the week fast.



toys r us

Following on the heels of Claire’s filing Chapter 11, the bankruptcy boogie man took things to the next level with Toys “R” Us, passing their fate along to the grim reaper of retail.

Last September, the toy retail giant filed for bankruptcy. A $3.1 billion loan kept them alive for a while, but so far, lenders haven’t issued a debt restructuring, and no buyers have stepped up.

In January this year, the store announced around 180 of their 880 U.S. locations would be closing, affecting over 4,500 employees. Then in February, another 200 stores got added to the chopping block due to poor performance over the holiday season.

Recent closures began in February, and are expected to take place through mid-April. Oh except that actually all of the United States stores may be closing. This week.

According to anonymous inside sources, Toys ‘R’ Us may end up liquidating their U.S. stores if a deal can’t be reached to settle the debt.

A huge portion of corporate staff will also be laid off. Worldwide, Toys R Us has over 1,600 stores that stock major brands, who are also suffering from this announcement.

Hasbro’s stock fell 3.5 percent last Friday, and Mattel took a 7.0 percent hit. Recent regulatory filings from both companies indicate that Toys ‘R’ Us made up nearly 10 percent of their overall sales.

Spin Master, owner of the crazy popular Hatchimals brand, fell 3.0 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Amazingly, even Lego reported their first sales drop in the last thirteen years.

While Toys R Us closing everything would certainly have an impact on major toy companies, fortunately, several other avenues exist for getting products to customers.

Other major retailers like Walmart and Target will likely see a boost to their toy sales, and local toy stores may fare well with at least one giant competitor slain.

So it’s not like you’re totally out of luck if you want to buy the next new thing. You just probably can’t go to Toys “R” Us anymore.

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Business News

3 educational models that apprenticeships are stumping

(BUSINESS NEWS) Apprenticeships are taking off, and disrupting various sectors, including education – but how?




We’re obsessing over the rapidly growing concept of apprenticeships as a way to accelerate careers and give employers meaningful ways to educate and employ. The internship model is often useless and people leave with little more than having memorized a list of coffee orders. One of the few success stories in the apprenticeship game is Digital Creative Institute (DCI), which is headquartered in Texas right near us.

Have a five minute conversation with anyone at DCI, and you’ll see why they’re leading the apprenticeship movement. I recently asked them about how the model disrupts education – they had so much expertise on the topic, that we asked them to put pen to paper, and boy did they.

Below, in the words of Alexis Bonilla at DCI are the three educational models that apprenticeships are stumping:

“Apprenticeship” is the word on the street right now – the hot topic everyone is talking about. You probably know the basics, but we’re sure you still have a few questions. We’re going to try and answer the big, looming question: How does it compare to more traditional learning platforms?

We recently had a conversation surrounding technologists and the best way for them to learn coding. We explored Master’s Programs, bootcamps/coding schools, and teaching yourself while on the job. Then apprenticeships came up, and we decided to talk to the ones who designed the digital marketing apprenticeship here in Austin – Digital Creative Institute.

To sum it up, an apprenticeship is an educational structure where you work while you learn. A few nights a week you’ll take classes and work on projects and certifications, all while holding down a full-time job in the field you are studying. For a more in-depth look at apprenticeships, check out our article, ‘Apprenticeships: How focused training can jumpstart your career’.

Master’s Programs

For a lot of people, getting your Master’s Degree after graduation seems like the logical next step in their career path. But have you ever compared everything that goes into it to what you get out of it? On average, you spend about $60,000 on Grad School and 2 years in the program. The digital marketing apprenticeship structure is $12,000 and only takes one year. Because you’re in a full time role, apprentices graduate from the program with little or no debt and still earn throughout the year. Apprenticeships require only a fifth of the cost and deliver twice the experience.

You get training from the program, but the most valuable experience is what is acquired in the workplace. That’s the big differentiator. Instead of theoretical career situations, you are really experiencing them, and what makes it even better – it’s with the support of peers, mentors, and career coaches.

Of course the downside to apprenticeships is that there is a lack of recognition that exists in the United States right now compared to the more universal recognition you would get with an MBA. In the apprenticeship structure, that is made up for in the presentation of the portfolio work. Instead of simply presenting a degree to an employer, imagine presenting the prospective employer a presentation on how you created an email marketing campaign, how you solved a broken automation workflow, and how you achieved an impressive coding project. Which is more compelling?

Digital Bootcamps

Bootcamps began in 2012, and since then have grown more than 10x. They started off with about 2,000 enrollments and since then have jumped to around 22,000 in 2017. There’s no arguing that this educational model is on the rise, but we would argue that apprenticeships are preparing to make that same jump.

Bootcamps are quick courses on a specific subject that offer some kind of certificate of completion. They are great for getting overviews and basic knowledge, all while being time sensitive. So if you need a quick informational or refresher course, bootcamps are the way to go.

The benefit to apprenticeships is that you get more relevant and in-depth training for whatever it is that you’re studying. For example, the Digital Creative Institute Digital Marketing Apprenticeship doesn’t just look at marketing automation, email marketing, or web design, it looks at all of it and more. You might think you are going into it wanting to specialize in a certain topic, and then learn about something that is much more well suited to your needs and skill sets.

The average cost and timeline for a coding bootcamp is $11.4k for 3.5 months. The 15 month approach to the apprenticeship allows you to apply learning over a longer period of time, that way you have an even greater opportunity for application and personal transformation. A few weeks for a bootcamp just simply isn’t enough to answer all of your questions – some that you may not even know you have yet!

Apprenticeships have the advantage of situational and experiential learning, whereas bootcamps are limited to the examples the instructor thinks of. And because a majority of bootcamps are online, questions are limited as well. The apprenticeship structure allows for a year of personal development and professional training.

Again, it’s pay and pray vs earn and learn. Pray you paid to get the right resources in a short amount of time, or earn a salary while you invest 15 months into your career.

Teaching Yourself

Why not just teach yourself? It’s all on YouTube. There are millions of articles, infographics, and resources. Why pay for something when you can do it without any help?

Perhaps the greatest resources that apprenticeships offer are mentorship and career coaching. This takes your journey from a limited perspective to an experienced one. Coaching gives you direction and guidance from industry leaders in your field, and that’s really hard to put a price on. Forbes did put a price on it, however, reporting that the mean ROI of career coaching is 7x the initial investment. You gain the value of connections, resources, and lifelong relationships as well.

Just one introduction or opened door could be game-changing for your career and in itself prove the ROI of an apprenticeship. In fact, 70% of people in 2016 say they were hired somewhere where they had a connection. In the apprenticeship structure, you won’t have the same teacher week-by-week. You have industry leaders such as CEO’s, CMO’s, authors, and more teaching you specific sections of the curriculum based on their specialized experience. You present work, ask questions, and most of the time, you stay connected long after the class. You make connections it would have been really hard to make otherwise.

So although there may be a lot of time and money saved in teaching yourself certain skills, having the input of industry leaders, peers, and coaches will always be more valuable. There will be more time and money saved in mistake prevention, and you will be pleasantly surprised at the depth of knowledge and wisdom you gain in carrying out your career path.

Apprenticeships are a new wave of education, skill building, and career preparation. They create a learning environment while maintaining a professional standard. Apprenticeships are changing the way we look at education by seamlessly integrating the world of work and learning.


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