Category Archives for Solutions

Discovering the engine of success

colorful paintsplash background with the words

Whether or not you are able to attend the weekly Learn and Get Smarter community meetings in person, I invite you to follow along with our ongoing group process of collaborative discovery as we explore ways to survive and thrive during these challenging times.

As a community focused on creating effective and engaging online courses, we are well-positioned to cope with conditions that allow social connectedness online while maintaining physical distancing in the physical world.

Nowhere is this issue more critical than in the education sector. Like many of you, I watch with concern as parents, teachers, and employers struggle to resolve complex issues balancing physical health and safety, the need to earn a living, and the educational needs of students. 

The challenges, decisions, and dilemmas facing both parents and teachers with respect to in-person learning, are gut-wrenching.

As online educators, we are fortunate that all three of these needs can be met through our chosen work medium. Through teaching online we can protect our own and others' physical health while earning a living and meeting the educational needs of our students.

At the community meeting on Saturday, July 18th, 2020 we started to apply the systems thinking we've been learning about, to our own lives. We started to explore systems we have in place that are working well for us on all levels -- from the physical to the emotional to the intellectual to the spiritual (roughly following along the lines of Maslow's Hierarchy).

Maslow's pyramid of needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom.

It quickly became apparent that the SYSTEMS in our lives do not operate independently of each other.

 Rather, systems that we have in place to promote physical health also impact our emotional well-being. Systems that help us learn and grow also contribute to our feelings of self-actualization. And so on.  

In sharing what's working well right now during the pandemic, the  systems that ticked boxes on multiple levels were the ones that were most effective.  

But one thing stood out above everything else, and this was a truly powerful discovery that we made as a group during the meeting. 


The one thing that worked better than anything else

 to help us survive and thrive, 

was

 FEELING GRATITUDE.

We tried an experiment during the meeting, which was to go through the "Rampage of Appreciation" exercise developed by Esther and Jerry Hicks.  The way we did this was to simply look around and find five things  to appreciate in our immediate environment. (You can choose any number, choosing five was arbitrary.) We each shared what our five things were and why we appreciated them.

This was a powerful exercise with meaningful results. We learned that what we appreciate depends on our individual perceptual lens. We learned that what we focus on determines what we see. We learned that one person's sharing of what they appreciate leads to benefits for others as well. 

We decided that during the week ahead we will continue to look for things to appreciate in our immediate environments, and focus on feeling gratitude for what's working well.

That doesn't mean we don't see or acknowledge the many challenging and painful things that many are facing during the pandemic. Those are all too clear and obvious.

What it does mean is that in order to find ways to survive and thrive,  putting our focus on the things that we can be grateful for, is proving EFFECTIVE as the driving engine of the whole "system of systems" that make up our lives.

A highly enlightening book for learning how systems intersect and interact, is Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows. Several of us are reading this book now (or listening on audiobook). I'm finding that this book provides an ongoing stream of enlightening revelations about how things work and connect on multiple levels of life.


An online course is a SYSTEM designed to promote learning. The guiding principle behind instructional design is that the system must be properly constructed in order for learning to result.

The Course Design Formula® is a system for designing online courses, that helps you design yours properly so that learning can FLOW from your mind to your learner's minds, leading to lightbulb moments.

But not all lightbulb moments result from learning that's been intentionally designed. At our community  meetings, we are not designing courses... we are engaging in unguided discovery learning (which is what you do when you are trying to learn about something you are NOT an expert at).

The discovery of the importance of FEELING GRATITUDE as the central engine that drives all other systems in our lives, was a serendipitous and somewhat surprising discovery we made as a group. 

Closeup super excited happy screaming woman with many light idea bulbs above head celebrates success looking up on gray wall background

I invite you to reflect on the systems in your life that are working well for you right now, as well as those that you have the opportunity to improve. You are welcome to download this worksheet to use as a guide (it's a Word document, so save it to your own computer and fill it in in any way you find helpful).

You are welcome to share any insights, reflections, or discoveries you arrive at, in the Course Design Formula® Community Facebook group, and/or by sending me an email at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com. And of course, I hope you'll join us on Saturday, July 25th for the next community meeting, as we continue to explore ways to survive and thrive during these challenging times.

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Click on the green button to register for the meeting.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Online education as an antidote to racism

White letters on black background that read

How does the mission of your business address racism?  

What can each of us do as online educators, to address this systemic problem?

At the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting on Saturday, June 6th, in the midst of one of the most tumultuous weeks in American history, we took a hard look at our businesses and our areas of expertise. And we found some surprising and encouraging connections.

For example, this article from the New York Times points out that the African American community is being affected more adversely than other communities, by the move to online learning, for reasons relating to computer ownership and internet access among many others. But while many people don't have computers, most do have smartphones.

What this means for online educators is that it's critical to make sure our online courses are mobile friendly and responsive, so that people accessing them from smartphones have the same opportunity to learn as those using computers.

One might not have thought of "mobile first" as a tool for fighting systemic racism.​

It may be a small tool, but it's an important one.

In fact, while large sweeping changes are certainly required, it may be small micro-shifts that hold the most power. As one of our brilliant community members, Janice Fingler, pointed out, " Microshifts are very valuable right now... on an individual scale. Making shifts in how we interact with each other becomes a way of slowly nudging the system."

What micro-shifts can you make in your business, to contribute to fighting racism?

What is YOUR business mission and your purpose for teaching online?
How do these promote justice, fairness, equality and opportunity for all?

Ben & Jerry's provides an inspiring (and tasty!) example of powerful business values that really pack a punch (as well as a pint). 

While remaining true to their core business focus on providing delicious ice cream, Ben & Jerry's also focuses on promoting social justice. As they explain on the "Values" page of their website, they begin their focus on values "inside the pint", by supporting local sustainable farming. 

I thought about this example with reference to my own business. What are MY main ingredients and how can I use them to fight racism?

My main supplier is my licensed image subscription. I work hard to ensure that the images of people on my website and in my courses and marketing materials represent and include all races, and not just in token ways.

Over time I've been able to train the search algorithm to show me more diverse groups of people and specifically, more African American people, so that my web page and course materials reflect the values I hold of being a place of welcome for all.

Chocolate ice cream in a cone bowl

Being mobile friendly? Showing diverse images? These are small things. These are micro shifts. But they lead to big things, because  online learning must be both accessible and welcoming if people of all races are to benefit from it.

But the big shift that my business makes is the shift to online learning that really delivers on the promises it makes. 

How does that fight racism?

Education has always been a tool in the fight against racism.

Lack of education, poor education, and education that does not contribute to the empowerment and well-being of all people, are the equivalent of missing, broken, or even dangerous tools. 

The Covid19 pandemic has adversely affected people of color more than others due to the effects of systemic racism. The pandemic has also shifted the focus of education online, much faster than would have happened otherwise.

It's critical that education delivered online be not only accessible and welcoming to people of all races, but also highly effective at actually teaching what is promised.

Parents and community members may need to step into the gap to ensure that students of all ages are able to learn as well online as they used to in physical classrooms. 

Helping my students and clients create effective online learning programs helps THEIR clients and students, who can be of any race. My goal is to provide opportunity for all through highly effective online learning that really WORKS.

My mission is to ensure that as you create your own online courses you have everything you need to provide powerful, effective tools that promote positive change and deliver real transformation for the people you are here to serve.

The Course Design Formula Master Course starts June 16th!

Make this YOUR summer to make a powerful difference for the people you're here to serve.


 If you're willing to devote 2 hours a week to class and 2 hours a week to creating your course, you'll be ready to teach online in a way that really makes a difference, by fall.

Write to Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com to reserve your spot!

The Learn and Get Smarter community is diverse demographically and geographically, while being united in shared goals of service, transformation, and making a difference through teaching online.

Online teaching can create jobs and promote entrepreneurship  for everyone. Being one's own boss is a great solution for anyone who faces a glass ceiling (or worse) in the traditional workplace. 

There are many role models of highly successful African American entrepreneurs in the online learning space, such as Xayli Barclay and Danielle Leslie.

There are many vibrant, dynamic and successful experts and entrepreneurs of all races and backgrounds, within the Learn and Get Smarter community.

(Perhaps some of them would like to step forward and showcase their work in this space in future weeks. That's an option we can discuss at the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting on Saturday, June 13th). 

I hope to see you there as we continue to explore our work and service in the context of these challenging and historic times!

Register for the meeting

Saturday, June 13th  2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 noon Eastern

Many people portrait on a tablet screen

Lean Forward

Puzzles with business woman

How do you deal with an unprecedented situation for which you have no pre-existing mental frameworks... no appropriate prior knowledge?

That's the challenge our entire planet has been facing for the past several months.

How are YOU facing it? How are you holding up?

If you're like most of us, you may have been finding this time incredibly stressful on every level.

And yet, you may also be finding this challenging time a catalyst for creativity and growth.

At the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting last Saturday, we  asked ourselves:

How can we be creative with our businesses and courses?
How can we find solutions instead of complaining?

One solution we discussed at the meeting was to "lean forward"... both physically and literally... so as to create a sense of energy and momentum (such as when appearing on screen in a Zoom meeting), and metaphorically by leaning forward into the future with energy and purpose.

We've been exploring the value of chaotic conditions, conditions of disruption, as a catalyst for developing new ways of doing things.

Considering the area of education in particular, we looked at educational resources that are especially available to us now.

We explored ways this can this time can provide  opportunities to improve learning for ourselves, our families, our businesses, our communities, and our societies.

Some ideas we explored at the meeting included:

  • learning from family
  • learning online
  • self-paced learning
  • following one's own interests in depth
  • finding out what kids' interests are and then teaching them about that
  • learning through practical hands-on experiences (real life learning, apprenticeships)
  • real life lessons.... learning by failure as well as success (safe to fail experiments--small consequences from failure)
  • practical hands on learning: kids can have their own business, for example
  • pairing up introverts and extroverts/ talkers and non-talkers 
  • pairing up people with others who need help

We are adapting to the current conditions through:

  • using what we've got to the fullest
  • replacing our old routines and rituals with new ones
  • pairing up people with others who need help (delivery systems pair up people who need jobs with people who need food)

The Course Design Formula Master Course starts June 16th!

Write to Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com to reserve your spot!


If you're ready to start turning creative solutions in YOUR business into an online course for the people you're here to serve,

Learn and Get Smarter is here to help. 

The next cohort of the Course Design Formula® Master Course is starting soon.

Write to Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com NOW to reserve your place!

How are YOU "leaning forward" in YOUR business?


An entrepreneur solves problems that are causing people pain.


Right now, the entire planet is in pain.

What solutions can we come up with, in our areas of expertise, to help alleviate that pain,

in alignment with our mission?


Your mission this week (should you feel inspired to accept it) is to look for examples that you find effective, of creative solutions that are working to keep people healthy, employed, connected, and fed.

Here's an example that I think is both creative and  inspiring:

Air B n B has come up with the idea of "experiences" that people can reserve online (rather than reserving physical accomodation in homes). Air B n B hosts are inviting others into their homes virtually, since they can't invite them physically.

Check it out here: 

https://www.airbnb.com/s/experiences

At next week's community meeting we will explore models of creative entrepreneurship and inspired social solutions.

How is YOUR business adjusting and adapting? Has your mission changed, pivoted, or remained the same?

How is your business and your mission contributing to the public good?

Let's continue to inspire ourselves and each other as we build community, collaboration and connection to strengthen our social and emotional capital in these challenging times.

Come to the community meeting on May 30th and keep the momentum going as we continue to explore ways to  optimize our impact as thought leaders,  educators and entrepreneurs.

Wise Women's Meeting

Register for the meeting

Saturday, May 30th  2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 noon Eastern

Many people portrait on a tablet screen

The Perspectives of 2020

group of people on Zoom

If you think back to New Year's Eve, 2020 (that sweet and innocent time Before the Dawn of Covid), you may remember that the general mood was one of happy expectation.  Individually and collectively, we were hoping for great things from 2020, not least because the number makes us think of having perfect vision and a clear perspective.

Well, be careful what you wish for, as they say.

Now that we're almost halfway through the year, what's clear is that 2020 really IS giving us a new perspective... on just about everything.

Sunglasses on a table, with 20 on one lens and another 20 on the other (as in 20/20 vision)

At the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting last Saturday, we talked about how we can gather data  to look for meaningful patterns in business and society and life.

We discussed how accurate observation of what we see going on around us, and appropriate interpretation of the signals, messages, and lessons implied, can help us forestall problems and avoid crises.

The pandemic is giving us a new perspective by breaking our existing mental schemas-- the patterns we have previously found useful for understanding the world. 

This is a painful thing to go through. We have to let go of comfortable ways of seeing  and doing things, and instead learn to cope with chaos and tolerate complexity in a new reality where the BEST one can hope for is to be able to say, "It's complicated".

At the meeting last week, we talked about  the relationship between taking care of ourselves and taking care of others, at the level of our businesses.

Taking care of our clients and customers can be part of a positive feedback loop that nourishes rather than depletes us.

The Course Design Formula Master Course starts June 16th!

Create an online course that makes a real difference for the people you are here to serve.

The key is to build self-care and rest into our schedules. Although what we do as online educators can't compare with the level of sacrifice being made by front-line workers in hospitals, factories, grocery stores, transit, and emergency services, there is a way in which online educators are on a different kind of front line: 


Online educators are on the front line of helping people learn in the new reality we all face.

 Learning is the process of adapting to one's environment in order to promote survival.

So learning is one of the most important things people can and must do in order to survive and thrive.

At next week's community meeting (on Saturday, May 23rd, 2020) we will explore how one can have a balanced life under these new conditions:

  • Personally, with balance between work and rest
  • Socially, with balance between self and family, one's own needs and community needs
  • Communally, with balance between personal freedom and public good

In a situation where no one has all the answers (and sometimes we feel as if we don't have ANY answers), the important thing, as we've discussed  before, is to ask meaningful questions.  

And once we've asked the important questions,  we can work collaboratively to find answers based on patterns that start to emerge from accurate, meaningful, scientific data.

When we focus on collaboration rather than competition, we recognize that while none of us has THE answer, by co-creating things collaboratively we can allow everyone to contribute their own expertise to find solutions that benefit everyone.

Questions to ask on a community and societal level include:

  • How can we strengthen social capital?
  • How can we make sure everyone has what they need?
  • How can we take care of the very young and the very old?

Questions to ask on a global level include:

  • What is working for people in other countries?
  • What systems can we find globally that we can all learn, from each other?
  • What social structures are working for people (in families, workplaces, and communities) and which are not?

2020 has yanked us all out of our comfort zones and caused us to confront whatever needs strengthening: in ourselves, in our families, in our social and health care and financial systems, our supply chains, and our planet as a whole.

We've been forced to contract into our own spaces, to question everything we do, to ask life-or-death level questions about  going to the grocery store.

If we can tolerate the discomfort of staying outside of our comfort zones long enough to accurately evaluate the data that we are gathering,  the end result will be expanded awareness and improved collaboration and a more sustainable global culture.

So 2020 is giving us the gift of perspective… not an easily won gift.

Through collaboration we can create something that none of us can create on our own. Our role as teachers  is not to have all the answers, but to provide spaces where meaningful questions can be asked and collaborative problem solving can occur.

If we learn to look for the silver lining, while accurately assessing the clouds, the end result can be expanded awareness, improved collaboration, and a more sustainable global culture.

You are invited to contribute your expertise, insight and wisdom at next week's community meeting. I hope to see you there!

Woman struggling to carry a heavy present

Register for the meeting

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 noon Eastern

Many people portrait on a tablet screen

It’s Complicated

Set of icons vector development, simple and complex way of development, optimization of the process, complex and simple

Most of us, I think, would agree that the current situation can best be defined as a "hot mess".

But what KIND of a hot mess? Are we living in complete chaos?

It certainly feels that way at times...yet as our discussions at the weekly Learn and Get Smarter community meetings show, many of us are starting to find our way out of the initial chaos the pandemic has caused literally every single person on the face of the earth.

We've been sharing coping strategies, serendipitous discoveries, and powerful pivots that have forced us all to engage in learning opportunities we never would have otherwise considered.

(Yours truly, for example, is learning how to unclog  a sink drain. Which for anyone who has ever known me, is truly mind-boggling).

Learning is the process of adapting to one's environment in ways that promote survival, and the Covid19 pandemic is probably the most challenging learning situation our planet has faced, ever.

Coping effectively is literally a matter of life and death on every level, from the physical to the financial to the societal. 

But what, exactly, are we coping with? Is it in fact chaos?

At last Saturday's community meeting Janice Fingler ​ treated us to a  presentation on the Cynefin framework, originated by Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge.

Janice shared her in-depth expertise on dealing with extreme uncertainty in high-stakes situations. 

To learn more about Janice's fascinating work, visit her website at https://jfingler.com/.  Although initially targeted towards project managers in the mining industry, Janice is now opening up her services to help experts in other fields grow their readiness to respond to changing risk.

She does that by deploying the strategies and approaches used by gold explorers...these strategies help anyone living "in the wilds" (as we all are, these days)  make more confident decisions.

 She has graciously allowed me to share the following example illustration of some aspects of the Cynefin framework, that she created for the meeting, with all of us:

A diagram of the Cynefin Framework

Janice explained that conditions of chaos tend to be unstable and don't last long, modulating into systems that are either complex, complicated, or clear and obvious.  

In the wake of the initial chaos caused by the pandemic, many things that once seemed clear and obvious no longer do. 

It seemed like we had stability in clear and obvious routines, supply chains, systems, and ways of doing things. But we’re finding that many no longer work, no longer serve us, or no longer even exist following the blast of chaos the pandemic produced.

As we emerge from chaos, many of us are now experiencing the world around us as complex. We are working hard on finding ways to create new levels of order that include the types of complicated structures needed to facilitate problem solving under conditions of uncertainty and risk.

The journey towards order, that we crave as humans, isn’t so simple and direct now. The challenge of Covid19 has actually given us a gift, of teaching us that we need to embrace the disordered, non-linear and unpredictable world we actually live in and will continue to live in – rather than the more simplistic and straightforward "reality" we thought we lived in.   

We then talked about family-level solutions we are exploring in our own lives, whether for taking care of the very young, the very old, or finding new ways to work while also restructuring family interactions.

Some questions we asked include:

  • How can we take care of our own needs while also taking care of others?
  • How can we  start implementing systems that deal with the new demands, and also protect our work space and time?
  • Is there any way we can outsource some of the work?
  • Are there ways in which this new reality is GOOD for our business?
  • If so what are those ways and how can we optimize them?

We'll explore that last question in depth at next week's community meeting.

Come share YOUR insights and expertise as we continue to reflect on cognitive strategies we can apply to help us learn and get smarter in the face of uncertainty and risk.

The Cynefin framework is certainly a powerful  tool for doing that, and Janice's presentation deepened our ability to think outside the box in these uncertain times, helping us move closer to turning challenges into opportunities.

Join us on Saturday, May 16th, 2020


9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern


Join us at next week's community meeting to continue the conversation!

many people online in a conference call

Exploring Solutions and Finding Synergy

Groups of people working together to solve complex problems

At our Learn and Get Smarter community meeting on Saturday, May 2nd, we started filling in the content for the course we're creating about how to survive and thrive under changing conditions imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic.

We started by sharing solutions we've each found, that are working for us, to take good care of ourselves. 

Each solution, we realized, creates opportunities for entrepreneurs to move in and help fill new niches, including some that never existed before.

Solutions we found

that create opportunities for:

Setting up a home office

Home ergonomists, office planners, Feng Shui experts, professional organizers, furniture sales

Practicing meditation and mindfulness

Mindfulness coaches

Getting support and building community with others who share a vision of building online courses that make a difference. 


Being in the midst of people who help us make sense of what's going on.



All of us in the Learn and Get Smarter community

Keeping a positive outlook. Acknowledging there's a cloud, and then looking for the silver lining in it!

Laughter coaches, humor writers, YouTube video creators, Meme masters

Finding ways to have fun.

Mind-mapping ways to have fun

Taking care of our physical selves through movement, exercise, and dance.

Physical trainers, dance, yoga, pilates and exercise instructors

Reflecting on how our vision for what we need to accomplish, has changed... and how it needs to change. Creating vision boards. 

Life coaches, productivity planners, success coaches, therapists

Creating daily structure and schedules, with focus and purpose and gratitude.

Creating planners and journals. Doing Facebook Lives to teach our methods to others. Creating things to sell that have inspirational messages to give as gifts. Opportunities for home organizers, professional organizers, motivational workers. Opportunity to build social capital and goodwill. 

Focusing on things we had meant to do before the pandemic but  never had time for (cleaning out that closet, learning to bake bread, developing a skill.)

Creating online courses on ANY topic or skill

Developing a feeling of competence and control by creating new structures and systems and schedules that work with the current reality. Creating daily and weekly schedules that work efficiently and are predictable.


(Some of these are better than what we had before.)

Instacart workers, people who want to help others by doing errands. Writing blog posts. Creating online processes for ordering and delivery and other systems for doing business while keeping people safe.

At next week's community meeting we will continue exploring solutions we're finding to take care of ourselves and our families...and brainstorming the business opportunities these solutions create for our community of online course creators.

Explore solutions 

and find opportunities

many people online in a conference call

Come to the community meeting on Saturday, May 9th, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

Speaking of taking care of ourselves and our families: how are you feeling? How are you doing?

What solutions and opportunities are you finding to cope with the pandemic?

I notice that as time goes on, we may become better at handling the basics such as how to get food or cope with being at home, while finding the  emotional aspects of social distancing more difficult to take.

One thing I find challenging is not being able to go out into nature (I realize that for some this is not an issue, while for others it is).

So I'm going to start exploring virtual reality as a way of experiencing environments other than the walls of my own home.

(This is an example of how the pandemic can create an accelerated learning curve... which may end up being a good thing.)

What new methods, modalities, and systems are you using to cope? 

Write to Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com and let me know... and/or, come to the meeting and share what you've discovered that works!