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If you'd like to deny the quickly approaching end of summer, don't check your mail. Keep your television off at all times. Stealthily extract and hide the advertising insert of your local newspaper. But, if you're like most of us, it's too late. You already know which anti-summer culprit is lurking in the shadows en masse: school supplies. Pencils, colored pencils, markers, highlighters, ballpoint pens – the writing is on the wall. The time for play is over; it is once again time to learn. But what if you aren't heading back to school? Once you've received your diploma, certificate, or plaque are you exempt from all future cramming? Don't the tests come more frequently now that you're behind a different grown-up-sized desk? Enroll yourself in a new kind of class: Stuff You Already Know, But Don't Know It. You are the teacher. Here is your syllabus:

Lesson One: Learn From Your Mistakes

No doubt you've heard this one a million times, but now is your chance to put it into practice. The first step, and the hardest step, is admitting you made a mistake. We are so quick to blame circumstances, our co-workers, or chance for our missteps. And it's all because mistakes are scary! The threat of punishment or embarrassment looms over us. Have the courage to own up to your error, even if it's only privately. Only then can you dissect what went wrong and move forward. Treat it like a math problem. Break it down into non-emotional chunks. Tackle one at a time. What is the immediate lesson to learn? Is this mistake part of a bigger pattern? What can you do today to take a step in a better direction?

Pop Quiz: Choose a mistake you quickly blamed on someone else. What made you afraid enough to immediately shirk responsibility? Why did you blame whom you did? What lesson or experience did you deny yourself by doing so?

Gold Star: Pat yourself on the back. The only people that make mistakes are those who are willing to take risks. Give yourself a Gold Star for Bravery!

Lesson Two: Learn from your Successes

This sounds easier already, but that may not be the case. Often after a success, relief and joy run away with our minds. Moments later, we find ourselves thinking, "Wait, how did I do that?" Or, we cut our celebrating too short and bury ourselves in the next issue. Journaling throughout a process is a great way to document the road to success. Be specific! What were your concerns along the way and how did you handle them? What were the high points and low points? Did you have help or were you wandering solo? And, once you achieve your goal, relish that feeling. The Law of Attraction tells us "what you focus on expands." The most successful people in the world consider no other option but constant success. Allow yourself to think like a mega-millionaire. Move forward with confidence in your abilities and joyful hope that the next project will be even more rewarding.

Pop Quiz: What was your biggest recent success? Did it over-shadow any smaller victories? Focus on the feelings of "success," both large and small. Journal the sensations and thoughts you experience. Save them for a time when you aren't feeling as strong.

Gold Star: High-five! Not only did you succeed in the first place, you didn't stop there. You have the ambition and you are not afraid to use it. Give yourself a Gold Star for Confidence!

Lesson Three: Learn from your Competitors

According to BusinessWeek, a great way to get a leg-up on the competition is to study your competition. Charlie Fewell of Charlie Fewell and Associates writes that "the quickest way to learn how to be successful is to check the playbook of your competitors." In the Super Bowl we would (and recently have) called that cheating, but in the everyday world, it's research! Fewell offers the following tips on how to study your rivals: identify them and their level of success, analyze their website and marketing materials, mingle with them at conferences and social gatherings, and note their community visibility. Fewell intended this plan for people who strive to be business owners, but it's just as applicable for stay-at-home moms. Jealous of the June Cleaver clone next door? Read her blog and steal her tips. Join her book club or invite her to your BBQ. If this all feels too sneaky for you, you can consult the ultimate text on this subject, Stephen R. Covey's classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Pop Quiz: Who is your main competitor in business and in life? What admirable qualities do they exemplify for you? What are they lacking? What unique strengths can you use to improve upon their model?

Gold Star: Two thumbs up! Going against the Big Bad Wolf (or your next door neighbor) requires cleverness, diplomacy, and stealth. Do you feel a little like Nancy Drew? Give yourself a Gold Star for Ingenuity!

Lesson Four: Learn From Your Friends

Swapping stories, celebrating achievements, being a shoulder to cry on. These are all coping mechanisms you probably use with your friends. Friends bond over shared experiences. They often face the same challenges and share the same fears. Look at your social circle like a team. If one of you wins, you all win, and if one of you fails, you all stop and consider the best ways to move forward. Be a supportive, helping hand and you'll find you have several when you need them. How can your past mistakes move you all in a better direction? What can a friend's recent triumph teach you?

Pop Quiz: What struggle do you share with your best friend? How do they handle it differently and to what level of success? Where do you see eye to eye and where do you strongly disagree? What qualities do you most admire in them?

Gold Star: Group hug! If you're able to learn from your friends, which must mean you have them. You are a kind, honest, and loyal person. You understand the value of friendship and work hard to maintain it. Give yourself a Gold Star for Congeniality!

Extra Credit:
Hungry for more lessons? Follow these links to continue your learning:

Things you can learn from your cat

Things you can learn from your ex http://advice.eharmony.com/article/what-you-can-learn-from-yourex.html

Things you can learn from a toddler http://www.dietblog.com/archives/2008/03/31/5_amazing_things_you_can_learn_from_a_toddler.php

Things you can learn from Michael Jordan http://ramanujanredux.com/personal/23-things-you-can-learn-from-michael-jordan/

Things you can learn from Starbucks

2008 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted provided the authors are notified and the following bio information is included:

Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional, and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books, and products please visit the New Perspectives website at www.kathleenpassanisi.com.

Annie Passanisi is the daughter of a motivational speaker (see above). If that does not tell you enough about her, she is also a Chicago-based actor, singer, freelance writer and editor, 1950s pop culture enthusiast, and swing set champion. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com.

Need a mother/daughter speaker team? Have Kathleen and Annie co-present for you.