Quick Hit Learning with Highbrow


When you’re gainfully employed, and handling the daily  grind of responsible adulthood, you make time for major responsibilities. However, you might overlook the other stuff that might not seem “major”–like opportunities to continue learning and sharpening your skills. If you want to stay relevant (and employed), or advance in your career, you need to continue to learn, develop new skills, read about emerging trends, and more.

I try to listen to podcasts, read books, and peruse various online courses and blogs, but I appreciate when others compile lists of online resources, especially free, bite-sized learning. I was pleased to stumble upon Highbrow while reading a post on The Muse, “10 Ways to Become a Smarter Person Without Taking an Extra Second Out of Your Day. I was intrigued by the title, because I like learning, but I also like the idea of not taking (or wasting) extra time out of my day.

Highbrow’s courses span a variety of topics, from productivity to architecture to boosting creativity. Each course only lasts 10 days, and includes introductory materials, screen shots, and book/online resource recommendations. Highbrow says you can run through each email lesson in 5 minutes. It probably takes me longer because I admittedly get distracted by work and have to move back and forth! After the 10-day course is complete, you get an email from Highbrow letting you know you’re ready to register for another. (Note, you can’t sign up for more than one course at a time, with the specific goal of helping you to focus on and actually complete one at a time.)

At first, I wanted to just take courses with topics I already have skills in to build upon them. I decided I’d probably get more out of it if I took a variety of courses on some topics I might not directly connect with otherwise, or even understand why learning about the topic could help me connect to other learning or reading I was doing.

Here are some of the topics and courses I’ve learned from already.


Highbrow has a lot of courses related to creativity, but I decided to sign up for “The random word doodle.”

I am a creative person and enjoy creative tasks, but I wasn’t sure what I’d actually gain out of this one. Ok, it’s fun to take words and doodle about them, but would it really unlock any creativity?

I grabbed my colored pens and started doodling about the word “admiring.” And an interesting thing happened. I immediately thought of a park in my hometown with a stage, and connected it to the wonder of my own child and others watching someone speak. Since I’m a writer and I like to analyze story, I followed the 15 minutes of doodling by writing about why I drew what I did. The next day, I drew all about hosting Thanksgiving for “Mid-November.” The rudimentary doodles are below (admittedly, I am no artist, but that’s not the point of the exercise).


 Highbrow random word doodle  Highbrow word doodle

So I took the instructor’s advice by selecting the time of day that worked best for me to doodle, and I did gain some renewed interest in my creative and daily business pursuits.


I also looked through courses about architecture; I chose“Architects who changed the world.” I know very little about architects, but since I like learning about form and function, I took a whirl. What I didn’t know was that my learning would connect to my reading of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, by Erik Larson. It’s a fascinating book that not only chronicles the architecture and business side of the World’s Fair in Chicago, but also the serial killer who murdered several women and few others along the way. Because I’d taken Highbrow’s architecture course, I had a clearer frame of reference for architects discussed in the book, including Louis Henry Sullivan. I would have still thoroughly enjoyed the book without this knowledge, but added context always helps make further connections.

Product Management

Product management is a promising career path, with many companies producing technologies and products that need a “CEO” of the actual product to make it successful, from the market analysis to the customer outreach. I thought it would be an interesting topic to learn about on Highbrow, so I signed up for the “Intro to product management” course.

This course shared what you should expect out of a career in product management (and what you shouldn’t) along with the key areas of competency: business, user experience, and technology. Most PMs start off being quite strong in one of these areas and need to bulk up their skills in the other areas to become true advocates for the founders’ visions. The tips in this course are actionable not only if you’re planning a career as a product manager, but if you blog, sell, manage, anything where you need to understand people’s pain points and figure out how to solve them.


Of course, not every course you sign up for will be what you expect or want. I signed up for a challenging logic puzzles, thinking it’d be like the booklet logic puzzles I like. Instead, it reminded me too much of the math story problems I disliked in school. But I just skipped over and deleted them once I realized they weren’t my thing.

Along with signing up, you can also submit your own topics as an expert if you’d like to share your knowledge in a short e-course.

What online resources do you use to learn? Or other ways you prefer to stay informed?