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By Mark Niemann-Ross | Friday, August 24, 2012

Bruce Rich’s insatiable quest for knowledge

Bruce Rich has watched 25,341 videos from the lynda.com video library. Thought of in a different way, he has consumed 52 full days worth of knowledge. It’s like watching eight hours of educational TV every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for a complete year. It’s like watching the complete Star Wars saga ninety-five times.

lynda.com member Bruce Rich in a room that has 508 lynda.com certificates of completion lining the walls and the floor.

Bruce Rich has completed 508 courses, and has the certificates to prove it.

The amount of time Rich spends watching educational videos may seem outlandish. But if you’ve read Outliersyou are familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s rule that 10,000 hours of practice leads to mastery of a topic—a competency. Most of us have worked on something for 10,000 hours, so Rich is unique only in that he’s mastered two and one-half competencies. Think of it like a master’s degree.

“I very seldom watch TV,” says Rich. “I get up early and do training instead. My son says I’m off in my own little world.”

During the daylight hours, Rich is the president of Hot Off The Press, Inc., a commercial printer located in Des Plaines, Illinois. He’s worked in the printing industry for 40 years, starting with letterpress, moving to offset, and now supplying brochures, catalogs, and banners. His next goal is supplying web sites and mobile app development for his customers.

“I have a customer with 100,000 products on his web site,” says Rich. “I made some suggestions, and now he wants me to take it over. I need to learn more before I take that on, but lynda.com shows you everything you need.”

Rich uses a couple of tricks to speed up his learning. Because he’s paying close attention while watching, he speeds the playback to double-speed, then slows it down when he needs to practice an example. He uses the exercise files and transcripts to preview and review the material.

“Deke moves fast,” says Rich. “Pausing the playback is crucial. When you’re doing the exercises, your hand is getting trained.”

Bruce Rich enjoys learning, and his customers benefit from his newfound knowledge. Rich used information from Deke McClelland and Chris Orwig to improve a product shot for Stewarts Coffee in Chicago. The company was thrilled with the results: a coffee can without hotspots.

“Customers see the certificates on the wall, and when they realize I’ve taken a course in something, they ask me for help,” says Rich. “I use the videos on lynda.com to preview software before I buy it, and use it to research customer recommendations.”

What’s next? Rich swears he’ll be taking a break after he finishes the series on Adobe Creative Suite 6. But then…

“A friend wants to write iPhone apps,” he says. “I’ll need to learn some Cocoa and Objective-C.”

Perhaps Rich should start clearing another room for the next 500 certificates.

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