The difference between studying and learning, according to various sources, is that studying “means having to acquire knowledge, generally using memory and relationships between concepts”, while learning is “the cumulative acquisition of skills and knowledge, often coming from experiences. “And in my experience, the most important part of being successful as an entrepreneur is to keep learning, for pleasure and not for obligation, either for your personal development or because your project needs it.
Entrepreneurship is synonymous with venturing into the unknown, and in the interim, going around the challenges that appear. From taking Mandarin classes to talking with a potential provider to the ABCs of government laws that affect your product or service, at some point, it will be you who will have to find knowledge to solve problems. These are three strategies that I apply daily to have my brain and skills in constant exercise of learning and nutrition.
Remove the phrase “waste of time” from your vocabulary
A popular saying says that “with time and patience, science is acquired”. And what better time to apply patience than what you spend in the car, on public transport, or in the Uber on the way to your next meeting (bike and skates not included)? Now imagine using every minute of that journey reading a book or listening to an audiobook. In two and a half hours a day (on average) I went from one place to another, I read dozens of books and heard many others. Meter? Read. Car? Listen out. Do you get dizzy in the Uber when reading? Listen out. Do not you like to read on your cell phone? There are still bookstores. Do books that interest you weigh a lot? We have Kindle.
The shape and object you choose to absorb the information depends on the situation or your personal taste. What is a fact, is that there are more options than excuses to take advantage of your daily routine and learn something new every day. I prefer Kindle because I have access to all my bookstore, in a very light and ideal size device, all day, at all hours and no matter where it is. For audiobooks I would say that the best option is Audible. The monthly subscription, which is not expensive, gives you permanent access to the entire collection, which sometimes seems infinite, of books and genres.
Use the myriad of tools available on the Internet
As individuals, we are very fortunate to live in a time when all knowledge is at hand. Literally. As entrepreneurs, we could not be in a better time and better place than today. In the same way that there are audiobooks to learn languages, there are also sites and organizations dedicated to teaching online for all kinds of specialties. From the United States to Singapore, and from Harvard to Tel Aviv University, there are hundreds of institutions and dozens of countries that have online courses open to anyone who wants to take them.
The offer of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) is accessible in a variety of sites and in the same variety of languages and subtitles. One that I have used repeatedly is Coursera. Administration, writing, business, project management, programming, and entrepreneurship, among many others, are available to you with reviews, opinions, and even tasks and qualifications. Take an hour a day or, for those who are really busy, a week, to sit down and learn new skills that will make you grow as a leader. The best thing about these tools is that the prices are very accessible, and sometimes, even for free. (Tip: some courses can be audited, which means you have access to the material without having to pay).
Invest time in topics and activities that do contribute to your development
Learning languages is a very fun way to exercise your brain like muscle. But sometimes there comes a point where we have to decide whether to devote three hours a week to French is more important than preparing the topics of the next meeting, going to the gym, or even rest. Unless your company requires, at that time, that you speak French constantly, sometimes the answer is no. And although this example is about languages, it applies to any other activity. It is important to manage your time effectively.
In parallel, make sure that the activities that you consider priorities are, otherwise, you are losing the opportunity to develop yourself in topics and areas that require immediate attention. Many times it is more important to sleep early than the daily Netflix and chill hour, or calling your best friend can wait compared to finishing the book you have been reading for two weeks. Set aside an hour a day to focus only on your personal and professional development. Set goals for how much to advance, how many pages to read, or how fast to finish a course will help you to be the best supervisor of your day to day. The brain is a muscle; Your ability to be humble, understanding and show empathy are also. That is the difference between being a boss or leader. And the best way to remind yourself that you do not know everything and that there is always something that can be improved, both personally and professionally, is to not stop learning.
Take these roads and educate yourself to be the best teacher of your own life as an entrepreneur. Sooner rather than later, it will be up to you to find people who form a strong team in which everyone contributes complementary skills to develop the business. And if you yourself are not aware of what you lack, where will you get the solid foundations necessary to build that team and how will you be the leader your team needs?