Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The difference between studying and learning , according to various sources, is that studying “means having to acquire knowledge, generally using memory and the relationships between concepts”, while learning is “the cumulative acquisition of skills and knowledge, many times coming from experiences. “And in my experience, the most important part of being successful as an entrepreneur is to keep learning, out of pleasure and not out of obligation, either for your personal development or because your project needs it.
Undertaking is synonymous with venturing into the unknown, and in the meantime, going around the challenges that appear. From taking Mandarin classes to speaking with a potential supplier to the ABCs of government laws that affect your product or service, at some point, you will be the one 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.
Eliminate 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 the one 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 spending every minute of that tour reading a book or listening to an audiobook. In the two and a half hours a day (on average) that I spend going from one place to another, I have read dozens of books and listened to as many. Meter? Read. Car? Listens. Do you get dizzy in the Uber when reading? Listens. Don’t you like to read on your cell phone? Bookstores still exist. Are the books that interest you heavy? We have Kindle.
The form 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 my entire library, in a very light device and the ideal size, all day, at all hours and no matter where I am. For audiobooks I would say 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 infinity of tools available on the Internet
As individuals, we are very fortunate to live in a time when all knowledge is at our fingertips. Literally. As entrepreneurs, we couldn’t be in a better time and place than today. In the same way that there are audiobooks for learning languages, there are also sites and organizations dedicated to teaching online classes 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 , for its acronym in English), is accessible on 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 at your disposal with reviews, opinions, and even assignments and grades. Take an hour a day or, for those who are really very busy, a week, to sit and learn new skills that will grow you as a leader. The best thing about these tools is that the prices are very affordable, and sometimes even free. (Tip: some courses can be audited, which means that you have access to the material without paying).
Invest time in topics and activities that do contribute to your development
Learning languages is a very fun way to exercise the brain as a muscle. But sometimes there comes a point where we have to decide if spending three hours a week in French is more important than preparing the topics for the next meeting, going to the gym, or even resting. Unless your company requires, at the 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.
At the same time, make sure that the activities that you consider priorities are, otherwise, you are missing the opportunity to develop yourself in topics and areas that require immediate attention. Sleeping early is often more important than the daily Netflix and chill time, or calling your best friend can wait compared to finishing the book you’ve been reading for two weeks. Set aside an hour a day to focus only on your personal and professional development. Setting goals for how much to advance, how many pages to read, or how quickly to finish a course will help you be the best supervisor in your day-to-day life.
The brain is a muscle; your ability to be humble, understanding, and empathetic are too. That is the difference between being a boss or a leader. And the best way to remind yourself that you don’t know everything and that there is always something you can improve, both personally and professionally, is to keep learning.
Take these paths and educate yourself to be the best teacher of your own life as an entrepreneur. Sooner rather than later, you will have to look for 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 that your team needs?