Keep educating yourselves, entrepreneurs

It’s only through big dreams you conceive that you realise your own insignificance. I have big dreams, I’m sure most entrepreneurs can relate to that. But sometimes, when we stare ahead into our dreams, we feel so small in comparison. Suddenly our confidence shatters, our knowledge seemed limited in comparison. We began to adopt an illusion that we can’t possibly achieve what we thought we could, before having those big dreams.

And that my friends, is where education comes in. I’m not talking about formal education, you know, schools, teachers, textbooks, exams, pencil and paper. We seem to harbour the same perspective on education, where we are given some material to absorb, an exam after that and a final grade as a proof that we have learnt something. Personally, I don’t believe this is education at all. If the only thing you get out from an exam is your final mark, then you’re not really educating yourself, you’re just a great exam problem solver with good luck.

As an entrepreneur, you have to learn everything even remotely close to your field of expertise, because you have no field of expertise. Entrepreneurs are dynamic people, with dynamic ideas, with dynamic businesses, dynamic roles to fulfil, dynamic hats to wear. So how can your knowledge, education and skills stay stagnant? Or focused on that one little speck in the world? We are not experts, we are not professionals, we are entrepreneurs, we have to learn everything.

Truthfully, the reason I started this blog is that I wanted to learn more about the blogosphere, the social media marketing, the SEO, the google analytics and all that besides connecting with other entrepreneurs. And I am pleased to say that my knowledge in this field is increasing day after day, and someday I know it will be helpful to my business. The point of the story here is, education takes form by doing, applying and not only reading. Maybe think of reading this way, reading is just a snapshot of what to expect when you are doing something. Reading is not learning, it’s only a manual, a how to guide, you will never really learn without doing. You can read all you want on swimming, but if you never swim, you will never swim. And this rule, applies to almost everything in life. ( Not everything, since everything has its exceptions )

So what can we learn? What can we educate ourselves on? Here are some of my opinions on what we should educate ourselves on in this changing, fast-paced world of entrepreneurship:

1) Design

Design is the new cool, believe me or not. I’m in college right now and I can testify the fact that most design students and arts students are looked down by other college majors. But that doesn’t change the fact that design is important. Everything in this world consist of a design. Every single product, every single system in the world. For entrepreneurs, innovation is our lifeblood. And how do we innovate? We innovate by changing the design of our products to change the final output and function. I don’t mean you have to be well-versed in art history or books like 100 ways to use a pencil, but having some knowledge on how to design, how to test your designs, how to adopt a right designing mindset and applying the design principles, how to create a prototype is very useful in the future, especially considering how big 3D printing is going to be in the future. I know Alison offers a free online course on design and maybe you could download a few design books and start reading and APPLYING them.

2) Communication

Communication is a very important aspect. You have to learn to communicate to anyone, and speak their language. Since as an entrepreneur, you have to work with different people. You have to be able to communicate in their language, and in language I don’t mean a foreign language, although having an extra foreign language would be useful considering globalisation, but language as in for example, the marketing language in general. When you talk to lawyers, you need to know the legal language, when you talk to VC’s, you need to talk in their language. Get the point? If you want to build partnerships and collaborate with people outside your expertise, which you don’t really have, the fastest way is to speak their language. How do I do it? Usually when I talk to someone, I try asking questions and listen to them talk for about 5 to 10 minutes before I start talking. This is a period of observation where I try to get the gist of their language, figure out their communication style and their flow before I start talking to them, to make sure that both of us are on the same wavelength. Now I know most entrepreneurs have the urge to tell almost everyone they meet about their awesome business ideas, I’m guilty of it as well, you have to realise that unless you’re speaking their language, they’re not going to understand you. For example, if you’re building a fashion blog and you’re more into the marketing side of the business, don’t talk to someone for example a student about how your SEO rankings and all those technical terms which they don’t understand. If someone doesn’t understand you, how are they going to marvel at your awesome business idea? How are you even going to share your vision?

3) Technology

Technology as in how to use technology tools. Unless you have a degree in computer science or software engineering, let’s face it, we will never really know as much as them as to how to code. Yes you can learn how to code, but it will take up too much of your time if you want to work on your business idea. Now I understand that most people have seen the success stories of tech entrepreneurs and their ultra cool high tech business ideas, but you need to realise that technology ultimately is a tool. Technology helps you achieve a final outcome, it itself is not an outcome. As a college entrepreneur, I faced countless pressure to have a tech startup or something alone the lines of that. But you have to realise that entrepreneurship is more than technology. Although Mark Zuckerberg did create Facebook, he did it to connect to people, and it was through technology ( his tool ) that he was able to achieve his final outcome. As entrepreneurs, we are supposed to be resourceful, learning how tools work is not as important as learning how we can use these tools, unless you want to innovate in that area. So entrepreneurs, don’t be scared of technology or feel pressured to join the industry, understand that ultimately technology is just a tool like your garden shovel. We don’t need to understand the tool, we just have to know how to use them. And how do we learn? We learn by using them.

4) General knowledge

By this, I mean anything you are interested in, be it coffee, be it running, be it singing, anything. Yes, anything you’re interested in. General knowledge does not mean the news in this context, it’s just whatever you feel like learning. You know why? Because ultimately, we are entrepreneurs. We are constantly searching for the next big thing, the next big opportunity. And how can we think of ways to innovate something when we have no idea what that something is? So next time someone thinks your random interests in random things are dumb and try to discourage you from learning it, just smile and secretly murmur to yourself, ” Fuck you, I’m an entrepreneur. ”

Until next time. Please leave a comment or share this with your friends if you like it. Or feel free to argue with me or voice up your opinions on anything, I’m just eager to learn anything new. 🙂

What to do when you lack support

It’s tough being an entrepreneur, maybe sometimes even tougher when you are a college entrepreneur. Some days you feel like no one understands you, no one you can talk to about your problems, no one seems to know what you are going through, and maybe no one is really supportive or encouraging towards what you’re doing. 

You love your family, but sometimes they just don’t understand how much you are going through, emotionally, physically and mentally. You have to balance college and entrepreneurship, it’s like juggling eggs while riding a unicycle, you can’t fall and you can’t stop juggling. And your friends, you like hanging out with them, but sometimes you wish you could actually talk about something more informative, more deep, in a sense where there is less gossip about relationships, social life, parties and college in general. Maybe something on entrepreneurship, world news, politics, business problems, economics, technology… you know, practical stuff. And when you hear them complaining and stressing about how their clothes don’t match and how they have two parties on the same day at the same time, you find yourself trying hard to actually feel sympathetic towards them and not be an insensitive jerk. Ever tried having to meet up with an important client or business partner on the same day you’re having your exam? Now that’s real stress.

So here are some tips to help you overcome this negative feeling of lack of support.

1) Join an entrepreneurship, startup community in your local area

Believe me, the amount of support you receive is just overwhelming. Usually entrepreneurs from the startup community are pretty friendly and welcoming. And they are the ones who can actually understand and empathise on what you are going through. Hopefully you’ll get to find someone to discuss your problems, find some like-minded people and maybe even mentors to guide you along your entrepreneurial journey. Just drop by your nearest start up community, co-working space or just join an entrepreneurship meet up group on Meetup.com. All you need to be accepted into the community is a short self-introduction and you’re all set to go. 

2) Have someone you can trust, and confide in them

It doesn’t really matter if that person knows absolutely nothing about entrepreneurship, as long as you have someone who you can confide in. It may be your mother, your best friend, or even your dog, it doesn’t really matter. Sometimes all we need is just a place to vent all our feelings, release all our emotions and then we’re ready to continue again. I usually try talking to my best friend, who absolutely has no idea about cash flows or anything related to business. And it helps, although I don’t get practical advice on how to solve my business problems, at least she helped me solve my emotional problems, which is good, since I have a clear and cool head to think and hopefully find a solution to my business problems again. 

3) Read inspirational quotes from great entrepreneurs

I always find this a great help. I read quotes of my favourite entrepreneurs and try to remind myself that I’m going through what these great people have gone through. Although they aren’t really talking to me, I get the sense that I am having a conversation with them through the quotes they have written. When I read those quotes, it seems like they are indirectly supporting me and pushing me to reach greater heights. And knowing that these great people had overcame their fears and challenges to become who they are, plus their track record of success and rebounds from failure, I know they are the best teachers, support and motivation I could ever need. And this helps me overcome all the negativity. 

4) Knowing that somewhere out there, there is some other person facing the same problems as you are right now

Yes, this is why I am writing this blog post. I know there is someone out there who is experiencing what I’m going through right now. So here I am, sharing, hoping to let you know that you are not alone. We chose the path of entrepreneurship, and we have to accept that sometimes these emotions are inevitable, it’s all part of the journey. It won’t end right here, it won’t end right now. As long as you are still walking in the path as an entrepreneur, there is no doubt that you will experience these kinds of days again. But all we’ve got to remember is that, no matter what happens, we just have to pick ourselves up and keep walking. This is the path we have chosen, and we will reach our destination no matter what. After all, we are walking towards our dream. 

The flaws of a business degree in business school

I’m doing a business degree. And honestly, I did it because I had to go to college, or my family would stop supporting me financially and cut me off from my family. I knew since I was 15 that I wanted to become an entrepreneur, but I struggled back and forth between deciding to become an entrepreneur or involve myself in some highly regarded profession, *cough* medicine. ( I was always regarded as smart and got amazingly good grades even though I didn’t put much effort in it, which was a bit unfair to be honest ). But anyway, I received career advice from our high school’s student advisor, and told him about my dreams and aspirations for the future as an entrepreneur. And the conclusion I got out from him was, get a business degree, since it’s the closest thing in college to entrepreneurship. So I did.

And the truth is, it’s nothing even near there. College and universities, are a place for grooming professionals and high-performing employees. Especially business school, where you are groomed into becoming either a business consultant, an accountant, a manager, a marketing personnel, a financial analyst or somewhere along the lines of that. You are groomed into a certain way of thinking, a certain way of behaving, and you get to learn a certain way of solving a problem. Very creative and out of the box.

I don’t mean to criticise the business degree, and I have to admit there are some benefits I get out from it, but I’ll talk about it later, right now, I’ll just focus on what’s wrong with a business degree in a business school. This is strictly my own opinion as an entrepreneur who is doing a business degree, so feel free to voice your own opinions and argue with me.

What is wrong with a business degree?

1) The curriculum.

Let me take an example. I’m doing a management unit this semester, and it comprises of all the flaws I can point out in business degrees in most universities. Did you know that in management, usually the textbook and the material that we are learning are at least 20 years behind from the current business world? We are learning and absorbing material, which is outdated and no longer relevant in the business world. Yes, there are some management principles which may be useful but this doesn’t shade the fact that we are learning outdated and irrelevant material! How is this possible? Initial radical and cutting-edge management theories come from entrepreneurs, which if the theories and principles are proven to be efficient and useful would be adopted by the corporate world, and then the whole business world, and only after that the academic world adopts it and carries out research to validate and prove the theory. That is the only useful information which I learnt from all of my management lectures. So how do we know we’re studying outdated material? Well, just think of who writes our management textbooks, is it a fellow academic who has never been in the business world or a real-life entrepreneur? You get my point. Entrepreneurs should be learning from other entrepreneurs about cutting edge management theories to get ahead in the business world. Or better, develop your own management style and theory, since management theories basically originate from other fellow entrepreneurs, what makes you think you can’t do the same thing, or even better?

2) The way we learn.

We listen to the lecturer during lectures, we download lecture slides online, we memorise the important points where the lecturer told us to do so and we regurgitate it during exams and hopefully we would get a passing mark. That my friends, is how you get you pass your business exams. Of course there are assignments, but basically it’s just a theoretical question on paper, where you have to answer individually or in groups, on paper, and then you submit it to get a mark. We are learning how to spot key points, how to memorise and how to answer questions. The way we are learning is mostly memorisation! Yes, reading and lectures are important to deliver a specific concept or theory, but why are we applying it on paper? Using my last example again, management. We are answering questions about management on a piece of paper. Are we managing papers or are we managing real people? Shouldn’t the final exam be something like, ( fanciful thinking here) here is a group of employees, applying all the management principles you learn or the ones you think of, improve their work performance by 20% by the end of next month. Then, write a brief summary of what techniques you used. Shouldn’t management be like this? Letting students apply the theories, cross out the irrelevant ones in the teaching syllabus and then work on discovering new management theories instead of trying to proof all the old ones? And maybe for finance it could be like this, applying all your financial principles learnt, grow your investment portfolio by 20% from the start of the semester, you may record all your calculations and the choices you made, but final marks will be based on your investment decisions. You don’t even have to use real money since there are simulation softwares online for free. This way the people who actually graduate from a finance major in college would be the ones who actually know how to manage your investment portfolio, since they are doing it so well for themselves. The point here is, business schools are too lazy to think of ways to improve the system so they follow a traditional spoon feed, drill and regurgitate method.

Right now, these are the main flaws which I find in my business degree, so to summarise what I have been saying:

1) The textbooks are outdated

2) The learning and teaching method is inefficient

3) Too much emphasise on route memorisation and problem solving on paper

4) The benchmarks for assessing one’s business skills is ineffective

Basically, the whole business education process and curriculum in business school is wrong in my opinion. These are the flaws of a business degree, and I’ll talk about the benefits of a business degree in my next blog post, feel free to comment and share your opinions with me.

Burnout, college entrepreneur style

Since I’m suffering from a burnout now, I thought it would be useful to talk about burnout, while lying on the bed. Here I am, suffering from a burnout, emotionally, physically and mentally, all at once.

To be honest, it’s not a surprise, judging from the rate where I worked myself, and the neglect towards my own daily needs. I’ve been trying to juggle school life, entrepreneurship, social life plus my exercise routine (yes, I’m on a workout regime to lose weight) all into 24 hours, which sounds familiar to most college entrepreneurs I think? School life is mentally taxing, since we have to forcefully divert our attention from our business onto it. Entrepreneurship is generally mentally, emotionally and physically taxing, your brain doesn’t stop, your body doesn’t stop working, and with all the highs and lows in entrepreneurship, you don’t stop feeling as well. Social life is more of an emotional and physical burden, in my case, since I have to tend to these people’s needs and make an effort to hang out with them. And the last one, physically taxing, what do you expect from working out in the gym for 3 hours a day and only sleeping for less than 6 hours per day?

You get my point. Entrepreneurs have burnouts, students have burnouts, but when you mesh them all together, you get a double burnout. I’m sick in bed, suffering from mild insomnia, stressing about my assignments and short exam on Friday, while trying to prevent myself from imagining horrible situations my business would face in the future, my body hurts due to my workouts, the weather is still cold, I have a flu and a fever, my friends are still texting me about their life problems plus I’m trying to come up with a solution to solve my burnout.

I’m suffering from a total burnout, college entrepreneur style. And if anyone else experiences this, you’re not alone.

Right now I’m trying to brainstorm solutions to treat my own burnout. I came up with a few, and hopefully they’ll solve my problem.

1) Talk to a psychologist.
I’m scheduling an appointment with my college psychologist tomorrow. Why talk to a psychologist? I went for counselling advice from a school psychologist last year and it was really helpful. I was stuck between following my own dreams versus following my parents wishes. Naturally I couldn’t tell this to my parents, since they would subconsciously influence me into choosing what they want when I’m emotional and vulnerable, and as for talking to my friends, most of them face similar problems and don’t really have a solution, all they can offer is comfort and not much practical advice. So I just went to my school psychologist and told him all my problems, and right now here I am, pursuing my dreams although I’m currently suffering from a burnout. So, I’ll schedule an appointment with my college psychologist tomorrow, hint, it’s usually free. Plus you get professional, unbiased advice, and a place to rant without worrying that the other person would feel bothersome and your secret basically stays confidential.

2) Rest
By resting, it’s not just sleeping. Well, sleeping is a large part of it, since I have to get more sleep to compensate for the sleep lost before. So basically I will be sleeping a lot, but the problem here is, how do I find time and get myself to sleep? That means I’ll have to take a break from all my activities and concentrate on resting. No worrying about college, business or social life, just rest. And no technology stuff nearby, maybe just not that often. And keep my laptop away from myself. But yeah, rest, sleep and stop thinking!

Basically I haven’t thought of other ways, but I guess these two are the most important ones, confide your problems with someone you trust and get enough rest. I guess I better start resting, feel free to leave comments and share tips on how you manage burnouts! 🙂

Life as a college entrepreneur

I have assignments due tomorrow and next week, but here I am, blogging. I should do it, I know I should, but there’s just so much things on my mind which keeps distracting me from school work. It’s just that I get so distracted by my business ideas, zooming in my mind at high speeds, and it’s just plain weird how they usually pop up when I’m trying to silence my mind to actually do some school work. And maybe during lectures, tutorials, while I’m talking to others, before I sleep… you get the point. 

I don’t know if this happens to you, but entrepreneurship consumes me in general. Not that I’m complaining, since it’s my passion but still, it can be a major distraction in my daily life. Especially when I have another important role to fulfil, or maybe it’s the 30k investment in my tertiary education which I had to make use of. But you get my point, when I have one of our “aha” moments, I stop functioning normally, in a conventional sense. 

It’s like I get into a zone, where my lives and thoughts revolve around that business idea. I go to lectures, but my mind is working too fast for me to even concentrate on what the lecturer is talking about, I talk to friends, but barely paying attention to them since my mind is busy calculating all the figures and numbers I need for the idea, or even worse, I start avoiding friends like plague, since talking to them would mean less time for me to work on my idea. It’s like my normal life just shuts down, and as a college student, my normal life would most probably be, go to lectures, finish assignments, hang out with friends, you know, a conventional way. But no, I go into full obsession mode, it’s like I get cut off from the outside world, my “normal” life.

And truthfully, it’s very challenging. Since all I want to do right now, is to just focus 100% on my business idea. I guess this is every college entrepreneur’s dilemma, or maybe just the ones that haven’t dropped out from college yet. We still go to college, we still need to learn whatever we paid to learn in college, we still have to function as a college student. But at the same time, our need to work on our business idea, develop, experiment and grow it is strong as well. In fact, it’s much stronger than our obligation to fulfil our responsibilities as a college student. 

So why aren’t we dropping out since there’s so many success stories of young entrepreneurs who dropped out of college and became billionaires? *Cough* Bill Gates *Cough* Steve Jobs. 

Truthfully, I don’t know. I don’t know why I’m staying in college. But if I have to give an answer, it may be the safety net. If your business idea fails, you still have a college degree, you still have an identity as a college student. Or it may be because I need to satisfy my parents wishes to graduate from college in return for the freedom in pursuing my entrepreneurial dreams in the future. Or it may be because I still haven’t decided yet if the business idea will work out. Or may be it’s just that I want to experience life as a college student as well. Or maybe I actually want to learn something from college although I want to be an entrepreneur.

I really don’t know. But I know I don’t really want to drop out of college, even though I want to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams, my business ideas. So that leaves me in some sort of dilemma. How do I get the best of both worlds, is it possible?

Maybe I’ll have to give up one for the another in the future, or maybe I’ll find a solution to solve this problem, but right now, I still have to complete my assignments while trying to minimise distractions from my business idea. It’s like I have to prevent myself from switching into entrepreneur mode from student mode. Multiple hats, isn’t that what an entrepreneur does? 

Anyways, feel free to comment and share your thoughts on your lives as a college entrepreneur. And maybe some helpful advice as well *wink. Until next time, bye. 

Start of a blog

This is my first blog about my entrepreneurial journey as a college student, which I’ll share my experience, my problems, my thoughts and opinions about entrepreneurship in general. As you guys probably know, entrepreneurship is no easy task, well at least being a successful one isn’t, plus balancing entrepreneurship with college, delightful! So, hopefully I can find some like-minded people and let’s just enjoy the journey together. After all, this is what we have chosen!

Quoting Steve Jobs, which is like most wannabe or new entrepreneurs’ role model of all time:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

College entrepreneurs out there, are you living your own life? Are you really thinking for yourself? Are you finding your own inner voice? Are you following your heart and intuition? 

I’m not going to offer advice or act like some expert in entrepreneurship, since I’m not. But maybe you’ll find yourselves in some of my stories as a college entrepreneur and know that somewhere out there in the world, there is someone who is facing similar challenges as you or someone who is going through what you are going through. That’s what I hope to find though, through this blog, a fellow companion.

Oh, by the way, I’m Nicole, and feel free to comment and share your opinions with me 🙂 Guess that’s all done for self introduction, so see you guys in the next post!