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. 🙂