Running a business doesn’t always come naturally, and even the most successful entrepreneurs admit they’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. In order to remain relevant in today’s dynamic marketplace, we must always be learning. One of the best ways to learn and increase your knowledge base is to read. Active reading, where you highlight important information and take notes, is even better!
To dive deeper into this topic, we invited our Spinner Expert, Theresa Destrebecq, to share her top tips on approaching your learning to make a difference in your business.
Some of us plan to be entrepreneurs. Most of us don’t. Those of us who don’t, are usually leaving a traditional job due to bureaucracy, bias, or bad bosses. We throw ourselves into the world of entrepreneurship with energy and gusto.
We know we are skilled.
We know we can do it.
We think, “If I build it, they will come.”
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy.
As an entrepreneur, we have to develop range. We can no longer be individual contributors to our specific skill set.
We must become the CEO, CTO, COO, CFO, Marketing Director, Sales Director, HR Director (if we hire a team), and so much more. With this realization, we use our “spare” time to soak up as much information as we can. We sit through the Nail Your Niche webinar. We buy the 19€ e-book on Social Media Marketing that Sells.
We read countless books and attend countless free webinars on selling, mindset, goal setting, etc.
Perhaps we even hire a business coach.
We bounce from one shiny object to another, from one learning opportunity to another.
After all, knowledge is power, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not.
We have acquired a lot of shelf development, while we are still on the “struggle bus.” (I am speaking from experience here…)
Instead, here are some ways to approach your learning differently, so that it sticks and actually makes a difference in your life:
1) WHAT’S YOUR INTENTION?
Yes, you want to grow your business. I get that. But what’s the real reason for it? Are you scared to death of failing and having to then go back to corporate life? Or, are you motivated to a bigger purpose? Are you hustling from the heart? Or are you hustling from fear or ego?
Your answer to these questions will reflect what kind of learner you are.
If fear is the foundation of all this learning, then that fear will translate directly into what you do with your learning.
It’s easy to soak up information, but it’s a lot harder to put it into practice.
And if you are afraid of failure, that means you won’t try out these new ideas you are learning. You’ll stay a theorist and never become a practitioner.
You give the illusion of learning, but really all you’re doing is consuming.
2) STOP CONSUMING AND START CONNECTING
Many of us approach our learning with a pen in hand. We underline quotes that resonate with us. We bullet out the best parts of the webinar. Then we close the book or notebook. And we close off our learning with it.
Instead, we need to move from consuming to connecting.
Yes, it was a fabulous quote. So what?
In order to have a transformational learning experience, we need to stop simply consuming information and start connecting it to our lives and our work. That happens when we put in a bit more effort to make connections.
David Rock, founder of the Neuroleadership Institute once wrote:
The reality is that to be effective, learning needs to be effortful. That’s not to say that anything that makes learning easier is counterproductive–or that all unpleasant learning is effective. The key here is desirable difficulty. The same way you feel a muscle “burn” when it’s being strengthened, the brain needs to feel some discomfort when it’s learning. Your mind might hurt for a while–but that’s a good thing.
Ask yourself questions about what you are reading and what it means for you as you grow your business. Make new connections.
- What does this quote mean for me and for my business?
- How can I connect this information to what’s happening in my business?
- How is this information connected to other things I have learned or experienced?
- What’s the perspective of someone who disagrees with this quote?
When will I use this information?
So grab your journal and start connecting the dots!
3) BE A TEACHER
Reading and listening are passive activities. They activate the left side of the brain — the analytical side of the brain.
Yet, to grow your business you need to move beyond just analyzing and synthesizing information. You need to use it.
This is my invitation for you to step into the role of the inspired professor.
When you learn something to then teach it, you approach the information differently.
You activate the right side of the brain — the creative side.
If you want all this information to actually stick, teach someone else.
It doesn’t matter who your audience is.
You can set up a video camera and teach no one.
You can teach your child’s favourite stuffed toy.
Or your neighbour.
Or your mom.
Or a fellow entrepreneur.
It doesn’t matter who, what matters is that you get your creative side engaged and have some fun using the information in new ways.
4) TAP INTO YOUR TRIBE
If I say that I am going to go for a run at 6:00 am, I may or may not get out of bed.
If I say that I am going to go for a run with my neighbour at 6:00 am, you can bet that I will get myself out of bed.
We like being liked. Like it or not, we show up more fully for others than we do for ourselves.
Either tap into the tribe you already have, or build a new one that will hold you accountable to your learning journey.
Perhaps you decide to read together, or attend the same webinar and arrange to discuss afterwards. Perhaps you read different books on the same subject and meet up to teach one another the content. Perhaps you set goals together and check in regularly. Perhaps you create parallel learning opportunities, where you meet on Zoom and each of you does your own learning and share your connections at the end of the hour.
5) FAIL FAST, FAIL EARLY
You may not be a tech company, but you can still use the agile ways of creating a minimum viable product to then test it in the marketplace.
Set yourself up with a 2-week sprint with a retrospective at the end of the 2 weeks period-perhaps you can do this with your learning partner.
Choose one aspect of your new learning that you can put into practice. Decide ahead of time what metrics you will use to test.
How will I decide to continue, or pivot?
Then put on your scientist hat and put your learning into use for 2 weeks.
At the end of that 2 week period, check-in.
- What went well?
- What didn’t?
- What could I do differently?
- What’s worth continuing?
6) REMEMBER THAT THE EXPERTS CAN BE WRONG
Yes, someone wrote a book and you bought it, someone put on a webinar that you attended. That doesn’t mean that they know how you should run your business.
They don’t know you.
They don’t know your values.
They don’t know your passions.
They don’t know your business (even if they have a similar one).
They don’t know your drivers. They sold you on their ideas.
But that doesn’t mean that their ideas will translate into your ideas and your business growth. That’s why becoming the scientist is so important.
What works for one business, may not work for another. That’s why you need to be in the driver’s seat of your learning.
This article is a collaboration between Veronica Guguian, marketing strategist and founder of Spin Ideas and Theresa Destrebecq, founder, leader learner, community catalyst and conversation kickstarter at Emerge Book Circles. After spending over a decade in traditional education and education leadership, and 8 years coaching individuals, Theresa is creating safe spaces for leaders to share their love of reading in community with others, and ensuring that they start creating new ways of living from those ideas. With Emerge Book Circles, she aims to inspire you to take action and transform how you live, learn, and lead, using books as the tool to facilitate that emergence.
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