One of the things that we constantly discuss in these articles is the need to continually educate yourself. Arguably, the worst thing that a business owner can do is to assume that they know everything there is to know about their business. Our world is constantly changing, and business and industry are no exception. Certainly, it’s in our best interest to adapt and change along with it. Those that refuse to keep up with those changes are doomed to be left behind, beaten out by those that nimbly adapt to new methods and updated technology.
But learning about new ideas and upcoming technology are not the only reasons to stay informed. Learning new things and being well-read can pay off in many other ways. It challenges your thinking, forcing you to constantly reassess your ideals and priorities. It exposes you to other points of view, defying you to defend your opinions and better explain your positions. It can reinforce your thinking, supporting your ideas and motivating you to continue along your chosen path. And it can expand your options, showing you that there may be other ways, besides your current trajectory, to achieve your goals.
“We should strive to welcome change and challenges, because they are what help us grow. We need to constantly be challenging ourselves in order to strengthen our character and increase our intelligence.”H.G. Wells, “The Time Machine”
This last reason to keep learning, to open your eyes to different tracts to achieve your goals, can often prove to be the most important rationale for new business owners to expand their knowledge. For those just starting out in their industry, any knowledge that can reveal different paths to success may prove to be the difference between another year in business and bankruptcy.
A passage from a recent read, “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Timothy Ferriss, helped to reinforce my belief in the power of education to promote business success.
In this passage, the speaker, Derek Sivers, talks about the importance of saying “yes” to any opportunity when starting a new venture. He talked about an opportunity that presented itself when he was an 18-year-old college student working on his degree at the Berklee College of Music.
“I’m in this band where the bass player, one day in rehearsal, says, ‘Hey man, my agent just offered me this gig—it’s like $75 to play at a pig show in Vermont.’ He rolls his eyes, and he says, ‘I’m not gonna do it, do you want the gig?’ I’m like, ‘Fuck yeah, a paying gig?! Oh, my God! Yes!’ So, I took the gig to go up to Burlington, Vermont. “And, I think it was a $58 round-trip bus ticket. I get to this pig show, I strap my acoustic guitar on, and I walked around a pig show playing music. I did that for about 3 hours, and took the bus home, and the next day, the booking agent called me up, and said, ‘Hey, yeah, so you did a really good job at the pig show…’
“So many opportunities, and 10 years of stage experience, came from that one piddly little pig show… When you’re earlier in your career, I think the best strategy is to just say ‘yes’ to everything. Every little gig. You just never know what are the lottery tickets.”
Business owners are often hesitant to accept a job that isn’t exactly what they envision themselves doing in their career. If it doesn’t perfectly fit into their idea of what they’re supposed to be doing in their job, they’re quick to dismiss it out of hand. Instead they choose to focus their attention exclusively on the role they see themselves in, refusing to do any jobs that aren’t exactly within their scope of work. As a result, they often end up limiting themselves and their future opportunities in the process.
When I first started in the home inspection industry, I was excited about the prospects of my new career. My previous job had been all over the place, requiring me to do many different tasks, most of which were outside the realm of my expertise. While this ultimately proved to be an amazing learning experience and led to my success in the home inspection industry, at the time it was incredibly stressful. I often wondered why I couldn’t just do the job that I’d been hired for.
When I started as a home inspector, my initial thought process was to focus exclusively on inspecting houses. I thought it would be best for me to turn down any other opportunities that came my way that didn’t involve a “standard” home inspection. Fortunately for me, I soon realized that it’s difficult to gain customers as a new business start-up, and I quickly became much more receptive to the ancillary opportunities that began to present themselves.
It’s important, especially early in your career, to keep an open mind when it comes to opportunities that may seem a bit different than what you’re hoping for. The first couple of years are always the most difficult ones for a fledgling small business to survive. Any income that can help get you past those lean years is something to be appreciated. And you never know what kind of breaks may come from those “different opportunities.” You never can tell which offer is going to be the one that ultimately leads to your success.
“Change is the law of life. Those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”John F. Kennedy
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