The best education entrepreneurs can receive comes from experience. Experience is the schooling for successful entrepreneurs. It provides a curriculum unlike anything the traditional school system can even begin to comprehend. Experience teaches people how to continually educate themselves, how to have an empowering perspective of failure, how to find solutions, how to know a little about a lot, how to praise and correct others, how to say “the buck stops here,” how to build wealth, how to look into the future, and how to take risks because of faith.
The teachers in the school of experience want to see their students succeed, so they offer no shortcuts. Some of the teachers in the school of experience are called Failure, Rejection, Loss, Attitude, Mind-set, Forgiveness, Perseverance, Poverty, Prosperity. Experience will not allow students to drop a course just because it gets difficult. If a student does quit a class before it’s finished, that student must go back to the class and pass the test before they can attend the graduation ceremony called Success. Each of the Distinctions in this little book is one of the most important lessons that the school of experience teaches entrepreneurs.
The traditional school system in the corporate world teaches people to be employees, not entrepreneurs. The traditional school system is called The Status Quo. It trains and conditions people to think about money and success from a very limited perspective. It does this by telling them what they have to learn and requiring that they obey the rules without question. In the school of experience, entrepreneurs choose what they want to learn about and they can ask any question they choose to without fear of being reprimanded or disciplined. Successful entrepreneurs ask themselves what they would really like to do with their lives, and then they ask others the questions that give them the answers to how to be successful at their chosen field of interest. The traditional school system does not teach people to think about being a successful entrepreneur. Sure, elementary school teachers may ask kids what they want to be when they grow up but the answers are related to being an employee, because that’s what they are taught. Most kids say they want to be a police officer, firefighter, pilot, teacher, doctor, veterinarian, athlete. And most of the answers they give are usually, not always, geared -toward being an employee. These kids are also told they must go to college if they want to get a good job.
A good job means being a good employee. There’s nothing wrong with being a good employee if that’s what you want to do; but there is also the option of becoming a successful entrepreneur. You cannot learn how to be-come a successful entrepreneur from the traditional school system.
Something strange happens to kids from their first few years of traditional school to their last few years. In the beginning they have some idea of what they want to be, but near the end of high school, they no longer know.
Ask most high school students why they’re going to attend college and most of them give you a blank stare. Why do so many young men and women in the traditional school system have an idea of what they want to be when they are young, but they don’t know ten years later? I believe the answer is that they have been conditioned to follow orders. After years of being told what to do, they’re asked what they’d like to do and they just don’t know. And you can’t blame them. Since many of them are not clear on what they want to do, they go to college. They invest years of their time and a lot of money then end up not using their college education and end up in a field that has nothing to do with their schooling. Some may even say they have wasted a lot of time and money by going to college. I did not go to college. Well, I did go, for two weeks, but then dropped out and went to work as a man-ager at a local men’s clothing store, because I believed I could learn more about business by working in one rather than hearing about one in school. I was right; the lessons I learned from experience were powerful and lasting. In the traditional school system we’re given a very limited perspective of life. We’re told that this is the way the world works, from people who may or may not have been pursuing their own purpose and passion. I’m not here to attack the traditional school system—I went to the traditional school system from kindergarten up through twelfth grade, and graduated. I had some remarkable teachers growing up who joined the profession because they had a passion for teaching, and truly loved kids—but in hindsight, it’s obvious that many teachers were there just doing the job to get a paycheck. For me, there’s not much worse than doing a job just for the money. We all have a deep need to engage in meaningful work. If your work is devoid of meaning, there’s a good chance that your life will follow suit.
Your work is an important part of your life, and as a result your quality of life is directly related to the choices you make about the work you engage in. As the saying goes: If you’re going to climb the corporate ladder, make sure it’s leaning against the right wall. In other words, if you don’t enjoy your work, change your work.
Most people spend their entire lives being told what to do. It starts with their parents, continues with their teachers, and for many people, it carries on through their lives with their bosses. The great irony is that many people don’t like to be told what to do. The problem is that most need to be because they have been completely conditioned to do only what other people tell them to.
The good news is that regardless of your traditional schooling and mental conditioning, you can recondition your mind. Start reconditioning your mind by educating yourself in an area you truly enjoy. Studying subjects that inspire you is a key to being successful and fulfilled.
My life started to change for the better the day I realized that my education was my responsibility. Early in life others told me what I had to learn, but now I choose what I invest my time learning about. If we allow others to choose for us, and their choices are not in alignment with our heart’s desires, then we feel a lack of purpose and meaning in our lives.
If you went to the traditional school system, you were taught to close your book when it was time to take a test. It’s a strange approach, considering that in the real world of experience, life is an -open--book exam. You can find all the answers you need to succeed simply by continuing to educate yourself. Success is not just about what and who you know, it’s also about what you are choosing to learn. And that will lead to who you need to know and the opportunities that you find. Make sure you educate yourself more than you entertain yourself. Learn about yourself and then about the interest of the people you are working with or want to work with.
Limit your entertainment. Most of the entertainment in our world is foolishness. While some can be fun and a momentary release from the pressures of life, much of the entertainment people watch and listen to can cause some of the stress they are experiencing. Whatever you are consistently putting into your mind is conditioning you for the future you will live.
The meaning of entertainment is “to detain from entering,” and most entertainment does just that: It prevents you from entering and engaging with life. When seeking to be entertained, find positive entertainment that inspires. Watch movies based on true stories that motivate you to take action. How much more action could you start taking toward your dreams if you entertained yourself less and educated yourself more? Are your dreams worth it? Of course they are. How much could you learn in the next twelve months if you turned your TV time into education time? How much would that new knowledge help you improve your standard of living and quality of life? Remember, your education is your responsibility.
It amazes me that most people haven’t even considered what they would -really love to do with their life. The reason I choose to write books and teach workshops is to help people find, focus on, and succeed at work they love to do. Finding that focus requires knowing yourself. What are your likes and dislikes? Your strengths and weaknesses? What are your personality traits? What do you love to do?
If you -haven’t taken a personality profile before, do it soon—it’s an enjoyable and insightful process. If you have taken one, do another one and study it more closely this time. There are many good personality assessments available, but the simplest and most powerful one I have found is based on the DISC model. There are four dominant personality types and many combinations. In the DISC model, the D’s are the people who are –risk-takers, decisive, goal-oriented, and dominant. The I’s are the funny, inspirational people who love to laugh and make others laugh with them. The S’s are the safe, secure, faithful, hardworking, and sincere people you can count on. The C’s are the calculated, precise, exact, planning people of our society.
Here’s an example of each personality: Imagine a house needs to be renovated. A D would say something like, “Okay, we need to knock down this wall and tear those pipes out over there. C’mon, let’s get this done.” And I would say, “I’ll get the pizza and bring the mu-sic. Who’s going to be there?” An S would say, “Where do you need me? Just tell me what to do.” They’ll also be the last one there at 10:00 at night, with a flashlight, painting the final corner of a room. A C would say, “Uh, do we have permits for all of this?”
You can probably identify yourself as a D, I, S, or C from that illustration. Each personality type has its strengths and weaknesses, and learning yours and those of others is critical to becoming successful. We all have different needs. Learning more about who you are and what meets your needs allows you to consciously engage in work that fulfills you. Learning the other personality types allows you to identify other people. When you can identify someone’s personality, you’re able to speak their language and better meet their needs. When you can speak someone’s language and meet their needs, you become a leader. Entrepreneurs understand themselves and others. Do you know what drives you? Successful entrepreneurs know their own strengths and weaknesses. People who do not know their strengths and weaknesses will always need to be managed and told what to do. But people who develop self-insight and learn to under-stand and connect with others can become successful entrepreneurs.
One of the skills of great entrepreneurs is the ability to network or build relationships. Granted, networking does seem to come easier for some people than others, but regardless of personality, anyone can learn to build good relationships.
We’ve all heard the old saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” There is some truth to that, but a more accurate statement would be, “It’s who and what you know.” Entrepreneurs continually improve their networking skills. They make it a priority to increase their knowledge about the people they want to network with. Who do you want to connect with? How much do you know about their interests? Educating yourself about the interests of someone you want to build a relationship with is critical. If there is no common ground, then chances are you won’t build a relationship.
So my advice for those who want to become successful entrepreneurs is to start with educating yourself about yourself and then learn how to build better relationships.
Another important subject in a successful entrepreneur’s education is leadership. Entrepreneurship and leadership go hand in hand. Leadership is influence. Successful entrepreneurs are those who have learned how to influence others. Unsuccessful entrepreneurs are those who have not yet learned how to lead. You must study and practice the principles of leadership if you want to become a successful entrepreneur. Although there are many principles of leadership, I will just share what I believe to be two of the most important ones here: As I have continued to educate myself and experience entrepreneurial successes and failures, it has become abundantly clear that you must learn to inspire and encourage yourself and others.
Inspiration is the result of a positive belief in yourself, in people, in opportunities, and in the work you’re engaged in. It comes from thinking about entrepreneurial endeavors with a positive attitude, that you can and will succeed. One of the secrets to being able to inspire others is you must be able to keep yourself inspired. True leadership starts with self-leadership. If you can’t keep yourself inspired, then you can’t inspire others very well. Inspiration helps entrepreneurs to stay focused on their goals and consistently take action toward them. Successful entrepreneurs are able to stay focused and keep taking action because they believe that what they are doing is important, not only for themselves but also for others. True leaders inspire others to believe they can achieve their goals and that their goals are meaningful and important to others as well. Everyone enjoys being part of something important, something meaningful, something bigger than themselves. It becomes much easier for you to inspire others if you are engaged in work that is important to you and makes a positive difference in the lives of other people.
Successful entrepreneurs inspire others to believe that their products and services are so important that a person’s life will be better off because of them. If you truly believe in what you are doing and promoting, then the power of inspiration will help carry you through the inevitable tough times, struggles, and failures. Without inspiration, it’s extremely difficult to achieve success. Success requires work, lots of work, and it’s inspiration that empowers you to keep working when you feel like giving up. Einstein once said that genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. I would like to add that it is the 1 percent of inspiration that makes the 99 percent perspiration possible. People will not work very long or hard to accomplish a significant goal unless they are truly inspired to do so. If you practice keeping yourself inspired, you’ll be educating yourself on how to inspire others. It’s when entrepreneurs can keep themselves and others inspired that they create more success.
Encouragement is closely linked to inspiration. In fact, they often feed and support each other. But there are some small distinctions between the two. Here’s a few of the key differences between inspiration and encouragement: Inspiration usually helps people get started, whereas encouragement usually helps people keep going. Inspiration is more an internal feeling and encouragement is more an external action, whether it is a simple smile, a pat on the back, or one sincere sentence that tells someone they can do it or that they can get back on track when they’ve had a setback. Some of the most meaningful encouragement is given through our words. Sometimes communicating to someone that you have faith in them and believe they can succeed is all they need to actually succeed. Many, many people fail because of a lack of encouragement in their lives. Many more people would have achieved many more successes in their lives if they had encouragement to do so. Don’t let this simple truth slip past you here.
Encouragement can change someone’s attitude, which will change their actions, which will change their results. Encouragement changes everything, and if you make it a regular, even daily, part of your life, you will reap huge benefits.
As with inspiration, if you can’t keep yourself encouraged then it is impossible to en-courage others. The role encouragement plays in the life of an entrepreneur cannot be over-stated. Encouragement is so vital because we all get discouraged at times, especially when things don’t work out according to our plans. Discouragement is an enemy of success. If you can learn to encourage yourself and others, then you will persevere and overcome the obstacles that get in your way. Don’t wait to encourage someone. Do it today and do it as much as you can. Don’t wait for someone to encourage you, learn to encourage yourself. Successful entrepreneurs get good at encouraging others because they practice on themselves so much. When you find yourself discouraged, it is your responsibility to encourage yourself and get back to taking action toward your goals. Being discouraged simply means you have lost your focus or changed your focus from what is truly important to you and are focusing on something or someone that is hindering your progress and success. One of the best ways to get back to feeling encouraged is to refocus on your highest priorities. We all lose our focus sometimes, and when we do, it is always our responsibility to refocus. Refocusing is often the difference between entrepreneurial success and failure. When you lose your focus, learn to refocus. When you learn to consistently refocus your mind and efforts on what’s most important to you, you will keep yourself encouraged and be able to encourage others. Educate yourself about leadership. Learn to lead with inspiration and encouragement. Leading through inspiration and encouragement creates successful entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs educate themselves more than they entertain themselves.
Employees entertain themselves more than they educate themselves.
Excerpted from The Top 10 Distinctions Between Entrepreneurs and Employees by Keith Cameron Smith. Copyright © 2012 by Keith Cameron Smith. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.