Malcolm Knowles, the most prominent figure in adult education, describes key assumptions on how an adult learns differently from children. First is the change from being dependent learners to being more self-directed and independent. Adults learn better when they have control over their training plans as compared to being spoon-fed by teachers like in their younger years. They are more intrinsically motivated, preferring to study practical subjects applicable to their daily lives. Another assumption is that adults have a wealth of experiences they can gain knowledge from, which leads to better engagement if real-world examples and problems are used to illustrate theories.
In essence, after one’s college years, a self-directed, pragmatic, and experiential way of learning is the best method for building skills and deepening knowledge. This approach best describes the difficult journey that is entrepreneurship. Knowles might as well say people should try being an entrepreneur to gain intimate knowledge and appreciation about business, instead of going back to school again.
Being stuck in a classroom can’t hold a candle to how real-life experience will drill down lessons until a person learns them. Entrepreneurship is comparable to Lasik correction surgery. You fix the problem directly at the source, bad habits for the former and blurry eyes for the latter, instead of relying on crutches like theoretical frameworks or glasses to have better vision. Both methods are long-term, effective, and don’t have the risk of getting forgotten.
If you’re thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, here are a few skills and lessons you’ll never fail to recall:
Dealing with haters and naysayers
Everyone’s a critic and entitled to their opinions and perspectives. However, all of them are not created equal. Some people have good intentions and only want the best from you, but most of the time, criticisms come from a place of jealousy, spite, and ignorance. Entrepreneurs will be subjected to feedback and backlash since they are operating at a public stage. It is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ Psychologist Sherrie Campbell says that entrepreneurs can use criticism and rejection to their advantage by developing emotional strength, focus, fearlessness, and unwavering belief in one’s purpose.
Leveraging on failures and mistakes
Failure and mistakes are part of the course for entrepreneurs since they’re charting their own paths and creating world-changing innovations. Even successful entrepreneurs like Alibaba founder Jack Ma and CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk were not excused from the bitter taste of picking themselves up after experiencing setbacks. They used these challenges to learn more about what went wrong and do better next time. Now, Alibaba is one of the world’s leading e-commerce giants, and SpaceX has successfully launched Crew Dragon at the International Space Station. Real failure only happens when entrepreneurs stop trying.
Building a strong and dedicated team
It’s easy to think that founders and managers are the be-all and end-all of the business, running the entire operation and commanding people to do work. However, without a talented team backing them up, the business won’t survive through problems and challenges. One man can only do so much, especially when more responsibilities and demands pile up. Entrepreneurs must be clear about their vision and support to them, mentoring them to become valued members of the organization.
Entrepreneurship is one of the most challenging but fulfilling paths anyone can take. The lessons learned, skills honed, and people met as an entrepreneur are more valuable than any advanced degree.