Learning is a lifelong process, especially when you’re an entrepreneur. As society and technology evolve, it’s important to keep on top of the latest trends and best practices so that you, and your business, can keep growing.
You can pursue advanced degrees or formal continuing education classes, but sometimes this isn’t feasible. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities for informal learning that don’t involve going back to school.
We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council how they’ve committed to lifelong learning outside of the traditional classroom setting. Here’s what they advise:
There is no better way to grasp new ideas and educate yourself than to be in new places, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. Traveling may not give you book smarts, but it will give you an education you can’t get in a classroom.
—Colbey Pfund, LFNT Distribution
2. Try new things.
It is important to step outside of your comfort zone and try things you maybe would not normally try. It could be reading a book on a topic you might not normally gravitate to, eating a cuisine you would normally never try or seeing a concert of a genre of music you have never been into. Exposing yourself to the world outside of your bubble is a great way to continue to grow and learn.
—Adrien Schmidt, Aristotle, by Bouquet.ai
3. Share knowledge with others.
Teaching others also teaches you something. It is the best test of your own knowledge. Whomever you are teaching or mentoring will have questions. This will force you to think critically and offer thoughtful answers. It will also create discussions that will tap into areas you may not have even thought about yet.
—Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker
4. Keep in touch with mentors.
Every business owner has a couple of mentors they relied on when they first started their business. There’s a good chance that they have a lot of knowledge to share, and just because you’ve managed to create a successful business, that doesn’t mean that you’ve learned everything they have to offer. Keep in touch with the people who helped you get started.
5. Listen to podcasts.
Lifelong learning is the only way to stay on top of the curve. However, it’s really difficult for entrepreneurs to squeeze in at least an hour a week to gain some knowledge. I discovered podcasts a few years ago and it’s been a game-changer for me. I listen to them in traffic, or when I do some physical tasks that don’t require mental concentration, like running or working out.
6. Read blogs.
Reading industry-related blogs is a great way to practice lifelong learning. Because blog posts are shorter, in comparison to books, you can learn a lot in a short amount of time. I make sure to read at least a couple a day to get inspired, improve my own writing skills and learn new things.
—Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
7. Join an industry group.
Having other people around who are working toward similar or the same goals can help you grow. These members and friends keep you accountable, and you do the same for them. Meeting regularly builds the habit and commitment. In addition to building lifelong skills, from public speaking to writing to studying, you will gain lifelong friends.
—Patrick Barnhill, Specialist ID, Inc.
8. Watch lectures on YouTube.
YouTube is full of professors giving educational lectures for everyone to see. If you want to learn more while not sitting in a classroom, consider taking the time to listen to a lecture on a subject you’re passionate about while on lunch. Even though you’re not in a class, you still get the benefits of having a student mentality.
9. Keep asking questions.
It’s so important to stay curious about life so that it never gets dull or boring. If you stay inquisitive about all there is to know, it’ll encourage you to keep learning new things, perhaps even things you never thought you could do. Encourage yourself to ask questions about anything and everything you’re curious about to keep your brain engaged and healthy.
10. Watch documentaries.
An easy and entertaining way to practice lifelong learning is to watch documentaries. There are tons of awesome documentaries out there and it’s a great way to learn more about the world. I think it’s important to learn about a wide array of topics, not just ones that are related to your business. You never know what you’ll learn in a documentary that could inspire your next great idea.
11. Read everything.
The most important thing I ever got out of my education was a passion for reading. It’s because of this that I’ve been able to continue learning and growing long after finishing my degree. If you want to ensure that you’re informed about the latest developments in your field and that you’re always improving your mental capabilities, make it a habit to read everything you can get your hands on.
12. Take online classes.
I love the convenience of online courses that I can start and stop and then start again whenever I have a free half hour. It’s a productive way for me to unwind after working or something to do when I’m stuck somewhere, like at an airport or on a plane.
13. Listen to audiobooks.
Audiobooks are a super convenient way to keep learning new things on a daily basis. Whether it’s on your daily commute, while eating lunch or even during simpler tasks at work, it’s an easy way to consume new material and maintain your edge. I personally take a 30-minute walk every day after lunch just to make sure I get my “reading” in.
14. Hang around curious minds.
It is said that “small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events and great minds discuss ideas.” If you want to be successful and a lifelong learner, it would be wise to hang around other curious people. What do your peers talk about when you’re together? Do they discuss deep topics and ideas or pointless, feel-good social gossip?