People Focused Learning
I just stumbled across the beginning of an unfinished blog article I started early last year. It shows a rather jarring reality that I think many young entrepreneurs face in the early stages of pursing a business idea (or the idea of business).
There is such a dreary feeling that washes over me when I start to dive into the world of online business. In many ways, I feel like the lifestyle was made for me, but the access to it seems cruelly limited. I understand that building a business isn’t something that will happen over night, nor is there any guarantee that I will be successful in my attempt. I feel stuck in what Dan Andrews calls “The Yearning,” that time before the 1000 days of grind it takes to make your business.
There are so many blogs out there that preach the “Just Do It” motto of being a digital nomad. Get up off your ass, quit your job, build your business and get on the road. Sure it sounds great, but what about those that don’t have an idea, or marketable online skills, or even a corporate job to quit? (I hardly think that waiting tables is going to give you the experience to be a service industry consultant)
It’s a reality defined by insecurity and fear. One that I think holds most people back from creating a lifestyle or business that they love. I’ve been lucky enough to break through this early stage barrier, but only just recently have I realized how valuable it was and what allowed me to do so.
Starting something new is never easy.
The beginning of anything is difficult. Everyone has a list of failed attempts to learn something new — from musical instruments to foreign languages, we have a tendency to trail off when things get hard.
That said, online business is a rather extreme case of those high barrier to entry skills. There are 1000 ways to make money online and 10x that the number of resources telling you how to do it. It makes the pool of information that you’re wading through deep enough that you wonder if there are sharks in the water.
However these snacks they peddle are designed to give you just enough of a sense of accomplishment that you host a website on Blue Host through their affiliate link.
It’s a shady business, selling business.
Sites that tout dropshipping and affiliate marketing are a dime a dozen and you can spend days getting caught in the murk of those snake oil merchants.
However, in that time of pouring over niche site how-to’s and product catalogs I learned something.
I don’t need another blog post on choosing a great business idea. Or another 10 step email course for that matter. I need someone who recognizes me as a person and not just a lead to be nurtured. I need someone who is doing this — who has done this. I need help.
So I asked…
I reached out to my boss and requested that we start meeting for an extra hour every other week so I could assume an apprentice role with her. She happily obliged and granted me access to everything that goes on in our small company. However, that wasn’t the valuable part.
The hour of her time she gave me every other week is what really made the difference. It’s an hour where we could diverge from our business and I could ask questions about anything, bounce ideas off of her, and complain about my teaching job.
Somebody with experience was willing to listen and give me advice. And that affected me more than any inspirational blog post or killer podcast episode.
This is when I realized that I needed to change the way I approach learning. I started to focus on the people around me, and on how to absorb every bit of impromptu learning opportunity thats offered. It’s been an enlightening experience — and it’s one that’s available to everyone, you just have to be aware of what’s around you.
Here are some things to help you get started.
Stop googling, start communicating
If you’re surrounded by people all the time, then talk to them.
If you’re not surrounded by people…find some people, then talk to them.
It really is this simple. These friends, family members, and acquaintances might not be experts on exactly what you want to learn about, but they are experts on something.
Learning about that something is never going to hinder you in any way. If you embrace picking up as many little nuggets of information you can, you’re at least going to be better at bar trivia — which is a noble cause in itself.
Chances are, they’re probably pretty excited to talk about it.
What we self-centered humans don’t often think about is how much others love to talk about what they’re knowledgeable or passionate about. We all have so much shit floating around about our little something that as soon as someone asks a question even remotely related, the flood gates open.
If you’re genuinely interested in a topic one of your friends is an expert on, you’ll have no problem coaxing it out of them. You just have to ask.
They might even think higher of you for asking.
When you think about it, being asked for help is a very sincere form of flattery. Asking for help is admitting that someone knows more than you do about a topic and that you value what they have to say about it — a very effective ego boost.
Moreover, the person will feel a greater connection to you. You suddenly have a new common interest and they have someone they can pass new information on to. You might be surprised, a lot of people are actively seeking opportunities to help others out.
With that said, the fastest way to find a mentor is to be that exact person I’m talking about. Look for any chance you have to help others — in any way you can.
To have a friend, you have to be a friend.
A sentiment that has been echoed in my life multiple times in the past month is this concept of going out of your way to engage and empathize with those around you. It’s easy to compare this effort to a karmic relationship — the more good you put in, the more good you get out.
A friend of mine gave it a really good name, he calls it micro-rapport.
How many people do you interact with in a day? That’s how many chances you have to spread good energy and positively effect someones life. These people could be your spouse or coworker, or the clerk at the supermarket, everyone is a possibility. You have the power to make those peoples day a little brighter — and you should.
You see, when you add up all of those small interactions over the course of days, weeks, and months you’ll find yourself living in a world where people recognize you, engage with you, and appreciate you. It’s a wonderful feeling being surrounded by friends.
With more friends, you’ll quickly realize that…
People are interesting
They have lots of stuff going on. Projects, art, performances, trips and excursions. Aside from feeling great, you will find that opportunities present themselves that might never have been available to you before. When people enjoy having you around, they will constantly invite you to join them in whatever it is they’re doing.
So as you can see, you can never have too many friends — not just for personal gain, but to live an exciting, happy, and healthy life. So if you don’t have enough, go get some more!
Get on the plane
If you think it’s time to get serious about building the skill set or the lifestyle you want, then it’s time to physically move yourself towards it.
You’ve probably known some pretty talented people in your life, for me in particular, I’ve known quite a few actors and comedians (I studied music in college and our buildings were attached). And what did most of them do when they graduated? They moved to either LA or New York.
They knew that if they were going to get serious about their careers they had to be where the action was.
So now think about this concept for the industry you want to join or grow in. Are you in a location that inherently creates opportunity for you? If you are, do you take advantage of it or are you waiting for it to happen by osmosis?
I had a broad goal of creating a location independent life — one that allowed me to work, play, and grow simultaneously. What kind of ecosystem breeds these “lifestyle entrepreneurs?” One that’s cheap, fast-paced, and growing sounds pretty ideal, and Southeast Asia fits the bill.
Feeling pretty brave and a little bit reckless, I took the first decent job I found in Asia. I didn’t quite make it all the way down to Bangkok or Saigon, but I put myself a “weekending” distance away — Japan.
It was a fantastic decision, as in the 7 month I’ve lived in Asia I’ve made it to Bangkok (twice) and Saigon. All three visits have been filled with new friends, mentors, and ideas that have rocketed me into a different level of understanding.
There is a lot to be said about what it is that makes or breaks you. But you’re never going to have the chance unless you take the plunge.
Being around people that inspire you is a magical thing. They keep you focused, they give you ideas, and they encourage you to make the best of what you have. So if you aren’t inspired by the people around you, you need to find new people.