ACCUMULATE NEW SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE

“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.” — Theodore Roosevelt

I’m 25. I’ve only been employed once. I’ve never read a course or a program at university or college. I don’t have a core competence like programming, sales, marketing or accounting.

For some, that makes me hard to employ and for others, the fact that I don’t have a degree will automatically make my competence less worth.

But still. I’m 25. I’ve been running my own business since I was 21. I spend about 3–5 hours a day on learning new things within different areas of business, marketing, tech, politics and global development for the last 6 years. And together with my co-founders I’ve hired my first CEO.

The list of things you need to go through if you’re running a growing company is massive. Union negotiations, hiring and firing staff, navigating through tough economic times, buy-ins and buy-outs of founders, pivoting business models, taking the role as CFO, CMO, CEO, COO and all the C-whatever-O roles there is.

We haven’t built an unicorn, yet. But we’ve built a fairly good business with a great team, a great growth and an even greater potential. And we did it without any earlier experience and without any pure core competence within the area of business we operate.

For me building new ventures are about some key factors:

  • How good you are at adapting to the current situation
  • How good you are at accumulate new skills and learnings
  • How good you are at executing and doing

Founders focus on methods and new knowledge rather than one core competence

Meeting a lot of founders I’ve come to realize a lot of them focus on methods, processes and creating self-helping tools to accumulate new skills and competence in a rapid speed. If you are about to scale an organisation you’ll aim to hire experts to help you build your venture but in order to lead great people you need to have the right set of tools to be able to take the right decisions and to be able to take the right decisions you need to understand what and why the experts are talking about this perticular subject. You need to be able to question and be critical adding your own point of view, since you are the one with the great picture, and the only way to be able to do so is to have a basic understanding for all aspects of your business. If you don’t understand the driving forces in your own business, you don’t have enough intel to make the right decisions. And it takes a lot to understand every aspect of the company. As a founder you probably have the advantage of trying out all the areas of your business, you’ve probably even built the foundation of the departments yourself.

But still, when your company grows and the experts come in your ability to gain new knowledege will be tested.

TOOLS TO ACCUMULATE SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE

One of the worst things I know is sitting at a table and not be able to understand what we are talking about. Understanding the topic talked about will help me understand how the people at the table are resonating and thinking and that will help me gain new perspectives and expand my own way of thinking. If I find myself in a discussion talking about something I don’t understand I’ll spend the upcoming nights digging deeper into that subject. I just have a need to understand things.

Looking back on how I’ve worked to gain new knowledge I found the following activites as recurring:

1. Fail a lot of times

Sounds like a cliché and maybe it is. But never the less true for that. Making the wrong decisions, failing new ideas or failing a project is the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. Failing means that you’ve tried something that was in deep water for you and something you didn’t master fully. Failing will, if you reflect on it, give you new insights and learnings you’ll be able to use for future projects and future decisions.

2. Don’t be to busy

Don’t be to busy — even though it’s super popular to be busy nowadays. Busy takes time from reflection, learning and decision making. And it also makes it much harder to give yourself time to figure out the future for your business, life and organisation. If you want to grow and make something grow you need the space and time to be strategic, to think and to learn. Otherwise you’ll only find yourself put out fires and not be able to solve the root cause.

3. Make sure to have a steady flow of new perspectives

R.R. Martin once said: “I have lived a thousand lives and I’ve loved a thousand loves. I’ve walked on distant worlds and seen the end of time. Because I read.”

I like this saying because reading means that you’ll be exposed to new perspectives and this will challenge your imagination, your truths and your mind to think bigger. I have this thesis that people that read a lot as children also have it easier to step out of themselves and see their own actions from an outside perspective.

Btw, don’t get stuck in only reading blog posts or TechCrunch articles because they’ll often explain the “what” but seldom tell you “why” and “how”.

Follow people that are experts in subjects that you’re interested in, blogs, news papers and communities and make sure your own Twitter feed becomes a feed of new perspectives and inspiration. That will help you find the right readings which will expand your mind.

4. Take time to reflect on a regular basis

Real learning and new insights will only come when you give yourself the space and time to reflect. Mark up time in your calendar for one or two hours every week. When having reflection time, write down your thoughts and practice asking yourself questions like why, how, what?

Also, go back and read your notes every now and then. This will help you clear your thoughts and better understand your feelings and decisions.

5. Try new things

This summer I got the opportunity to work with a friend, who’s a really talented designer, for a few weeks. Just by working with him for a few weeks a whole new world was opened to me. My mind was expanded when talking to experts within an area I hadn’t done much work within before. I started to get the basics on the why in design. I’m pretty sure I won’t become an expert on design or user interface but by putting in a hundred hours or so in the subject I’ll at least be able to understand WHAT people are talking about and I can give better feedback based on my broad knowledge from other areas, such as marketing or sales. The deep reflections and Whys comes from the experts.

My job is often to collect the thoughts from a lot of different areas such as sales, marketing, tech, design to a sum and make a decision based on the opinions all together. By doing a couple of hundred hours in all the different areas I’m pretty sure me as a generalist or decision maker will become better.

6. Change settings and team every now and then

We all have our different experiences and history and we all have a different view on the world. Change and renewal is vital to keep the innovation and the steady flow of new ideas going. By being exposed to new settings and new people you’ll expand your own view and you’ll be able to challenge your own thoughts in a whole new way. Being in a team where everybody are reading the same things and hanging out at the same arenas will create a like minded group and which is death for innovation. This is why I see it as important to keep meeting new people and work in projects with different teams. You can learn something from every person you meet. And the more people you meet, the more you’ll learn.

7. Take responsibility

Taking responsibility for your actions and decisions are important and can be a hard and scary thing. But by really take the lead and being responsible for an organisation, business, a team or even yourself has helped me to keep my game up, it means I can’t rely on anyone else to do the work for me. When you can’t blame anyone else for the failures to come and you’ll put a sane pressure on you to grow, learn new things and accumulate new skills every single day. Because accumulating new skills every day is the only way the keep up in todays competitive and fast moving landscape. Especially if you want to be in the front seat.

What’s your best way to keep up and gaining new skills and knowledge? Do you agree or disagree with me on the things written above?

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