How to be the worst kind of entrepreneur (and fail)

Photo credit: pixabay/congerdesign cc0 public domain.

Someone said to me over 15 years ago, “People will start aging when they stopped learning.”

Physically and mentally, people literally get old when they no longer are willing or open to learning. I have personally known those in their 50s and 60s who have never lost their childlike curiosity and insatiable desire for learning new things. They exude this youthful vibe and are full of life. They even physically look 20 or 30 years younger.

This maxim is also true with business and organization. Companies that stopped learning, that refuse to adapt to the new and ever-changing reality, and fail to invest in constant research and development (R&D) are ones that are destined to fail as they ossify and fossilize themselves.

These are ways to become the worst kind of entrepreneur, and ultimately, to fail in business:

  • Think and behave as if you don’t have to learn from your competitors and those who have been in your industry longer than you are, because you think you are innovative and unique.
  • Obsess endlessly on what you want, instead of listening to your prospects, your customers, and industry experts. Without customers there’s no business.
  • Think and behave that because you have education or decades of career behind you, you no longer have to study. (Just because you were successful in another thing does not automatically promise success in your new business!)
  • Refuse to invest yourself in open-minded and open-ended research (without preconceived outcome — or else any such “research” will be skewed by your own confirmation bias).
  • Do not get out of your own bubble. Feed yourself only information and “news” that affirm your beliefs. Associate and surround yourself only with people you like or agree with, so as to make yourself blind to the world out there and the needs of your potential customers.
  • Waste your down time on meaningless activities instead of learning something new every day or gain a new skill — even if such skills and knowledge may not directly relate to your business.

Here are 20 ways to keep yourself younger and your business vibrant:

  • Take a walk for 45 minutes every day. Some of the greatest ideas are born while walking and exploring the world outside. Also, 30 to 60 minutes of physical exercise a day improves your learning abilities.
  • Learn a foreign language or two. Even just learning a few words or phrases every day contributes to a greater brain capacity, flexibility in thinking, and openness to new experiences.
  • Knit, draw, paint, play a musical instrument, or do something with your hands. These activities are conducive to building a stronger brain and expanding learning capacity.
  • Visit a library and pick up a few random books on a variety of subject matters.
  • Read magazines on your industry, as well as general business and entrepreneurship magazines such as Entrepreneur, Inc., and Fast Company.
  • Read the Economist and the National Geographic magazines. They offer views on what’s happening in different parts of the world.
  • Read an actual paper book.
  • Write a journal.
  • Doodle.
  • Visit with and learn from someone who is in a different industry than yours. Their perspectives are valuable. (A chamber of commerce is a great place to connect with these people.)
  • Network with your competitors. If there is an industry association, join and attend its events. Listen to what they have to say. Learn their language and culture. Absorb.
  • Learn coding (computer programming) or math.
  • Learn how to use abacus or slide rule. These “retro computing devices” are known to enhance your left-right brain coordination, leading to an enhanced creativity and thinking capacity. (You don’t need to buy one: If you have a smartphone, download a virtual abacus or a virtual slide rule.)
  • Go back to basics. Every once in a while, read a book on business for beginners, or take a class for those with no prior experience (sometimes, books written for kids and youth can provide an amazing insight!). It takes seven times of repeated learning to internalize the materials fully. Even if you already know everything, you will be reminded of many important points you had forgotten.
  • If you’re bored, look through a world atlas or an encyclopedia (almost every library has those, even to this day). Or, play with the Google Maps (or, if you’d rather not Google track you, try the Open Street Map) or Wikipedia on your phone and visit random links or explore cities you have never been to (try the Google Street View!).
  • Use dictionary. I mean real paper dictionary. Look up words that you don’t know the exact meanings of, even if you think you know them (often you will be surprised how people use certain words in a very wrong way).
  • Attend a free open lecture at a nearby university, if you live near one. Almost every university has such an event a few times every week.
  • Watch TEDx talks on YouTube if you don’t want to do anything other than watching TV.
  • Learn a song in another language.
  • Stop telling yourself you are old. Or, you’re too old to (insert whatever the activities you don’t want to do). Stop obsessing over physical “signs” of aging such as wrinkles, waistline, or hairline.