Learning About Learning From Entrepreneurs

This past January I decided to understand the mindset and decision making skills of entrepreneurs, so I started a podcast to interview some. I had three reasons:

  1. As an educator, I think we can use a shot of “risk taking” DNA from some of our national and local entrepreneurs.
  2. More students need to be privy to these people, and not just the “usual suspects” of traditional curriculum.
  3. I thought it would been fun to interview amazing people.
You can listen to the podcast on ITunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/startedup-podcast/id1190995056?mt=2

What I’ve found again and again from my guests is the willingness to always adapt, always learn. There is a burning desire to be better- because the competition will be learning and adapting as well. That drive can be found in the way they start a company, but also in the way they GROW and sustain a company. I recently interviewed Nate Murray, founder of Merchline.com, and he talked about starting the company to help local Tampa, Florida bands. Then he found opportunities to serve more bands, which has led him to be a merchandise fulfillment provider to artist like Justin Bieber, Skrillex, and 30 Seconds to Mars. He now is on the lookout for trends and tech-enabling services to make the customer user experience even better. There is no comfort zone for his company- only keeping ahead of the competition.

The second “learning” trait I’ve seen in all of the top entrepreneurs and innovative companies is the acceptance of failure as a tool. Heck, it’s a badge of honor to many. The “fail fast/fail often/fail forward” mentality has been embraced by the most innovative companies. But sometimes failure “hurts,” and the truth is hard to swallow. When I talked with Tom Bilyeu, co-founder of Quest Nutrition, he gave insight into his failure and possibly hurting someone’s feelings. “Where I’ve failed as a leader is thinking about hurting their feelings in the short term, and about their success in the long term.”

Tom’s Show: Inside Quest, When I was the Guest

Lastly (and there were waaaaay more traits than these three), the third trait was the TOTAL responsibility they took when it came to the good AND bad of their startups. The “employee” mindset looked for the weekly paycheck, the smoke break, and a fun weekend. Conversely, the founder was trying to get feedback, taking responsibility when things were going bad, and NOT blaming “market conditions,” but rather admitting mistakes and changing. In one of my favorite episodes, some of my students interviewed Navy SEAL and author of “Extreme Ownership,” Jocko Willink. “If you get your ego in your way, you will only look to other people and circumstances to blame… and that’s the beginning of the end. YOUR success, or lack of success, is YOUR responsibility. Even when you have a chain of command that you don’t like as well, its your responsibility to work with the up chain of command.

Our interview w/ Jocko

Now of all these three “learning traits” (adaptability/ lifelong learning, willingness to fail, and extreme ownership) how many are supported in our schools? Learning is usually treated as short term solution to cram for a test. How many times do we hear, “I’m almost outta here” in May? What that phrase usually means is “I’m done with learning… I’m done with school.” That’s a toxic outlook for anyone. How is failure seen in school? Not on a report card for a “serious student.” What about ownership? Many of us are looking for something/someone to blame. Just turn on any news outlet and you’ll find plenty of blame, but next to no talk of personal responsibility.

I think we are at a pivotal moment in education. The dialogue of why we are in school- and what “future” we are preparing our students for is being questioned by people that like to tackle problems head on. People that see obstacles and societal problems as business opportunities. Entrepreneurs.

If you consider yourself to be a lifelong learner, I highly recommend that you follow these great minds. I often listen to people like Gary Varynerchuk (who will be a guest in June), Tim Ferris, Jocko Willink, and Tom Bilyeu for inspiration, mindset advice, and motivation to keep learning more and acquiring skills. What I try to avoid is cable tv, especially political news.

Lastly, I want to help more educators, students, and entire schools. If you would like to know more about how we are trying to make a dent in this educational universe, please email me at: don@startedupinnovation.com. If you really want to help, please sign up for weekly updates by subscribing to our newsletter. We want more educators and students to treat education like a startup.

Until then, keep learning… keep adapting.

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