It goes like this: entrepreneurs think that just because they’ve opened their own business or graduated that they don’t need more education. And stories of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropping out of college to pursue their startups, while inspiring, aren’t exactly helpful.
What if we told you that all successful people have a secret? Formal education or not, they never stop working on themselves; they never stop learning. Why do they do that?
by Robert Greene
⏱ 13 minutes reading time
🎧 Audio version available
Let’s get back to the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg example. The two famously left their respective universities to dedicate themselves full-time to Microsoft and Facebook. However, and this is key, that doesn’t mean they haven’t continued their education. Colleges aren’t the only place where you can learn and develop new skills.
Part of his morning routine is that every day, Bill Gates wakes up bright and early, eats breakfast, and works out for an hour. While he works out, he makes sure he learns something new. He often does so in the form of educational videos. One day, he watches videos about American history and the next he’s learning about geology.
Mark Zuckerberg, a certified genius, one of the top 10 richest people in the world, makes it a goal to never stop developing his brain. He publicly announces his New Year’s resolution every year. His first resolution was in 2009, and it was to wear a tie every day.
But in 2010, as Facebook was finding wild success, well, everywhere, he changed directions. That year, he vowed to learn Mandarin– to both connect with his then-girlfriend, and now wife, Priscilla Chan’s family and to reach out so he could expand Facebook to the Chinese market. By 2013, he held an entire Q&A session at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
In 2012, he announced that he wanted to relearn programming– an invaluable skill for his industry. While Zuckerberg is the definition of a coding prodigy, he would have long been out of business if he didn’t put such emphasis on keeping up on his programming skills.
2015 – he resolved to read a book every other week. He focused on books about technologies, histories, and different cultures and beliefs.
The list goes on, and Zuckerberg and Gates aren’t the only ones constantly learning. See, when it comes to entrepreneurship, the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who commit to constantly developing new skills.
It Keeps Their Minds Sharp
Like muscles, your brain needs constant exercise and stimulation. The world “exercise” isn’t limited to treadmills and weights at the gym. It includes keeping your mind sharp by working it as well.
Just like exercising keeps your body fit and healthy, your mind needs the same workout to keep it active. If that means taking a Mandarian class on the weekends, so be it. As long as it’s a skill that you enjoy, it’s beneficial.
It’s An Investment
Entrepreneurs love the word “investment.” Well, growing perennially is an investment– of your time, energy, and money. Why? Because it ends up helping your career and business, but that’s something we’ll get to in a moment.
Warren Buffet once said,
“There’s one investment that supersedes all others: Invest in yourself.”
He also said,
“I just sit in my office and read all day.”
“One can best prepare themselves for the economic future by investing in your own education. If you study hard and learn at a young age, you will be in the best circumstances to secure your future.”
“Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.”
If you’re still not convinced, take it from another CEO. Scott Lee, who founded Gooroo, the company responsible for Gooroo Course, a video learning platform. He believes that
“All learning essentially boils down to self-improvement. Whether you’re improving an academic skill, picking up a new hobby, or trying to expand your business, your efforts lead to meaningful personal growth. Your knowledge is an investment because it helps you become a more well-rounded person. It helps you connect with others. It gives you the confidence you need to succeed in other areas of your life.”
The cutthroat world of business has a notorious turnover rate. Those who don’t adapt are the first to go. Regardless of your industry, adaptability is vital to maintaining your momentum.
As luck would have it, learning new skills, gaining knowledge, and developing yourself makes it easier to not just adapt to changes, but to perhaps lead these changes. All in all, you’re better prepared.
Eventually, comes down to this: contentment and happiness. If you’re in the entrepreneur business, you probably already possess the drive to constantly create and innovate. Staying stagnant and not improving will quickly grow tedious– and money draining.
Yes, learning can be frustrating. New skills take time and effort that you may think are better spent elsewhere. But what could be greater than the satisfaction and content you gain from mastering a new skill and finding ways to apply it in business and life?
Like Mark Zuckerberg, if that skill happens to be learning to program again, then we guarantee that you’ll feel satisfaction from seeing your code up and running, free of bugs.
If that skill happens to something related to sports, then knocking personal records out of the park is nearly euphoric.
It’s a scientific fact: humans are inherently happier when they have a new, ambitious goal to pursue. In most cases, the more ambitious that goal is, the happier we are. Adding to that, the best thing about constantly developing new skills is that you’re the boss of yourself. You get to pick how much time you dedicate to it, how much you want to practice, et cetera.
The fact of the matter is the more you know, the more valuable you are to your team or organization. No, scratch that– the more irreplaceable you are to them. This relates to the part about adaptability and how continuously learning new skills helps you join the cutting-edge train.
More doors open for those who are well-versed in active learning. Few investors are willing to take a chance on outdated ideas. Sure, you can stay content with the knowledge you already have, but are you willing to take that chance of being unfulfilled, and quite possibly unsuccessful?
With the world discovering new information every day, you become more valuable if you stay on top of these discoveries.
Being an active learner doesn’t just mean you share the same successful habits as the world’s top business people, but it also means that you can share your skills with others. From there, it’s a healthy cycle. In the process of teaching the skill, you further master it, and thus, you become a better teacher.
It Improves Health
The way Bill Gates chooses to learn– which is while he works out– literally means developing new skills improves his health.
Active learning has the amazing benefit of improving a lot of aspects, which includes, but is not limited to, improving your physical and mental health.
Numerous studies back this. Constantly and consistently working on yourself can result in slowing down the cognitive decline of your brain. That is why active learning is used to prevent or lessen the effect of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Business isn’t just about inventing. It’s about making connections and networking. Having a skill– a new skill every so often, if you really put your mind to it– is a great conversation starter.
The awkward conversations and bland small talk will vanish if you can find something in common with the other person. You have an arsenal of knowledge on hand to use, making it easy to converse with just about anyone, about anything. People are most impressed when you’re able to have in depth discussions about the topics you’re interested in.
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