Important things that a self-learner must know

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How we learn is changing. There is an increasing shift from institutional to self learning. It is unbelievable how this approach to learning is strongly impacting people and fast changing the world.

Through self-learning people are gathering new skills, creating new jobs and starting new sources of income.

I have spent years under institutional education, attending traditional school structure. But most of the major skills I work with today are self-learnt ones. I have taught myself content writing and web development, among others.

Here are some important things that a self-learner must know:

Practice is king
In a post titled The 27 principles to teaching yourself anything, Scott Dinsmore, the late founder of Live Your Legend writes, ‘Practical application rules the world.’ He is right.

For a self-learner especially, practical know-how is worth much. It is what is really usable. Theoretical knowledge is good too, but it cannot replace practical proficiency.

Class is not enough
Regular class attendance and routine would not be enough. Going in for lessons, doing homework and taking written test would not do. As a self-learner, you must take everything you learn on paper and test it out yourself. You would need to see what truly works and how it does.

Make learning be required to survive and thrive
Many times, a little challenge often gets us to do what we did not have capability to do. As Dinsmore says, ‘If your job, hobby or passion doesn’t require you to constantly learn then something’s wrong.’

‘Make it a must and you can’t help but grow,’ Dinsmore argues.

The more you stretch yourself to learn new skills, the more you would gain them.

Who you are
There are lots of secrets hidden within you. Explore your ‘strengths, passions, weaknesses, talents, gifts, values, experiences, successes, failure,’ Dinsmore advises. Knowing all these, helps you know areas where you have a learning advantage or disadvantage and be better prepared.

What you love
It is important to have love for what you are doing. This applies to learning. When you are doing what you love, it can hardly feel like work.

Dream about the things you love and go after them. Learn them. The love you have for them will keep you going.

What you hate
What you hate is as important as what you love. You should know what you hate and why you hate them. Know which ideas, personalities, lifestyles, and other things that you do not feel good about. Avoid them.

‘Society does not benefit from you spending more time doing things you hate or getting better at things you suck at. That is not what improvement is about. It’s about taking the best of you and making it better,’ Dinsmore writes.

Take nothing for granted
All the ideas, suggestions and hypotheses that you come across should not be ignored. Take everything into consideration. Test them and see the outcomes. There is always something to learn whether you fail or succeed.

Keep everything in record
Everything counts. Keep a record of everything. From what you love, to what you hate, to what you are good at and what you suck at. You would be able to measure and study your condition and performance easily with this system.

Watch who you learn from
With the rise in self-learning and digital publishing, a lot of books, blogs and content are created daily. It is easier than ever before to get caught up with bad content. You would have to filter things you find. Do not just settle for anything.

Analyze every input
Observe every contribution you put in and the results they pull in. See what you gain and lose from specific inputs.

‘Be sure you’re getting returns,’ Dinsmore advises.

Teach others
You are able to teach others only something you have truly learnt. You can test and grow your knowledge by teaching others also.

Build things
Right from when you start learning, you should start building something.

As Dinsmore explains that, ‘If you are reading about how to write, then start writing.’ He says, ‘People dramatically overestimate how much time they must spend learning before they start doing. The answer is exactly ZERO.’

The time is now. Do not wait until later.

Break things
Learning does not happen only when you build things. You do not have to succeed always. Feel free to goof and fail, to mess things up.

Rumor has it that the Wright Brothers brought five sets of parts to every attempted flight test because that’s how many times they’d fail before supper. Dinsmore concludes that, ‘The people who break the most things tend to experience the most success.’

Make money
Most people have fun doing what they love. But they do not make money doing it. This is ‘because they either think it should take much longer or they never ask in the first place,’ Dinsmore explains.

He says, ‘What if you put a price on your experiments from day one? I bet there’s someone who will pay you.’

If the opportunity comes, you should try make money with the knowledge and skills you have learnt.

It never ends
Learning is an unending process. At any age or stage in life, you would always find more things to learn. You should be ready to learn anytime.

‘Develop a passion for learning like you would for anything else you love,’ Dinsmore advises. ‘You’ll become addicted in no time,’ he adds.

What you should be focusing on at the early stage of entrepreneurship

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Many people who are starting entrepreneurship are advised to write a business plan in the beginning. Even schools of business and entrepreneurship teach that entrepreneurs must have a business plan when taking their first steps into entrepreneurship. But from experience, the need for a business plan at the early stage of entrepreneurship is quite overblown and misinterpreted.

A business plan is a document that would describe how a business is structured and operated. It is mostly required to show investors what your business looks like and what it is worth.

For most kind of businesses, it is difficult to predict revenue and expenses at the early stage. Also, for a new business, Brian Hamilton of the American financial tech startup Sageworks explains in a post on Inc.com that certain aspects ‘have to change daily until we figure out what works and what doesn’t.’

Because of the speed of change and adaption required at the startup stage, Hamilton says, ‘Business plans are almost always outdated from the very minute they’re committed to paper.’

Hamilton shamefully admits that at the early stage of his entrepreneurship career at Sageworks, he built a financial model that forecasted ‘huge five-year revenue figures’, despite the fact that they had no any revenue and ‘in reality’ it took about five years to get any ‘sustainable revenue’.

In my case, those early days of entrepreneurship left me dumbfounded. There was always a loud noise about business plans which I somehow saw did not match the reality that I was faced with and many people seemed to be ignoring that fact. I was surprised how so-called experts even failed to point out the mismatch. The financial aspect expected to be included in the business plan, especially, was hard to deal with, because there were either no figures or very low ones to work with. Financial projections at that stage just had to be more of a blind shot.

All these struggle with a business plan amounted to a waste of time and resources. I finally had to give it up and focus on setting up the business idea and running it as fast as possible.

‘A business plan could actually set an entrepreneur back significantly; it imposes unnecessary restrictions on the entrepreneur, replacing creativity and experimentation with rigidity.’

He advises that, ‘entrepreneurial training should focus on teaching future business owners how to think.’ The business idea should be the focus of entrepreneurs at the early stage.

Over time, things would actually become clear and precise enough for you to draw up a more realistic and stable business plan. You would want to have the patience for that to happen, rather than place yourself under unnecessary difficulty.

In Hamilton’s words, ‘Save the business plans for when you have more data to work.’