We are all students. Every day. All the time.
We all go through stages in our entrepreneurial adventures where it seems everyone else has the answers and we are still in the dark ready to ransom our kingdom for a match (or its social media equivalent, a like, a friend, a follow – preferably all three and more than one of each).
The reality is no one has all the answers. And that’s ok!
When you’re struggling to find your voice or even just your confidence, it’s easy to see others as being so much more advanced than you are. But, truthfully, we are all students, all the time. Some of us are attending the school of hard knocks, others have earned scholarships at the school of the starry-eyed but ill-informed, and many of us are self-taught and home-schooled.
There are so many sources of information out there. Who do you turn to? How do you know if they are the right people to help you? How do you make the best use of what they know that you don’t?
When I faced this dilemma for the first time, I planned an imaginary meeting with the people I most respected in my industry. I thought deeply about what to ask and why I wanted to know more about that. I pictured them giving me their best advice which I weighed carefully and implemented. I sat in their chairs and pretended I thought just like they did, knew what they knew, felt what they felt.
But then I took my not-so-little fantasy a step further. I looked them up. I wrote or called asking for an hour of their time. I told them why I wanted to meet with them and didn’t pretend to be more than who I was — simply a person interested in learning from the best.
Guess what happened? They took my calls. They met with me. They gave me their best advice and (bonus) a good talking to and/or a swift kick in the ass when I needed it. And I needed it more than once. Not one of them tried to talk me out of my big ideas.
Better yet. I listened to them. Then made my own decisions. Where it made sense, I changed my behaviour or my approach without compromising myself. Things seemed instantly better in so many ways. I learned, failed and progressed much faster than if I’d tried to go it alone.
Not one ever suggested I should get a “real” job. Noooooo. They left that to my family and friends — none of whom get what I do or why I’d want to do it and therefore felt completely entitled to tell me what to do with my life and then be pissed at me when I didn’t behave accordingly.
Did my dream team grill me with tons of questions? Yes. Their questions were mostly about strategy and execution.
Did I have all the answers? No. I did not. While I had many underway in my thinking, you never have all the answers. Where feasible, they helped me refine my ideas and work through any unknowns to clarify risk. They helped me see that you don’t need to have all your ducks in a row before taking a step forward.
You probably have people you look up to too. Make that list!
What if you had an hour to spend with them? What would you ask? How would you want each one to help you? More importantly, why haven’t you contacted them yet? (And if you have, tell us what happened!)
PS My congratulations to you if you have friends and family supporting you in your journey. Just know that you can move forward on the courage of your convictions alone. Now get out there and be unstoppable!