I was asked recently by someone what I missed most about life as an employee. Without batting an eyelid, I replied it was the ability to receive (guidance, teachings and direction) from the top.
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely experience, especially for those who are entirely on their own.
When you are working for someone, you can be assured that you can learn from your boss and colleagues (although not necessarily true for all). But who can you learn from when you ARE the boss?
Sure, you can find mentors and like-minded peers. Or you can sign up for training and business seminars. You can read books and articles to develop your skills and increase your knowledge. But basically, now the initiative to learn has to come entirely from you.
When it comes to learning, to me no one exemplifies this more than my father. Now, in his mid-seventies, he is still so hungry to learn.
Next to his armchair is a dictionary and a magnifying glass, which he immediately uses to look up the meaning and pronunciation of unfamiliar words he hears on television.
In family gatherings, my father interacts intellectually with my cousins, not so much to ask them how they are doing but to really understand what they are doing and their perspectives.
To him, the Chinese saying of “I eat salt more than you have rice” does not apply. He shows me we never stop learning and we can learn from anyone — the good and the bad, the young and old.
Several weeks ago, my sweet 20-year-old intern, whose favourite pastime is taking selfies, astonished me. From her, I learnt the 3 C’s of life: choice, chance and change.
You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change. She shared in our company meeting how she was applying this at work and I was awed by her depth and maturity.
Indeed we can learn from anyone, if we but open our mind.
In a reunion dinner recently with former colleagues, I was surprised to learn that one of them who was formerly the head of IT support, is now attending toastmaster’s class. I was intrigue as I know this ex-colleague to be soft-spoken and not one for public speaking, if given a choice.
To know that he has gone to the extent of signing up for toastmaster’s was a revelation indeed. Also, all of us at the dinner table immediately noticed how outspoken and confident he has become since we last met him.
This 40-plus-year-old gentleman, who holds a senior position in a bank, shared that he took up learning public speaking because he realised that he needed to develop to prove himself a valuable employee and keep his job.
Previously in his former employment, public speaking and being good in presentations was not necessary. Now there are different expectations from the management.
It was not an easy step for him. He shared that he nearly turned his car around en route to the first toastmaster’s meeting due to fear.
Also public speaking was not something he liked to do. But now, one year later, this normally quiet former colleague of mine stunned us all when he announced he has even won one of the toastmaster’s contest!
As entrepreneurs, learning and the initiative to learn is even more crucial. It is not just about learning for business survival. Most of us did not start our own business to just make ends meet or keep our job, so to speak. I am sure most of us want our business to succeed, not just survive.
So who can we learn from and where can we learn? Apart from learning from someone’s success, can we learn from other’s mistakes or failures? What about learning things we never thought we could or do we pigeon-hole ourselves when it comes to learning?
Ultimately, the choice to learn is ours. Like my intern shared: We must make a choice to take a chance (to learn) or our life will never change.
- Jeanisha believes that if we are hungry to learn, persistent to try and determined to succeed, we can surely achieve. If you have valuable business (or even life) lessons to share with her, email her at email@example.com
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