Another secret to success? Start learning!


Are you keeping up?  Are you consistently learning new things and being exposed to new ideas?  If not – then your long term business success is definitely at risk!

The world, especially the business world, continues to change at a pace that accelerates every single day.  Think about all the stuff that’s now critical to business success that wasn’t even around 5 or 10 years ago:

  • Social Media, Search Engine Optimization and online marketing in general
  • Cloud based stuff – sharing documents, collaborating, easy access anywhere
  • Mobile – location, coupons, social, smart phones in every hand
  • Content and educational based marketing vs. interruption marketing
  • New apps and platforms for operations, productivity, communication…

This list could go on for a while – the point is there’s a lot of changes that you need to keep up with if you want to win…or actually if you just want to keep playing!

And there’s more – business owners typically start out as experts in their industry…and they know a lot less about all of the other aspects of their business.  If you want to win, you need to be learning best practices and ideas when it comes to marketing, sales, leadership, operations, finance, human resources and strategy on top of your product, service and industry knowledge.

The reality is that the most successful people (and business owners) are going to be the ones who keep learning throughout their life.

“Learning is not compulsory…neither is survival.”  Dr. W. Edwards Deming

If you’re not learning, you are being left behind.  End of story.  (Here’s a scary statistic – 42% of college graduates never read another book after college…that’s the road to obsolescence).

The good news is there are more options than ever to help you get into a habit of learning – here are just a few ideas that might help you get started.

Bite Sized Chunks of Knowledge

One great way to learn is to find a few blogs or other online article sources that cater to topics you need to stretch in.

As an example, if you want to learn more about online marketing, social media and content marketing, I would start with Copyblogger, Hubspot and Social Media Examiner with a side of Seth Godin for good measure.

Of course you could visit those sites on a regular basis, but a better way to make sure you kept up with the learning would be to subscribe to an RSS feed, which means you can get updates sent to you either by email or to a Reader that  you might use.

You could (and should) also sign up for Smartbrief where you can pick the daily email updates you’d like to get based on industry and focus – basically it’s a curated best of the web based on your interests.  Great articles from top sources like Harvard Business Review, American Express Open Forums, Inc., Fast Company, etc.

Finally you could also check out an aggregator like Alltop or Popurls which starts with what’s popular / hot now across a variety of topics, but can also be customized to your preferences.

Fill your drive time with great ideas

Maybe you’re not as much of a reader…or you spend a lot of time in the car (where you shouldn’t be reading…at least not if you’re driving).  You’re in luck –  there are some great choices for absorbing your knowledge through your ears.

I’d start with Audible – home to all sorts of audio books.  Audio books tend to be more expensive than the paper or eBook variations, but with Audible you can sign up for a monthly membership that cuts your cost down to no more than $14.95 per book (and often less).  You will also need an MP3 player (i.e. iPod, iPad or lots of inexpensive players out there as well).

The narrators for the books can vary wildly – some are great, while others can be pretty annoying.  Make sure you sample before you commit to hours of listening to the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.  For many business books, the author is the narrator, which can make it more interesting and personal.  I especially enjoyed The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk (lots of extras from the author) and Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh.

If you want your listening in more bite sized chunks, then you should check out Podcasting, kind of an audio version of blogging and the podcasts are typically free (although you will still need an MP3 player).  It can be challenging to find stuff you want to listen to at first, which is why this LifeHacker article on Finding Great Podcasts is a good place to start.

Go Old  School…and read a book!

You probably don’t have time to read or maybe you haven’t picked up a book since college, but there are tremendous rewards to finding a great book that can unlock a new way of thinking for you…and business books are not all dry and boring (sure some of the are, but a lot aren’t).

Want to get inspired and figure out how to start working fewer hours in your business?  Check out The 4 Hour Workweek.  (Note – a lot of what he says is over the top and not practical, but it will make you think and you will come away inspired with new ideas for your business).

Want to pick up a bunch of great, tangible ideas to help you sell more?  Then check out The Ultimate Sales Machine – it’s especially good for Business to Business sales.

The point is there are a ton of great books out there – if you’re not sure where to start, I would check out 1-800-CEO-Read to see what’s popular and what’s new.  I also think this list of the “99 Best Business Books” from Josh Kaufman is strong.

What would it take to get you to start actively learning?  Is it currently a priority for you?  What’s really holding you back if you’re not doing this today?  This is critical to your success…are you up to it?  What’s your opinion (share your thoughts in the comments below).

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach