Lifelong learning seems like a natural state of being for me, but not everyone thinks they need to continue to learn. Many people stop learning to appreciate new music in their 30’s. The reason Oldies stations even exist is because some people cannot tolerate new sounds. There are people who learn to weld and get a decent job and they stop learning. In today’s society there are countless people in their early 50’s who refuse to learn to use computers. Deliberately cutting oneself off from learning new things is baffling. But it seems some are content with just getting by.
Happily on the other side there are countless people who embrace being lifelong learners. Even without formal schooling they keep up with current events. They READ! History, Science, Geography simply knowing about our changing world adds to the richness of a person's character.
Personally I am not one to read nonfiction on purpose, for fun. But… as I read novels that refer to real things or events I do end up Googling and get off on tangents reading about this or that. Recently I had a client whose main character was a female in the Russian Army during WWI. Naturally, I had to read up on it and I found it rather interesting.
Among my reading and lesson materials this week this theme was repeated again, and again. Stan Christensen, a Stanford instructor and partner at Arbor Advisors, spoke about the lack of worry one should feel about their first jobs. Those jobs should be thought of as stepping stones. Randy Haykin, and others, used what they learned at their first jobs to become entrepreneurs. In fact it almost seems as if it is better to get this preliminary learning before trying to make it on your own.
Before my husband started our lawn care business he did indeed work for a year or two for another maintenance company. He learned the basic needs of customers and we went from there. Of course it was not quite as easy for me as the bookkeeper, since I had no prior experience. But we started small and built upon our knowledge as we grew.
So even as I am about to finish my formal schooling it is safe to say my education is not yet over, nor will it ever be so.
Week 12 don't give up dreaming. be a dreamer. and keep on trying to make the dream come true. dream about the world you would like to have. if we all dream about a better world, I can guarantee you that we will create a better world. ~mRead Now
By far my favorite reading assignment in my entrepreneur class was a speech given by Muhammad Yunus. He spoke about how he came up with micro-lending. He was a teacher in Bangladesh and he met poor people in the village near his college, they wanted loans but were too poor for the bank to consider offering a loan. He said:
Economics has committed a strategic mistake in conceptualizing a
human being. It has abstracted away from the very essence of a human
being. All human beings are creative beings. Each human being has great
potential buried in him or her. Economics has reduced human beings to
lesser beings than what they are, and consequently still lesser beings than
what they could be.
As he saw the need of these extremely poor people, he asked how much they needed. The amount was very small; in that first instance, he loaned $27 divided amongst 42 people. The joy he felt from providing much needed loans spurred him on to wanting to do more. In time he started the Grameen Bank, he loans money all over Bangladesh and has a 97% rate of repayment for his loans.
This story is inspiring because it shows how serving the needs of others can lead to greater success than seeking after the quickest way to get rich.
Sheryl Sandberg, a top officer at Facebook, described her career in the same light. She wanted to make a difference in the world, it just so happened that the places she chose to work also became extremely successful. First she went to Google to work, it was a tiny operation, but they had dreams of opening the vast wealth of knowledge to the world. She felt she could stand behind that goal and was pleased to see the company grow. Then she moved on to Facebook before it had evolved to what it is today, she liked Mark Zuckerberg's goal of making the sharing of information personal.
The essence of my lessons this week have been about finding your passion, but also ensuring that your passion can help the world in the process. What is business if it is not service oriented?
The most successful and enduring organizations last because of the values they hold themselves to and the integrity they maintain in order to provide their best for their consumers/customers.
In the December 2002 issue of the Harvard Review Charles Handy wrote an article entitled, What's a Business For. For my class assignment I have been asked to answer the following questions:
Why are virtue and integrity so vital to an economy? Without morals consumers can lose trust and confidence in the product or service offered. With great service and trustworthy attention to the needs of the customer, the company can expect repeat business, or a good word of mouth reference.
According to Charles Handy, what is the “real justification” for the existence of businesses?
“The purpose of a business, in other words, is not to make a profit, full stop. It is to make a profit so that the business can do something more or better. That ‘something’ becomes the real justification for the business.”
What are two solutions proposed by Handy that you agree with? Why?
1) Paraphrasing, Handy states a business needs to respect workers more through greater corporate democracy. He says that the old structure of the Owner/Financier having ownership of the employees should no longer be the case.
While I do agree the owner has a right to run their business as they see fit within the law, it is also true that people are not property, they have skills and their thoughts as intellectual property mean that they as individuals have value and their input should have weight. There are companies now that do appreciate their workers and show it by giving them shares within the company. This means that collectively they have a voice.
2) “We should, as charitable organisations do, measure success in terms of outcomes for others as well as for ourselves.”
The tired old cliche, "The customer is always right," does not hold much water with me (talk about cliches!) I do think the idea that the customer comes first is a good business practice. Like I said above - What is business if it is not service oriented? And I second Suze Orman - People first. It's just good business.
Suze Orman built her financial advising business on morally sound principles - putting people first makes difference.
Week 11 Always act as if the future of the universe depends on what you do next, while laughing at yourself for thinking that you can make a difference. - Buddhist sayingRead Now
The focus of my reading this week has been on ---hmm --- our attitudes as well as whether, as entrepreneurs, we are job seekers, or something more.
As for me I never in my life wanted a job. I am grateful to my husband for fulfilling that desire. I did babysit in my younger years in order to have pocket money. That is generally a young girl's first entrepreneurial endeavor and it is something that is always available. But it is not a calling in life for most.
From lesson material provided by the Acton Foundation - Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness ( A Cautionary Tale) I really like the descriptions given, it speaks about those times when you lose all sense of time because you are "in the flow." From there a person can develop mastery over something they love, but the ultimate goal in life is to participate in your own Hero's Journey. In part it states:
From Flow to the Mastery of a Discipline to a Hero’s Journey when it comes to work, you can choose a job, a career or a calling.
A job is something you do from 9 to 5 to pay the bills, as a way of affording the necessities of life and an occasional pleasure once the workday has ended. People with jobs watch the clock, waiting for 5 PM to arrive.
A career is a climb up a predetermined ladder to success at the top. People with careers work long hours for the promise of money, power and security to come. All too often they arrive only to find that it really is lonely at the top.
A calling is finding that special place where your most precious gifts allow you to do something you love, in service to others, in a way that changes the world. People with callings say: “Thank God it’s Friday so I can work the next two days without interruption.”
Long-term studies show those who are most fulfilled sequentially mastered a series of important life tasks. Consistent goals and investments of psychic energy lead to a coherent self. (Acton Foundation)
Even less than a job, the thought of a career sounds horrific for me. But a calling? Yes many things call to me, choosing the one that gives the greatest satisfaction and one I am willing to put effort into is where I am at.
I dreamed for years of owning an ice cream truck, not for the money but just because it seemed so wonderful. I did think it would be possible to make a profit if done well, but I always had too many little kids to take care of that I could not devote time to it. So I never pursued it. . .
I still dream of owning a miniature golf course, with my coveted ice cream store. If I ever had a million dollars and more I would love to develop good, clean, affordable homes and neighborhoods. I would also like to go to old nearly abandoned small towns and revive them with those decent affordable homes. Now that would be a calling AND it would take much effort, but it would give me the greatest satisfaction.
But I am a dreamer without the boldness it takes to do that. But I can write and inspire others. I do not particularly like writing editorials, but when filled with a passion for something it becomes much easier.
I enjoy writing stories and novels, it is a simple thing and something I can pour my whole self into. It may never bring money, but it gives my life meaning. For now that is sufficient.
That said, another part of the reading material states:
We will all experience serious adversity. None of us would seek it, but it is a part of life. Plus, heroes need dragons to slay. Adversity exposes true friends. It changes our focus to the present. Along the journey, learn to embrace mistakes and adversity. Take more chances and suffer more defeats. Extend yourself. Long-term research on aging shows that you are far more likely to regret what you have not done, than to regret your errors and mistakes. You are much stronger and tougher than you think. We fear most what we never experience. Embrace adversity as a lesson in humility. Use it to remind yourself to be grateful for what you have.
Prepare for adversity in advance. Hone your skills. Invest in loving relationships. Practice gratitude and reflection. Connect regularly to the transcendent. Then you will be prepared to be transformed by adversity instead of crushed by it. (Acton Foundation)
Ha, so that challenges me to go after that other dream . . .
And yikes they threw a curveball and asked me to read an extra article and comment on it...
Concerning my attitude on money. I think money is nice. It does allow for a certain degree of comfort which allows happiness to thrive. I am not fixated on it. I spend it so it does mean my husband is fixated on having "enough."
How can my view of money affect the way I live? I have generally lived frugally. I had used credit cards for Christmas and birthdays. But we got rid of credit cards 13 years ago. Debit cards are great. But sadly the more money we make the more I spend. I do need to cut back...doing so would make my husband happier.
S.W. Gibson said:
1) Money is not evil.
2) Money has great power
3) The possession of excess Money often reveals or exposes what kind of a person the individual is
4) Money makes good men better, but on the other hand it usually makes bad men worse.
We are blessed and prosper when we are more giving with what we have.
Week 10 Our needed conversions are often achieved more readily by suffering and adversity than by comfort and tranquillity ~ Dallin H. OaksRead Now
This week the reading material focused a lot on “becoming” and the ideal entrepreneur as being innovative. It was interesting reading for the most part.
One particular assignment The Heart of Entrepreneurship by Howard H. Stevenson and David E. Gumpert was quite dry and weirdly came across like a fortune cookie with passages like, “A close relationship exists between opportunity and individual needs.” Or “Opportunities do not show up at the start of a planning cycle.” It made the reading humorous amidst a rather dry read. But in truth it held many gems of wisdom; the main point being a successful entrepreneur is seeking after opportunities not merely trying to maintain a position of power.
But I found myself thinking that yes, innovation and opportunities to create new paths to pursue are great ways to build a business, but there is nothing wrong with doing something tried and true, something basic. I was of course thinking of my own business as co-owner of a landscaping company I do not see the need for huge amounts of innovation. We provide our customers with consistent, reliable service. My husband is the face and often the muscle of the business. He has personal relationships and interaction with the customers he works with. He prides himself in being efficient and ensuring work is done “right” to his satisfaction. If we were trying to expand and become a large company, he could no longer do that. He would be relegated to manager or training until he could hire a manager to do that for him. In that case, yes, innovative team management practices would come into play. But that is not our goal, we are satisfied with providing a home for ourselves and the basic necessities of life, with a few perks added in from time to time.
Hearkening back to the idea of becoming, Dallin H. Oaks told of a parable:
A wealthy father knew that if he were to bestow his wealth upon a child who had not yet developed the needed wisdom and stature, the inheritance would probably be wasted. The father said to his child:
“All that I have I desire to give you—not only my wealth, but also my position and standing among men. That which I have I can easily give you, but that which I am you must obtain for yourself. You will qualify for your inheritance by learning what I have learned and by living as I have lived. I will give you the laws and principles by which I have acquired my wisdom and stature. Follow my example, mastering as I have mastered, and you will become as I am, and all that I have will be yours.”
Becoming an entrepreneur is not merely opening a business, it really is more about dreaming big and going after those dreams. It is about converting ourselves from one kind of being to another.
Change is growth and growth sometimes hurts but it is always a chance for improvement.
Week 9 It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but those most adaptive to change. ~ Charles DarwinRead Now
At a commencement speech Kim Clark spoke about the qualities that make for great leaders. He listed three qualities:
It is true that a group of workers will work more efficiently when someone takes the lead and shows the way. If a business owner, parent or teacher does not have an end goal in mind it would be very difficult to inspire others to follow. Floundering about happens often and the results are evident in our society.
We have all met that person we just love to be around. They exude sincere kindness and even love. Isn’t that the kind of person you wish all of your teachers had been? Or your bosses? I can hear some disagreeing, claiming the harshness spurred them on. I can see the point of that, still if that harshness was actually sternness out of a real desire to see growth and success then we should be able to agree that the love was still there.
Carly Fiorina spoke about three qualities that help businesses succeed, she said, “I think leadership is about three things: capability, collaboration, and character.”
One of the key points I took from reading the transcript of her speech was the need to be innovative. A business can have a great idea and it will sell well. But if that same business then stops trying new marketing or thinking up ideas for improvement then over time they can expect to see sales slide.
It makes me think of French’s Mustard, it has been around for ages. But they still advertise in ladies magazines. They update their packaging even creating new bottles when the old ones worked just fine.
Jim Collins wrote GOOD TO GREAT Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t a long title but certainly descriptive. In the book a key point is to ask who before asking what. Who are we trying to reach?
For me as an author before I start to write I need to consider my audience. I have seen some books meant for children that are intensely long and boring, or with poetry that is clunky and unreadable even by the parent. Some adult books on the market today, now that it is flooded with self-publishers and cheap publishing houses, are too simplistic to hold my attention even though they are meant for adults.
For our BBQ business it would make sense to decide whether we want to focus on the end consumer first or the establishment carrying the product. Who would benefit most? Once we decide on the who then we can decide on the what of marketing.
The real killer concept that I have trouble with is the Hedgehog Concept. This means find what you are excellent at and stick with it. I want to do several things as my website shows I am spread out. I need to tighten it up and focus on less. Still, every other day a new idea captures my attention and I want to do it too. So yes be the hedgehog, Kari, be the hedgehog.