CareerBuilder Menu Search Search

The applied learner's key to success: Entrepreneurship

By David Zheng, co-founder and CEO of Klout Fire

Richard Branson has built an empire around the phrase "Screw it, let's do it."

The multimillionaire says that, when presented with an opportunity, many people say "no" or "let me think about it" because they are "overcautious" or "suspicious" of new ideas -- or they simply need time to think. Branson, on the other hand, is eager to dive in headfirst and figure out logistics later.  

"What is worse," Branson asks, "Making the occasional mistake or having a closed mind and missing opportunities?"

As most born entrepreneurs would agree, the benefits of trying new things far outweigh the risk of making a mistake.

Find jobs | Post your résumé

Conceptual vs. applied learners
Whether he realizes it or not, Branson is describing a fundamental difference in the way people learn. People who "simply need time to think" are conceptual learners -- that is, they approach knowledge from an intellectual vantage point. Conceptual learners are great readers, and they do well with hypothetical examples.

Branson, on the other hand, is the very personification of an applied learner. He learns by doing. An applied learner doesn't hesitate to get her hands dirty; she's less concerned with feasibility and analysis than she is with taking action. Applied learners jump off the cliff and build their wings mid-air.

It's not surprising that applied learners make the best entrepreneurs. Like swimming, entrepreneurship is not primarily an intellectual endeavor. It requires a combination of determination and fearlessness. A skilled entrepreneur is eager to get in over her head and figure things out as she moves forward.

If you're an applied learner, entrepreneurship could be a powerful tool for unleashing your inner potential.      

How to determine learning styles
When you're learning something of little practical value, do you find yourself bored? And when you learn about something exciting, do you have the urge to try it out immediately?

Bonus question: When Elvis sings, "A little less conversation, a little more action please," do you feel like he's speaking directly to you?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you may be an applied learner. And if you haven't considered launching an enterprise, you should.

It's not an easy path, though. According to the Small Business Administration, about half of all new businesses survive five years or more, and only about one-third survive 10 years or more. In the face of rapidly changing markets and technologies, an entrepreneur needs to make strategic decisions quickly and effectively.

Tenacity, flexibility and the ability to think on your feet are skills that can be explored in a classroom, but they're only mastered through real-world application.   

How to get started
If you feel ready to try your hand at entrepreneurship, there's nothing stopping you. Develop your idea, then dive right in. As an applied learner, you're already comfortable with learning through execution.

Here are some guidelines for leveraging your learning style into entrepreneurial growth:

  • Put your baseline knowledge to use. If this is your first entrepreneurial endeavor, the learning curve will be steep no matter what. Therefore, familiarity with a particular industry -- even if it's just basic knowledge -- can be a real asset. Choose a sector based on what you already know. A head start can go a long way.
  • Treat everything as a learning experience. In launching a business, you'll face a constant barrage of challenges, failures, and curveballs. It can overwhelm even the most seasoned entrepreneur. But remember this: Every fork in the road is a lesson. Even if you fail outright, you'll have acquired new skills, knowledge, and networks. This makes you better prepared for whatever comes next.
  • Find the right mentors. As an applied learner, the benefits of finding a mentor -- someone with frontline experience -- are tremendous. A good mentor is a coach, a guide, and a pillar of emotional support. He or she will hold you accountable, connect you with critical resources, and help expand your network. Keep yourself open to your mentor's criticism and feedback. This relationship can accelerate your journey as an entrepreneur.

The adventure of entrepreneurship
Not every applied learner is a born entrepreneur. For some, the risks are too great. There's little stability or job security in entrepreneurship.

But for people who choose to launch their own enterprises, the primary goal is rarely a stable lifestyle. Entrepreneurship is a chance to blaze your own trail and create something out of nothing. It's a stimulating, fulfilling adventure.

If you're even remotely interested in becoming an entrepreneur, go for it. The path may be challenging, but it's filled with opportunities to learn and grow.

David Zheng is the co-founder and CEO of Klout Fire, a digital marketing agency that helps brands drive revenue by acquiring customers and establishing brand awareness through inbound marketing strategies. 

Copyright 2014 David Zheng. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.

Article Reprints
Permission must be obtained from CareerBuilder.com to reprint any of its articles. Please send a request to reprints@careerbuilder.com.
Story Filed Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 11:52 AM


advertisement