For most of us, the word “learning” brings to mind images of sitting in a classroom while a teacher drones on and on. You knew it then, and hopefully you remember it now. This is far from the best way to learn. And while society has generally known this for a long time, we still seem to slip back into that rut of classroom lecture-style learning all too often — even as adults.
Confucius is quoted as saying, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
This principle is especially true for entrepreneurship. As any seasoned business owner can tell you, it’s in the doing that you come to understand what works (and doesn’t work) for your entrepreneurial goals.
What Makes Hands-On Learning So Powerful?
Hands-on learning is becoming more widely used in early childhood education, as teachers find it to be more engaging while also helping students better retain information. Hands-on experiences provide practical problem-solving and critical thinking opportunities. Putting a concept into action ultimately helps it become “real.” If you ever had a teacher explode a hydrogen balloon in the classroom, you know what I mean.
This same idea is especially true in the entrepreneurial world. As a solopreneur or freelancer, you have to wear many hats. You need to develop a strong business model that generates revenue. You need to communicate with customers and market your services. You need to manage your finances. The list goes on and on. While you can read countless articles telling you how to manage these business-related tasks, your knowledge becomes so much more real when you apply them in a real-world scenario. Business principles and concepts become more than just words on a page. When you experience them for yourself, you internalize them in a way that increases your own knowledge and abilities.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise, then, that the best way to get hands-on entrepreneurial experience is to jump right in. If you have a business idea you’ve been toying with, it’s time to take it to the real world.
For many solopreneurs, this is a process that involves a lot of trial and error — and that’s okay. Seeing where you went wrong can provide valuable lessons you wouldn’t have learned otherwise. More importantly, it ensures you won’t make the same mistakes when you’re ready to more fully invest in your entrepreneurship.
Many people find it best to start gaining their hands-on entrepreneurial experience as a side hustle. This way, you still have the financial security of your 9-to-5, while still learning the ropes of running your own business in your free time. Many people become so successful as they develop their side hustle that it eventually becomes their full-time job!
The Value Of A Mentor
While traditional classroom learning has plenty of obvious downsides, the idea of a “teacher” isn’t one of them. For hands-on experiences, having a mentor to guide your journey can dramatically improve your learning outcomes.
This became especially clear during a recent phone conversation with Claire Mandimika, founder of UDesign. She explained, “A great mentor offers guidance as they work alongside you. They don’t hold your hand through the entire process. Instead, they point you in the right direction and offer correction as needed. They share their insights and expertise in a way that enhances your actions, without doing the work for you. They help you learn to perform a task in the best way possible.”
By serving as a collaborative guide, rather than just a lecturer, a mentor can ultimately help you become self-reliant and grow into a stronger leader as you develop your entrepreneurial skills.
While finding a quality mentor can seem like a daunting task, it isn’t as impossible as you might think — especially in the internet age. Yes, you can definitely check out local business organizations. But you can also connect with mentors on Facebook or LinkedIn. Look for mentors who can help with your specific entrepreneurial goals.
Don’t forget about your old business connections, either. More people are going into freelancing and solopreneurship than ever. One of your old work associates may have already started a successful entrepreneurial career on their own. If you already have a good personal relationship, they may be more than willing to give you a helping hand — even if it simply means introducing you to someone else in their network, rather than mentoring you themselves.
Just remember that while a mentor can offer guidance and answer questions, they can’t focus on you 24/7. They have other responsibilities, too! Use their feedback and insights to guide your hands-on learning experiences.
Investing In Yourself
In the business world, it’s widely understood that education is an investment in yourself. Any effort you make to improve your knowledge and abilities is going to pay big dividends for your career by enhancing your skills and hopefully even giving you the ability to avoid major mistakes.
Of course, the better the quality of your education, the better the return on your educational investment will be. As you focus on learning by doing, you’ll achieve amazing personal growth and be equipped to handle whatever your future entrepreneurial career throws your way.