The Essential Entrepreneurial Skill: Always be learning

Dual lightbulbs

We live in an age of hyper-access to information. Content comes in the form of articles, youtube videos,  or social media graphics. The platforms seem endless, especially if you’re on the go. Even driving, we have audiobooks and podcasts to consume new content and information. The internet revolutionized and democratized access to information, which is fantastic.  So how can you lean into life-long learning in a time of endless content and opportunity to make sure the learning sticks? 

Below I reflect on my intention to ABL (always be learning) and share a few tips on activating your informed learning.

Getting into a Flow State: 

Some people may dread learning new things because learning methods don’t fit into their routine and structure. Learning can happen at any time and in any place. It especially happens when you are in a “flow state,” which is like an igniter of creative thinking and ideas, according to Kendra’ Cherry in The Psychology of Flow. The folks at the successful startup Headspace define flow state as a state “when a person is deeply absorbed in something beyond the point of distraction, the senses become heightened and time feels like it has slowed down.” In other words, it’s the feeling of being in the zone. In this state of mind, the potential to learn a massive amount of information is present. Feelings and inhibitors like hunger, fatigue, aches or pains fade away, and there is a place of no distraction. The best moments to learn are not passive relaxing times contrary to what we intuitively feel; instead, it is when a person’s mind or body is pushed to its limits to achieve something difficult and worthwhile. Any person, place, or thing could be a spark in your learning and lead you to new possibilities. Find your Flow State this, a change of scenery, putting yourself out there, acting on your goals you set to expose you to new ways of thinking.

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset: 

Growth Mindset (GM) is a belief that intelligence and talents can be changed over time whereas a fixed mindset is based on the fact that intelligence is fixed. As described by Jennifer Smith in “Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset,” a GM leads to developing IQ, motivation, effort, acceptance, inspiration, and feedback. On the other hand, a fixed mindset leads to innate IQ, resistance, inertia, guilt, comparisons, and criticisms. In GM, embracing flaws and mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth, and setbacks are accepted as part of the learning process. In a Fixed Mindset (FM), Smith notes that mistakes and flaws are hidden, and individuals are afraid of their failures. The brain is constantly evolving and changing as Dr. Dweck, an American Psychologist who studies human motivation whose work is synthesized in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, presents evidence that the brain can be re-programmed continuously. To practice the GM, you can use phrases like: ‘this task is really hard because I’m still developing my problem-solving skills in this area.’ Having a growth mindset will make it easier to learn new habits and skills. 

Keep in mind the curve of forgetting when learning a new skill – it dictates how we keep or get rid of information. The curve of forgetting was initially based on lectures and how much information is retained after your first day on the job or at school with no review. Remember to make sure to be re-learning and to practice using the information that is learned.

Types of learners

It’s essential to understand how you learn and the form in which you learn. Here are various forms of learning, which include visual, kinesthetic, reading/writing and auditory. Since graduating from the University of Calgary with a Biological Science degree, I’ve tutored current university students. I realize the value of identifying various learning styles and catering to those students. It is the responsibility of us as learners to reflect our learning styles and maximize our learning outcomes. Educators do this to enhance their lessons. 

What type of learner are you? Identify via the following questions: 

  1. Do you learn by listening to others?
  2. By speaking out the words?
  3. By visuals and diagrams?
  4. By being creative vs hands-on? 

As seen in these questions, various learning styles include auditory, reading/writing, kinesthetic and visual!

Learning from others, a quote from a VFC Fellow Alumni

The intention of learning to build a wealth of knowledge with depth and breadth. Find educators, mentors, and leaders who inspire you—listening to folks who’ve paved paths before you will help you understand how they got there. Whether its educators, startup leaders, or people within your own community. Mark Dhillon, 2016 Fellow Alumni, On Deck Fellow, and Co-Founder Stealth Co was featured on the New Wave of Entrepreneurship™ podcast, mentioned how learning from other people is crucial. You need to understand who you are talking to and who is in the room. As well as if someone has achieved milestones as an analyst, investor, or principal and how to approach them in that context. Subsequently, Mark mentions staying curious and try being a generalist, thinking about the matter of knowledge in the world. Mark Dhillion quotes his father, who always made sure to remind him: “keep learning, keep being curious, and you’ll be fine.” That advice stuck with me, and it should stick with all of us and push us to be open to learning and making mistakes that allow us to learn. 

Gurmol Singh graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Calgary. He is currently in...