Becoming a successful entrepreneur requires learning that goes beyond how to just run numbers and manage finances. As someone who has been an entrepreneur for more than a decade, I can tell you that while these elements certainly play a role, actually doing something significant with your particular business’s numbers requires creativity, leadership ability and gumption.
These skills are obviously far less concrete than the ones you need for mathematics; nor are they learned the same way. Instead, strengthening an entrepreneurial mind requires lessons learned both inside and outside the classroom. So here are a few ways you can seek those lessons out:
Listen to experienced mentors.
One of the most practical things you can do is find a mentor — or several — and listen to what they say. Some of the most financially successful people in the world, like Mark Zuckerberg, credit their success to the experiences they shared with their mentors.
Mentors are great sounding boards for your ideas, so they can tell you what they believe is promising or what they foresee as being detrimental. You do not have to know them beforehand, either — you can use resources like LinkedIn and SCORE to connect with people who have the experience to share.
Read as much as you can.
Besides mentors, you can acquire knowledge from published books and articles. People who write down their experiences and share them with the world want you to learn from their mistakes and successes, and they can provide real-world stories you can apply to your own venture.
Attend entrepreneurial events.
Want to be better at what you do?
Then surround yourself with other entrepreneurial minds at events like trade shows, conferences, webinars and more. Such events are excellent opportunities for networking, and having connections across industries will more likely set you up for success. Some of the top entrepreneurial events for networking include TechCrunch Disrupt, Startup Weekend and the 140 Character Conference.
From personal experience, I can credit my success to the time that I’ve spent at various entrepreneurial events. Keep in mind that your goal in attending them isn’t to pitch what you’re selling. Instead, it’s to make professional connections that you can send leads to and receive leads from over many years to come.
Seek out new challenges.
The most important skill an entrepreneur can have is problem-solving. You need to learn how to think quickly, study situations from various angles and devise creative solutions no one else has tried before. To develop such skills, you’ll need to seek out challenging situations that help to wire your brain for critical thinking. For example, you’ll have to learn to accept feedback and criticism, listen earnestly to the thoughts and ideas of others and choose to focus on results and solutions.
Think about your vision every day.
You want to be an entrepreneur because you have an idea — a vision. Think positively about your vision every day to remind yourself why you are cultivating these skills and putting yourself in stressful situations.
Give yourself a motivational boost when you need it; even U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said she recites a mantra to remind herself of her purpose and inspiration: “I am experienced enough to do this. I am knowledgeable enough to do this. I am prepared enough to do this. I am mature enough to do this. I am brave enough to do this.”
Over-deliver on your promises.
One way to distinguish yourself from the competition is to over-deliver on your promises. Are you a developer who promised to build a top-notch website for somebody? Include additional features that your client wasn’t expecting. Not only will this habit improve your reputation, it will foster stronger customer relationships and encourage word-of-mouth marketing.
Try out every part of business.
While you are a solo entrepreneur, you have a lot of tasks on your plate. However, when your business grows and you have employees, it’s possible that you will forget just how difficult all of those responsibilities can be. To maintain your appreciation for everyone’s job and to avoid getting an ego, try your hand at every aspect of your business.
Work alongside your employees in different roles to see what their jobs are like –that will help you keep things in perspective, and provide opportunities to collaborate and bond as a team.
Being a successful entrepreneur requires discipline. You need to be careful about wasting time in both your professional and personal life. Limit the time you spend on social media, make sure you get plenty of sleep and eat balanced meals, schedule time for exercise and reading, and reduce distractions. One of the best ways to stay organized and disciplined is to try your hand at bullet journaling; many entrepreneurs find this pastime to be both productive and creative.
Listen more than you talk.
Always listen more than you talk; as they say, there’s a reason we have two ears but only one mouth. Especially when it comes to difficult or uncomfortable conversations, it’s best to focus on being present and really hearing what the other person is saying (not just verbally, but through body language and other social cues).
So often, we listen to respond instead of listening to hear what someone is trying to tell us. It’s always better to listen and reflect before responding to any situation.
Help other people.
In teaching, we learn just as much as we relay to others; and in that context, helping other people is one of the most fulfilling things we can do. Helping others with their entrepreneurial ventures can teach you a lot about your own business because it requires reflection.
Say, for example, that a business partner you work with is struggling with an unsuccessful social media campaign and you volunteer to help assess what’s going wrong. By comparing notes about your strategies, you’ll gain new insights into your own social media marketing and fresh ideas for new moves in the future.
Being an entrepreneur is not just about managing a business; it requires a new way of thinking. How will you strengthen your own entrepreneurial mind?
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This Article first appeared in entrepreneur