Skill Acquisition Improvements

We’ve shared tools that can speed up learning, and concepts that can teach entrepreneurs how to learn faster, but you should know that learning is often separated from skill acquisition in the same way that theory is separated from practice. For the purposes of this blog, learning is a way to improve the efficiency of a skill through facts or testing, whereas skill acquisition is improving the ability to perform the desired action at specific quality consistently. In order for you to get the most out of your attempts at skill acquisition, you may want to plan for specific ways to increase your skill acquisition rate.

Do You Want The Skills You Are Choosing?

Do You Really Want It

Before practicing a skill you may want to ask yourself: Do I want this to be a part of me? Will this skill progress me towards my goals? Will it progress me towards a future I want for myself? Developing a skill to a higher level takes a lot of time, and there’s no avoiding that. If you don’t want the skill to be a part of your life you should consider ignoring it.

Ask yourself whether you care enough to answer these four questions as part of your skill development:

  1. Can I make performing the skill an everyday habit? Every time you learn new information it should show in the performance of an everyday habit.
  2. Am I willing to put in the time and effort to learn from the best? Be willing to connect with high-performing mentors and commit to hard work every day to improve this skill.
  3. Can I focus on new learning opportunities over other opportunities? This can be developed by looking for new experiences to improve your skill and experience over other rewards.
  4. Can I put in the effort to practice? If you decide something interests you and want to make that skill a part of your routine, you should jump into it and assume the passion will come later, as long as the desire to try it is there now.

Acquiring Archery Skills

Faster Ways to Acquire Skills

Now that you are determined to commit long-term to practice something, you should figure out the fastest way to practice that thing. The following methods are similar to those presented by Josh Kaufman in The First 20 hours: How to Learn Anything… Fast as techniques to speed through the skill acquisition stages.

  1. Focus on a project that can keep you interested. The project could be the thing you are most passionate about or something more practical, but this project should be tied to the skill that you are most interested in developing. For example: If you want to develop communication skills, try communicating with your loved ones until the conversations go as well as you hope.
  2. Commit to one skill at a time for a longer period of time. It may be that you want to learn one hundred skills, but this will only slow down overall skill acquisition. A single skill contains fragments that can be developed and should probably be focused on in order to come to a clear understanding of how to use that skill.
  3. Split skills into sub-skills. Every skill is a combination of several concepts, principles, and mechanics called sub-skills. As an example, writing could include grammar, spelling, prosody, meter, rhyme, typing form, writing form, brainstorming, creative thinking, arguing, theme, story structure, and a host of other sub-skills. But what if the practitioner only wants to improve their ability to email their colleagues effectively? Let the desire define what sub-skills should be emphasized. By assigning priority to different sub-skills, it is possible to measure each sub-skill and decide which sub-skill requires focus.
  4. Develop your expectations. Having a future performance goal helps you find the right information to reach that goal. Occasionally failing to meet a goal is expected, as an 80 percent success with a 20 percent failure means that someone may be pushing themselves to improve. A success rate of 100 percent often means you may not be setting difficult enough goals. However, failure could also just mean bad estimations. Treat improving estimations of performance as part of developing the skill. Before practicing, ask, “How is this going to go? In what roles will everyone participate? How do I fit into that role?” After practicing, ask, “Did it go as I expected? What could I have done differently to achieve a better result? Why did other people who participated do what they did?” If you reach a performance goal, make a new one.
  5. Obtain important tools. You cannot play tennis without a racket. You can play with a low-quality racket. Find out what tools are essential for developing your chosen skill and which tools remove the consequences of failure and make acquiring those tools a necessary expense.
  6. Do whatever is necessary to keep the tools ready for use, have everything you need to practice ready, get rid of environmental distractions, and remove as much emotional pain as possible. Focus on doing what you already know and focusing on a single, new, discreet thing.
  7. Schedule a time to practice. Make it a promise to yourself, then keep practicing. Make practicing a sacred routine, and ritualize it if necessary.
  8. Get quick feedback. You don’t want to make something and hope it is okay. Find a way to judge quality as an objective measurement and find out if something is genius, terrible, or something in between as fast as possible.
  9. Practice in 20-minute bursts. Having a 20-minute burst where you are doing all you can to improve your skill can help fit the task within a calendar and allow you to commit as much energy as possible to improving within that burst.
  10. Emphasize quantity over quality. Assume that the feedback you will get from failing may point out mistakes quickly and thoroughly, and you may even have something to show for it. Focus on small ways to correct your form with each new attempt.

Holding a Four Leaf Clover

Four Stages of Skill Acquisition

Knowing the stages of skill acquisition may help you understand what to improve at different skill levels. The four-stage model, shown below, based on the model first developed by GTI Employee Noel Burch, is a tool used to quickly help you assess your skill competency. Each stage has a core question, and the ability to answer that question may give you a quick assessment of your level of competence with each skill. Knowing which of the four stages you are heading to next may help you understand how to develop your skills to effectively answer the question.

  1. Unconscious Incompetence – The core question behind unconscious incompetence is: can you execute the skill correctly? Just jumping into a skill and trying it might teach the motions, but it will not teach you how to judge your actions. It may take the focus of a mentor or self-analysis in order to think about what you are doing correctly. By building a technical foundation and learning how to move, measure, and think about each action you can move out of unconscious incompetence.
  2. Conscious Incompetence – The core question that surrounds conscious incompetence is: Can you plan around your skill and estimate it correctly? Learning how to plan is the fundamental lesson to solve conscious incompetence. This stage focuses on finding ways to measure the different processes and make confident estimations and reliable plans. Conscious incompetence is complete when you can confidently measure and can conceive of how to use the skill correctly in different situations.
  3. Conscious Competence – The core question that surrounds conscious competence is: can you conceive of a strategy to unify your skills? Can you unify all the skills together for a common goal? Can you analyze why a strategy was chosen over other strategies? When you feel you can figure out how to use your strategy for every situation, then it is possible to move onto the unconscious competence level of skill development.
  4. Unconscious Competence – The core question that surrounds unconscious competence is: Can you create opportunities possible out of small changes? Most of the effort while performing the skill at this level is spent on awareness and prediction. This level of competency assumes the ability to execute well in a large majority of instances and presumes the ability to take advantage of minutiae in timing as often as possible.

Let’s use an example skill: sword fighting to illustrate how this mental model might be used.

  1. Unconscious Incompetence – The swordfighter focuses on the technical execution of swordsmanship and experiments with the sword to discover new uses. to accomplish this they may focus on things like footwork, angles of attack, and other technical matters.
  2. Conscious Incompetence – The swordfighter begins to have the understanding to judge different situations. The swordsman will be in different situations and begin to make plans to take advantage of those situations, such as developing new ways to take advantage of the moment when two blades collide or figuring out how to exploit the moment when the opponent first comes within range.
  3. Conscious Competence – The swordfighter can figure out what decisions are most important. Often this comes down to deciding a key metric. As an example when they begin a match, they might say “I’m taller than them, I can get the first attack in an engagement, how do I maximize the number of attacks before my opponent can close in?” This can lead to strategic decisions, such as taking longer lunging strikes and quick retreats to force the opponent to constantly be on the defensive.
  4. Unconscious Competence – The swordfighter has experienced a lot of different styles. They will often be as aggressive as possible to force the opponent to react and gather information. Based on the information that they gather their style will shift to take advantage of what they believe will give them their greatest chance in the current situation as they gain new information.

By knowing the stages of advancement, and training at the level you feel comfortable you may be able to assess your development with a greater degree of certainty. If you know of a better way to improve, share it with us in the comments below.

Aesop suggests that honest is the best policy. This remains true, transparency is a value that builds trust in relationships, and simplifies communication.

In Mercury and the Woodcutter, Aesop suggests that “Honesty is the best policy.” This is not only true of golden axes being fished out of deep, black waters, but also every interpersonal interaction. Transparency is a value that builds relationships. Those relationships build businesses. When you are honest, you don’t have to worry about what you shared with one person versus another. You also don’t need to worry about what others are thinking, because everything’s out in the open. Here are some of the main benefits of transparency:

Simplicity Is Not Complicated

Those who are dishonest constantly find themselves changing stories based on who they are talking to. When you are transparent as an entrepreneur, your business is simpler and more efficient. This efficiency is good for the soul, as well as the bottom line.

It’s All About Trust

Relationships are currency in business. Transparency builds trust. That trust will allow you to forge stronger connections. Dishonesty is corrosive, breeding discontent and gossip. All of that energy could be focused on performance. Omitting, editing, or withholding information models that behavior for the entire organization. Trust creates colleagues and collaborators, which builds production and performance.

It Takes A Community

Transparency inspires meaningful engagement. When you are honest with your employees about a problem you are having with your company, people will respond to your humanness. Their authentic response can be the start of engagement well beyond normal “surface” communication. By connecting on a real level, you can build a sense of community with your team. And a community always works harder toward shared goals.

Integrity Is What You See in the Mirror

Transparency and integrity work side by side in any successful undertaking. Failure to disclose a fact that may be harmful to a short-term goal can eventually terminate a long-term goal. Those who fail to disclose create bad feelings and distrust when the truth is finally uncovered. And, even if it isn’t, the stress of worrying about its disclosure is energy that could be used to build a better organization. You may have a definite outcome you are trying to avoid by failing to disclose. Yet, your avoidance may close you off from unknown and possibly beneficial partnerships or solutions that you will discover once you honestly declare the truth.

Transparency creates openness and rewards that are both personal and financial. It ripples across the waters of your organization, much like the ripples on the pond where the Woodsman lost his axe into the water. He received, for his honesty, not only iron, silver and golden axes, but also the admiration of Mercury. And there’s no telling where that goodwill can take the Woodsman and his woodcutting business.

Runners hit the wall, and entrepreneurs are no different. Find resilience and energy, even when you feel like you can’t go on.

It’s hard out there for an entrepreneur sometimes. The pressure from clients and employees is great, the hours are long, and the chance for failure is always around the corner. It requires unlimited resilience and boundless energy. Except those qualities are finite resources. Just as the most powerful marathoners can hit the wall, even the strongest leaders have their limits. Still, the organization needs you, and you need it, even when you’re exhausted. How do you get beyond the wall, even when you feel like you can’t go on?

Routines

Routines are your best friends. Load up on work during your most productive part of the day. Make sure you are eating and resting regularly. And leave some personal time each day to get centered and focused. Even 10 minutes of meditation is helpful; mindful breathing can allow you to connect to your deepest resources.

The Why

Be very clear about what gets you fired up, who you are trying to help, and what your goals are. Write it down. Display it on a wall, or carry it around with you. The why will sustain you when times get tough. Hint: Making money will only take you so far. You need to constantly connect with your why.  

Small Steps

Big leaps forward are awesome, and if you keep at it with enough skill and determination, they will happen. But there can be droughts of giant breakthroughs. Instead, be thankful for every small step forward. Take nothing for granted. Write each and every small victory down in a journal so you can look back and see just how far you have come.

ZZZZZZs

Get some sleep. Seriously. Tour de France cyclists, some of the most intense endurance athletes in the world, sleep up to ten hours per night to replenish their bodies and mentally refresh. Entrepreneurs, with their demanding schedules and responsibilities, need sleep just as badly. Find a sleep schedule that works for you and stick to it. Your business depends upon it.

Mentors

You have blind spots and weaknesses. Everyone does. A trusted mentor can see things when you are up against your limits. Find individuals who you respect and have been through the fires. Build relationships with them. They can use your energy, and you can use their wisdom. It’s a win-win.

Connect

Surround yourself with positive people that sustain you. Build these groups both at, and outside, work. Being an entrepreneur can be isolating, but humans are social creatures. Despite pressures, you have to find people who inspire joy, wisdom, and caring. Giving to and receiving from those who you love opens you to an abundant present, carrying you through the hardest of times.

Recover, Recover, Recover

Have recovery practices in place. Music, affirmations, inspiring spiritual words, gratitude journals, vision boards—anything that builds you up after you have been pushed down. Tough times will come. Have recovery infrastructure in place to so that you can rise again.

In running, hitting the wall is very specific. When glycogen is depleted, runners feel intense fatigue and negativity. Runners need to make sure that they are properly trained and that they keep up with the fuel needs of their bodies. Entrepreneurs are no different. They need to have strategies in place to fuel them through the wall and beyond. Some of the most brilliant solutions are just on the other side of the most challenging moments.   

Learning how to Learn

An entrepreneur may feel that they must specialize in learning. In business, it can feel like a necessity to constantly outlearn the competition. In a previous blog post, we gave entrepreneurs tools to help them learn faster in order to help accomplish that goal. However, while new learning tools are one method of improving learning speed, adapting learning concepts and principles may help just as much. Each the mental tricks shown below may be able to improve the quantity or quality of learning done every day.

9 steps to more effective learning

9 Steps To Speed Up Your Learning

In order to gain the most out of learning, it may be wise to have a structured approach for getting the most out of each learning session. As an example here are a few steps based on principles taught by Josh Kaufman in his book The First 20 hours: How to Learn Anything… Fast.

  1. Skim or read the summary of multiple sources and see which concepts come up in multiple sources, and make a judgment call which three or four sources will be the best source.
  2. Commit to trying something beyond your current abilities in a low-stakes environment. This either confirms that you already know enough or reveals any mistakes and shows what needs to be improved. Any confusion you feel can effectively point you to the thing you need to learn next.
  3. Identify mental models and mental hooks present in the text. Mental models are ideas, concepts, and techniques that come up over and over again. Mental hooks are analogies and metaphors useful to you in order to gain an immediate understanding of the current situation.
  4. Imagine the worst case scenarios when performing a skill and plan for them. When experimenting with something new, some failure is likely. Preventing failure or doing damage control may be more useful as a beginner since failure is more likely. Think about ways you can fail and what can be done to prevent that.
  5. Try to find a reliable benchmark to set up realistic expectations for yourself. If possible, contact practitioners to establish a baseline performance, as well as a performance goal, and judge how much effort it will take to meet your learning goals.
  6. Eliminate distractions in the environment and time the study sessions in order to treat being focused as the challenge that it is.
  7. Use spaced repetition (from flash cards or programs like Anki) can keep information in your memory.
  8. Create a pre-learning routine, such as creating a checklist and unplugging your router before you start a learning session to prevent being distracted by the internet, maybe a successful way to get started. Even an arbitrary ritual, such as turning on a lamp before you start, can help to develop a sense of commitment before beginning learning session.
  9. Take breaks after specific timed intervals. A human body may only be able to handle 90 minutes of engagement at a time. Some even believe 25 minutes of engagement followed by a 5-minute break is essential. Don’t push it, and remember to take regular breaks and get plenty of sleep.

Summary of Learning

Start with a Summary

If a book or document contains useful information, it may be wise to read up on a review, summary, or report of the material before reading the text. The information contained within the summary may be enough, making any continued reading of the text un-necessary.

If there are no easy-to-find summaries or reports, skimming the information may suffice.

When skimming new pieces of information, it may be wise to focus on the following things:

  1. The point of each chapter is usually expressed in the first and last part of each chapter. This may be all the information that’s necessary.
  2. Only the names, dates, numbers, formula, and named concepts are important unless there’s something that’s obviously missing.
  3. The table of contents, index, or last page in a chapter may contain all the information that you need. Examine them before reading anything else and see if you can figure out the text from there.

Hypothesis for Learning

Make a Hypothesis

Before you begin reading, watching, or learning in any other way, it may be wise to make a hypothesis about what material will be covered. Part of this hypothesis will be a guess as to why the material is important, and a statement of what you hope to learn from what you are reading. This hypothesis might force you to review your reasoning and decide how much you already know. After you begin reading you may be more acutely aware of the differences between what you assumed and what is presented.

Without making a hypothesis, you might glaze over the text or imitate it without thinking. By making a hypothesis you can skim sections that you already know and pay closer attention to any information that disagrees or improves upon your initial assumptions. In this way, you may be able to save time or improve your own focus by identifying what you do not understand and focus on that.

Improving Memorizing Ability To Improve Learning

Improve Your Memory

None of this learning is going to do much good if you forget what you learned. Luckily, there are a few easy ways to increase memorization rate without using a flash card. The key is imagining vivid, emotional, provoking images and connecting those to the things someone wants to remember. Humans tend to remember images best, and they remember emotional, moving images that evoke all the senses best. Because of this, it may be wise to take a breather after every page or chapter and come up with an imagined image for what transpired in the text.

In conversations, imagining a series of static 3D shapes instead of animated or elaborate symbols may be necessary since the imagining needs to be done quickly to avoid becoming distracted. however, after finishing the conversation a person can always develop the imagined image further. They can do this by mentally animating the various images together to show a connection, or by adding different senses (such as deciding how it smells, how it sounds, etc.) to may make it easier to recall the concepts later. As an example: a person could imagine the moon refusing a stinky piece of cheese in order to remember “The moon is not made of cheese.”

In order to memorize numbers, it may be better to convert them into symbols using the Major system or some other mnemonic system. This system converts certain letters into numbers. With the Major system, characters or actions can be translated into an image. MooNwaLKiNG, for example, could be the number 321727.

For longer stretches of information, many memory champions use a method known as the mind palace or the method of loci to memorize more information. To use the technique a person must imagine themselves traveling through a place they regularly visit and fill the location with conceptual images that they hope to recall. As the person travels around the space, the things that they are trying to imagine begin interacting in a way which elaborates and embellishes the memory.

As an example:

Someone said to me:

“Nearly half of all rainforests are being cut in order to build highways. To prevent the destruction of rainforests, we will need to get all government agencies involved.”

In order to memorize this sentence, I imagined myself waking up surrounded by trees. As I got up all of the trees were suddenly cut in half around me. As I walked towards my restroom to brush my teeth I saw the cut trees were forming a highway. When I got to the restroom, I turned to see that agents from the FBI, CIA, and city hall had appeared and tried to spear the highway with flags that showed the symbols of their various organizations. They found the highway unstoppable until the president appeared with every agency in the government and all the agencies combined to form a giant robot which wrestled and pinned the highway to the ground.

This imagined scene created a memorable series of images to refer back to. If I wished I could have used different parts of the house as part of my morning routine in order to remember a more complex statement.

 

We hope that these learning tricks help a business owner learn whatever they need as quickly as they need to. Let us know in the comments if you have any other tools for learning quickly and memorizing new information in the com

Astrology may or may not help your business, but you will be successful if are able to learn how to focus your energies.

The world can be a steady stream of endless distractions. Even if you’re just average, you check your phone 80 to 150 times per day. And maybe you spend more time than you wanted on Insta because your friend’s adorable bunny led you down a 45 minute rabbit hole. You binge all of The Haunting of Hill House over the weekend—and somehow that is less scary than looking at your finances. Which you put off doing. Again.

We know. We get it.  

But here’s the thing. If you are going to get that business off the ground, you’re going to have to learn to do one thing really well. Because it’s not who you know. It’s not where you’re from. No, it’s not about your astrological sign, either. Okay, maybe a little. The main thing, though, that sets the most successful entrepreneurs apart is their ability to focus. And, here is the secret part: you don’t have to be born with focus — you can learn it.

Of course, there are books and coaches out there that will sell you some focus. But, honestly you can just DIY it. It just requires an openness and some discipline. Alright, a lot of discipline. But it’s not like you have to be all work and no play. In fact, that’s the beauty. Play is built in.

One system, designed by Dan Sullivan, is made up of Focus Days, Buffer Days, and Free Days. All are essential for the greater good, and that good is doing what entrepreneurs do best: innovating, building solutions, and adding value to the lives of clients and employees.

Focus Days

On these days, you spend most of your time doing what you do best. Usually, these are the days entrepreneurs live for. If you are a builder, you build. If you are a writer, you write. If you are launching a business, liftoff! It’s the time to play to your strengths. One practitioner of the system, Danielle LaPorte, makes Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday her days to focus. She doesn’t answer the phone or email. The block in the middle of the week allows her time to build momentum and generate the work that not only makes her happiest, but also makes her the most money.

Buffer Days

These are the days you lay the infrastructure for focus days. This is when you do the have-to’s such as meetings, planning sessions, proposals — everything that allows full attention on focus days. LaPorte does this on Mondays and Fridays, starting and ending her week with the tasks, emails and phone calls that get in the way of the heart-singing stuff. For her, Monday and Friday are like stretching out before and after an exhilarating workout. It feels good to do even mundane tasks because you have a sense of purpose.

Free Days

Free Days are key. And they have rules. They have to be at least 24 hours with 100 percent exclusion of work worries. You get proper sleep. You do activities that renew and refresh. LaPorte lets it roll on weekends—“play, party, veg, nest.” She also holds Sundays especially sacred. Giving up her computer, she reads for inspiration and connects with friends. Sullivan says these recharge days are as important as any others. Without regularly unplugging, systems get overheated, and that’s when mistakes are made.

Focusing energy and time with a disciplined, uber-productive system is a way to take your entrepreneurship to the next level. It’s totally up to each person to decide if setting a date for your business launch should be a Focus Day or a Buffer Day. Also, make sure not to do it on a day when Mercury is in retrograde, though you better have “Mars, Jupiter and Saturn direct.” But don’t do it on a Free Day. Remember, planets and stars are fine on your free days, but no business!       

Climbing mountain of success is straightforward for starting your own business, right? Separate fiction and fact for entrepreneurs.

Many people have ideas about what it is and what it takes to be an entrepreneur. If you have chosen to become a business leader, it is critically important to understand the difference between fiction and fact when it comes to entrepreneurship. Here are some of the most common misconceptions:

A Straightforward Climb Up Mountain of Success?

Fiction: Successful entrepreneurs have climbed straight up the mountain of success without faltering. Fact: Though some have higher business success rates than others, no one climbs straight up the mountain without taking some pretty gnarly falls, either because they lost their balance or they got pushed. The difference is that successful entrepreneurs have the intelligence to quickly understand what happened and the courage to immediately start climbing again.

Being Boss Means Being Free?

Fiction: Being your own boss gives you total freedom. Fact: Being accountable for the direction of organizations and responsible for the well-being of employees and clients often means that going where you want, when you want is impossible. You are free to follow your intuition, which is a great freedom, but your time is highly constrained since people are counting on you for solutions so that they can live well.

Being CEO Means Never Being Alone?

Fiction: Entrepreneurs are part of large groups, surrounded by people. Fact: Though this is true, and, in fact, surrounding yourself with great people is one of the most important keys to successful entrepreneurship, being an entrepreneur can be an isolating experience. When you are starting your venture, you may be an army of one, pushing things forward with no one to tell you whether it is a good idea or not. And, even when things are up and running, making decisions requires an individuality that can be isolating as well.

Money Is What Gets You Started?

Fiction: You need money to make money. Fact: It is a great head start, of course, to begin a venture with resources. More resources, on average, produce better outcomes. But it is not necessary. In fact, if you can find your way through those initial stages, lessons learned by getting over the top with limited resources can sustain a venture into maturity. Someone with inner resources is always preferable to someone who only has outside resources. Building from the inside out makes you stronger in the long term.

Getting Rich = Success?

Fiction: Being successful is all about getting rich. Fact: Though getting rich can serve as an indicator of success, it is just one. And, no doubt, money can help get you through the rough patches. But, as you move toward to a more mature understanding of the world,  having family, clients and employees who are living better lives because of you is truly what marks success.

Born to Be an Entrepreneur?

Fiction: Entrepreneurs are born successful. Fact: Most folks looking from the outside see a confident leader and assume they were overnight successes. They don’t see the level of focus needed, the grinding responsibilities. Or, the  blood, sweat, and tears it took to get to that big office. They don’t know how the venture started. Without fanfare, a single individual pushed an idea that hardly anyone seemed too excited about.  

If you feel the call to start your own business—if you have killer ideas and the persistence to move them forward—then separating fiction and fact is one of the most important things any entrepreneur can do.

Knowledge Resources for Entrepreneurs
(Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash)

It seems like everyone wants to become an entrepreneur but many do not have the knowledge to do so. To help out everyone who has had the entrepreneurial drive, here are a few resources which may help understand how to analyze a product, how to find a product-market fit, how to define the role of the founders, how to form a strong work culture, and how to stay solvent. With this knowledge, you might also find ways to choose a good board of directors, good analytics, and how to form a strategy for your business.

Knowledge:

Steve Blank’s List of Tools and Blogs for entrepreneurs comes from the associate professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford and writer of the “Startup Owner’s Manual” and “Four Stages to the Epiphany.” Steve Blank has founded eight companies, of which four went public. Forbes listed him as one of the most influential men in the technology sector, and while his thoughts might be skewed towards that sector, his views on entrepreneurship shouldn’t be ignored. Steve is the originator of the lean startup method for creating companies popularized by his student, Eric Reis.

Paul Graham’s Essays are sometimes considered must-read material for ambitious entrepreneurs. These essays were created by the venture capitalist and software engineer who co-founded Y Combinator, a business designed to help startups. This collection of essays has wonderful phrases like “You need three things to create a successful startup: to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible. Most startups that fail do it because they fail at one of these. A startup that does all three will probably succeed.” With such simple and effective advice, it’s easy to see the value in his writing. Warning: some of the essays are political pieces.

Books:

The Lean Startup presents a “new” entrepreneurship movement which can be summed up in the following quote: “The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” This method seeks to test a product, fail faster, and prove the product is worth improving. It does this by building a minimum viable product and developing more only when the situation requires it. The Build-Measure-Learn loop of product development is the main takeaway from this great book, but the wisdom contained within this book makes it a compelling read.

Blitzscaling is a new book by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh which deals with how to set up businesses to experience massive growth. Hoffman co-founded LinkedIn and Yeh co-founded Wasabi Ventures, so both are used to creating companies with massive growth. This book shows how an entrepreneur might position their company in a way to take advantage of massive growth opportunities. Entrepreneurs involved with Blitzscaling also delivered a variety of entrepreneurship lectures at Stanford, which can be found here.

Funding:

Y Combinator wants to be the first investor in a company and helps it to be successful. If you send in an application, Y Combinator may invite you to a 3-month training “boot camp” with other founders. Y Combinator may be able to set up connections between founders while teaching entrepreneurs how to pitch to investors. This resource attempts to give startups the right knowledge to help create a business that can thrive. They also provide a long list of interesting ideas they think will change the future if an entrepreneur is looking for inspiration.

Floodgate tries to be one of the first to invest in a company. They evaluate a startup on five separate characteristics:

  1. Proprietary Power – Everyone is trying to be better, but can you be different? Can it be completely unfair to compete against you? Can it be unassailable, for example like 25 years of research that you have exclusive rights to?
  2. Product Power – Does the business solve a problem that exists in the market? Does it solve the problem in such a way that it is obvious, convenient, and inspiring? Did the business quickly attract the attention of a lot of people and grow out of control?
  3. Company Power – Does your company have the proper foundations? Does it have a culture that minimizes management debt and technical debt? Does it have lightweight meetings, efficient teams, and the right meetings? Can everyone execute better and faster?
  4. Business Model Power – Does the way your business model work make sense? Does your company have a good financial plan to translate consumer interest and participation into profits? How will the business model change when the business is successful?
  5. Competitive Power – Can you reframe or redefine how people think of the market? Can you change distribution channels as Amazon did with “the online bookstore”? Is your Business unique enough to immediately stick in a customer’s mind?

Companies that pass these judgments are a “Godzilla” company. Companies like this are more likely to attract investors, which may propel the business forward.

Series Seed equity financing docs can help with any additional funding that an entrepreneur might need by providing open source documentation to help entrepreneurs apply for their Series A, B, and C funding. Michael Dearing, the founder of Harrison Metal, has stated that these documents are his exclusive templates for funding.

Let us know if you have any other entrepreneurial knowledge you would be willing to share in the comments below.

What is your entrepreneurial DNA? Are you a Builder, Specialist, Opportunist, and Innovator? Understanding strengths and weaknesses determines outcomes.

 

You have an amazing innovation you want to bring to market. Your innovation, though, is only one factor in this statement. The other one is you. Your strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur will intensely impact your ability to succeed. Investors are increasingly looking to back entrepreneurs whose strengths match up with their projects. One portfolio manager of high-growth international companies, Joe Abraham, calls these characteristics your entrepreneurial DNA, which he breaks down into four quadrants: Builder, Specialist, Opportunist, and Innovator.

Builder

Do you excel at constructing an organization from the foundation up? If so, you might be a Builder. These entrepreneurs pride themselves on their strategic abilities, seeing exactly what needs to happen to get to a specific goal, staying ahead of the competition at every step. They love the battle and love winning even more. Often, Builders are described as calculating, ruthless, cold, focused, and driven.

Specialist

Specialists enter an industry and spend the rest of their lives becoming an expert. They are strong on knowledge and relationships in their specific corner of the business world, but can struggle to stand out in a crowded marketplace of competitors. Specialists are great at starting small, family businesses, but, when it comes to scaling, lack the vision and broader experience to succeed.

Opportunist

Are you a dreamer? Do you pride yourself on your limitless imagination? Opportunists dream big, go big, and, when they crash, go down in flames big. When you find yourself, for good or bad, diving into projects more quickly than is expedient, you are flying your Opportunist flag. Impatient, these entrepreneurs are constantly looking to be in the right place at the right time to make money.

Innovator

The strength of the Innovator is to work meticulously and tirelessly to perfect their invention, product, system, recipe, or product. Their weakness is that they focus so much on their innovations, they miss opportunities because the realities of the business environment are less engaging than innovation breakthroughs and solutions.    

There is no explicit formula for success. Each of these types of entrepreneurs have strengths and weaknesses that powerfully impact the likelihood of successfully bringing an innovation to market. Investors, more than anything, are looking for execution rather than an idea. For investors, when a Builder teams up with an Innovator, the potential for success is unlimited.

Even if you don’t believe in narrowly defined characteristics determining outcomes, it is critically important to fully understand your strengths and weaknesses. To bring your innovation to market, you will have to build a team that makes up for your weaknesses. The success of your business may depend upon your ability to look inward, before you start looking outward.  

Learning More Every day

Every entrepreneur can gain an advantage by learning faster. Industries change every day and the amount of information that needs to be sifted through is monumental. Yet, there are some modern tools and concepts that may increase the speed of learning for a large portion of people. Here are a few of the tools that some of us have found useful for out-learning the competition.

Learn What Is Necessary:

Having the tools is important but knowing how to learn is the other part of the equation. Without knowing what you should be learning, or how to decide whether something is worth studying, the act of learning may still be a waste of time.

If a book contains information that may be useful to you, it may be wise to read up on a review, summary, or report of the material before beginning any reading. The condensed information may be enough to continue or to steer you in the right direction towards the information you need.

When starting a new book, keep summaries in mind as well. The table of contents, index, or last page in a chapter may contain all the information you need.

Warning: Your body may only be able to handle 90 minutes of engagement at a time. Some believe 25 minutes of engagement followed by a 5-minute break is essential. You may learn better by repeating lessons, quizzing yourself on if you understand the lesson, and performing a task using the lesson to make sure you know it. Try not to push yourself too much when learning, and remember to take regular breaks and get plenty of sleep.

Speed Up Learning:

Spreeder is a speed reading program that formats words in such a way to make it possible to read them especially quickly. You might find yourself reading much faster after Spreeder sets a pace, positions words to be in clumps of 5 to 7, and (optionally) removes words that are deemed inconsequential to understanding the meaning of the text. The program also calculates how long it will take to read at your current reading speed, which can help plan the act of reading a book with other parts of the day.

Mercury Reader formats sites in a way that makes them easier to read by removing ads and putting the words in a clear legible font. By using Mercury reader you can also send articles to your Kindle, which puts them in a Spreeder accessible format.

Video Speed Controller speeds up videos on chrome up to 64x their normal speed. Unfortunately, at around 4x to 5x of the average listening speed many voices may be difficult to interpret. However, if you are viewing a video with great subtitles you may be able to silence the voice and treat some videos like Spreeder with increased visuals. If the subtitles are not great you can use the voice to clarify the text.

Anki is a digital flashcard system used to test memorization of a certain topic. The cards are displayed at a decreased frequency depending on how well a person memorizes them over time. Anki follows a belief that memory improves through spaced repetition and effort. Because of this, it starts showing a card to a user less frequently as a user masters the concept.

Learning Sources:

Lynda is an educational service that provides training videos for a wide variety of skills. Many libraries have a deal with Lynda where members gain free access to Lynda’s lessons. In addition, LinkedIn connects to Lynda’s learning network, which can immediately influence your network.

Udemy is a version of Lynda that anyone can join. Individuals can make custom classes, a certificate for completing the class, and a 30-day money back guarantee in case you don’t think what you’re learning is useful. Users have the option of rating each class which helps make the most useful classes more likely to appear. Each class offers a certificate of completion to prove that you have completed the class, which may be important if a user needs a record of taking the class.

Degreed is the Facebook of learning resources. It contains many different educational providers and different resources and comments on the different sources. At Degreed you can pay someone to review your learning plan and potentially earn a degree.

Let us know if you use anything to increase your learning speed. Tell us about the tools you use to learn in the comments below.

Travelling quickly through a city.

Every entrepreneur strives for speed and effectiveness. With the right tools, every entrepreneur can increase their speed and effectiveness. In the modern day, the number of tools available is so plentiful that no one knows which are significant enough to use. Here are a few of the tools that have been tested by us and found to speed up some of our processes.

Faster Processes:

Video Speed Controller – How often do you watch videos for research? This extension allows HTML5 videos (including Udemy and YouTube) to have a viewing speed of your choice between 0.07 and 64.0 times the normal viewing speed of a video. Watching videos at x2 speed, or up to x4 may be reasonable depending on the speaker. It is possible to complete several hours’ worth of research at a fraction of the time. If you are a fast reader you may be able to turn on captions and watch a video at speeds faster than the speaker can articulate.

Feedly – If your work requires research from a lot of different sources, why not collect them and have them displayed to you every morning? Feedly allows you to follow multiple sources and have them displayed every day by category. This app can inform a viewer of all the industry-specific news they need in record time. Feedly can be remarkably useful for getting information quickly in the morning.

Evernote – This is a note-taking tool that can be accessed quickly that can synchronize with communication apps like Slack or CRMs like SalesForce. Evernote can also allow you to quickly scan and share documents or clips of articles from the web. With this sharing feature, Evernote can effectively help teams sync up bursts of inspiration.

Faster Commands:

Quicksilver – Set up quick “verbs” to use different programs with quick speed. With Quicksilver a user can type “Call Dad” and have the computer look into the contact information and dial the number for you. This tool is Mac only. The most popular Windows equivalent is probably Launchy.

AutoHotKey – You can define specific mouse movements, button presses, or gestures for specific processes on your computer using AutoHotKey. For example, you can click and move your mouse in a “G” motion to open google. If you can think of a gesture or button combination then AutoHotKey can train your computer to immediately perform that action and speed up your workflow. If there is any other keyboard or mouse press that a user wants to use for a specific purpose they can dedicate their computer to that purpose.

Texter – Texter may be one of the fastest ways to type text if you have something that you write constantly. For those moments when you need to type, you can set up shortcuts with these programs. You can use this program for common long form responses; for example, you can set “MyContact” to automatically insert your contact info:

My Name

MyEmail@gmail.com

(555)555-5555

My Address

Do you have something that you write all the time that could be auto-completed like this?

Automation:

IFTTT – This device does nothing more than let other programs talk to one another. Seemingly this is not very powerful, but it becomes much better when you realize you can ask for an email weather forecast every morning and can post some aspects of social media simultaneously. For those interested in even more time-saving functions, rival company Zapier markets itself as a more business-friendly alternative and Huginn is an open-source version of IFTTT that you can program yourself.

Doodle – Doodle is a planning tool that allows people to automatically sync their schedules together. This can save a lot of hassle over having two people constantly readjusting their time. It is also possible to put your own schedule in the program and ask others to plan around it. The program syncs up with Google Calendar, which makes it easy to get reminders for your plan.

LastPass – LastPass collects all your passwords in a vault and asks to fill its vault with all the passwords that you use while using this feature. Anytime you revisit the site, LastPass will provide a button to immediately repopulate the password area. LastPass requires a master password to get into the vault and look at your saved passwords. By adopting this app into your life you can have a wide variety of passwords without having to worry about your memory, and you can save time that you would have otherwise used to fill out the password field.

Email Productivity:

Unroll.me – This program can allow users to see a dashboard of all their subscriptions and newsletters every morning. The program also helps de-clutter e-mail and helps the user unenroll from any subscription service they are participating in.

SaneBox – This program looks at your e-mail and determines which e-mails you probably haven’t been looking at and puts all of those in its own file for you to reference later.

Productivity Chrome Extensions:

Toby – Toby is an alternative bookmark generator that allows you to attach pages that you are not using to the “New tab” section of your computer in a customized filing system for later. By using Toby it is easy to separate pages that you’ll need for yourself and pages that you need in case someone requires them later.

Pocket – There are times at work when an article immediately catches my attention, but I don’t have time to read it. Pocket solves this problem by storing articles you might want to read later. This extension also connects between devices to enable reading articles in another location providing the Gmail accounts are linked. Pocket has successfully stopped me from indulging in too much research that might be useful at work and allows me to focus on whatever is necessary for that day. In this way, Pocket increases productivity at work.

Time Management:

RescueTime – Would you like to keep a detailed analysis of where you spend your time and have a report sent back to you in email form? If so then a report by RescueTime may be a good way to find out exactly how much time you spend on each website or tool while using your computer. If you decide that any of the sites you visit are bad habits, you may be able to gain a little more time in your life by using the next app.

StayFocused – This program can restrict access to sites of your choice for a set amount of time. This can be used for your own personal development in order to reclaim focus. If you use this with RescueTime you may be able to pinpoint the sites that do the most harm to your productivity.

 

We hope that these tools help you as much as they have helped us. Do you use any other tools or techniques for your own productivity? Please share in the comment section below!