When I made the decision to pursue my side business full time in late 2013, I wasn’t afraid of failing. I spent two years preparing for the risk financially and emotionally, understanding that these outcomes were simply part of the game.
I was scared of walking away from an employer who always prioritized my learning — regularly funding me to attend trainings and conferences. Not to mention, I was leaving a team that taught me something new every single day.
Over the next few months, my content business ramped up. I found myself with less and less free time — working 14-hour days, missing out on time with friends and spending my waking hours growing my company and not letting my health slide. I was learning on the job, but found myself wanting more opportunities than the days would allow. It was a tough balance to strike.
One of the biggest lessons I learned about growing my business is that it’s important to set up processes early — to streamline as many initiatives as possible so that the company always moves forward. Now that I’m a year into my journey, I see that the same philosophy applies to my personal learning milestones as well. Here are some steps I use to bring learning back into my journey:
Let Your Calendar Be Your Sword
Up until recently, my calendar has been perpetually full. My natural inclination is to take meetings with everyone, but I simply can’t anymore. To sanity-check my niceness in scheduling, I’ve actually hired an assistant as reinforcement.
She’s helps me carve out more free time — blocks that I have begun using to learn. I read books, learn about film and video and attend classes that fit within certain windows. This structure helps me reflect on everything that I have going on, while giving me the space to do what I love most.
It’s the best gift that I could give myself.
Learn Outside of Your Comfort Zone
As the sole founder of a small but mighty company, I live and breathe everything related to business (especially the things that I don’t enjoy, like accounting, legal and other random bits of paperwork). At first, I wanted to learn about anything and everything by taking classes on these topics.
It was mentally exhausting. I burned out. I realized that it was a better use of my time to hire experts in these fields including a CPA and lawyer. I don’t regret the decision.
Now, I try to learn about things that are largely tangential to what I do on a day-to-day basis. I’m learning about design and photography and data — the field that I studied in graduate school — and how to apply these concepts to my storytelling businesses. I feel energized, inspired and motivated to go to class.
Learn With Other People
I’m not going to lie: my business has made me a bit of a hermit. Video chats and phone calls are core parts of my daily routine and I find myself chained to my desk.
I miss being with the people that I love. I miss meeting new people. I miss the heart-to-heart experiences and discussions of college.
In-person events and classes get me out the door. I love the opportunity to learn with and get to know people as my peers, not as prospective clients or vendors to my company. It’s the wisdom and energy of my peers that inspires me to keep learning — and growing — in my business and the world beyond it.
As much as I told myself that I wanted to keep learning, I couldn’t buckle down to do it until I made adjustments to my routine and schedule. There was definitely a learning curve.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by Alan Levine