Lifelong Learning: What it is and Why it’s Important for Entrepreneurs
Formal education (i.e. a university degree or college diploma) has long been considered what an individual needs to be successful. Although it is still certainly advantageous and necessary to do well in many industries, entrepreneurs have begun placing greater emphasis on lifelong learning, which was found to be the number one characteristic to achieve success as a small business owner in a 2021 study.
Technologies, tools, customer needs, and industry practices are constantly changing, sometimes on a monthly basis. To stay relevant and competitive in today’s business world, entrepreneurs must adopt a lifelong learning approach so their knowledge and skills continually evolve.
So what is lifelong learning? Why is it important and how do you do it? We have outlined everything you need to know so you can begin your journey.
What is lifelong learning?
Lifelong learning is the never-ending pursuit of knowledge that enhances personal growth and development. The term often refers to learning that takes place outside formal education settings such as a school or corporate training program, though these outlets are not necessarily excluded.
Types of Lifelong Learning
There are many different types of lifelong learning which are essentially different motivations to pursue it. Some people are primarily driven by one motivator whereas others are driven by several. Main motivators include:
- Curiosity – An eagerness and desire to be informed and gain knowledge.
- Purpose – Wanting to learn information and skills to put into a particular practice including learning through first-hand experiences.
- Social Improvement – Develop social skills, networking, teamwork abilities etc.
- Self-Learning – Discovering your true strengths, weaknesses, purpose, and interests.
Why is lifelong learning important for entrepreneurs?
Humans are naturally driven to learn, grow and evolve, which is extremely easy to see in children. However, as adults, we sometimes need an extra push or encouragement to continue this healthy path of development.
As an entrepreneur, you want your business to be the best that it can be which means staying ahead of the curve and market trends, having the skills to adapt to business changes, and knowing how to lead your team efficiently and effectively.
Lifelong learning is important so you are remaining relevant amongst your customers and constantly improving so you have the capacity for growth.
Examples of lifelong learning
There are many examples of lifelong learning that can help you succeed as an entrepreneur which includes:
- Developing new skills
Whether it is learning the art of public speaking, mastering how to use new technology, or you are training on how to become an effective business leader, constantly developing new skills will give you the tools to become a better business owner.
- Researching new ideas and concepts
Self-initiating research through online searches, podcasts, news articles, and more is a great way to continually learn new ideas and spark creativity for your business.
- Acquiring new knowledge
Expanding your knowledge on a variety of topics can bring different perspectives you had not previously considered, strengthening your ability to think outside the box.
Benefits of Lifelong Learning
Lifelong learning offers countless benefits not only for your business but for your own personal growth. Although at first lifelong learning can seem like another thing to add to your already long list of “to-dos”, the benefits you receive really do outweigh the effort put in.
- New skills and knowledge gained
The most obvious benefit to lifelong learning is that it allows you to acquire new skills and knowledge on an ongoing basis. This alone comes with many other benefits such as improved business operations, personal growth, and overall fulfillment both professionally and personally.
- Business growth
If you are continually learning and applying new skills to your business, there is a good chance you will experience business growth and an increase in revenue. Keeping informed about what your target audience is looking for and how you can meet their needs better than your competitors, is just one example of how lifelong learning can yield positive results for your business.
- Refreshes your mindset
As an entrepreneur, sometimes it is easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks. By introducing a commitment to lifelong learning, you will find yourself becoming motivated to seek out ways to learn new information throughout your day, even if what you learn seems small. Slowly, this will create a refreshed mindset so you do not feel bogged down by some of the daily tasks that come with owning and operating a small business.
- Places a larger focus on what matters most
Every entrepreneur is goal-driven. If they weren’t, great business ideas would still be concepts and would not be transformed into businesses.
However, when trying to get your business off the ground, especially in the beginning stages, the bigger picture goals you had set for yourself and your business can become foggy as you are often more concerned with daily urgencies and troubleshooting.
Lifelong learning has the ability to make you want to find opportunities to seek out new skills and ideas that will evolve and grow your business and reach your ultimate goals.
- Enhances and improves upon existing skills
One of the greatest benefits of lifelong learning is it’s not always about acquiring brand new skills or knowledge. It is just as beneficial to build upon existing skills that are valuable to have both personally and professionally.
For example, as an entrepreneur, you already have gained skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, leadership, brainstorming, and more, but these are the skills that can always be finessed and improved.
As your business grows, so should your skills as you will take on greater responsibilities, manage a larger team, and come across new situations.
- Improves self-confidence
As you become more knowledgeable and skilled, you will naturally gain greater confidence in your abilities to take on the next big project or achieve bigger goals.
Perhaps at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, you were unsure about how to market your company, create a startup budget, or how to effectively participate in networking events, but after introducing lifelong learning you have not only acquired a pile of knowledge in these areas but you are confident in applying them in your business.
- Gain a new qualification
Most often when lifelong learning is referred to, it is informal learning that is being referenced such as outside of a school or training course. However, this does not mean that these elements can not be a part of your overall learning journey.
There are many online and in-person training programs or certification courses that can really enhance your understanding of a particular subject. Once completed, you can add a new qualification or certification to your credentials as a business owner.
Tips for Lifelong Learning
1. Stay motivated
Lifelong learning is self-initiated, ongoing, with no real parameters. Therefore, it requires a great deal of motivation to make it a priority or it will always fall to the backburner. A tip is to set incentives for yourself to keep yourself on track.
2. Make a list
Once you decide that you are going to adopt lifelong learning, it can be overwhelming when there is a world of possibilities waiting for you. To stay focused on learning what is most important for you and/or your business, it is helpful to make a list according to priority.
This list should not be static, allowing you to constantly add, remove, or change things you want to learn.
3. Add structure
Because there are no parameters for lifelong learning, adding some structure can be really beneficial. Examples of this are implementing a schedule (i.e. every morning you start your day with 30 minutes of learning) or a ritual (i.e. writing down a goal before you start your 30 minutes and then writing down what you actually learned when you are done).
Adding structure will naturally make you approach your learning more seriously, and you’ll be a lot more likely to stick with it.
4. Proactively seek opportunities
Lifelong learning opportunities are endless, but you sometimes need to find them. Some opportunities do just “come along” but mostly they come from proactively searching for what is out there for you to grasp. Keep your eyes out for upcoming classes at local community centres, reading groups, or webinars.
5. Don’t make excuses
An entrepreneur’s life is busy, therefore it can be easy to justify why you haven’t dedicated time to learning. By staying motivated, adding structure, and seeking opportunities as listed above, there should be no reason why you can’t make lifelong learning an active part of your routine.
How to become a lifelong learner
There is no right or wrong way how to become a lifelong learner. Every individual’s approach to lifelong learning is unique because their goals are different.
However, there are some common ways you can become one.
- Develop a sense of constant curiosity.
It is easy to become blasé about many things in life. When you transform this into curiosity, you will see how this significantly impacts your creativity which can benefit your business.
- Read more books that will benefit you personally and/or professionally.
Books are a great resource that in today’s technology-driven world are often left behind. Books offer an in-depth look at specific topics rather than grazing the surface.
- Utilize technology
Let’s be honest, as an entrepreneur, you do not have time to read a full book on every subject you are interested in. This is where podcasts, documentaries, and YouTube channels are fantastic. It allows you to become introduced to a topic which can lead to researching further podcasts and videos or searching for articles or books on the topic if you want to learn more.
Podcasts are a convenient way to soak in knowledge when you are busy doing something else such as driving in your car, riding transit, working on minor tasks, or on-the-go running errands.
- Invest in short training courses
Training courses can offer information and skills development that cannot be learned as effectively through books or technology.
Training courses can be found online or in-person and are often taught by an industry professional who not only provides knowledge on the subject matter, but a first-hand experience that is invaluable.
- Keep an eye on the news and market trends
Staying in the know on what is happening locally, nationally, and around the world is not only good for your own personal knowledge but can impact your business. Getting into a routine of spending some time at the beginning or end of your day reading news headlines and what the market is doing will make you feel like you have your finger on the pulse.
- Talk to mentors or other professionals that have more experience
Business mentors have walked in your shoes and have personally experienced the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. The first-hand knowledge they can provide is better than any other resource for learning because they can answer specific questions and provide tailored advice on how to handle circumstances you are currently navigating.
Learn the benefits of having a startup business mentor, and why forming this type of relationship will not only greatly contribute to your lifelong learning, but help your business succeed.