Back in 1992, I read a book that completely changed my work life— it’s called Making a Living Without a Job, by Barbara Wint
er. I read it when I was working untold hours for a big law firm and trying to launch myself into the world of self-employment. Barbara’s great book gave me the roadmap.
In the years since, Barbara and I have become friends and I value her vision for how to be, as she calls it, ‘joyfully jobless.’ While I always expected that working for myself would be interesting, fun and challenging— and it is— what I never expected was that it would also require that I become, as Barbara says, ‘a lifelong learner.’
Isn’t that true for all of us these days? Whether it’s learning the latest social media platform, teaching yourself the basics of SEO, practicing your publicity skills or improving your writing, learning goes hand-in-hand with work, and with entrepreneurship specifically.
Barbara Winter in fact put it well in a recent post where she shares the work of Dr. Marion Diamond’s research on rat brains:
‘A professor of anatomy at the University of California Berkeley, Dr. Diamond spent two decades studying the effects of learning environments on rats. When they were taken out of typical laboratory cages and placed in enriched environments— lots of rat toys and rat puzzles— the very structure of the rats’ brains changed in as little as four days. These enriched rats solved mazes and puzzles faster than they could before landing in the toy-rich cages. By every measure, they got smarter. And, when the enriched rats were placed again in ordinary cages, their brains changed again. They got dumber.’
So yes, we all have to keep sharp. The question is, how and where can we do that?
There is no shortage of options, that’s for sure, and that is in fact one of the best parts of being ‘joyfully jobless’ these days. Here are just a few places where you can go to learn what you need to, to get ahead:
Webinars: Webinars today are almost ubiquitous— they allow you to get relevant, usable information from top experts. So many sites now offer webinar series that all you need to do is a simple search. To get started, try visiting the NFIB or SCORE online; both organizations offer a variety of online webinars.
Online workshops: Whereas a webinar is usually a live, interactive event (and recorded for later showing), an online workshop is just what it sounds like— a workshop. Again, there are many places to find them, like the IRS or from our friends at the SBA.
Community colleges: Online workshops are not for everyone, and of course the ability to ask a live person a question and get an answer can’t be beat. Checking out what your local community college has to offer is another great way for continuous learning. Community colleges have become the go-to place for offline small business classes; these classes are taught by successful entrepreneurs and teachers who are committed to your success.
Chamber of commerce: No one wants to see you succeed more than your local chamber of commerce, and, not surprisingly, they offer many classes and mentorship programs designed to do just that.
Your bank: Like your chamber, your local bank has a vested interest in the vibrancy of the local economy and your business. My friends at Bank of America, for instance, have a group called Practice Solutions that specializes in lending to professional service industries such as medical, dental, veterinary, law, accounting, etc. These knowledgeable folks can zero in on your specific business needs and give you industry knowledge that can better position your business for success and growth. In most instances, Practice Solutions bankers already have the endorsement of your professional industry associations (for example, the AICPA, ABA, 32 State Dental, AVMA, various medical associations and more).
How have you managed to stay ‘a lifelong learner’? Share your experience below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss