Many people wonder what they can do to become well-rounded and competitive while increase their rate of success. An often overlooked yet simple way to improve is to increase your knowledge by being a self-starter.
Traditional, structured education is very important, yet much success is derived from highly motivated individuals that have dedicated their lives to the concept of lifelong learning. These individuals prioritise the creation of time in their busy lives each day to educate themselves on new concepts and ideas. These individuals understand the importance of creating plentiful opportunities in all spheres of life.
Your business is only as strong as the people behind it. There’s a direct correlation between individuals who strive for growth in their personal lives and those who thrive in their professional lives. This can be accomplished by committing to the concept of lifelong learning. In an ever-changing market and world, it’s more important than ever to stay current, competitive and up to date.
Pursuit of knowledge is easier than it has ever been before, as technological advances can relay information instantaneously to our fingertips. It’s a modern day privilege to take this convenience and utilise it in productive ways.
First and foremost, you must be willing to expand your mind. Rid yourself of assumptions and convictions so that you can be open and receptive to new information.
This at times may even contradict what you have always believed to be true. You will eventually come across information that challenges your worldview. Rather than remaining static in your comfort zone, use this time to stop, reflect and shed light on these ideas in a way that can develop and expand your vision.
When you come across new information, take the time to think about what you believe and why. Is your outdated mindset preventing you from advancing in a modern world? Be willing to question new information and research it further. Digging deeper will separate you from the crowd and allow you to see the value in developing an independent mind.
Cultivating the mind prior to seeking information is as essential as cultivating a field prior to a harvest. It is a necessity to weed, fertilise and create space where information can blossom and grow.
As the soil of the Earth needs to be fed to blossom, our brains are the absorbent sponge waiting to be fed with new ideas and concepts. Water it daily to stimulate growth, and you will yield a bountiful harvest of information and knowledge.
After the mind has been prepped, the next step is application. Create a to-learn list just as you would a to-do list. These are ideas and concepts you have great interest in learning more about.
Many people may think with their hectic and already overflowing schedules there is simply no extra time to learn anything more than what is absolutely necessary to get through the mundane tasks of everyday life. To simply develop enough skill to adhere to your job description or be informed just enough to get by is a sure pathway to mediocrity.
This is where the self-starters get ahead. They understand the importance of time management and prioritising daily growth. They are constantly striving to know, learn and do more. This competitive edge they have created propels them to success in other areas of life.
There are many simple, effective and realistic ways to implement daily learning opportunities that do not have to inconvenience your life. Learning on the go has actually never been easier! For those who are auditory learners, audio books are the perfect way to incorporate knowledge with a simple press of the button.
While stuck in traffic on that 30-minute commute to and from work, simply play an audio book that suits your interest. Rather than listening to the same songs in rush hour, listen to a political debate on talk radio. If music is a passion of yours, try listening to music in another language.
Learning information you can utilise in your daily life is very important to having a continuous desire to further advance your education. Skill-based learning, for example, is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on auto maintenance isn’t the same as physically changing the oil or tire on your car.
Reading about art isn’t the same as picking up a brush. If your knowledge can be directly applied in a functional and fun fashion, put it into practice! Many people learn by being hands-on.
Make time one weekend to seek a mentor or attend a personal enrichment class. Culinary, fitness, dance or art classes are all fabulous ways to attain hands-on learning and experience. Volunteering at a shelter or children’s hospital are great ways to learn and culture yourself or your children and on worldly issues that may have otherwise been nonexistent to you.
Think about all the wasted time you spend sitting in doctors’ offices, waiting to pick the kids up from school or in a long check-out line. You could be reading a few pages of a book of your choosing. A simple 15 minutes a day could have you completing a new book every other week!
It’s estimated that Americans are spending 23 hours every week texting and on social media. Imagine spending that time every week on your craft or your personal enrichment. You could speak five languages and be a walking fountain of knowledge by changing your habits and mindset.
Surround yourself with like-minded individuals and try to always take something valuable away from your daily interactions. Many people are professionals in their field and have valuable information and insight to share. If you have questions, ask them! Never be too prideful, for each question you don’t ask is a missed opportunity!
Go ahead and challenge yourself today. Commit to expanding your mind, continuing your education and becoming a student of life. Utilise the world as your classroom, and no matter how big or small, always come away with a lesson.
Remember to cultivate your mind so it is prepared to expand, blossom and grow. And share your fountain of knowledge.
Related: 9 Things Successful People Won’t Do
My bet is you will slowly begin to notice you are not only achieving everything you are setting out to accomplish, but you have stimulated a perpetual hunger that drives you for more in both your personal and professional lives.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
The Power Of Life-Long Learning with University of Pretoria
True success starts with how much you’re willing to do to achieve it. If you’re hungry to learn and develop, partnering with University of Pretoria can make the business world your oyster.
Professor Melodi Botha is an associate professor and researcher at the Department of Business Management in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at the University of Pretoria. She is the Programme Lead for the MPhil degree in Entrepreneurship.
Her research focuses on training, educating and supporting entrepreneurs at different stages of preparing, starting and managing a business.
Why is it important for entrepreneurs to focus on personal development and education, even after they are no longer a start-up?
Research in South Africa has revealed that 80% of SMEs fail within the first two years of starting a business. So, if an entrepreneur makes it beyond this stage, it’s worth investing time, money and effort to make sure that they succeed by seeking entrepreneurial education, training and development to improve their business offerings.
New competitors are constantly entering the market and established entrepreneurs should make sure that they maintain their competitive advantage by educating themselves in areas such as the most current trends in their industries, changes in the market, offering more and better innovative products and services, staying close to their target market to determine the most effective marketing strategies and providing a stronger value proposition.
For established entrepreneurs, there is also the risk of growing too fast or not being able to manage their growth.
These entrepreneurs should then educate themselves on the most effective growth strategies suited for their business. Personal development is crucial, as entrepreneurs progress through the entrepreneurial process because they learn as they go.
An example is when established entrepreneurs conduct a personality profile to determine how to cognitively adapt to their current entrepreneurial environment. Weaknesses or areas of improvement, such as poor financial planning for example, are highlighted and entrepreneurs can then work on these areas.
What advice would you offer entrepreneurs who stop researching due to time restrictions?
Time is a problem for all entrepreneurs; there is never enough of it. It’s a matter of how effectively you use your time and how you plan the activities that should happen within a specific time period.
A big problem with entrepreneurs is also a lack of delegation, as they want to be involved in every area of the business. Entrepreneurs need to determine which activities can be delegated to an employee or partner and focus on the core skills that they are competent in and which help the business to grow.
What skills should entrepreneurs be developing while they are starting and then managing a business?
We recently conducted research on the skills that entrepreneurs need as they progress through the various stages of the entrepreneurial process. We identified two sets of skills, namely functional competencies and enterprising competencies.
The findings further revealed that established entrepreneurs viewed functional competencies such as marketing, financial, operational, legal, human resource, networking, technical, communcation and planning skills as important skills to have during the established stage.
Both start-up and established entrepreneurs viewed enterprising competencies such as creativity, innovation, role model interpretation, opportunity recognition, risk taking, need for achievement and the ability to gather and control resources as important during both stages.
More specifically, financial and legal skills should receive more attention when starting a business. In a similar study, we found that potential entrepreneurs should focus on opportunity recognition, opportunity assessment and creative problem solving during the potential entrepreneur stage.
At the same time, start-up entrepreneurs should focus on opportunity recognition, building networks and resilience, while established entrepreneurs should focus on risk management/mitigation, building and using networks as well as resilience.
Are there any tips and tricks you can offer to people who want to study, but still need the time to run their businesses?
Studying or learning should be a life-long journey that should not necessarly have an expiry date. I am talking about gaining life skills and developing entrepreneurial abilities through everyday learning. Most professional qualifications require continued professional education and I see no reason why entrepreneurs should not adopt the same approach.
Therefore, my first tip would be to plan to study. It should be part of a daily routine to study or learn more about an area where weaknesses arise. Many univeristies offer short courses such as three-day programmes in different speciality areas, which you can attend and not be away from your business for too long.
In early stages of formal tertiary education, my advice would be to focus on your studies first and thereafter focus on the business. This does not mean that you don’t have to start planning and aquiring resources while still studying. For example, our second year students, studying towards a BCom in Entrepreneurship, prepare their own feasiblity studies and compile business plans as part of the curricula.
What startling facts and figures has your research revealed that many entrepreneurs don’t realise?
In a recent study we determined that many potential entrepreneurs (students) show a strong entrepreneurial intention to start a business in future but rarely go over into action and the rate of actual start-ups, in South Africa, remains low.
This is also the case for entrepreneurship education graduates. However, prior entrepreneurial exposure, such as having entrepreneurial parents or entrepreneurial role models during the course of their studies, increased the start-up rate.
Another interesting study we conducted on women entrepreneurs revealed that women are in desperate need of entrepeneurial training and education. The Women Entrepreneurship Programme (WEP) at the Univeristy of Pretoria measured 180 women who completed the programme.
These women were measured on their skills level before the programme, directly after the programme, six months after the programme and ten years after the programme took place.
They were measured on eight different levels and the WEP proved to be effective in not only transferring entrepreneurial and business skills to women, but also improving their business performance indicators (turnover, employees, sales and profit). Some of the women (35%) started multiple businesses six months after they attended the WEP.
Ten years after the programme, the results of the study confirmed that these women’s businesses made a significant difference in their communities and the economy of South Africa as a whole.
Tips To Becoming Fluent
The ultimate goal when learning a new language is to use it fluently, as accuracy can be improved and developed over time.
Learning a foreign language can be challenging and difficult, and requires great commitment and motivation. It is, however, one of the most enriching and rewarding skills that can be acquired over a lifetime. There are proven benefits to learning a second language, for example, improved intelligence, memory and concentration, as well as lowered risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Fluency is the ability to express oneself easily and coherently in real time. Accuracy is the ability to be correct and precise, and it means that one is communicating without any grammatical, vocabulary, tonal or any other errors. The ultimate goal when learning a new language is to use it fluently, as accuracy can be improved and developed over time.
How you can improve your language fluency
There are a number of ways to improve fluency. Firstly, immerse yourself with native speakers as much as possible. Listen to them in their natural contexts and if you are unable to do this, watch movies and television shows in the language you are learning, or listen to audio books and music in that language. Another option for immersing yourself in a foreign language is to stream radio from a country that speaks it, or tune into a television station from that country on DSTV.
Find avenues to practice wherever and whenever you can.Having a friend to practice with can help you to stay motivated and focused. Practice speaking every day and try to learn new words and phrases every day. Encourage native speakers to correct you wherever possible.
Be prepared to invest a lot of time and dedication into learning a foreign language. Students are likely to stay motivated over the long-run if they have a good reason to learn the language.
The problem that many beginners encounter is that they become too focused on reaching a perfect end-stage that they get discouraged and never get past the early stages.
Become comfortable with making mistakes and try not to be perfect. Think in the language as much as possible, instead of thinking in your native language and then translating. Try to improve and remember specific grammar rules so as to avoid incomprehensibility or vagueness when communicating with native speakers.
Choose an comprehensive language course
When choosing a language course, remember to look for a course that focuses on all the language skills like reading, writing, listening, grammar and speaking. Read books, magazines, and other material in the target language whenever possible. Write something in the language every day, for example, a short sentence summing up your day, a diary entry, or an article.
Memorising lists of vocabulary can be quite challenging and very boring. A great way to build vocabulary is to learn vocabulary that is relevant to your life and things around you. You could start off by writing your “to do” lists and shopping lists in the language that you are studying. Practice by giving commands to your dog, labeling household items, and playing memory games.
Social media platforms are another excellent way of interacting with native speakers, as users are able to interact with each other over the internet.
Web blogs are one of the many forms of social media, and provide a platform in which people can express issues related to their lives and different viewpoints that they may have. Blogs address a wide range of topics and are used in many different ways, which makes this platform an excellent means to practice your language of choice.
Practice, practice, practice
Try not to leave long gaps between courses or take a semester off, as you will forget your language at an alarming rate. If you are planning to go on holiday, take some exercises with you so that you can do these throughout your trip.Consider booking your next trip to the country where the language you are learning is spoken.
If you are serious about learning the language and getting direct pleasure from what you have learnt, you need to go where that language is spoken. Above all, you need to enjoy learning the foreign language and never stop having fun while learning.
“Free” Online Courses Versus Interactive Classroom Courses
The Internet is currently abuzz with advertisements for “free” online language courses and online education.
While developments in technology have undoubtedly created opportunities for more people to access education, the question still remains as to whether it is actually possible to learn a language solely with the use of an online platform. Whilst there are numerous advantages to using online platforms, there are equally as many disadvantages.
Benefits of face-to-face language learning
Online platforms are limited in their capacity to support group discussions, as well as the engagement with language facilitators and tutors. Many platforms are also unable to cope with the thousands of students that try to join online discussions. Language learners benefit greatly from human interaction within a classroom. Mark Edmundson (2012), an English professor at the University of Virginia, argued that online education creates a “monologue and not a real dialogue” in the learning environment.
Classroom environments allow learners to express their opinions, participate in debates, and engage in face-to-face interaction with classmates and their instructor.
Related: Ongoing Learning For Leaders
Language facilitators are responsible for explaining material, answering questions and guiding learning based on students’ needs and language levels in real time. From an online perspective, this resource becomes diluted, as often there exists back and forth communication between the student and the facilitator over an extended period of time. Within a classroom environment, learners are immersed in the language and encouraged to speak. Learning takes place in a pro-active way with a balance of learner-facilitator interaction and group work. Language learners receive undivided attention from the facilitator, and the pace and content of the tuition is thus tailored to the learner accordingly.
Two of the benefits of online courses are that they offer flexibility and convenient accessibility; however, they also require a greater amount of self-discipline, reading and time-management skills. Online courses tend to make it easier to procrastinate and they create a sense of isolation. These elements are not conducive to successful language learning. Motivation levels are likely to decrease when using online platforms, as learners have no real external influences to help keep them motivated and inspired.
The quality and accreditation of online language courses is also a concern to most learners, as many online courses lack valid accreditation and certification. It is crucial to enrol in a course that provides legitimate information and that is accredited with a relevant board or organisation. A course that does not provide valid accreditation will serve no purpose or advantage to the learner.
Wits Language School was established in 1997 and forms part of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Over the last 19 years, the school has built a reputation for providing high-quality language services and short learning programmes in a dynamic and international learning environment. Wits Language School endorses interactive teaching styles, uses up-to-date teaching methods, and employs experienced and highly qualified teachers who are mother-tongue speakers to assist all participants in their quest to learn a second language.
Related: Why You Should Keep Learning
Online learning should be considered a supplement and extension, rather than a replacement, to traditional classroom learning.
Moreover, Wits Plus, the Centre for Part-Time Studies at the University of Witwatersrand, offers selected undergraduate degrees, as well as a wide range of short certificate courses. Evening classes make all qualifications accessible to working people and busy entrepreneurs. Wits Plus also offers a range of online short courses that enable you to study wherever you are. Certificates of Competence are awarded to successful participants for both certificate and online short courses
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