We’ve all heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20. While looking back is definitely clearer than looking forward, but are our perceptions of the past always completely accurate?
I often study the work of famous entrepreneurs, hoping to learn whatever I can from their failures and successes, but one very common thread among most entrepreneurs is that none of them completely knew what they were doing moving forward. Many entrepreneurs have an initial vision, but have to pivot and reposition their business and approach countless of times before they hit the ball out of the park.
No one can predict the future with much precision and accuracy. That’s why venture capital firms struggle to turn a profit, why weathermen are always wrong, and investing in the stock market is a giant guessing game.
Life and entrepreneurship especially is riddled with unknowns. By definition, being an entrepreneur means that you are doing something that no one has done before, creating and shifting markets in completely new ways.
But yet, for some people, we feel like we need to have all the dots connected moving forward.
When I first started studying entrepreneurs, I used to think that I needed to figure everything out before starting my first company, driving me to read as many blogs and books as I possibly could. I would try to learn as much as I could about what works and what doesn’t in order to build a strategy that won’t fail.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to ignore the advice and lessons from entrepreneurs, because mentorship and guidance is invaluable. I’m simply saying that you don’t need to have everything figured out.
Sometimes the best place to be is knowing you have no idea what you’re doing and go for it anyways (tweet that). That’s the only way to figure out definitely whether something works or not. Don’t be afraid that you are too uninformed, too under-qualified, or inadequate of making a significant change in the world, whether it be starting a company, running a nonprofit, or anything else along those lines.
An entrepreneur, at it’s very core, is simply someone who makes things happen by taking risks.
I’ve shared before that in my younger days, I thought I didn’t like reading.
It wasn’t until I nearly turned 18 that I found my love for reading books about real life situations and perspectives.
This year, I’m going to try to read as many books as I can. Books are pretty much a compilation of a person’s life work and life lessons, and by sitting down for a couple of hours and fifteen dollars, I can get a glimpse into a successful person’s process.
Even if I only get one thing out of a book, it was worth it.
In a casual conversation I had a couple weeks ago, I was sharing some of the books that had completely changed my life, and one of my friends asked me how I had so much time to read so much.
The truth is, I don’t have time not to be reading. By reading the lives of people, I am effectively getting perspective from their lives about the challenges they faced and how they overcame the challenges. By reading books, I am actually helping myself save time. I become more aware of the problems and the questions long before they come up in my personal life.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that I go out and read every single thing that I can find. I’m a big advocate of watching what content you consume. My focus then, is taking the time to figure out what I am learning from each book that I read. Reading reviews is a helpful way to determine whether a book will be helpful for me or not.
In the wise words in Letters from a Stoic by Seneca the Younger,
You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind.
Everywhere means nowhere.
When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends.
And the same thing must hold true of men who seek intimate acquaintance with no single author, but visit them all in a hasty and hurried manner.
Food does no good and is not assimilated into the body if it leaves the stomach as soon as it is eaten; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent change of medicine; no wound will heal when one salve is tried after another; a plant which is often moved can never grow strong.
Oh. And follow me on goodreads.
Many of my friends have been going on diets lately, such as becoming vegan or pescatarian. Besides wanting to cook a steak and shove it down their mouth, I have also taken the time to consider my own diet.
But it also got me thinking about the content I digest. I’m constantly finding new books to read, new blogs to follow, and new TED talks to watch. And over the last year, I don’t know if I can really say that all the content that I consume has actually helped me to be a more knowledgeable and wise individual. Maybe it has, maybe it hasn’t.
But I think something I did realize was that knowledge isn’t how much content you are able to cover. It isn’t about how many books you read or blogs you follow, but knowledge is more of what you are able to share and produce. Just like with subjects learned in school upon your daily life, it doesn’t really help you to know something unless you are able to apply it and use it.
So while rethinking some critical things about the way that I consume content, I realized a couple of things, and that the content you consume can be seen in a similar way as the food you consume.
Disclaimer: The following is only meant to be an illustration, not a perfect translation of food groups. Nor is it meant to categorize every single type of content out there.
Practical Content – Bread, Starch, Rice, Pasta (carbs) This kind of content is generally things that are interesting to the average person, but also practical and applicable to everyday life. Things like learning how to do better work fall into this category. Also, the average TED talk that is simplified, inspiring, and relevant can be considered in this area.
Necessary Content – Fruits and Vegetables (vitamins) Necessary content is usually the content that contains the little details that may not be fun to read, but are necessary for the work that you do. Things like manuals, research, instructional material, etc.
Perspective Content – Meat (protein) This is the kind of content that helps build you as a person by slowly helping you to see new perspectives. These generally take a longer time of immersion and pondering before any kind of life change becomes visible, but it is always the investment for the long term that makes the difference. This is the stuff that you read about famous and successful people, or the long and involved stories and learning process that eventually helps you to grow as a person.
Entertainment Content – Candy (sugar) This kind of content is usually the kind that is at your edge of understanding and application; things that are generally “out there”. Reading them gets you excited and blows your mind, but ultimately it has little nutritional value in your practical, everyday life.
None of these are bad in it of themselves, but used together and in moderation helps an individual to really learn and grow.
We all learned this somewhere around elementary school.
I think I still might have a problem with this today.
I eat too fast, and maybe I don’t chew before I swallow. I just eat.
And then I start talking because everyone has to hear everything that I have to say, and a piece of broccoli comes flying out of my mouth into someone else’s face.
2014 is the year of learning how to listen more and talk less.
Eating with your mouth full isn’t simply an etiquette that applies to the dining table. It applies to your thoughts, your learning, and any other time you’re bringing new things into your life.
Talking with your mouth full makes your talk less coherent, less understandable, messier, and much less attractive.
Enjoy your food, your learning processes, and your thoughts. There will always be time to share.