Successful entrepreneurs are often described using many of the same traits and characteristics including disciplined, passionate, confident, determined, and competitive. For those who are not lucky to have been born with these traits, is it possible to learn these skills throughout life? Patrick Horsman certainly thinks so. He says, “The single most important trait an entrepreneur can possess is a willingness to learn new things. Never stop seeking new knowledge - be a lifelong learner.”
Traits are your natural abilities, part of who you are. Skills are things you have learned to do well, such as having good writing skills, being a clear communicator, or financial management skills. While these things may come easier to one person over another, that doesn’t mean someone can’t learn these important skills.
When we push ourselves to learn new things, we will inevitably find new opportunities, ideas, and methods. Focusing on what we already know or what has already been done could potentially leave us in the dust. Successful entrepreneurs are more interested in what is going to happen than what has already happened. Imagine starting a company in the early 80’s with no interest in learning about computers or the internet. It’s unlikely that company would make it very far into the 90’s. Patrick Horsman launched Ethernet Express from his dorm room at the University of Arizona as a Sophomore in college, helping other students to get their computers connected to the campus network and employing a team of 7 people.
Taking additional courses and earning certifications are two helpful ways to push yourself to learn more, but knowledge can be found everywhere - just keep asking questions. Never stop learning.
It is difficult to find a successful entrepreneur who hasn’t suffered devastating defeats and failures, therefore the ability to alleviate stress in the midst of chaos is a crucial skill to learn. Everyone handles stress differently, so it’s up to you to figure out how your mind and body can best combat high levels of stress. Many people try to burn it off in the gym before it burns them out, others find vacations helpful, or maybe all you need is a dog to keep you grounded. It doesn’t matter how you deal with your stress, just that you make a regular and concentrated effort to do so.
Some might describe an entrepreneur as someone who prefers to do things their own way, perhaps doesn’t listen, or dislikes being told what to do. This may be the case from time to time but when you boil everything down, it’s all about relationships. And relationships need proper communication to grow and prosper. Active listening validates the other person and fuels creativity. A successful entrepreneur will listen, evaluate, and act on the best ideas. They can only do this if they are open to hearing new ideas. If you aren’t listening for them, rest assured someone else will be.
Communication skills are something every entrepreneur should continuously reevaluate and work to improve on.
If you take your ability to listen and pair it with a willingness to go out and meet new people, you will undoubtedly find yourself learning something new. The best deals, projects, and information is often found when you’re talking to someone face-to-face, so the more comfortable you get in a crowd of people, the better.
As a member of a countless number of groups and organizations himself, Patrick Horsman is a huge proponent for networking with like-minded people. The truth is, most successful entrepreneurs absolutely love helping one another to succeed.
If you are somewhat introverted, bring your most extroverted friend with you for the first few networking events to learn from. Practice makes perfect. Patrick Horsman was the Seed Investor and Co-Founder of Context Summits which became the largest and most successful cap intro conference in the hedge fund space. The reason the conference was so successful was because it facilitated thousand’s of one on one meetings using its software interface, rather than people hoping to randomly bump into one another over drinks or at a panel session.
The old saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup” rings painfully true for entrepreneurs who have burnt themselves out in the past. Working hard can become impossible if you are bogged down by sickness or lack of energy. Many entrepreneurs start their businesses on the side part time while keeping their employment, a task that requires more energy than the average Joe possesses. Learning what works for your body and mind to keep you in tip top shape is a must.
No matter which skill you’re working to improve upon, remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort to build habits and behaviors that will elevate your mission. Make a conscious effort to do so, practice and repeat - just don’t get so wrapped up in the process that you forget to follow your entrepreneurial curiosity wherever it leads you.