The ability to learn and adapt is key for young entrepreneurs. Most entrepreneurs I know don’t have the knowledge and skill they have because of their love and aspiration for a broad liberal arts education. Their desire for knowledge and skills development is typically driven by their desire to build a product or create a new process. Much of their learning is DIY and OJT and most of their skills development was NECESSARY for them to build and create and driven by a passion for what they were doing.
For our entrepreneurial son, Joshua, we first saw his ability to learn and adapt through team sports. I believe sports, and other team activities, can be a great teacher of many attributes and skills needed by young entrepreneurs. Here are a few examples that observed with Joshua:
- Post to guard – Because he was tall for his age, Joshua played post positions in basketball. This meant he stood around near the basket and waited for someone to throw him the ball so he could take a shot from no more than six feet away. When he was around 8 years old he was redrafted onto a new team that had few players with any experience. While Joshua usually played close to the basket due to his size, he was the only one on the team that could dribble the ball from one end to the other without drop kicking it into the cheap seats. He was pressed into service as a guard which forced him to get much better at his outside shooting and ball handling skills. His desire to win and passion for the game meant he had to put in quite a bit of practice to learn the skills necessary to play his new position. While developing these skills met an immediate need, it also became the foundation for his athletic ability up through high school.
- Learning from losing – Not surprisingly, the team was not very good and Joshua got his first taste of his team losing more that they won. While it was challenging at times for him to keep a positive attitude, he learned a great deal about fighting through challenges with a team. While this experience pushed him to improve his basketball skills, it also taught him valuable lessons about teamwork, leadership, and dealing with failure. All lessons that would later serve him well on his entrepreneurial journey.
- Broken finger – In the 5th grade Joshua broke his finger in while playing with a friend and team mate on a trampoline. It was the middle of basketball season and the finger he broke was on his shooting hand. He had to quickly improve shooting and dribbling with his opposite hand. His desire to play and support his team made learning those skills quickly a necessity for him. Again, he adapted. Those skills served him well in sports far beyond that season. The lessons he learned about figuring out how to adapt, and putting team over self, will guide him for the rest of his life.
This ability to adapt and learn out of necessity is the basis for our young entrepreneur’s general knowledge of business and technology, and his ability to build products. His knowledge base and skill set today has been driven by his desire to build and create specific products. His understanding of coding, electronics, microprocessors, product development and business has built up over the years out of his desire to jail break an iPhone, build a phone charging station, create a wireless audio system for his grandfather, develop his own websites, build a voice activated controller, and design a waterproof, underwater speaker to use at his friend’s pool. Today, the smartphone app and hardware that are the main products of his companies were all conceived and built as a result of the knowledge and skill he developed out of necessity.
THE TAKEAWAY: Most entrepreneurs do not grasp the breadth of skill and knowledge required to be successful. For many young entrepreneurs, most knowledge and skill develops from the necessity to create and build. This organic, “as needed” skill development is a great start but does not account for the soft skills, business knowledge and experience required to build successful products and companies. The proactive, purposeful development of skills and knowledge over years is required to build out the vast entrepreneurial skill set. Start now and have a plan.